Sunday, November 30, 2014

Windy weather, Birthday Girl and menacing lizards

Happy Second Birthday to grand-daughter Reagan! We have known, from early in our planning, that we were going to feel really bad missing this day with her. And we do. We will do our best to make up for it when we return. Yesterday, she had a party, complete with pony-rides and a petting zoo. It sounds like it was a wonderful time for her and everyone that attended. Here, we, also, had some adventures with animals. Judging from the pictures, Reagan had more fun than we did.
She loves the pony!

Too cute.

I have some time on my hands today so this may become a long and rambling blog. The winds are out of the east-northeast at 25 knots, gusting over 30 regularly. And, according to the weather, this is not going to be the worst day we see.  As a result, we are condemned to just sit.

We are anchored about a mile and a half north of Farmer’s Cay, up against the shore as close as we dare get, behind a bluff that helps block the wind. On our side of the bluff, since there is not much fetch between us and the beach, we are not getting too much wave action. The wind howls over the top (a towering 60 feet) and right over SeaClearly and out onto the banks. 

Another gorgeous Exumas view

Note white plume of spray left of center
On the other side of the bluff is the Exuma Sound which is, for all intents and purposes, the ocean. It is crashing against the east side of the bluff with such power that we regularly see geysers of white sea-spray rising above the top of the island. This serves to reinforce the fact that we are not sailing into the ocean anytime soon. The wind will, probably, prevent us from taking the dinghy over to the town today. Being Sunday, we might not find anything open anyway. But, we have a direct line of sight to the BTC tower on Farmer’s Cay giving us good cell and data coverage. All things considered, not a bad spot.
SeaClearly tucked up to the beach. Well, OK, we are
about 300 yards off the beach but, at low tide, we only have
about 2 1/2 feet of water below us. So, no closer!

Farmer's Cay and the BTC tower. A bit of a dinghy ride
across open water in big winds.

We moved here from Bitter Guana Cay yesterday morning. The move was interesting but I’ll get back to that story later on. First, I have to back up and talk about our stay there. We went there, mostly, out of frustration. We had been sitting in the harbor at Black Point for many days. Just before that, we sat in the marina at Staniel Cay waiting for parts for many days. The weather forecast implied that we would continue to sit for many days. So, we had to take some sort of action to prove that we were still in charge of our destiny. Moving 5 miles in the rain and wind to sit somewhere else may not seem like a real bright move but it had to be done. And, there were reports that Bitter Guana Cay had some great hiking trails and some endangered iguanas.

Beautiful cliffs and caves at Bitter Guana Cay.
By the time we moved SeaClearly to the new anchorage, the day had turned too ugly for anything but fixing our Thanksgiving dinner. It was the next day before we could consider doing anything else. The morning was already windy but, in the shelter of the cove, it was not bad and it looked like a nice beach. About mid-morning, Junie saw the first of the iguanas venture out and start moving around on the beach.  This looked like it was going to be fun. After some lunch, we got our stuff together for a beach trip – back pack with water, sunscreen, bug spray, jacket – expecting a hike to the top of the rocks.

As we got near the beach, the iguanas started coming out of the brush. Many of them. Some running.  I pointed the dinghy further north along the beach to a spot away from the iguanas but more of them came out of the scrub.  As we approached the beach, we looked down through the clear water, watching for the right time to stop and lift the motor to avoid digging into the sand. Junie thought it was starting to get shallow so she slid off the side of the dinghy – and disappeared! The water was still over 6 feet deep but so clear it is just hard to tell. She came up sputtering, got her feet on the bottom and started pulling the dinghy to shore. The iguanas started running towards us from everywhere.

These are not little lizards. They are 2 to 3 ½ feet long. And fast. I don’t know much about iguanas but I know that they are prehistoric-looking, a little weird and intimidating in large numbers. Sure, they say they eat leaves and grass and stuff. But, they have been on this island a long time. Maybe they are evolving. We got the dinghy ashore and I started to carry the little anchor up into the rocks to secure the boat. Junie stayed in the water about knee-deep because the iguanas did not seem to like the water.  I walked up into the bushes and rough rocks above the beach-line and dropped the anchor. As I headed back toward the beach, they rushed me. I swear to God, they charged.

Attack of the Killer Iguanas!

Bad Ass - owner of the beach

Now, we have traveled hundreds of miles, crossed the Gulf Stream, sailed through the night, anchored in remote places and dealt with all kinds of scary stuff. But we both were freaked out by the iguanas. Despite clear, posted regulations against harassing the endangered animals, I yelled at them, flailed my arms and swung the anchor line at them. The lead two skittered past me but the leader, Bad Ass, just stopped and stared at me. Standing on my anchor line. 
I eased cautiously around him back to the beach where Junie had filmed the entire show on the GoPro. Great.  Documentation of my little girl reaction to a bunch of over-grown geckos.  Junie, however, had no intention of leaving the protection of the water. And, the idea of hiking through the rocks and scrub with the potential of man-eating lizards lurking around every turn was not attractive. We, literally, drug the dinghy along in 2 feet of water, just beyond the reach of the iguanas, so we could see the beach. They followed us every step of the way. It was really weird. I am sure that they, just like the swimming pigs of Big Majors, have been fed too many times by people in boats. I am really glad these guys weren't swimmers. Go ahead. Say what you will. You weren't there.

Back on SeaClearly, we were, once again, antsy and ready to move. Especially since, it was clear, we would not be enjoying extended beach time and long walks. On this island, iguanas rule. The weather forecast was no different so we were not going out into the ocean anytime soon. But, hey, we could move south again inside the islands and find something new. We chose this spot above Farmer’s Cay as our next stop. We pulled up the 175 feet of chain and the anchor (with a minor snag thrown in for excitement) and turned north to clear out of the cove.

As soon as we cleared the north point of the rocks, we were exposed to the full force of both the wind and the incoming tide as it came in through the narrow cut to the ocean.  SeaClearly went from 3 knots Speed-Over-Ground (SOG) to 9 .2 knots in about 30 seconds. We were like a leaf floating down a ditch in the rain. That only lasted a few minutes and we settled in for a few hour sail south to our destination. Given that we had 28 – 35 knots of wind from the east, we only needed to put out the staysail – no mainsail at all -and made great time and had spirited sailing all the way.

So, here we sit. We are studying all the charts and looking for options to move south. The Turks and Caicos are calling!

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