North To Rose Island

Ambler Isle
V and S
Thu 19 May 2011 02:45
We arose early after an extremely rolly night on the west side of Norman's Cay.  Although the winds were light, about 5k out of the south, there were no islands blocking them.  Worse was the SW swells that rocked us unmercifully.  No one slept.  Finally at 6am there was enough daylight to make our move.  We sailed through Norman's Cay Cut into the Exuma Sound.  The swell was there, also, but we went with them as we headed north toward Highbourne Cay.  We hoped to snag a mahi.  You know the rule, if you aint fishing, you aint catching?  Looking at a new weather report, we decided to skip some of our favorite sites and go directly to Rose Island about 40 miles northward.  But as we reentered the cut at Highbourne, we found the weather report wrong.  The predicted SE winds was SW, and would leave the swells on our port beam.  I feared we could not bear the 4 hour trip.  But if we stayed and the weather did not improve, our guests would miss their Thursday flight.  So we passed the beautiful reef at Highbourne Cay, then passed the iguanas at Allen's Cay.  We set down the lamps, secured the galley, and prepared for the trip.   About an hour into the trip the wind direction switched and the waves settled a bit.  Every mile was better, and we were finally able to have lunch.  Since a ship sails on its stomach, this improved morale greatly.  At about 3pm we were at the southern anchorage at Rose.  A small boat rocked in the waves there.  We continued to the north side of Rose, ending up off small Green Cay.  Several cruisers told us about anchoring here.  The beach is nice, the island is surrounded on several sides with reefs.  They claimed it was very protected.  And so it seemed.  But when we sat down to supper at about 7pm, the swell had returned, rocking the boat.  Valt and David took a second anchor to the stern and launched it from the dinghy.  Instantly we were in calm.  The second anchor held us so the bow was into the wind, and the rolling ceased.  Blessed, blessed calm.  We were tired from the past 24 hours and fell into bed soon after.  We hoped to tour the island and find a nice reef to snorkel on Tuesday. 
Tuesday after breakfast we saw a familiar looking catamaran entering our anchorage area.  Dances with Dolphins  slowly circled the water and came to rest about 200 yards away.  Wes and Janice were aboard, with toy poodle Bailey.  We waited til they were secured, then went over to say hi.  We'd last seen them about 5 years ago.  They stay in the Rose Island area as a home base.  Pals with many local people, they are at home here.  Better yet, they own rights to a boat dock inside Rose Island in the "Donut Hole".  The hole is a natural pond on the island and years ago a entry was dredged to admit boats.  Completely protected from all wind directions, it is a haven in storms, even hurricanes.  When they go back to their native Canada for a visit, they leave the boat inside the hole for protection.  They live off the sea, snorkeling and hunting everyday.  They enjoy the freedom of being on the hook most of the time.  When they don't like their neighbors, they pull anchor and move.  Ditto if the seas kick up or the swell comes rocking.  Janice fed us cherry- pomegranate juice with fresh baked banana bread.  Then we shoved off and went to explore Green Cay.   It was too overgrown to get to the interior, so we walked the beach, finding snails, whelks, chitons, assorted shells, and small fish caught in tidal pools awaiting high tide.  An old ruined house stood roofless.  The walls were 1' thick and the house looked like it could be inhabited if someone put on a new roof.  But it was still remote.  A boat was needed to go anywhere, and there was no good place to build a dock that would withstand storms.   Several miles to Rose Island, 10 miles to Nassau.  No stores.  The soil too poor to grow a garden. 
Whoever had lived here had a hard life, just surviving.  No wonder it was abandoned. 
Wednesday morning, it was overcast.  The wind had increased to bout 15 k.  Wes had told us of a nice reef near the north shore of Rose Island, so we lifted anchor and moved.  We were out of the wind, but the reef nearby was too high for us to stay through the low tied phase.  The dinghy was launched to explore nearer the shore and we found it was 12' at mid high tide almost to the beach.  So we again hoisted the anchor and moved closer to both the beach and the reefs.  There was almost no wind and no waves at this distance to land.  It was the most dense concentration of coral reefs we'd seen.  Amazing to find such a treasure so close to Nassau.  We snorkeled for hours enjoying the dense coral garden.  We moved to a second snorkel spot, then went to anchor for the night.  The winds kept switching on us, different directions, setting us sideways to our persistent swell.  The swell also switched directions.  So although we set out a second anchor, we still rocked.  We tried letting out some line on the second anchor, then pulling more in, trying to find the perfect direction. But then the wind turned on us again, and we started all over again.  I think it may be a long night.