The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 30: Natures way
Sunday, 16 April 2000
I don't know what moved us to it, but yesterday morning we upped anchor and began heading north on the reef. To give you a better view of this area, there are only few islands and the mainland is about 25 miles to the West. The barrier reef is seen as a line of breaking water extending north to south. There is sometimes a secondary reef or gardens of coral heads up to a half mile behind the barrier reef.
We cruised north to Tom Owen's Cay about 7 miles north of Frank's and pulled in between the reef and the island. Then, dropping both anchors in 20 feet of water with the intention of staying the night, I dived and manually set them in the bottom. In this area diving your anchor is mandatory. The bottom texture is hard sand and mud and without some help, an anchor will not set itself.
After an hour or so of checking out the area for snorkeling, we decided it wasn't such a great place. There were also a few fisherman's pangas running about. Since we were alone almost for the first time since we started cruising, their presence wasn't desired. So, the anchors came up and Francesca made north.
Another few miles and we passed South Rock, Red Rock and Black Rock. Then about 7 miles from Tom Owen's we came to North Spot. The guide book only mentions it as a very small island that you don't want to hit. It is only about 100 feet across with some sparse grass and a few birds. But I noticed that the reef, about 300 yards to the east, had a crook to it that looked like a potential anchorage. We eased our way in, avoiding coral heads and found a wonderful grass/sand bottomed cove behind the reef with plenty of swinging room. It wouldn't be good for a bad blow, but the weather was predicted to be settled for a few days.
We were miles from the nearest anybody. So when I put on mask, fins and snorkel, (let's see did I miss anything, - - nope that was all), we experienced, perhaps for the first time in our lives, the pleasure of exposing every square inch to the sun. After diving and setting both hooks, we checked out the area for snorkeling. It was pristine. The nearest thing to a virgin reef I have ever experienced. The fish are larger, more plentiful, more varied and don't spook when you swim up to them. Fifty yards behind the boat, there is a large coral head with 4 types of angel fish that are about the size of an 81/2 X 11 piece of paper.
Last night the wind picked up a bit, but only to about 15 knots. The moon was nearly full and we could see the breaking reef and heads around us. We had already planned our escape route if the weather got bad, but as expected, it was not necessary. This morning the wind has abated and we will continue, au natural, to explore the coral fairyland.
Joan, Ben & Maggie