We’d escaped most of December and a part of January without having to ride out many strong cold fronts rolling in from continental North America, but lately they’ve become a part of our routine. A cold front requires us to hide from the west winds until they clock around, and can require us to spend several following days enduring rough seas and strong winds.
After one recent front, we took advantage of a weather window and motored to Black Point to do our laundry. We managed that much without too much damage to freshly laundered clothes. But the following day, a Sunday, we were stuck aboard – the wind was howling, it was chilly (trust me, 72 degrees with 20 knots of wind leaves much to be desired — I actually wore pants, cropped though they were) and the boat was bouncing around. In the afternoon, we tried to go ashore for a hike, but the waves crashing into the government dock made a dinghy landing impossible. We turned around.
Having to hide from the next front, we headed to Cambridge Cay in Exuma Park. The day we went over, the seas were (finally) flat calm. It was mesmerizing to be looking down through 15, 20, 30 feet of water and be able to count the starfish on the bottom. (I don’t know why they call such waters “gin clear.” If anything, they are the color of the glass of a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, which is as close as that gets….)
Calypso at Cambridge Cay on another occasion (left), while at right is what I call the “Swimming Hole” at Cambridge — just steps from the sand, a blue hole with depths I’m not willing to explore.
An Exuma Sound-side beach on Cambridge Cay, with boisterous surf when the wind is from the east. Meanwhile, sand dollars and shells tempt beachcombers, but Exuma Park is a no-take zone. Not even for shells.
At low tide, a little patch of dry sand that is as about as close as I will ever get to affording a private island (unless you count Calypso).
It was entertaining to watch the sharks checking us out once we’d picked up a mooring (though not nearly so entertaining when I flipped my kayak trying to get in, since that shark was a 6-footer). We took advantage of the relative calm and took a long paddle (me in kayak, Rick on SUP) throughout the area, all the while being able to watch the stingrays ghost past us and turtles paddle by.
These sharks are everywhere (this one hanging out at the Sea Aquarium, a remarkable snorkel spot within Exuma Park). Meanwhile, remoras are constantly checking out our hull.
But, as advertised, the weather rolled in that night. More wind, more chop. While the next day dawned sunny, it was still blowing hard and chilly. One look at the seas convinced us that outings on the dinghy or our other watercraft would not be pleasant, so we hunkered down for the day with boat projects and reading as well as that diabolically addicting game Candy Crush.
Snorkeling at the Sea Aquarium just isn’t an option on a blustery day; the dinghy ride alone is treacherous, and the wind makes it too cold to want to go in the water.
Another nearby snorkel site features a crashed plane. Disconcertingly, there are LOTS of these in the Exumas, many dating back to days of illicit drug-running on the dozens of un-monitored landing strips in the Bahamas.
On a calm day, you can head to the north end of O’Briens Cay, which at low tide features a labyrinth of beaches, sand flats and shallows.
Just before 5, a pair from Nova Scotia swung by in their dinghy, announcing an impromptu gathering on the beach to have a beer or two. We hadn’t been cooped up that long, but long enough to make the prospect of company enticing. We weren’t alone; In a matter of minutes, there were close to 20 people on the beach – most of the boats in the mooring field were represented. Boat cards and chips and nuts were passed, and we hung out on the beach until after dark, sipping wine from our classy water bottles.
It got to be pretty cool as the sun went down, and most of us had dressed for the chill – I was wearing a long-sleeved top, a scarf, and a foul weather jacket as a concession to the cold, but still wearing shorts while barefoot. Luckily, since we’d all had to wade ashore because the low tide made riding our tenders all the way to the beach an impossibility, the water and sand were quite warm.
The temperatures aren’t expected to get any warmer any time soon, and more cold fronts are inevitable. But it’s nice to know that there is usually a cure for cabin fever: Happy Hour!