Warderick Wells to Compass Cay, The Bahamas

Warderick Wells to Compass Cay, The Bahamas

Thursday, January 22, 2004

We decided, at long last, to leave Warderick Wells. We’d been there eight days and really should move on … there’s lots more to see! And, besides, we had finished the projects we had started.

We settled up with the office … turns out we really didn’t owe anything because we’d donated so much time as volunteer workers. But, we “joined” the park and, so paid the fee which left us a free night on a mooring and a jump over non-members for a place at one. We expect to use it on our way north in a couple of months.

The weather predictions are for a couple of more fronts to head our way, giving us westerly winds from which there are few protected anchorages. Seems this year the Bahamas are experiencing many more fronts closer together than normal. We decided to head for the protection provided at the marina on Compass Cay. Jack & Edie had told us it was a “can’t miss” stop.

Entering Compass Cay
Entering Compass Cay

We called on the radio and owner, Tucker Rolle, indicated there was room for us so we headed in that direction. The channel approaching the marina is fairly shallow but is marked with private aids to navigation. We skinned across the bar with a few inches to spare under our keel. Tucker took our lines and helped us tie up. He’s a real gentleman, a native of Black Point, about twenty miles and several cays to the south of Compass Cay. He holds the government lease to the whole island and owns the marina and all the buildings. He runs the operation single handedly. There was only one other occupied boat tied up at the marina … the 90-ft Broward, Liberation, with owner, Gene, and two crew, Howard and his son, Tim, aboard. The three-bedroom rental lodge and two apartments were unoccupied.

Overview of Marina
Overview of Marina

There are miles of walking paths on the island and we walked to the sound-side beach, a ¾ mile crescent of fine, white sand with a couple of pavilions along it, complete with lounge chairs and picnic tables. We walked to “Hester’s house”, a ruin on the point at the north end of the beach. What a setting! Then, Bill relaxed and read in the beach side pavilion while Sandy combed the beach to the south (gotta get her miles in!).

Hester's Beach
Hester’s Beach

Returning to the marina, we took drinks up to the dock pavilion and watched for the “green flash”. No flash, but good company with Tucker and the crew from Liberation.

Compass Cay, The Bahamas

Friday, January 23 – Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Altogether, we spent a week at Compass Cay; the first two days tied up to the dock and another five on a mooring. We had a great time, met lots of people and thoroughly enjoyed this lovely island.

The weather has been beautiful, mostly clear, blue skies and temps in the low- to mid-70’s. When the fronts come through, you have some strong winds. Winds blowing 20-25 knots and gusts can be higher. We are hearing about the bitter cold you are experiencing back home and it really is difficult to even think about. Our friends in the ski club are finding lots of snow but below zero temps. But, we are thinking about them as we follow along on the scheduled trips.

The first morning, Bill got up early and was reading a book when Tucker showed up, said he was running an errand to nearby (four miles) Sampson Cay and wondered if Bill wanted to go along. Bill grabbed his wallet and jumped into the small Boston Whaler runabout for the trip. Tucker needed to pick up one of his sons who was to help him do some work and he needed some gasoline for the small boat. Bill visited the marina store and found a half-gallon of Tropicana orange juice, two peppers, two apples, two candy bars and two tomatoes for $18.

Petting Tucker's Nurse Sharks
Petting Tucker’s Nurse Sharks

Over the years, Tucker has “domesticated” a small school of nurse sharks by feeding them regularly at his dock. The seven sharks are never too far from the dinghy dock, waiting for some of the frequent visitors to toss meat scraps into the water. The dinghy dock is built close to the water and it is actually underwater on very high tides. On those occasions, the sharks actually come up onto the dock deck to be rubbed on their backs. Tim (Liberation) and Sandy snorkeled with the sharks!

Sandy Snorkels with the Sharks
Sandy Snorkels with the Sharks

Snorkeling is lots of fun in the Bahamas and this marina, itself, isn’t a bad place to snorkel. However, the Rocky Dundas are only about three miles away and we dinghied there one day with Frank and Kitty (White Heron) to explore the underwater cave and the reef in that location. The reef is really more like a continuous garden of corals and pretty fish. And, you could snorkel into a cave. There were stalactites and a hole in the top that let light in. It was really pretty! A few days later, Sandy returned with Tim (Liberation) in their launch and also snorkeled another cave that we didn’t notice on our first trip. Sandy claimed that it was even nicer than the first one!

The marina started to fill up after the first day. Eventually it was nearly full and we met lots of nice people including Frank & Kitty (White Heron), Bill & Soon (Gaia), Jim & Sheila (Trust Me), Bill & Marjorie (Jubilant), Cathy & Howie (Seas the Moment), Emmett & Jan (Summerlove), Debbie & Bill (Imagine) and several others. Ever the social organizers, we announced either cocktails or pot luck dinners each night at the Green Flash Club (the pavilion on the dock) and nearly everyone came every evening. (For those of you who don’t know, when the sun sets or rises over a perfectly clear ocean horizon, there is a bright green flash that precedes the appearance or follows the disappearance of the upper limb of the sun.) We always stopped to look for the green flash but never managed to see it. Conch blowing aficionados brought their conch horns and celebrated the sunset regardless. One evening Tucker donated a large platter of ribs which Bill grilled on the dock for everyone to share.

Sandy also organized the walkers. Each morning the group would gather to walk some of the many trails on the island. She had as many as six or seven walkers some days. Actually, all this organizing this stuff was no big deal. You simply had to ask whether anyone wanted to walk or gather for a covered dish and it seemed to happen. No real organization ever seems to be needed. There are some conventions commonly observed among cruisers that help make socializing easy. The primary one is that, for cocktail hours, people bring their own drinks and, likely, a snack. For dinners, most are covered dish or, at least, people bring their own meats to grill. Since drinks and food are expensive and often hard to come by, this makes it much easier to play host.

Sunset at Compass Cay
Sunset at Compass Cay

One of the many trails leads to the, now unused, “low tide airport”. This is a tidal flat, smooth, level sand at low tide, a shallow inlet at high tide. That means that planes arrived near low tide, did their business and left before the tide returned. Landing flights were limited to the one, daylight low tide each day.

One day we took the dinghy up through the interior of the island. Like many of these islands, there is a low, sandy area that has filled in between what used to be two islands. In the case of Compass Cay, the water is deep enough to take a dinghy about two thirds of the length of the island, through mangroves and past the ruins of a couple of old buildings. The trip was both pretty and afforded alternative views of this scenic island.

Bill, ever avoiding doing maintenance on the boat, offered to do a few jobs for Tucker, who has lots of projects and not enough time or skilled tradesmen to get them done. One of the jobs was to fill in a small wall section with tongue-and-groove lumber and to replace the edge of a countertop that had been damaged. Another was to replace a couple of ceiling fans. Tucker paid for the work by forgiving us some water (@ 50 cents per gallon, beer and food purchases at his tiny store on the dock.

Of course, we did do some chores onboard, like some laundry (hand wash) and cleaning the decks when we had a good “dew”. We continued to eat very well. A highlight was the delicious lobster tails we purchased from Tucker’s son and grilled. Wow, they were tasty and big! Sandy made some great quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) salad, too.

Our stay at Compass Cay was fantastic. Tucker was such a great host, the island is beautiful, the pace is slow and the living is easy.