Monday, June 23, 2008

Wind In Your Sails: Part IV

With day one of our sailing adventure over and day two ahead of us, we awoke early and ate a leisurely breakfast topside in the fresh morning air. The day’s agenda included a short dinghy trip to the Caves for snorkeling, followed by a day long sail to our overnight mooring in Manchineel Bay at Cooper Island.

Lending to the continuing legend of buried treasure, the famous Caves, pictured below, are only four feet deep, although they drop off to 40 feet near their entrance. Typically explored by snorkeling, the Caves are fascinating rock formations. The variety of tropical fish, the life-encrusted walls of cup corals and sponges with their brilliant colors, and the abundant waterfowl, including pelicans, tropic birds and laughing gulls, make this a popular area.

Packing our gear in the dinghy, Dinghy Captain Bill followed the craggy shoreline to Treasure Point on the lower tip of The Bight. Rounding the point, we tied up at the dinghy mooring. The northern-most cave stretches 70' back into the island. In the early morning light we saw the gorgeous purples, rusts and deep veins of the above water walls. Underwater, it's like a night dive, with the coral polyps extending their tentacles to feed. At the end of the cave is a small room. The next cave is deeply indented into the rock face. Still another cave is above the water line. The southernmost cave has a rounded rock bottom on which to stand, underneath a natural skylight. This is a good place to take photos from the inside. The surge was powerful and we had to be careful to avoid getting too close to the cave walls. Not only can you cause harm to yourself, but you can damage the cave's fragile ecosystem.

Returning to Quantum 2, we unfurled the sails and journeyed east to Cooper Island. We sailed past beautiful Peter Island that was closed for renovations, and tiny Salt Island. Reefs shimmered in many hues of blue and green, from navy blue in the deeper water to light blues, light greens and turquoise in the shallower places. Rocks and the reef itself appear in brown hues and darker shades. Added to the composition is the cerulean blue of the tropical sky reflecting back from the water's surface. Entering Manchineel Bay from the north, we found that securing to a mooring ball was not as easy as The Bight at Norman Island. Whereas The Bight was protected from the Caribbean Sea, Manchineel Bay was open to the south and somewhat rougher. While we still had enough daylight to navigate safely, we took the dinghy to shore and strolled along the powder-soft sandy beach.

Exploring Manchineel Bay, we were warned to avoid the manchineel tree, particularly in the rain. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful cloudless evening. The tree's sap, said to be used by the Carib Indians to poison their arrows, causes severe skin blistering and, if in the eyes, at least temporary blindness. It can take the paint off of any car parked under it. If it rains the water dripping off the leaves can burn our skin! In the summer this tree produces fruit that look like green apples, but are very poisonous. Columbus called the apples "death apples". The only animals that can eat the fruit of the manchineel tree without getting poisoned are land crabs. Even bumping into the tree trunk can get poisonous sap on us. This is not the tree you would want to sit beneath, no matter how much shade it provides. Fortunately, this tree is the only one that is dangerous on Caribbean beaches.

Returning to Quantum 2, the guys snorkeled off the stern while Claudia and I prepared dinner. Once again we enjoyed the soft evening breezes while watching a spectacular sunset. There isn't a five star restaurant anywhere in the world that compares to this. Besides, what 5-star restaurant allows you to dine barefoot? It doesn’t get better than this. Ahhhhhh. We vowed never to return.

NOTE: Click on the label "Wind in your Sails" to follow along as I relive our 2002 BVI sailing adventure with the Smietanas. We plan to take this same adventure, plus a surprise addition or two, with Chere/Fred and Judy/Mitch in fall 2009. One island we will be sure to visit is Peter Island. At the time of our 2002 sail adventure Peter Island was closed. The entire 1,800 acre island is a private resort. When we motored close to the dock, we were shooed away by a dock tender. Friends have since visited Peter Island and I was told to not miss eating at the resort's wonderful beach restaurant. And next time, we'll make sure the dinghy doesn't leak!


Chere said...

All of this just sounds so wonderful. There is nothing more than being on the water at sun set having a nice dinner and drink in bare feet. It is just a relaxing way to eat and live. Jimmy Buffet has it right. "Take Me Away". Can't wait. Sail me away to the end of the earth. Please!!!

Little Miss Marlee said...

You are such a wonderful writer! I could picture everything so clearly! I hope youre having a great time! But you cant stay forever! You would be missed! Wait, can you have visitors? If so, I may reconsider! Be careful, have fun and get home soon!

Janette said...

WOW I didn't know there was such a tree. I wish I didn't get so sea sick. That would be such a fun trip to do. :)

Judyann said...

Just love how descriptive you are when retelling your adventures. Nov. 09 can't get here soon enough.