Bahamas - Exuma Islands - 2008/03/06 - Norman's Pond Cay - 8 miles

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Our first day on the water kayaking in the Exuma Islands, The Bahamas. We launched from Barre Terre and headed northwest over gorgeous turquoise and silver waters, seeing sharks, rays and ospreys on the way.

Day 1 - 8 miles

With our boats packed tight and at least 27 liters of water each, we struggled away from the launch ramp on Barre Terre Island. While the others showed some freeboard, the only reason my cockpit didn't fill with water was the very short rim of the coaming around the cockpit and the tight fit of the Seals spray skirt that kept almost all the water out as the foot and a half waves washed over my lap. To compound the problems I was having with the low rider, I had a bag of water in front of the rudder peddles and I could not feel what the rudder was doing. In fact I was having a hell of a hard time keeping the kayak on course. Using sweeps and rudders and extended paddle strokes and even a J lean in the severely overloaded boat, I was still being driven up against the windward shore. Something had to be wrong. I asked Susan to see what my rudder was doing. She reported that it was hard over to port. I got her to come over and using her boat for support and as a block for the waves, I was able to pop my skirt to discover that the rudder peddle I thought I was pushing on was just something in front of the squishy water bag up against the bulkhead. I didn't actually have my foot on the rudder pedal. Squirming around in the cramped cockpit I finally got my foot onto the pedal, buttoned up the skirt and I was paddling again this time with complete directional control.

We quickly paddled the one plus mile distance down the channel along Barra Terre island and headed out over the flats to the large island to the northwest. As the most westerly island in the group of islands visible from our point, our destination was easily spotted. The water began to get shallow as we approached a huge sand bar that at low water could easily block passage to the north for several miles. The colors of the water over the shallow white sand under the bright Bahamian sky were truly spectacular.

With the nice strong wind behind us we soon decided to get out our sails. With 15 knots of wind the small sail that I used kept me up and sometimes even ahead of the rest of the strong paddling group. What fun to coast over the green/blue waters. Of course I had to stop every now and again to look or to take a picture.
With a gap between the two charts I was using for this first day, I mistook an island that was not on the chart I had for a destination we had discussed among the other paddlers. They had a GPS and I figured they probably knew where they were going, but since a GPS can sometimes be off, as it was during my trip to Patagonia, I stuck with my interpretation of where I was supposed to be going. By the time I could see that I was misdirected, I had decided that the island I was headed for was more interesting than the other one so I kept on paddling to it. Tug and Barge rock as it is colorfully names had an osprey nest on top of it and the resident was clearly not used to having traffic so close to its nest. The two undercut rocks of coral did resemble the small and large configuration of a tug and barge. I paddled between the two rocks and to the far side. By this time the others had altered course to join me at the rocks.

Anna lost her watch overboard as the lose band let the little time piece slip over the side. We were considering going over for it and discussing who would do it when we spotted a six foot shark. It looked like a nurse shark to me. We paddled around taking pictures. It behaved strangely as it came right up under Mark's kayak. After posing for a few close-ups, it went back down to the bottom. No one talked about going over for the watch, which would have proved much too difficult to find anyhow now that we had drifted so far from the point of loss.

We headed over to the two small cays where we had been told there was good snorkling. On the way over we ran into another sand bar, this time at a lower tide. Soon we were looking for a place to bust through a line of small breakers that stretched between us and our destination. A slight detour soon located a smoother passage and we all passed through the narrow corridor still left by the receding tide. Soon the bar would be impassable without walking the kayaks across the shallows.

Behind the little low lying coral rocks we found some calm water. With clear view to the three foot deep bottom we could see a large pile of harvested conch shells. The sandy colored shells were encrusted with grasses and marine growth on the backs, but the undersides were a luscious pink to light red color. It seemed a shame that so many pretty shells had been so cavalierly dumped, cast off from the harvest of the white meaty snail that once inhabited them. In some parts of the islands these shell piles are being gathered and pulverized for lime for cement. I don't know whether that is a good idea or not as the empty shells do provide homes for all types of little marine creatures which is good and the concrete provides homes for people which is mixed. At least the unsightly piles of shells will be removed.
Snorkling there did not look all that interesting at least on the lee (north) side of the cays. There was no place to pull up the boats and they would have had to have been anchored or tied to the jagged coral foreshore. As it was getting on in the day and we had not yet seen camp, we decided to press on after resting a few minutes. Sandra seemed to be enjoying the sun and water.

Kayak Row
Kayak Row
by Susan

We paddled on to Norman's Pond cay heading for the west side of the island. That entire side is a beach. We rounded the point on the southwest corner to discover that our intended campsite was already occupied by two kayakers from Colorado also using Starfish kayaks. We paddled up to the little falls coming out of the pond that gives Norman's Pond cay its name. This little opening to the large area behind it obviously reversed direction depending on the state of the tide. For now it was flowing out. We returned to the point where we figured there would be a nice breeze from the current wind direction that might keep the bugs at bay. We pulled our kayaks up on the white sand beach and made camp. In the water just off the beach a stingray settled into the sand. It had been a good day for seeing sea creatures.

Soon we had our 6 tents set up on the point and a toilet tent, which I named Thunderdome, set up down the beach. A nice sunset under the clouds finished off the day and attracted more than a few pictures and picture takers. I got an interesting one through the tent screen. Night fell with very few bugs so the idea to stay out on the point proved to be a good one. Lights in the tent lasted only briefly as everyone was tired from a fairly long day.

On to Day 2..............




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