Thursday, 5/15/08 Day 103
Today was pretty good...okay, really good. We were going to leave for Powell Cay this morning, but the seas were much too rough, so we stayed at Manjack Cay one more day. We did school and just hung out for the morning. After lunch, we went to shore and played with Bobby, Jenna, and the kids from s/v Pickles. We met them on the trail to the Atlantic Beach. We went back to the slide and played there until the kids from s/v Pickles had to leave. Then, Bobby showed us how to husk coconuts with a special tool they have. The coconuts tasted so good. I love them! We have a few here at the boat to eat later.
I also fed the birds again today. Mr. Bob gave us some bird seed and the Tobacco Doves and Green-faced Grassquits ate right out of our hands. You have to lay really still or they get scared, but sometimes I could rub their undersides with a finger as they were eating. They are very soft. I think feeding them like that is very cool.
We went back to the boat until it was time for the anchorage Happy Hour at 4:30. At the party (that is what it was like), I opened coconuts for people to eat. I opened four. The first was sour, the second and forth were great, and the third just didn't open!
When I finished with the four coconuts, I played Hide 'n Go Seek Tag with the other kids. The rules were: 1) You could hide anywhere on Manjack, 2) If you were it, you counted to 30 slowly before seeking, 3) You could only stay at "base" for 5 seconds max, but could bribe the person who was it (I added the last part), 4) You had to go easy on Henry (the 4yr. old).
It was really fun. Once I finish e-mailing my friends, I think I'll go to sleep. Today was great. So is life.
Friday, 5/16/08 Day 104
Today was great! We went to 4 totally different places. We left Manjack Cay (place #1) at 8:48am and went to Powell Cay (place #2) to see the White-tailed Tropicbirds that breed on the island's 40 ft. high bluff. We are lucky that we got to see the birds because they only come here to breed. The rest of the year, the fly offshore, resting on the water when they are tired of fishing and flying.
We dinghied to a beach and hiked along a trail through the forest to the top of the bluff. We got a much better view of the flying birds from up there. They look like big terns with 2 long, white feathers extending like streamers from their tails. They were magnificent. Even Dad, who is not a very big fan of bird-watching, like to watch these birds.
The wind was coming from the wrong direction and the anchorage was rolly, so we decided to go across the Sea of Abaco and anchor between Crab Cay (not the one at Manjack) and Angelfish Point, the most northern and western point of Great Abaco Island. When we reached the area (place #3), we saw the wildfires that have been plaguing both Great and Little Abaco Islands. The wind was coming at us from the fires and we could see and smell the smoke and flying ash, so we decided that we should not stop there. Instead, we went back across to Allans-Pensacola Cay where our friends from s/v Toucan Dream were. That was going to be our next stop tomorrow anyway.
When we reached Allans-Pensacola Cay (place #4), Bob & Sean came out in m/v Bobcat (s/v Toucan Dream's little power boat and dinghy) to show us a sandy spot in which to drop our anchor. They said they are going fishing tomorrow, as they have done for the last 10 years, and kind of invited us to go with them. I hope we go. It is very rolly here because of the southwest winds, so we may go straight to Double Breasted Cays tomorrow after "joining" the Allans-Pensacola Yacht Club by placing our homemade plaque on the Signing Tree. Today was cool, but I think tomorrow will be better.
Saturday, 5/17/08 Day 105
Today was just okay. The first thing we did was "join" the Allans-Pensacola Yacht Club. We walked through the forest to the group of Signing Trees that people have left homemade plaques on. We made a cool, unique plaque, using Dad's deer antlers from the deer he shot at the Shulz Ranch in West Texas last year. Our whole extended family gets together there every year in early November and some people hunt. We attached the antlers to a board and then attached a second board on which we wrote our names, boat name, hailing port and year with a Sharpie marker. We screwed the plaque to the original Signing Tree at the foot of the path. There are about ½ dozen other Signing Trees along the beach.
After walking the beach, we went back to the boat and saw m/v bobcat motoring away to go fishing with friends from m/v "Aye" Doc. I'm a bit bummed we didn't get to go fishing with them because m/v Bobcat knows all the best spots. Because we couldn't go fishing with m/v Bobcat, and the waves were really rough there, and it was too late to go straight to Double-Breasted Cay (40 miles away), we went to Moraine Cay, 5 miles northwest of Allans-Pensacola Cay.
After motoring to and successfully anchoring in the turtle grass of Moraine Cay, a private cay, we dropped Mom at the beach and Dad, Josh and I went spearfishing. The water was a bit murky, the reef wasn't that beautiful, and there weren't many fish, but I did see a little Goldface Toby (a type of puffer I've never seen before!), 2 big schools of Blue Tang, and a Blacktip Shark. Dad and Josh also saw a Reef Shark. We didn't spear anything, especially not with the sharks around.
We picked Mom up from the beach and she said that she didn't need to snorkel a not very beautiful reef with sharks. We came home and are about to eat a delicious dinner of steak, salad, and twice-baked potatoes. I was right yesterday; today was just as good, if not better, than yesterday.
Sunday, 5/18/08 Day 106
We traveled almost all day today. We went from Moraine Cay to Double-Breasted Cays. We will stay here for about a week. We did school for a large portion of our time underway. We were trolling fishing lines the whole time and got 2 fairly large barracudas. We kept neither of them.
When we arrived, we headed to an anchorage, but hit a coral head. It was a horrible, scary sound. We backed off it without a problem and the boat is okay. It just scraped off a little bottom paint. We dropped the anchor in deeper, lumpy water near 3 mini-megayachts. Then we got into the dinghy and explored other anchorages to see where we would move the boat.
We met a man named Alex and his wife on the catamaran s/v Nightwind. They have been coming here for a long time, and Mr. Alex got in our dinghy with us and showed us the best spot and how to get in.
After doing it first in Justice, we moved Liberty and got to the perfect anchorage. The current rips through the anchorage because it is a narrow channel between rocks on one side and a shallow or exposed sand spit on the other. So we had to set a Bahamian Moor with two anchors. This is something new to us. You set one anchor with twice the chain you really want out. Then you drop the second anchor and pull the first chain half way back in. Because we will sit to the current (tide) here and not the wind, as usual, our boat will change direction 180 degrees every 6 hours with the tide. With a Bahamian Moor, we will just switch from one anchor to the other and not twist our chain/anchor around and risk popping it out. The current has moved the sand to totally bury our anchors already.
It looks awesome here! I can't wait for the new days to come. We have decided to always do school in either the morning or afternoon, and play, snorkel, explore, etc. during the other half. That should work out well.
Monday, 5/19/08 Day 107
Today was totally action-packed and just plain fun. We just hung out for the first half of the morning, then went exploring until lunch. We started our exploration of the Double-Breasted Cays (we went to all but two places!) by birdwatching around some little rocks/cays where we could see a mixed flock of Bridled and Sooty Terns congregating in the same manner as the breeding Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies in the Dry Tortugas, Florida (see 3/15/08 & 3/19/08). When we got closer, we could see the birds sitting on nests. Mom and I got some great pictures. It was fun trying to figure out if they were Bridled Terns, Sooty Terns, or both. It turned out to be both. We also saw a big Nurse Shark swimming nearby.
We continued out around the Rocky Kerb Rocks to the coral reef. It looks like a pretty good place to snorkel and fish. Then we dinghied outside of the actual Double-Breasted-Cays in the huge complex of islands and stopped on a beach on the Atlantic side. The beach had seaweed all over it and a lot of junk to collect. We found sea beans, a milk crate, a garbage can, sea buns, 2 floats with line, and other nasty stuff that we ditched.
To end our grand exploration, we dinghied all around through little passages between the actual Double-Breasted Cays and the first set of Double-Breasted Rocks and everything in between. We saw big Cushion Sea Stars, good conching flats for later in the week, a big Bonefish and just more of the usual beautiful scenery.
We came home and had lunch before going to the beach by our boat. The beach by our boat is really a huge sand spit that extends out from Sand Cay and is completely submerged at high tide, but completely dry at low tide. Josh and I built a big sand fort. It was built up 6 in. or more above ground level and about 6 in. down. It took us a long time to build, but it was big and tough with walls ½ ft. thick. Nonetheless, it was destroyed by the tide when we left.
Mom found some pretty shells, like Sunrise Tellins, Sunray Venuses, Lond-Spined Stars, Netted Olives, Tulip Mussels, and Sand Dollars (who cares that they are not really shells). We left the beach just after slack tide (a period with no current because of the switching tides), so Mom let me swim the 50ft. or so back to the boat.
While we were waiting for dinner to be ready, I begged Mom to let me try to catch one of the 3ft. Great Barracudas swimming around by the boat. She wouldn't let me because:
1) They fight hard and can be a challenge to land.
My counter: I have fought and landed 4ft. 'cudas before and the fight is all fun.
2) It is hard to get the hook out of their mouth with their big teeth.
My counter: It's just as hard to get the hook out of their mouth as any other fish.
3) They have very big teeth that they gnash at you.
My counter: A ton of fish have big teeth, and I've messed with tons of barracudas.
4) You shouldn't intentionally put a fish in pain, anxiety and discomfort if you're not going to eat him.
My counter: Then by golly, we'll eat him!!
Unfortunately, Dad got tired of my begging and told me that if I said one more word about catching barracudas, I wouldn't be allowed to fish at all while in the Double-Breasted Cays. He said he knew it was very harsh, but he didn't care. They make me so mad sometimes.
For dinner, we ate an average dinner of fish and rice (today was Mahi Mahi from 5/9/08), and a salad with a great dessert. Dad made a new recipe: Piña Colada Rice. It was sticky Sushi Rice with Cream of Coconut and Crushed Pineapple. It was delicious! Josh fed leftovers to the hermit crab that he got from the beach today and is keeping as a pet. Today was great, mostly.
Tuesday, 5/20/08 Day 108
Today was great, just as most days are nowadays. We started by going conching in a little bay on the Double-Breasted Cays' eastern side. That bay was shallow and we only found one conch which I got. I also found a live scallop that we will eat and a clam shell full of 18 hermit crabs for Josh. Dad found a deeper area by some rocks outside the bay where we found tons of conch. There was a 4ft. barracuda lurking around that freaked me out. Fortunately, just when I was thinking about jumping in the dinghy to get away from that guy, Mom said it was time to go. We ended up keeping 17 of the biggest Queen Conch and one Milk Conch. We threw back one Horse Conch and a bunch of smaller Queen Conchs. When we got back and took the conch out of the dinghy, we found 4 Conchfish in the bottom of the milk crate we had the conch in. Conchfish live under the lip of the Queen Conch and are a type of Cardinalfish.
We spent most of the rest of the day bleaching shells with Mom and conching conch with Dad. Later, we went to the beach by our boat. There were lots of people combing the beach, and we didn't find many shells or sand dollars.
For dinner, we had cracked conch, conch fritters, and conch salad with a side salad. We didn't eat my scallop because it was too small. Then we watched Toy Story 2 because Josh was begging. I'm tired and want to go to sleep.
Wednesday, 5/21/08 Day 109
We didn't do much today. After a full session of school, we went to the beach. This time, we went to another sand spit by the boat, but not the one by Sand Cay. We found an area under the sand with a lot of shells and we used a sifter to find sift them out of the sand. We found some nice shells and it was fun.
We also talked with Mr. Richard and Ms. Susan on m/v Horsefeathers. They have a pet Weimereiner named Spirit who finds coconuts and Milk Conch and wants you to throw them to him. He has webbed feet and likes to swim. I think that's cool.
We also went to the beach/sand spit on Sand Cay where we cleaned yesterday's conch shells. We met a man from m/v Homer who is a marine biologist. He confirmed that a creature I found was really a juvenile Mantis Shrimp of some sort. I had already guessed that. Maybe I could be a marine biologist too when I grow up.
We also met a person who cruised back around the same time we did on our last cruise and knew some of the same people. It's a small, small world. They gave Dad 2 cold beers!! He's been craving a beer since he ran out. Today was somewhere between good and great!