Shroud Cay

Fri 5 Mar 2010 23:21
24:32:13.7 N
76:47:44.8 W

Garth here: We spent a gentle night at anchor just outside Norman's Pond, rocked in smooth water by a very light swell running in
off the Sound. We spent the morning snorkeling and playing on the long beach. It was the girls' favorite kind of sand --
the dry cake-flour kind. I went off on a long snorkel/spearfishing expedition, my last before entering the Park. I found
a large live King Helmet, which was brought back to the boat for admiration and photos before being released. And I
played cat-and-mouse with a nice plump snapper who was hiding in a large mass of coral with many tunnels and passages.
Everytime I'd spot him he'd zip off through the interior to the other side, eluding my spear. This went on for about 15
minutes before I conceded the game. A barracuda as big as my leg shadowed me the whole time, seemingly hoping to steal a
fish from me. Little did he know that if he waited around for me to catch a fish he would die of starvation.

Then we all went as a family for another snorkel through the Underwater Garden. Rosie has improved her snorkeling
technique a lot in the last few days. Initially she was afraid to use her snorkel, and preferred to look below with her
mask, then raise her face out of the water to breathe. This led to many difficulties in floating gently over coral. Now
she uses her snorkel just fine and can go out over deep water and move with confidence. What we saw was extraordinary: A
large blue and yellow Angelfish who hid sideways in a hole, and could actually be approached and touched. A porcupine
fish, not inflated. A Spanish lobster that we picked up and looked at and released. A Lionfish. Sea fans, brain corals,
finger corals, sponges, anemones, all in a panoply of colors. It was mesmerizing, and Lilly said she was almost moved to tears by the
beauty of it. Lilly went out ahead of us at the beginning, saw two large barracudas, and changed direction.

Lilly here: After our extraordinary snorkel, we headed off to Shroud and tucked ourselves into one of its creeks that is only a few
feet deep at high tide. We set off to find the fresh water well, at the end of a marked trail into the interior of
the island. The water looked a bit tannic, and there were fish swimming in it, so we gave it a pass. The path went on
to a beautiful, tiny beach, the sand only visible at low tide, were we stopped and played. We headed back to the boat to
see if we were high and dry. We were, and that's fine. This is a well protected spot and we hope to take the dinghy
upstream on a long exploration tomorrow on the incoming tide. So this is where we will spend the night. The girls decided to
take a hike by themselves back to the well, taking with them a picnic. They've got the hand held VHF to keep in touch.
This is a BIG event--for both them and us. Up till now, they haven't been out of our sight for over two weeks.

Update: The girls returned triumphant. They called us every few minutes. They picnicked at the well. Then went on to investigate the tiny beach. They returned to report there were several boats anchored off the beach. They were joyous. This evening has been spent playing in this creek as the tide goes out. Playing on the beach. Running up and down the exposed sand flats, backdropped by the setting sun. They are tireless and so happy. We attempted to take Amazon up the creek at dead low tide, but even for "Ammy," it was too shallow. We found an enormous conch--the likes of which we could never see outside the park. It had a whole forest growing on its back and its lip (the judge of age) was huge. Conch can live up to 20 years. Both Rose & Isabel have found gorgeous shells they wanted to keep, but this is a no shelling zone. We explained that these beautiful shells are here only because other people have not taken them. The concept of conservation, wonderfully illustrated.