Friday, May 30, 2008

Revisiting the Exumas May 2008
We hung around Georgetown another week, and we were able to reprovision, before Kathryn and Ron (Bev’s sister and brother in law) arrived. This was their third visit to RAFT, having previously visited in the Puerto Rico/US Virgins and Antigua-Dominica. Since K&R’s passion is snorkeling and walking beautiful beaches, we knew that they were going to have a great time in the Bahamas. Our plans were to pick them up in GT and sail with them to Nassau, letting them explore and us revisit our beloved Exuma Islands.
Once they arrived we gave them a quick tour to GT, moved over to Volleyball Beach, where we hiked to the Monument, kayaked the holes and snorkeled the "blue hole". The weather gods were with us, and we took advantage of the light winds, to motor sail to Rat Cay, fishing as we went. We caught a "big" barracuda, which we returned to the sea and ¾ ‘s of a good-sized ceral mackerel. Vixon, sailing with us, caught a mahi mahi, plus tuna and mackerel. We enjoyed a great fish dinner on RAFT that night.
Next day we were off to Galliot Cay. On the way, we caught our first mahi mahi of our trip. Paul had warned us, that when you catch a mahi, it will jump out of the water….and this one was jumping and continued to jump. As we reeled it in, we saw what was causing its displeasure…it was being chased by a shark. We had to reel in quickly in order to save our dinner, and we did. What a beautiful, blue and yellow 30" fish it was. It might have had a chance to be returned to the sea, except mahi taste so good! After an exciting "drift" snorkel between Galliot and Big Farmers, on the incoming tide, we had a second wonderful fish dinner in 2 nights.
Next day, we walked the island before taking a leisurely light wind sail to Black Point. Black Point looked better than we remembered Lorraine’s Mom is still baking great bread, and Lorraine’s restaurant is about the same, self serve bar, good food. In town there is a newer grocery store and a superclean laundromat.
Moving right along, our next stop was Piggy Beach at Big Majors. The pigs were there, waiting to be fed, and the Mega Yachts are definitely using this as their preferred anchorage. At low tide, we snorkeled the Grotto, and Bev still was impressed with the coral garden just east of the Grotto. Next day, after checking out the Pink, Blue and Ayles General Stores and buying fresh bread from Rhonda, (a new bakery to us) we were off for a high tide snorkel at the Grotto. This was a new experience for Bev, and a very enjoyable way to enjoy the Grotto. Even at high tide, you can still get in without going underwater, weaving your way through the cave entrance with about 6" airspace.
Pipe Creek was our next stop. We had heard about the docks at the end of the Decca Range but had never visited there before. We were fortunate to have just us and Vixen there, and thoroughly enjoyed checking out the military ruins, and walking over to check out the "mice run" at both high and low tide. Bev collected as many palm fronds as she could, knowing that her sources were coming to an end….and once they were gone she would have to go through the painful process of "weaving withdrawal".
Next day: a lovely sail to Exuma Park…a little more wind than expected. We had reserved a mooring ball in Warderick Wells in anticipation of an approaching cold front bringing in strong south and west winds. The park is much more organized than it was a couple of years ago. A huge mooring field has been installed in Emerald Bay, and there are now moorings at Shroud and many of the other islands in the park. They have installed Pay Stations, like the on St. John, to collect the money. Price is still $15 per night for RAFT.
First item: walk up BooBoo Hill to see if our RAFT momento is there, and if so, retrieve it to add a new date. But alas, the park clean up must have also included removal of the "old" momentos, the only new remain are those from the past year. Too bad. The trails are better marked, and new signage has been installed identifying the flora and fauna. Bev didn’t like all the "organization".
Over the next few days, we hiked all over the island, including revisiting of Pirate’s Lair. Once the wind had calmed down, we enjoyed the snorkeling on the wall at the north end of the mooring field. We knew that lobster season was closed, and we were treated to nature’s exhibition the reason why. The mega lobsters, at least 5 pounders, were playing hide and seek under the coral heads, but some were crawling right out in the open, some were chasing each other, some fighting, and others doing things that couples do. Although a little voyeuristic, that didn’t stop us from watching! Paul and Denise (Vixen) did a SCUBA dive, and it was wonderful to watch them pirouette under the water doing a wonderful dance.
K&R still had a couple more days of their vacation, and we had a couple more islands to share with them. One night at Normans, where they snorkeled the plane, and had a beer at the reopened McDuff’s – now called the Normans Beach Club. Next, we were off to Alans (not our favourite anchorage) but our guests definitely wanted to see the iguanas.
We had to motor to Nassau, very little wind, where we finally met up with Jim and Dinah on Evergreen IVrest. K&R visited Atlantis and returned with a KFC banquet for all. Their last day was spent shopping at the cruise dock for souvenirs and eating lunch at Potter’s Cay, before they caught a taxi to the airport. Another successful, and possibly their last, tropical holiday on RAFT.