18-25 March 2015... Exuma Land and Sea Park

Eager to get on to the Exuma Park, we went to Shroud Cay with Gem. There they showed us one of the mangrove channels through to the ocean side of the island. Later we kayaked another channel -- fun to see sharks and rays in this very shallow water. We surprised some ruddy turnstones who flew up as we approached -- as with everything else on the banks, their undersides reflected the green of the water. Wonderful too to see the beautiful tropicbirds in the anchorage -- unfortunately they were too high for a decent photo. So far Shroud is the only place we have seen these birds.

Gem left us at Shroud, and we continued down to Hawksbill Cay -- the next large island in the Park. Here we anchored down near the end of the island, hoping to avoid the snugglers -- boats that feel a need to anchor close to other boats. We succeeded. There were a series of rocks nearby with fairly good snorkeling. So over the next couple of days we tried these out. Saw some old friends -- queen angelfish, bluehead wrasse, squirrelfish, grunts, white margate, blue tang, surgeonfish, bar jacks, schoolmasters along with christmas tree worms and sponges. Not a big variety of coral, but enough protection to afford these fish a home. And from the boat we saw daily parades of rays from the cut around the corner to the banks.

Next stop -- Warderick Wells Cay -- Park headquarters. Not there early enough to get a mooring, so we anchored out near Emerald Rock. Just as well, as the snorkeling was near there anyway. Again into the water and saw some things we hadn't before. Best of those was the queen triggerfish -- first in its white coloration over the sand, then watched it turn blue as it hovered over the coral head at the cleaning station. Wow, nature! Again, saw the regulars, this time adding the stoplight parrotfish, mahogany snapper, butterflyfish, blue chromis, fairy basslet, rock beauty, and a nassau grouper.

Back to Anhinga, Patti dangling toes in the water from the dinghy, when feeling a nibble... Uhh ohh -- there ARE sharks here. But, with inspection, found that 3 sharksuckers had made their home under the boat. Sometimes they will attach themselves to divers, luckily that didn't happen. Once back aboard tried to get a photo...

The other highlight of Warderick Wells was the hike to Boo Boo Hill. Not very high, but enough to give you perspective on the water and islands nearby. And to catch a welcome breeze after the hot desert-like trek through the bush.

Shroud Cay: 24d32.051'N 76d47.943'W
Hawksbill Cay: 24d27.792'N 76d46.073'W
Warderick Wells Cay: 24d22.948'N 76d37.991'W

15-18 March 2015... On to the Exuma Islands

We left Bonds and spent one night at Rose Island to the east of Nassau. Yikes -- very busy anchorage that night. Up early the next day and headed out during a beautiful red dawn to our first stop in the Exumas. Next day we were to meet Gem near the airplane wreck in the Normans Cut, but it looked a bit crowded in there and after a long day traveling, we settled on the west side, figuring to move in the morning. This anchorage also filled as the sun set, from 2 boats when we got there to more than a dozen.

Moved to the wreck and started seeing tropical fish while we were anchoring. How cool is that? We headed out for an exploratory paddle through the shallows into the lagoon. Yup -- the water disappeared from under the kayak and we had to drag it along, but we got to some incredibly beautiful spots where the water was several colors of blue and green, the sand blindingly white and the cave cuts cool and eerie.

Had a wonderful reunion with MV and Shane, met their visiting friend Albert, and planned some onward travel together. Snorkeled the wreck -- a drug smuggling plane from the 80s that didn't quite make the airstrip. Lots of sergeant major fish -- some of the males in the blue shade, camouflaged to protect the eggs nesting on the plane.

Rose Island: 25d04.975'N 77d12.908'W
Normans Cay (west): 24d36.163'N 76d49.356'W
Normans Cay (cut): 24d35.680'N 76d48.399'W

12-15 March 2015... South Berry Islands

Anxious to head further south, we sought something other than a SE wind to move. It rarely came. After one aborted exit from Bullocks when we returned to the anchorage, we bit the bullet, went around the Stirrups and south down the Berry Island chain. Many anchorages were filling up with northbound sailors. Examining the charts we decided on Frozen and Alder Cays as a place to stop. After one night in an incredibly rolly anchorage (after trying 4 times to find something better) we moved to Bonds Cay - aaaahhh!! Anhinga finally settled down and we had a couple of good nights there. Again, splashed the kayak and flexed some muscles. Admired the ironstone rock formations with snails and chitons stuck on and the huge number of starfish along the bottom. Lots of rays too. And beautiful sunsets with no land between us and the horizon; John saw a green flash!

Frozen Cay: 25d33.002'N 77d42.998'W
Alder Cay: 25d32.452'N 77d43.338'W
Bonds Cay: 25d29.769'N 77d43.891'W

5-12 March 2015... Crossing to the Bahamas; Great Harbour Cay

Not a very eventful passage out Lake Worth Inlet through the Gulf Stream to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. We were pushed a bit north of our course and the wind wasn't pleasant as it was close to the nose, but we didn't expect anything else. We cleared in at the marina, but anchored outside in Bullocks Harbour. As it was 'the migration season' we watched many boats in Bullocks depart for parts north. Seemed odd as we had just arrived. Never having been on Great Harbour Cay we did have fun exploring by kayak -- great to be paddling again. The water was crystal clear and we saw sharks, rays, bonefish, and starfish alongside us as we moseyed on. We went up Shark Creek, a mangrove waterway that gave us some shade from the relentless sun. Without that, John was in full anti-sun regalia, hoorag'd up.

Great Harbour Cay: 25d45.131'N 77d52.558'W