Into the Mangroves

Sat 6 Mar 2010 23:23
This morning we saw a large beautiful shorebird with a long orange beak alking alongshore right past the boat. Turned out to be an American Ostercatcher. There are other interesting shorebirds here we haven't been able to positively identify. And we've read that Tropicbirds should be nesting here about now, with their long white tails.

About two hours before high tide we took Amazon, the dinghy, up the stream into the mangrove swamps of Shroud Cay. We started out sailing, and when the wind was against us we'd row, and when it got too shallow we'd get out and pull. Eventually we went about a mile or two, crossed the entire cay and wound up on the Sound side.

We climbed a hill where a recluse used to live a few decades ago, called Camp Driftwood. (No driftwood, nor camp, remains.) The view is phenomenal -- looking out over all of Shroud Cay with its winding blue channels through the low green mangroves; looking out beyond to the light blue-green of Exuma Bank, and in the other direction to the deep blue of the Sound, and north to Norman's Cay, where a dozen masts can be seen in the southern anchorage. We played on a small beach at the base of the hill where a strong current squeezed through a narrow rocky opening between the Sound and the swamp.

We sailed back out of the swamp, with the girls doing the steering. We had heard that these mangroves are breeding grounds for nurse sharks, among many other species, so we were constantly on the lookout for dark shapes moving along the bottom. None sighted, alas.

Back at Sea Fever we ate lunch--Spam on Wasa crackers for Isabel & Garth. We tried our sprouts for the first time. They're delicious. Isabel liked them on Wasa. Lilly mixed up a batch of tuna and had a tuna/sprout salad. Rose had 3 scrambled eggs over left-over rice. She eats eggs at least once a day. One night for dinner, she ate four. We started out with 3 dozen when we left Miami, and we have 2 eggs left. Then we start in on our powdered eggs. There is more to eat for Isabel in the ships stores, since she's a big fan of Spam and Vienna sausages, as well as peanut butter & fluff on anything. Rose is on a peanut butter boycott, even though pb and honey sandwiches are (were) her mainstay back home. We canned our own chicken back home and Rose is willing to eat that. We still have lots of cheese sticks, though no more ice to keep them cold. The meals we canned back home are, so far, great. One quart jar feeds two adults, just. We've had brisket, beef stew, chicken stew, turkey soup, meat sauce (none of which the girls will eat). So, each night we usually make two meals. One for kids and one for the parents. Just like at home.The starchy item is Usually the meal involves some sort of pasta or rice (which supplements whatever Garth and the girls are having--to fill in the extra spaces). The apples and bananas, bread and rolls, that we bought in Miami lasted about two weeks. Now we're on crackers and canned fruits. No one is starving. We have snacky items to last years.

We went to the well on the island and came back with a 5-gallon bucket full of water. Not exactly what we'd like to drink, being a bit on the yellow side -- but fine for laundry. So we mixed in a cup of ammonia and washed all our dirty clothes and hung them along an improvised clothesline betwen the mast and the flagstaff. It was a shabby parody of the formal "dressing ship" with signal flags. I'm glad no one else is in this anchorage to witness our housekeeping. What would they say at Highbourne Cay?

The wind was incessant all day, at 15 knots from the north. The boat can have a greenhouse effect and get quite warm inside during the day. You start to think about going for a refreshing swim. Then you pop your head up into the wind and within minutes, all thought of swimming has disappeared. . . .

The girls did two hours of school work today. (Rose in a tent she made on the cabin top from blankets, surrounded by flapping laundry.) We don't pay much attention to whether a day is a weekend or not. Homeschooling is a challenge. The last thing the girls want to do is buckle down to do standardized test prep or spelling. But they are reading voraciously, which we think counts for a lot. Isabel is deep into The Lightning Thief and Rose is almost done Nim's Island. This morning they lay in their beds and read for an hour before breakfast.

Tomorrow, we'll wait for high tide and then go on to Hawksbill Cay, which is supposed to have beautiful beaches. The wind is forecast to get a bit calmer.