Yesterday we got a break from the rain. The night before Julie and Ed had sent us an email asking if we wanted to go on an impromptu cruise on Spirit of Free Radical early the next morning. We are all about spontaneous decisions so of course we jumped all over the chance. How could you not?
The next morning we got Charleston to water-taxi us over to their bight and hopped aboard. Today was going to be sort of a shake-out cruise. They have new engines so they’re still breaking and tuning them in and they also wanted to check out some mooring spots and check transit times for some potential charter and day-trip destinations. It was to be Melanie and Brent (the house sitters) and Sarah and me joining them.
We cast off at about 11:00am after wrapping some sails Julie was working on (she is an excelent sailing seamstress and has written a highly regarded book on the subject called Canvas for Cruisers). It was a _perfect_ day for snorkling. Bright, hot, and dead calm. We first tripped east to the Cow and Calf again and moored to a buoy that had been recently installed. Ed and Julie wanted to make sure it was close to the islands so people could leap off the boat and be right in the thick of it, but not so close that they ran aground.
As they moored up and started to spin towards the islands I thought it looked _way_ too close for comfort. But with years of experience they weren’t nervous at all and it turned out to be perfectly placed.
From there we headed towards the Pidgeon Cayes. Holy smokes. Pidgeon Cayes. They are two tiny litte sandy cayes that are the embodyment of the one-palm tropical island. Garly Larson’s name comes up a lot when you see the cayes. We had seen them when we cruised to Guanaja on Larry’s boat and they looked very inviting. But as we got closer my mind exploded in wonder.
As the bottom of the ocean comes up to meet the cayes you could suddenly see that the water was _incredbly_ clear. We could see at least 50 feet down. As I mentioned, they day was also very still and the water was like glass, not a ripple on the surface. This conspired to make it feel like we were flying above some other-worldly tropical garden of fish and coral. It was stupifying. My brain could not take it all in. We were all leaning over the side pointing out schools of fish and particularly impressive heads of stag-head coral. Brent spotted a big black ray that lazily flew a few centimeters from the bottom. It was like diving with no tanks or snorkling with no mask. It was a life experience. It was something I will never forget.
We took the Spirit of Free Radical’s little rigid infaltable into one of the cayes and played around in it’s perfect untouched powder sand. We walked around the whole island in about 5 minutes treading on sand the whole way.
From there we waded into the water and did some snorkling. It was obviously fantastic. Diving down and chasing after fish and swiming through big schools. I dove down really deep to grab some big urchin skeletons (20 cm across) and the first sun-bleached sand-dollars we’ve found here.
We eventually swam back to the boat, watched the anchor pull up (we could easily see it burried in the sand and watch it pull all the way up from the bottom) and Julie and Ed topped off the perfect day by making us dinner.
They also keep a faaascinating blog of their life on the island and their trip around the world.
Actually yesterday had one more amazement in store. Charelston, the local guy who is a little younger than us who ferries us around took us on a _ride_!
You know the mangrove tunnels right? They are about two meters wide, a kilometer long, and have a closed-in canopy of mangroves. So Charelston blows through them in his little skiff at full bore, which is like… I dunno.. 40kph or something. Which is pretty fun. Earlier he had bragged that he could do the same thing by moonlight. Well by the time we got back it was dark and there wasn’t exactly a full moon. But Chareston put on a show anyway.
As we aproached the entrance he put on speed and I looked back and gave him a big grin. We blew under the bridge that marks the entrance and things got very dark. I could sort of see the sky through the canopy but not really and I certainly couldn’t see the walls of the tunnel much less the water. Ocasionally a lit opening would blow by where someone had cut an entrance for their dock. There’s a large brackish pool in the middle of the tunnels and the light from the exit to the pool apeared as salvation. We shot through the exit at full speed into the wide moonlit pool.
That was cool. But what was comming was… pretty terrifying. There is an entrance to the other half of the tunnel on the other side of the pool. And sometimes I have trouble seeing it during the day because it’s kind of camoflauged. But at night? We were now barreling at full speed towards a wall of black. You could see _no hint_ of the entrance. For all Sarah and I could tell we were speeding towards a solid wall of mangroves. We started getting audibly nervous. With comments like “Holy shit this is a bad idea” and “Oh my god oh my god”. Charleston did briefly slow down just before we got to the edge, but only a tick, and then whoosh, we were back into the world of black with the outline of vines and branches wizzing by overhead.
He did actually bump the side of the tunnel once and as we exited the tunnels alive and exhilerated he explained it was a little harder than usual with us sitting in front of him blocking his view.
So that was a pretty good day. Perhapse one of the best days ever actually.