Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interesting Observation

On our way to the mangrove lagoon on Conception Island (see previous blog), we were dinghying along at 15-20 mph when we noticed something in the water pacing us as we went toward shore. We assumed it was a small dolphin until the creature got to shore, took an abrupt right-hand turn, and started cruising the shallows right in the breakers at the shoreline. It was a shark, about four-feet long. Chris noted that it seemed to know exactly where it wanted to go, with the way it shot in to the beach and immediately started hunting, as if it were on a schedule. We tentatively identified it as a lemon shark, and while looking online later, noted that the young of this species follow regular routes, which certainly seemed to be what this one was doing. They also like to hang out in and around mangrove lagoons, which this one was. It’s always nice to see this stuff for yourself, besides just reading about it. Lemon sharks also give birth to live young in mangrove lagoons—online you can find pictures of birthing, as well as adorable newborn sharks—so we’ll have to keep an eye out for that. The only unsettling part of the experience—we didn’t realize that sharks moved quite that fast.

Mangrove Nurseries

Some of the islands we’ve visited have tidal lagoons in their interiors that serve as mangrove nurseries. We explored the one on Conception Island with our dinghy. Relatively deep (3-4 feet) channels wound around brilliantly white sand flats that were dry at low water and dotted with small mangroves. In the picture above you can see a progression of mangrove growth from right to left, starting with tiny new mangroves, just a single stalk with a couple of leaves on top, and ending with larger plants with multiple branches and well-developed root systems. There also were stands of mature mangroves in the deeper water, like this beauty to the right. Just in front of the tree was a miniature blue hole, about fifty feet across and thirty feet deep, quite a difference from the otherwise shallow water here. Not only was this whole area a nursery for mangroves, but the mangroves themselves constitute nurseries for fish, which you can see swimming around the mangrove roots in the picture to the left.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Exciting News

We found out the other day that Chris' book, Scimitar Moon, which was released by Dragon Moon Press in September, is a finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award in the science fiction/fantasy category. We're so excited! The winners will be announced at the end of May. So say a prayer or cross your fingers or do whatever it is you do for luck! Hopefully, this award will join the others he's won for his books: Weapon of Flesh won first place in the 2005 USA Booknews Bestbooks Award in the fantasy/science fiction category, and Deathmask won second place in the 2005 Florida Writers' Alliance Novel of the Year Award for all categories. Thanks to all who have read and enjoyed his books!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fun On The Beach

The beaches on Conception Island were beautiful, and as we were strolling we came upon this fun-loving guy hanging out in the sand with a coconut and some other paraphernalia. We didn’t see his girlfriend, Barbie, around, but she might have been having a swim in the surf. Note: We did NOT set this up, but thanks to the mystery cruiser who did, as it gave us a good laugh.

Tropic Birds

Our visit to Conception Island included not only beautiful beaches and good snorkeling, but also tropic birds! I was hoping we’d see them, having read about them in the guides. At first we mistook them for terns, but when we got closer, we could see their long tails. Not the best picture here, but you can definitely see the bird’s long tail, alongside our tattered Bahamas courtesy flag (we have a new flag, but don’t put it up in high winds or else it will get tattered, too). The tropic birds were flying over the water offshore of the rocky areas of the island. When we scrambled around the rocks, we actually found some birds hunkered down in their rocky nests. Again, not the best picture, but you can see a tropic bird butt to the left, and a tail to the right. Chris apparently got too close to another nest, because we heard a noise like a dog’s squeaky toy whenever he stepped on a particular rock (no, he wasn’t squishing the bird), but couldn’t actually locate the secreted bird itself.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Conception Island

For the complete opposite experience of George Town, try Conception Island. This island and the surrounding waters are part of the park system, so there’s absolutely no development on or around the island, and it’s also a no-take zone. Chris was bummed about the no-take part, but he satisfied his fish-tooth with the blackfin tunas he caught while we were offshore. We tried to get pictures of the beautiful and sharp changes in water color—from deep blue to pale turquoise—as the bottom rises from more than 1,000 meters to less than five meters in the span of a couple minutes, but the photos just didn’t do it justice. The island has dramatic scenery, from long, white-sand beaches to craggy shoreline rocks; dark reefs, in the pale, shallow waters; and an interior that’s part terrestrial vegetation, part mangrove nursery. Below are some of the sights.

George Town In Full Swing

After we left Long Island, we sailed back up to George Town to do some reprovisioning. What a difference! When we were here in early January, the local count of boats was about 70, and that was spread over several large anchorages. This time, which happened to fall during the cruisers’ regatta week, the count was over three hundred boats. That meant far tighter quarters than we are used to or like; the picture above shows only a very small portion of one anchorage, but the boats were stacked nearly across the entire harbor. So we worked quickly at our two principal tasks: filling the water tanks (25 gallons at a time for a total of 300 gallons) for Chris, and filing the 2009 taxes for Anne. FYI – using TurboTax online is quick and easy, and it takes only a couple of weeks to get a refund if you go with direct deposit. Woo hoo!