Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Starting To Remember The Tobago Cays

Suddenly we were ready to move again. BlackBoy came over early with a warm loaf of bread for our breakfast and we had our farewell chat. He promised that the primo spot in the anchorage was ours and I could feel the beginnings of the roots of familiarity growing with the boundless welcome we received. 

Plans to leave right after the weather report were delayed due to the poor reception we got on the SSB. Being without internet has moved the small project up on the list and we knew that the water here in this protected spot would be more flat than where we were going, so we kicked into high gear and got it done. 

The zip-ties holding the spacers between our SSB antenna wire and the back-stay were deteriorating and several had fallen off, leaving the antenna touching the wire. We hoped this was the cause of our poor reception as it was an easy fix. We rigged up the halyard to the Bosun’s chair and I hoisted Bruce up to do the upper spacers after we finished the ones we could reach. 

There's a catamaran in our special spot!!!
We left the anchorage in Salt Whistle Bay with a feeling of having accomplished something, thus leaving the rest of our day open to doing whatever we wanted. We motored out into the bounding swell, looking back, we could see another boat had already filled our space!

My reef spotter!

Our anchor spot!
The winds were somewhat higher than we hoped for our stay in the Cays. There is little to block the wind just inside the reef where I hoped to anchor. But there is plenty of space there to choose from and we revised our plan as we motored around the south end of Petit Bateau instead of cutting through the channel between the Cays on our way to Baradan island where the turtles are said to be found.

Paying the man!  Park Rangers collect nightly for Park fees.
The wind blasted our faces and made the decision an easy one. We would seek shelter behind Baradal Cay until the winds calmed down! Dusting off our Bahamas skills, I read the color of the water to pick a spot between two mooring balls. We dropped the anchor in about 27 ft with a sandy bottom and fell back laying out about 150 ft before securing the snubber. 

I radioed another boat that was anchored similarly to check on the current and found that we could expect the boat to lie to the wind even with the considerable current that runs through this channel. Feeling confident and suddenly very fatigued after days of activity, we collapsed in the cockpit to watch the other boats come and go as the colours of the water responded to the movement of the setting sun.

Worth getting out of bed early for!
There was some rolling during the night but only in brief pockets. We slept well otherwise and were up before dawn. Today was the first time we have had an unobstructed view of the sunrise in some time. Traveling East for so many months (years) we were accustomed to the sunrise. Now that we’ve been heading south, our sheltering islands have blocked the view of the sunrise and I hadn’t realized until now, how much I had missed it. That’s a thing they don’t tell you about when you go cruising. The east/west route shows you the sunrise and sunset but the north/south route shows you mostly sunsets.
Another rainbow!
With almost a week left on our visa we were in no hurry and just let the days unfold and move us as they will. We are always more energetic in the morning hours and we used this energy to plop the kayak in to take us to nearby Baradal Cay. Our direct route to the island at the closest point maximized the wind protection making it easy on us. 
There were already several dinghies ashore, their passengers busily snorkelling the shallows when we arrived. We dragged our kayak up past the wave mark and took a stroll around the tiny spit. We are loving the white sand! It’s a welcome change from the black sand of the volcanic islands of this past summer. 

You can't take anything out of this park, so I'll settle for pictures!
Realising that the best snorkelling was on the eastern side of the cay, we went back to fetch our kayak so that we could keep an eye on it while we snorkelled. We didn’t really think anyone would snatch it in broad daylight, but you can’t be too careful. 

We waded into the shallow waters and donned our gear, then turned over and floated off into another world. The current was minimal as we glided effortlessly over the little fish cities. The sun was intermittent but with the shallow depths, we could see all we wanted. 

It's always encouraging to see little splashes of colorful corals beginning to grow back.  I think a lot of this park was hit hard this hurricane season.  But there were plenty of fish going happily about their lives for us to see. It seems that they somehow know that they are protected by the Park and are completely unafraid, giving us a glimpse of their daily activities. 

We didn’t snorkel long there. Our plans included a second snorkel spot after lunch and before moving the boat to the outer reef by mid-afternoon. We paddled back to the boat and laughed when we saw more turtles hanging out beyond the outer limits of the officially roped off “turtle viewing area”. Guess nobody told the turtles where they were supposed to be!

Finally got that picture of our boat in Tobago Cays!
Our ONLY Turtle pic!
Just us and all of our friends...
Refortified and ready to go again, we loaded our gear into the dinghy for a little spin around through the Cays. We were trying to jog our memory of this place and actually found the spot where we had moored during our visit here back in 2004. I know the spot because we had the scene painted as a mural on the patio in our home! The colours of the water and the piles of conch shells bleaching in the sun were the same. We remembered the beach on Petit Bateau but must not have ventured out to Baradal back then, because we have no recollection of it or the outer reef area. 

This was where we stayed when we chartered here in 2004
Variations of this view and others are painted on our wall back in Texas!
Conch Shell pile - also depicted on our wall back home


Jamesby Cay
After a quick trip down memory lane, we sped over to Jamesby Cay where we found a spot of white sand in about 6 ft to drop the little dinghy Mantus. We are finally realising the worth of having the thing now that we’re snorkelling from the dinghy more often. We really trust it to keep our boat where we left it and with the current we have experienced among these islands, it is very necessary!

OK check this out!  See the pointy things?
Each pointy thing has a worm at the end!!!
See the little worm?  

Dinghy Shadow

There were people on the beach at Jamesby but nobody was snorkelling around the southern tip or western side. That’s where we went! It was nicely protected from the surf and the clarity was brilliant! We snorkelled up and back down the shore until we became fatigued! We still wanted to move the boat before we lost the sun, so we wrapped it up and went on with the next segment of our stay in the Tobago Cays!

It was a short motor trip back around Baradal Cay to its NE side. The brilliant shallow waters over white vast stretches of sand reminded us so much of the Bahamas. Finding a perfect spot in about 9 ft of water, we dropped the anchor between two black coral-head smudges and dropped back toward Baradal until we had about 90 ft of chain out. There were squalls in the forecast and we wanted to be secure!  

This looks like a good spot!  What do you think?

Magic dinghy levitation
See, the crowd is still back there!
I have a pretty decent vocabulary, but I've run out of words to describe this!

Strange rainbow!  Almost a triple!

Having expended all our stored up energy, we felt the need to do nothing more strenuous than read in the cockpit, feed ourselves and watch the kaleidoscope of colours play over the sand, reef and beyond. We watched squalls come up, drift off and dissipate…none throwing so much as a drop our way. We marvelled that there was only one other boat over on this side where the true beauty of Tobago Cays lies. Looking back over our right shoulder we saw an army of boats… here? Peace and tranquility.  

Now and then a dinghy, heavily burdened with snorkelers, would buzz by us on their way to the channel in the reef where, reportedly, the best snorkelling could be found. Tomorrow would be soon enough for us to discover if that is true.  

Mid afternoon winds and our close proximity to the break in the reef brought intermittent rollers our way. We decided to get off our butts and try to minimize the motion by canting our boat to port to more comfortably ride the waves bow first. It worked for a while, until we awoke from our naps to find the winds had shifted and we didn’t like our position any more. We abandoned the effort and just went back onto the chain and snubber. Luckily the winds came down enough to drop the rolling waves, but not enough to let us drift about. We were comfortable for the rest of the evening and through the night. 

Moonrise and squalls
 Morning brought light winds and sunny skies! Perfect for snorkelling in the glowing, blue-green wonderland that surrounds us! We tried snorkelling off the boat headed for the beach, but about halfway there we re-evaluated the current. Better safe than sorry, we returned to the boat to get the dinghy. With people inhabiting our private beach, we opted to just cut our losses and save that particular moment for our next visit. 
The beach on Baradal behind us

This just gets me. 
I would have missed this flounder if he hadn't moved
There is a shelf that plunges to deeper water where the mooring balls are located. 
We learned to read the water in the Bahamas.  This says Coral Head!
We headed for the reef! We found a spot a good way in from the outer reef where we could anchor the dinghy in white sand with coral heads and rocks all around us. The current was minimal and the fish, plentiful!  

Horseshoe reef is a vast stretch of coral and rocks that would take weeks to adequately explore. It has been badly damaged by recent storms and of course, the ravages of man, but it is still a wonderland.  

Looks like a big cushy chair for a mermaid!


We feel the press of time as the expiration of our visa here in SVG draws near. We have a year to explore this treasure. The weather forecast calls for some increased winds and possible squally days ahead. After our brief two nights here, we feel like we’ve packed enough into those short hours to satisfy our Bahama Fix… We made the decision to head off to Union Island where we would clear out of SVG and go ahead and get on our way down to Grenada. 

We made short work of preparations, just hauled the anchor and motored on, threading our ways through the coral patches and Cays. The distance to Union was short, but the waves kicked up a roll that had us feeling very glad of our decision to do this short hop on a light wind day. I can’t imagine this stretch in a blow!  


Finally we see the distinctive shape of Union Island up close!
The reef at Clifton Harbour 
Anchored safely behind the reef.  

But the winds and waves smoothed out once we gained the protection of the reef that forms a barrier between Clifton Harbor and the sea. Feeling like we were still in the Cays, we anchored between two mooring balls just off Happy Island. Here we could still enjoy the feel of the reef, but have easy access to the amenities ashore. Tomorrow we would clear out. But we will return. We’re going to enjoy the luxury of having no particular place to go for the next year. Today, once again, we sat back and enjoyed life, feeling like the luckiest people alive!

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