Little Farmer's Cay School Fair

Sat 27 Mar 2010 21:08
23:57.7 N
76:19.4 W

We left Children's Bay Cay's beautiful little beach yesterday morning by 8:00 to get to the Caribbean Marine Research Center on Lee Stocking by 9:00. We made it with time to spare. While we were waiting for the center to open, a Canadian couple--Ed & Dee--from a sailboat, Sea Fox X, came over in their zodiac and said that they had confirmed with the center the night before and were going ashore. They had just left George Town as well, having been there for the past two months, and are heading back north. They're veteran cruisers of the Exumas. They told us Sea Fever and its shallow draft were "the talk of George Town." They offered to take Isabel & Rose in their zodiac (always a treat to go in a motorized dinghy) and we let perfect strangers who were somehow not strangers at all take our children to the dock. Garth & I followed in Amazon, rowing. We had a tour of the facilities, which are sadly under-funded. It used to be affiliated with NOAA, but funds dried up and now it's supported by private fundraising. The two ongoing projects are: 1. research on coral growth (coral reefs are dying due to rising ocean temperatures, pollution, and unknown factors) and 2. Raising public awareness of the lionfish problem (lionfish are an invasive species from the Pacific with no natural predators and they are eating reef fish to a devasting degree). There are now lionfish tournaments and an attempt to get a fishery going. The problem is that lionfish have venomous spines, making them less appealing to fishermen and a challenge to handle once caught. However, we're told the meat is excellent--once you get to it. We see them everywhere we snorkel. We were asked to kill any we see. Garth took note.

We had intended to hike to the top of Perry's Peak on Lee Stocking, the highest peak on the Exumas with magnificent views. But certain junior members of our crew were flagging under the unrelenting sun, so we decided against the hike. Meanwhile, the South wind had begun to blow quite hard and the waves on the banks were getting choppy in the anchorage by the research center. Rose was so hot and desperate to swim, so we set off to find a good swimming beach. We considered one off Norman's Pond Cay (not to be confused with the Norman's Cay and Norman's Pond earlier in our trip), but it was surrounded by reefs that would have been tricky to navigate in the wind. We raised sail and set off for the Darbys, two cays that were recommended to us to check out, and had an incredible several hours-long through shallow waters, broad-reaching in only a couple of feet of clear water. We arrived in the Darbies in the late afternoon--very hot and ready to swim. I felt like I'd had enough sun for the day and was ready to anchor and stay put for the rest of the day and night. We pulled into a little bay between Darby Cay and Little Darby Cay and swam, but we were right in front of two private houses, and we didn't feel comfortable staying. As we were considering moving to a different part of the Darbys where we might not be under someone's nose, we heard an announcement on the VHF for the Little Farmer's Cay School Festival happening the next day at noon. The girls' eyes lit up. So, it was off to find an anchorage for the night that would be closer to Little Farmer's Cay.

The wind was still strong and the chop getting choppier. We sailed for another two hours, flying along on a beam reach, and reached Big Farmer's Cay (close enough) to a beach I had picked out on the chart because it had a little mangrove creek I thought we could use to get out of the wind. However, when we got there, around 5:00, it was almost high tide and we could barely get into the creek. Garth towed the boat back out, against the wind, and into chest-deep water. I was exhausted by the constant moving around and the constant sun and also by not really having lunch, so I went to the boat and cooked dinner while the girls played on the beach. Round six everyone came aboard and ate. The wind wasn't abating (this wind wasn't in the forecast), and at 7:00 we felt we needed to move on in search of better shelter. We pulled up anchor for the 4th time that day. Finally, as the sun set, we pulled into the waters off Little Farmer Cay, where we saw our friends Bill and Heidi from Act III, zipping by in their dinghy. We anchored just off Great Guana Island, not far from an old wreck of a steel ship that had been thrown onto the beach in some great storm. Bill radioed us to ask us if we'd like to join them Sunday night for a birthday celebration for Heidi at a restuarant in Little Farmer's. We accepted happily. This means we won't be leaving Little Farmer's Cay area until Monday, which was fine by us after our nomadic day. It rained hard at night and at 3:00 a.m. the girls announced they were gettng wet. So we changed their screen-covered hatch, which we usually leave in at night--except if we know it's going to rain--for a solid one.

This morning, the sun came out strong and hot--good clothes-drying weather... After checking out the wreck, we headed across the channel to the harbor at Little Farmer's Cay, to attend the fair. It was a fantastic event with local dishes--Roti, fried fish, guava duff, conch fritters. There was ring toss for prizes--the girls won many, including hair styling gel and shampoo--musical chairs and balloon toss for children and adults, a dj playing very loud Caribbean music. We met the energetic and friendly principal of the school, who reminded us of our principal, Eric Windover; and got a tour of one of two classrooms -- it was very well supplied and they have five computers. There are 10 primary students and currently 3 seventh graders. The school goes up to 9th grade. After that, the kids have to go away for school to Nassau or some other large town. We met cruisers, locals, people who live on Big Farmer's Cay half the year and Stowe, VT, the other half of the year, and their guests, who manned the bar and served food. Our Research Center friends were there, Dee & Ed, and Ed taught the girls to play dominos, and then the girls played some Little Farmer's Cay kids. We spent all day there, until the girls started flagging. I think the party will go on into the evening as the bar and the grill were still going strong when we left.