|101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 HOME INDEX|
Long time in shallows
Surface Water Temperature:
Bottom Water Temperature:
FOWL CAY PRESERVE, ABACO ISLANDS, BAHAMAS
Linda, Janel, Johnny, Troy
We head southeast again to essentially the same locale as yesterday, and moor at a dive site called Tunnels. Cedric isn’t with us today because he had to be back in school. The waters are quite calm and there is some good video today due to occasional periods of sunshine.
The site is aptly named, and Troy takes us on a tour through crevices, caves, and tunnels that weave through a huge coral head. The tunnels are really a treat. In the back of one cave, a headstone has been erected, but by the time I get back there the water is pretty kicked up and I can’t quite make out the writing. The lighting through the passageways is great and there are beautiful views in many directions. Fishlife is a little sparse, and in this area there seems to be much natural debris surging around in the water.
Troy finds a big lobster beneath a rock and “encourages” him to venture out for some camera time. I get some shots but my camera is giving me trouble since the battery is practically worthless. Limited to just 20 minutes of “on” time, I’m constantly powering up and powering down when I see something interesting.
I’m lucky to catch sight and video of a puddingwife, a new fish for me. These guys are pretty small and fast and they dart around a lot, so grabbing some video is difficult.
It’s a really good thing I’ve been stingy with my camera battery, because nearing the very end of the dive, we come across a beautiful small turtle with his head stuck deeply into a coral head. We gather around him and he slowly emerges and looks around at us. We’re really calm in the water and the turtle rewards us by starting an unhurried swim in an arc around us, then doubles back a little bit before swimming away. I get some great video of him, including some closeup zooms of the turtle’s head and neck.
We’re back at the house early this afternoon, and finally get a chance to do some grocery shopping (the store was closed until today). We also score a case of Kalik for $50, worth every penny. The winds pick up a little bit but the ocean and sound appear pretty calm. It is a little frustrating for us to look at the nice waters and wish we were diving, but of course, we fully respect the decision of the dive boat captain. Well, maybe we’ll get lucky and do more diving tomorrow.
DAY 5 IN THE BAHAMAS: The winds are stronger today and are coming from the southwest, churning up the sound waters a lot. We talk to Troy and listen to the morning weather report on VHF radio channel 68. Tropical Depression 14 is headed over Nassau and Troy calls off any diving activity. We see him later moving the Dive Guana boat to the middle of the marina harbor and anchoring her there for safety.
Back at the house, we are again a little frustrated gazing at the calm-ish ocean waters and wishing we were diving. However, as promised, the skies grey up and the rains finally start pelting the house. Pretty soon, Johnny and Janel get into their bathing suits and make a run for the beach, whooping and hollering the whole way. Linda and I soon follow, and we all go swimming in the Atlantic with the rains downpouring around us. It is an unusually neat experience in the warm, bright turquoise waters.
In the middle of the afternoon, the lights flicker and go out. We spend the next 20 hours or so in darkness. Fortunately, the stove is gas-powered, and there are plenty of oil lamps located around the house. We play cards, eat dinner, and read in the dark – it is nice. Nothing like night-time reading with only a flame for light.
DAY 6 IN THE BAHAMAS: The storm is still here, but is diminishing. Winds continue from the west and the sound is still pretty rough. Troy says he is available to dive tomorrow if conditions permit, but in the same breath also says he believes all area diving is off until at least Saturday. Troy’s flying off the island to go to the dive shop show in Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, and so we discuss an option where a friend of Troy’s named Luther might take us out, possibly on a rental boat if we get one. Troy also needs to pick up Linda’s integrated weight pockets, which were inadvertently left on the dive boat. We settle up our bill with Dive Guana.
Late in the morning, the power finally comes back on and Linda frantically makes her morning coffee (the house water goes off without power). We spend the day looking at the flattish ocean again - sigh. The family does a great hike northwest up the beach. Later in the afternoon, we make a maiden visit to Nippers, which turns out to be a great little place perched up on the ocean dunes. We discover the delights of Goombay Smashes, a coconut rum drink with apricot brandy and a great taste. Troy never comes by with the weight pockets, nor do we hear anything further about Luther, so our diving plans seem to be fading fast.
DAY 7 IN THE BAHAMAS: The dive shop is boarded up this morning so we return to the house to discuss options. Linda calls a dive shop on nearby Man-O-War Cay but they are also probably not diving today due to weather and conditions. TD14 seems to have passed south of us and the skies are definitely clearing. No word from Troy – he must be busy packing.
Roy finally comes by late in the morning with the weight pockets. He’s in a major hurry and has no further news about Luther, except that he’s probably coming in on the morning ferry.
As an alternative to diving, Linda has also reserved a rental boat for us to use for the week, but so far, the weather and other activities have prevented us using it. The owner is also reluctant to rent it out to us since we’re admittedly green beginners. Linda and I head over to the owners’ house and once Donna meets us both she is more willing to rent it out. A good thing, because our reservation means we’re paying a minimum 3 days’ rent whether we use it or not.
Donna takes us down to the marina to a 22’ center console boat with a canopy and a 150hp Yamaha outboard. She shows us some of the basics and then she takes us over to the Texaco station for gas. The winds make it a little hard for even her to dock the boat gracefully, and she has to try several times. She then demonstrates docking back on the public pier, reverses the boat out again to the middle of the harbor, and tells me to repeat the action. With throttle is its very lowest position, I approach the dock, and then reverse it to stop at the piling without hitting it. A passing grade!
She hands us a VHF handheld radio and gives us a call sign to call in case we get in trouble. I’m still considerably hesitant to operate the boat, knowing virtually no traffic rules or how to properly anchor, or about shallow waters, currents, winds, etc. etc. At the dock, we spy Troy leaving on the ferry and wave to him – hope he has a great time in Las Vegas.
We return to the house and begin gathering kids, lunch supplies and snorkeling gear for a day outing on the boat. We head carefully northwest up Guana Cay about 3 miles to an area called Baker’s Bay. Motoring around a bit in the shallows, we finally anchor on a large area of light and dark patches, which we hope will be interesting for snorkeling. It turns out to be miles of sea grass, with practically no fish and few features to be seen. We do spy a huge starfish on the sand, and also a live conch dragging itself along the bottom.
We get a taste of what boating is about, however, in that we’ve anchored wherever we want, on our own schedule, successfully handled the boat and anchor, and we’ve had a nice swim. Not a bad start.
Next we head to the stunning turquoise cove at Baker’s Bay. There is a decaying dock there and remnants of a large dolphin pen. The property was formerly developed by Premier Cruise Lines as a “paradise island” stop on cruises, but abandoned in 1993 since the adjacent ocean pass through Loggerhead Sound was too often impassable. We anchor the boat near the beach, and I of course, futz around getting the anchor and boat just right (so waves don’t hit it, the high tide doesn’t take it away, and the low tide doesn’t beach it – so much to consider! ha-ha).
We pull out lunch and enjoy our fare standing in the shallows in the shadow of the old dock structure. Super peaceful. When we’re done we head into the interior, seeking to explore around some and hopefully find a pathway to the ocean side of the island, where some good snorkeling is supposed to be. We are amazed to find the substantial remains of the former village. There is a large central 360° bar, performing stage, seating for many hundreds, large mess hall, many cottages and gift huts, and lots of side bars. All these structures are in an astonishing state of decay – it’s like a scene from Planet of the Apes. Lots of hardware remains, old rusting sinks, rusted out stage lighting, rusted through overhead fans. A complete abandonment.
There is a rotting plank pathway coursing through the village and we follow it quite deeply into the vegetation. Finally the mosquitoes get the better of us and we reverse course. Linda and I try several alternative paths seeking out the ocean side, but find only more mosquitoes.
We shove off the boat and head this time across the bay to an island we’ve heard called Shell Island. It is officially called Spoil Bank Cay and was formed from the material dredged from the channel by the cruise line. Today, the debris is quite well populated with Florida pines and coconut palms, and is known as a good shelling spot. I try to anchor the boat on the leeward side of the island, but a sand bar prevents me from doing so.
We hike around the beach of the small island, strolling and shelling, takes about 40 minutes. When we return, the boat has shifted parallel to the shore and is now beached in the shallows, so we have fun shoving it out again to deeper waters.
The boat is lacking two basic niceties. One is a working gas gauge. The one we have just sits there and blinks “out-of-gas” all the time. The other is no way to lift the motor and propeller from the water – the outboard is locked in the down position. This is a problem in the shallows (e.g. here at Shell Island), but the bottom is mostly sand so the damage potential is not too bad.
It’s about 4:30pm and we head slowly back to the Settlement harbor, exploring the coast as we go. We successfully dock at the public pier and, of course, after a couple of tries, we get the anchor and lines and the knots exactly right before leaving for the night. A nice day on the water and we’re pleased to return without incident. We stop by the boat owner’s house to pick up the radio charger, and to let them know we had fun and got back safely. Donna’s husband says, “That’s always nice.”
Mares Avanti Quattro
U S Divers Matrix
80 ft3 Al
SeaQuest Spectrum 4
Body of Water:
U S Divers
Sony DCR-TRV11 digital handycam in Top Dawg housing