Sunday, January 24, 2010

South Point Stroll

The wind picked up last night and the Seas just didn't look like a lot of kayaking fun... especially getting out through the surf. So this morning, we took a stroll to the South Point of Salt Cay. It has to be called a stroll because we had to stop a number of times for pictures and just a few brief "ahhhs". The first stop was to take some pictures of the Cactus Tree (Consolea (opuntia) nashii) growing along both sides of the road.

The cactus trees are just starting to flower and the brilliant red flowers are a striking contrast to the blues of the Sea and sky and the green bushes surrounding it. These cactus are native exclusively to the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands and can grow to a height of about 4 meters (or 13 feet) but I've only seen them grown to about 6 feet tall on Salt Cay. (If you click on the pictures they open to a larger size so you can see them better... the flower really is beautiful!)

Salt Cay is the home of many elusive and ever-changing pocket beaches. I call them that because they are little pockets along the shoreline that under the right conditions fill with beautiful sand and are a joy to play on! You just have to walk along either side of the island and you'll find them (or not!).

Even on fairly windy days, these little pocket beaches can be fun to use... bobbing in the water and playing in the surges. Maybe tomorrow... today, the stroll to the South Point is the order of business and there are so many things to see in just that small area. Looking South toward the point there was another little pocket beach within sight of the first one... I hadn't seen it before... it must be one of the more elusive ones! Just off these little beaches, we spotted the Salt Cay Divers' boat enjoying a bright and sunny Sunday scuba dive. A great place to enjoy beautiful scenery above and below!

It's usually better to go out for a walk early in the morning before it gets too hot, but this morning the winds are blowing about 15mph and keeping everything a cool 80.

As we approached the South Point the sounds of the Sea increased to a low roar as the currents coming around the West side hit the currents coming around the East side of the island.Two years ago when I kayaked around the island, this was the toughest part of the trip. There are reefs half-submerged and the currents both ways are very strong. It is impossible even on a calm day to stay very close to shore in the kayak. At one point, I remember looking at the shore and wondering if I was traveling forward at all! The wild, free waves are incredible to watch.

It used to be a bit of a secret that the very best shells could be found on the South Point. That's not the case anymore, now it's best to get there early after a storm to search through the seaweed if you want the best shells. The weather and Sea have been calm for the past week and I was fairly confident that I wouldn't find and real treasures, but looking is half the fun!

I found a great stick and proceeded up and down the beach poking through the sea fans, sponges, pieces of coral, small broken shells, and seaweed. And of course, there's always the odd shoe that washes ashore. (can you spot it in the picture?)

Because the Sea has been calm there were not many piles of seaweed to go through but I did manage to find a nice Chestnut Turbin and a couple little melanilla and a cowrie shell. Lots of beautiful bits of shell, including a bright orange scallop nestled in the seaweed.

With sand in my shoes and a smile on my face, I took one last look toward the powerful beauty of the currents at South Point and headed home.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Salt Cay Rake 'N Scrape Haitian Benefit

Debbie Been, owner of Coral Reef Bar & Grill on Salt Cay, hosted a benefit for the island's Haitian families to aid them in finding and helping their relatives in Haiti after the earthquake. Salt Cay Rake 'N Scrape Band donated their talents to the event and entertained the crowd for about three hours. Debbie donated $1 from every drink sold and had a donation jar for people to make their own donations to Salt Cay's Haitian Relief Fund.

Through the efforts of Coral Reef Bar & Grill, Salt Cay Divers, Salt Cay Rake 'N Scrape Band, and the Salt Cay community over $2000 was raised for Salt Cay's Haitian Relief Fund

Winter Resident, Elinor Davies, graciously donated a number of original artworks to the cause. With the help of Sharon Herwin of Pirates Hideaway (pictured here), the Salt Cay Windmill watercolors were sold and the donations added to the Fund.

Salt Cay is home to many Haitian families, they are some of our best craftsmen and work hard to provide for their local families as well as sending money back to their families in Haiti. Communicating with their families in Haiti since the earthquake has been difficult. A few people have been able to find out information because their families do not live in Port au Prince and still have cell phone capability.

We have heard of two deaths to the Salt Cay Haitian families to date. There are a few of the men who are working to try to get enough airfare together so they can take the trip back to Haiti to find out about their families and help them in any way they can.

District Commissioner Carolyn Dickenson and Police Officer Kammeron assisted Salt Cay's Haitian community by providing them with phone numbers they can call to find out about their relatives earlier in the day and a Prayer Meeting at the Salt Shed was also held on Friday evening.

On Thursday the Salt Cay boat went to Grand Turk for the weekly shopping trip. We had heard on the local radio station that First Caribbean Bank has a special fund set up that sends the money donated directly to the Red Cross in Haiti and another contribution in that fund.

We would like to urge you to find out how you can help. And if you cannot afford to give a donation, please keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Salt Cay's Morning Traffic

Weather Report: Windy, blowing steadily from the... wait a second while I check the weather vane... okay... the full report. Sunny, with a few scattered clouds, wind blowing out of the East at about 20 mph, temperature about 75F. Some good swells out at sea but a great day for diving.

Traffic Report:
To the West of us... A beautiful three-masted schooner that spent the night off the West side of the island headed North in this morning at about 9:30AM.
To the East of us - I'll let this picture speak for itself. The wall on the left is our front wall, looking North on Victoria Street.

It looks like another quiet day on Salt Cay.

There are a few guests and divers on island enjoying a quiet, laid back vacation.

Tomorrow there will be a Haitian relief benefit for Salt Cay's Haitian population at the Coral Reef Bar & Grill. raising money to directly help our Haitian friend's own families. It's been so very difficult for many of them to find out what's happening with their families in Haiti... thoughts and prayers for our Haitian friends and their families please.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stormy Weather Fun

Waking in the morning to the sounds of the Sea, I sit up in my bed and look out the back windows to the Sea roiling and boiling as the winds come out of the West. I pulled the blanket a little higher waiting for the sun to bring light to another day on Salt Cay. I always feel sorry for guests to the island who come down for a couple of weeks and have stormy weather when they are looking forward to basking in the Sun. With all the stormy days we've been having since we arrived shortly before Christmas it has been necessary to just get on it! It's a "cold" 70-75 degrees, not bad really...

Climbing out of bed, I slip into my flip flops for a walk to the back gate for a better look at the Sea. Definitely not a day for kayaking or swimming on the West side of the island! After a brief stop in the kitchen to start the coffee, I opened the front doors and windows (shutters and screens no glass windows) and had a look to the East over the Salinas. Not bad!! A quick bike circuit to the airport and back before sitting with my coffee (and Bailey's) to check emails.
Our friend, Arnie, stopped by to find out when high tide is (3PM) and we talked about going kayaking on the East side of the island in the afternoon... a plan developed... Arnie, Sonia and I would meet at 2:30PM to take the kayaks over to the Creek and out on the East side of Salt Cay.

South Creek has always been a large shallow inlet but since the hurricane dumped a lot of sand in it, it's very shallow even at high tide. We had to drag the kayaks quite a way out to get them into deep enough water to paddle. There are a lot of submerged rock formations all along the mouth of the Creek but fortunately the water was calm enough to be able to spot those. With Arnie in the lead, Sonia and I followed him out between the two rock formations you see in this picture.

Heading into the wind (NNE), we played in the chop and paddled North for about 20 minutes. We could see Whale Island ahead and thought about paddling over to it, but decided that it was just a bit too windy and cold. As I think about my friends back in the States trying to stay warm in 12 degree weather, I realize just how lucky I am to be able to be “cold” in 70+ degree weather.

We turned around and headed back toward the creek with the tide and wind… very fun! It was a matter of steering the kayak and letting the tide and wind take you back. Fantastic! There are three spots to enter the Creek… the middle spot is the best with the least amount of underwater rocks and is protected by the rocks on either side so that there are not many waves to deal with as you paddle back into the Creek. Coming around the rocks and surfing into the creek was fantastic!

The stormy day adventure was not over... because the high tide was still not very high Arnie, Sonia and I had to drag the kayaks over a sandbar to the far end of South Creek were the blue holes are. As we approached water deep enough to kayak we had to wade through the muck of the clam beds. Once in the water again, a turtle popped its head up to take a look at us... a school of small bone fish flashed past us, little crabs scurried about and a heron landed and started to poke around for an afternoon snack.

We were down opposite the old bird watching station (falling apart after the hurricane) and not too far from the osprey nesting platform. In fact, the osprey flew into her nest with a little fish to feed the two baby osprey while we were paddling around looking at the blue holes. After a quick paddle to the other side of the Creek we portaged the kayaks back to the trailer and finished our Salt Cay stormy day adventure.

As I was riding my bike home I realized that the wind had shifted again and seemed to be trying to come straight out of the North bringing cool air and choppy Seas on all sides of the island. What a great way to spend a stormy day!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

After Midnight - Happy New Year!

The night was cool, the stars were bright and Debbie had a party at the Coral Reef Bar and Grill that was one of the best New Years Eve parties ever! The evening started out with the Salt Cay Rake 'N Scrape Band featuring Newton, vocals and bucket, Wilce on bucket, Dwight on the saw, Ranfully on tambourine and maracas and Spigot on the harmonica with guests joining in on the maracas that Mike Hawkins made and brought to the party.

Mike made about six maracas of coconut shells filled with small shells and rocks... great instrument for those of us who can't play the saw or harmonica! Spigot took a break from playing his harmonica to have a beer (or was that a glass of rum?) and play the maraca while visiting. That's the great thing about Rake 'N Scrape... you can take a break while the other band members continue on and join in at any time. Fantastic!

The Salt Cay Rake 'N Scrape band played for about an hour before it was time for their break (they played again after midnight joined by Shine on the bucket).

The rest of the evening DJ Newton (aided by Police Officer Cameron) spun a great selection of tunes and everyone was dancing, laughing and having an absolute great time!

Midnight arrived and kisses, hugs, and shouts of "Happy New Year" rang out through the night. Coral Reef Bar & Grill had two anniversaries and one proposal that night... a truly memorable and happy occasion!

I danced all night... we went home and I cooked bacon and eggs at 3AM... and today (January 3rd) I finally feel normal again! It just doesn't get any better than this.