Momentum sometimes can be a fabulous! We are absolutely rolling in the big MO right now.
We woke up in Big Major at 0625 hours to catch the 'Weather Guru's' forecast for the next few days. Like all weather it changes and today is no exception as there are now a 2, possibly, 3 cold fronts stacked up and coming to the south over the next 10 days. Our progress will be interrupted and more 'stop n go' than continuous.
Very quickly, Carole and I have the big planning Explorer chart book out to begin charting the next couple days with an eye to finding protection from the strong westerlies that will arrive on Friday. Our plan is to move north, visit the Rocky Dundas grotto, Sea Wall Aquarium, sunken airplane before finding a decent anchorage for Thursday night. Within 45 minutes we have MM cleaned 'n ready to go, have the anchor secured and are motor sailing under a light southerly breeze. It is 0745 hours, the water way is awake and one can tell by the surprised chatter that they have all heard the new forecast. Plans are being changed and everyone has the same idea as MM. We stand in line on VHF, finally, reach Compass Cay marina, and get wait listed for Friday night.
The cays around us have inland passages between little island that are cut deep and shallow through the coral bottoms. They are as intimidating as anything that we have faced on this trip. We know that they are all passable because many boats that we have befriended in the last 3 months have recommended these must-see-stops.
Our first stop of the day will be Rocky Dundas grotto which features a cave that can be dove and swum into. Before visiting Dundas we spot a possible Thursday night anchorage at the U-Shaped Fowl Cay that is immediately south of Dundas. We inch our way into the well protected, secluded, beautiful anchorage and once again have trouble setting our hook as the current seems to lay the CQR anchor consistently on its' back. But we finally are set, the dinghy is out and we are looking to go visit Dundas.
Just as we are boarding BIG CATCH> we hear ADAGIO hail us. We first met ADAGIO at Emerald Bay where they were preparing to head north to Cambridge Cay to serve as volunteer mooring field wardens for a month. They are completely excited to receive free moorings for their efforts at this mooring field. We have been trying to hail them on VHF all morning to no avail. We can see the Cambridge mooring field and count 9 masts for the published 8 mooring balls. We are not hopeful of getting into this very protected hole for the coming unsettled weather. As it turns out there are 14 balls and there are 4 free for tonight. We are entirely conflicted because we feel that we have won the adventure lottery by getting to Fowl Cay first. Protection from the west and NW is basically non-existent for tomorrow. So we surrender to our insecurities and decide to make a run 3 nm north in the sound to enter this mooring field after we dive on Dundas.
We are already sharing this attraction with old anchorage friends, IMAGINE and PARIDIGM as they are basically blocking the sun with their super structures. Nnot to be intimidated we move BIG CATCH over to one of the dinghy mooring balls that are provided by the Exuma Sea and Land Park. For the second day in a row Carole is joining us in the water to view the Undersea World of Jacque ... LaRocque. It should be noted that for whatever reason Carole is uncomfortable in the water and finds her personal zone by floating and viewing over the coral. We are thrilled to have the birthday girl out enjoying the playground with us. The coral is beautiful, probably more so than the Thunderball, but the fish are not as plentiful. Dundas is right in the middle of Conch Cut so the tidal currents are quite extreme. I am hoping that the pictures convey the beauty of these dives.
We return to MM to find out that the number of available mooring balls has shrunk to 3 over the last hour. And another sailboat is on their way. We radio Taffy and Laurie on SEA SWAN from Toronto, a beautiful, well founded 2003 Beneteau 473, who have been with or near us since Emerald Bay and let them know that there is still a mooring ball available. They are unhappy with the quality of their anchorage in Pipe's Creek / Sampson Cay area and decide to weigh anchor and sprint up to Cambridge.
We make our way outside into the cay thereby avoiding the winding, rocky inland passage that is marginally navigatable for 6 foot draft boats. The route is easy, direct and we have secured a mooring ball within 45 minutes of reluctantly weighing anchor at Fowl Cay. Less than 45 minutes later we see SEA SWAN's mast out in the sound as she motors up the coast towards the inlet to Cambridge Cay. Daniel and I board BIG CATCH to greet SEA SWAN and lead her through the last 200 meters of winding deep water. We help her secure the last mooring ball immediately to the stern of MM. To our port is a motor trawler called NAVIGATOR X with Mike, Carolyn & daughter Katherine Kelly from Kingston, Ontario. No sooner has SEA SWAN tucked herself in then a catamaran comes around the corner sniffing around for a free mooring ball.
There is no way that we would have been able to get a secure ball on Friday as the weather is forcing everyone hand. Security against a 20-25 knot westerly wind is foremost on ever sailors' mind.
This hiding hole is right in the middle of a number of wonderful attractions that are within The Exuma Park limits and therefore under their protection. Our first excursion is about 2 miles north to a natural sea aquarium that is basically a huge wall of coral that benefits from the current that runs through a narrow cut. It is so hard to compare dive spots but this one rates every bit as spectacular as the grottos from earlier this week. With depths ranging from 6 to 30 feet there is plenty for all of us to bite off. Mom drifts with the current over the top of the coral heads and gets a good feel for the different types of fish as Daniel is up and down like a jack-in-the-box pointing out the lobster, snappers and groupers. Dad keeps diving and salivating at what could be our dinner if we were not in the protected park. I only wish that I had stopped here on the way down so I would have known both what they look like and where they hide. I must admit that they do not really hide under the protection of the park. I guess that is the whole idea of the park, duh?
On the way back from the sea aquarium we stop at a recently installed mooring ball that marks a sunken single engine Cessena that was used for drug running purposes in the '70's. The kids have a blast diving on the plane looking for hidden lobsters and schooling snappers. Even Daniel admits that the parks is a lot of fun for him even though his dream of catching a mahi mahi is on hold until we exit the no-take park.
It is the next day and the south and west winds have continued to build through the night and early morning as predicted. We would have been exposed back at Fowl Cay so the decision to move, if ever second guessed, was very sound.
We spend Carole's Birthday basically holed up on MM reading, eating, watching movies and harvesting 25 gallons of rain water in less than 30 minutes. As the weather improves in the late afternoon the kids swim between MM and SEA SWAN looking for sharks, 'cuda and jacks - which are plentiful.
SEA SWAN sends over a bag of delicious chocolate chip cookies as a thank you and to be part of Carole's bday celebration. A few days ago in Black Point, Taffy on SEA SWAN asked me if I had ever had a problem with an over heating solenoid for the propane system. As it turns out this is a common problem on Beneteau's and one that we had on the 411. As a result, not only did I know of the issue but I had a brand spanking new solenoid on board. I know that my generosity might have been tempered if we were heading south but with only 2 weeks to go I felt comfortable letting this very important little part out of my spare inventory. And we got fabulous cookies as a bonus!
Much left to do here so we will be staying for at least another day.
MILANO MYST Monitoring 16 and 68 ( SSB 4045 & 6221 Chris Parker weather updates)