Tuesday, January 13, 2009
EXPLORING THE EXUMAS
Nassau was fun, with interesting restaurants and sights to see, but it's basically a tourist town. The U.S. recession is taking its toll on the local economy. Rumors were rampant of 1500 employees laid off at Atlantis, a huge resort and casino on Paradise Island, just across the bay from our marina. Other hotels were offering reduced rates, trying to remain open and meet payroll.
The "out islands" couldn't have been more different from Nassau. Our first stop, Allen's Cay, is uninhabited, except for an endangered species of fairly large iguanas. We enjoyed a quiet night, alone in a beautiful cove, then dinghied ashore the next morning to meet the iguanas. They began to appear as we pulled up on the beach. First one ventured out, then two or three more, soon they were approaching from every direction.
We had brought along a plastic bag filled with lettuce and stale Ritz Crackers. They loved it all, scrapping for each morsel of food.
We returned to Sunshine, eager to continue our island hopping. A short ten-mile trip south brought us to Highbourne Cay. We anchored near a small marina and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, a quiet dinner and good night's sleep. So far, we had seen only a handful of other cruisers in the Exumas.
The next day was Phil's birthday. I told him he was forbidden to do any work on his birthday. That didn't last long. He is not happy sitting still. We pulled the anchor after breakfast and headed further south a few miles to Norman's Cay.
Norman's is well known as a former drug running headquarters. A Colombian drug lord purchased the island in the 1970's and installed an airstrip. Drug-laden planes from South America would land often and business was thriving. Finally, a few years ago, the U.S. convinced the Bahamaian government to shut down the operation and arrest the Colombian and his coharts. The only evidence left of the illegal activity was the rusted remains of a small plane that miscalculated the location of the airstrip. The fuselage is clearly visible at low tide and we gave it a wide berth as we looked for a good place to anchor.
We dinghied to the island and found the airstrip, still in good shape and used by a few local residents who have built homes there. On the beach side of the island, we met a Canadian couple, Menno and Liz, whose boat, Snow Shoo, was anchored near ours.
They had caught (maybe "collected" is a better term) five large conchs and were in the process of removing the meat. Locals can clean a conch in just a few minutes, but it's a learned skill. Menno had removed the meat from the shell and was pounding each conch until it was almost lacy. That's the secret to tender conch.
Back on the boat, the wind generator had stopped spinning. It appeared that the bearings had frozen up. The wind generator, along with four solar panels, create quite a bit of free energy for us. Fixing the generator will be high on our list of things to repair.
Next blog: Hawksbill Cay to Staniel Cay, Andy's visit, Christmas.