Roger’s death remained on our minds, but we honored his life by returning to our journey with rejuvenated hearts and an
acute presence of the moment. Don was more willing to follow any whim, and I threw lots of whims at him. More
importantly, we were about to sail to, in my opinion, what was one of the Bahamas most whimsical
Departing from Nassau Harbour via the Eastern Channel, we headed southeast across the Great Bahama Bank toward the Exuma Island chain.
We took our ability to be at leisure quite seriously; 11:00 seemed to be our standard departure time.
But it was a short 30 nautical miles over turquoise waters no deeper than 7 fathoms that allowed
us to arrive before the sun set. The seas were lumpy outside the harbor, and our round bellied hull
rolled uncomfortably. However, once we cleared the shelter of New Providence Island,
we felt the wind coming from our beam. Perfect for traveling by sail!
The Thrill of Sailing
There was nothing that made my heart race more than that
moment when the canvas filled. The thrill began with patient anticipation. I’d stand beside the mast, looking up toward the wind indicator, waiting for it to point straight toward the bow while slowly the boat
turned. Then, I’d pull the main halyard, first hand over hand, then wrap it around the mast winch, insert the handle and crank - click, click, click,
click, click, click, click - the sound of a bronze pawl falling into the teeth of the ratchet resonated in the
mind of every sailor.
Once the mainsail was up, I’d cleat off the halyard,
jump back to the cockpit, and unfurl the jib. The canvas rattled and banged, luffing as the wind tickled its sides. Then Re Metau would begin to turn toward her course; fall off the wind. We’d
trim the sheets - click, click, click, click around the cockpit winches, and then - WHUMP! Like wings unfolding, we caught the
wind. With the engine cut, only the wonderfully organic sounds of water flowing past the hull and wind rushing
through the sails surrounded us.
~ West Indies Rock Iguana ~
Anchoring at Allens Cay
Re Metau balanced well under sail and we were in for a
pleasant ride. With an average speed of 5.5 knots, we arrived before 6:00 PM and opted to anchor in a well protected
area surrounded by the Allens Cays, Leaf Cay, and a dozen or so nameless islets, all uninhabited. Shared by only two other sailboats, the anchorage was a
magical pool of deep blue-green waters merged with turquoise and sapphire seas near the shores. Glimpses
of little secluded beaches were scattered along the edges of the hilly, verdant islands.
The excellent weather and Don’s refined piloting skills allowed us to anchor away from our neighbors,
out of the current, and out of the way of day-tripping tourists that would come speeding in from Nassau the
next morning. Dinner went down then the hammock went up. Finally far from the big city lights of Nassau,
we were able to see the night sky. We watched the stars blink on, counted the comets, and listened to the perfect
silence of lapping waves.
West Indies Rock Iguanas
The next morning we woke up and watched our distant neighbors depart - aaahhh - complete seclusion at last;
for the moment at least. Dinky Duck was dropped down off the davits, and we headed for SW Allens Cay, a pint-sized
island populated solely by big, colorful West Indies Rock Iguanas. Though considered the most endangered species of lizards on the entire planet, we were immediately greeted by
a countless number as soon as we landed.
~ West Indies Rock Iguana ~
Obviously these charismatic critters enjoyed crumbs from visiting cruisers because they didn’t fear
our presence in the least. Not wanting to interfere with their natural diet, we hadn’t brought any handouts,
but tossed over some of the local fruit growing on the seven year apple trees. There was a distinct
pecking order amongst them; the bigger the better. Just when we’d thought the king had come to dine, an
even bigger monster would appear from under the brush and run the competition off. I sat in the shade of a big
tree and soon became encircled by the accepting recipients. Before long, the camera was loaded with
pictures of these enigmatic, miniature dinosaurs.
on Leaf Cay
After a couple small charter boats left nearby Leaf Cay, we decided to dink over
and find out what was of interest on that island. The widest island in the atoll, Leaf Cay featured narrow sandy
beaches where one could sit in the shade of a palm whilst dipping one's toes in the gentle, caressing surf.
We prepared to meditate on the beauty and seclusion of this little oasis - just when a huge power
catamaran from Nassau showed up with the threat of unloading hundreds of snorkelers. Luckily, only twenty or so
braved the water while the others remained onboard. The excursion zoomed out in what seemed like less than 15
minutes, advertising “See 50 islands in 2 hours” on the hull. Amazingly, no one was left
behind, but more break-neck junkets full of jet-setters were sure to follow.
~ Diana on Allens Cay ~
While my piggys soaked in the salty sea, Don went off exploring. Returning with descriptions of alluring
privacy on the other side of the island, we took the dinghy around before the next speedy tour boat barreled
through our little corner of paradise. Alas, Exuma Sound presented a roiling seascape with breaking
waves smashing against the shore - not an inviting place to beach the dink. Unfortunately, the concubine having other ideas, abruptly conked out, and left us at the mercy of the raging ocean.
Shoved onto the beach, we were soon in a very dire state. The engine’s long shaft grounded into the
sandy bottom like an anchor as wave upon wave washed over the stern, swamping the dink. We needed to turn
her bow around, get her pumped out, then Don had to go through his series of engine starting calisthenics,
all while standing chest deep in turbulent seas. An overwhelming task for two people, we were nearly resigned
to being stranded on this desolate island when fortunately, a group of people appeared from the top of the hill.
I'd not been so happy to have an invasion of tourists in a very long time.
the help of two other men, we were able to put the bow into the waves. I started bailing while Don got the engine
started, and after giving grateful thanks to our Good Samaritans, we returned to the busier yet less
volatile side of the island. After a few dips in the water to cool off and regain our composure, we headed back
to the boat for the remainder of the evening.
Kaleidoscopic Changes for a Cruiser
So goes the ever evolving day of a cruiser in the Bahamas. From
one moment to the next we’d no idea what we would encounter; peaceful bliss, then frenzied ciaos; rare
and unique native life, then prosaic pillaging mobs; desolation, then salvation. I’d always said that sailing
typically produces one of three emotions, extreme boredom, sheer terror, and pure exhilaration. Our Allens Cay experience
carried those emotions to shore and the kaleidoscope of ever changing moments was as colorful as the tropical
iguanas roaming 'round the little enclave.