Ok fine, TODAY was the perfect day. We beat Thursday by a long shot. I already know that renting a boat is a MUST DO but I was in denial. Note to self: Rent a boat. It is the best and cheapest way to island hop, fish, snorkel, and do whatever the hell you want in Elizabeth Harbour. Minns Watersports is the only boat rental business that I know of on the island (however I read somewhere there might be one up in Barre Tarre). For $155 per day, you can rent a 15 foot Boston Whaler and take it pretty much anywhere you want to go within the Elizabeth Harbour limits. Do it!! You will be so happy you did and we had the most fabulous day. The weather was perfect with a little wind but we were still able to do everything we wanted to. Minns gives you a map of Elizabeth Harbour and a quick summary of all of the points of interest to visit. After a quick boat operating instruction from the dock master, we were on our way.
The first hurdle to overcome was getting out of the mini-harbour where the boats are located. You have to motor under a bridge through a very narrow underpass. If you’ve ever driven a boat slowly, you know that there is a delayed reaction when you turn the steering wheel. It’s easy to over steer a boat and I was panicked that I would fall victim to it. But instead, success!!! Made it through with no problems. I know I was just overreacting but it’s still intimidating.
The angle of the sun and the tides have a lot to do with where to go and when. We decided to cruise counter-clockwise around the harbour and sightsee until we felt it was a good time to stop at Fowl Cay, the first snorkeling destination. (Note to Americans: I’m spelling harbour with a “u” since that’s how they do it on the Bahamas, hence Elizabeth Harbour.) I noticed on the map that Man-O-War Cay was right at the end of our allowed boundary and I was happy to learn we could cruise to the sandbar and stop for a few pictures. I have never seen anything like it in my life. For what seems like a cubic mile, knee to thigh deep crystal clear water and the softest, untouched, sandy bottom you’ve ever felt. If I could have done cartwheels through it I would have. My fellow females know what I mean…when you see a perfect field of grass in a beautiful setting it calls for cartwheels. We anchored for a bit, took a ton of pictures, and waded around in awe of what we were experiencing. Can this possibly get any better??!! We just started!
We had enough of the sand bank at Man O War Cay and cruised around a while longer and arrived at Fowl Cay. Yellow buoys with a red stripe mark the spots throughout the harbour where you can tie up and snorkel amazing reefs. And it did not disappoint. It is located between two small islands, partially exposed to the open ocean, and has some relatively shallow spots and then some very deep spots. The fan coral was vibrant, neon purple and seemed to be thriving well in its environment. Fish. Were. Everywhere. It’s humbling to see such an abundance of marine life on what seems to be a healthy reef located right smack in a busy harbour. (Again, busy is relative.) This was actually one of the larger and nicer reefs I’ve ever seen. Our water taxi driver Darrin was carting a young couple around in a boat and tied up to the buoy next to ours. He spotted a dolphin in the flats just a hundred yards or so away and we watched in delight. I was hoping it would come a little closer so I could jump in and swim around with it but it had no interest and went about its way. I see dolphins in my backyard regularly but the water is brown and they have no interest in humans. The dolphins here are quite curious from what I understand and will hang around for a while to observe.
The next snorkeling spot was Guana Cay. It was in a similar location just one island away but we only saw two buoys and both were already taken. Lord knows I wasn’t brave enough to tie up to the same buoy as someone else so we decided to skip it and move on to the next one. Right in the middle of the harbour are three buoys located on a narrow but long reef. We tied up to the first one and fit in another snorkel sesh. It wasn’t quite as nice as Fowl Cay but understandably so as it sees a lot of traffic. The clarity wasn’t great in the deeper sections but it was plenty beautiful and also teeming with marine life.
It was beer o’clock and lunch time so we stopped at Chat N Chill to say hi to Kendra and grab some sustenance. Ran into a couple of friends there and headed for our next stop: Starfish Beach. It didn’t take long for us to spot several of them from the boat. So I jumped out and grabbed one to take some pictures with. Here’s where I I knew that my spot in hell has been marked with my name. We took some photos, marveled over its colors, and I quickly threw it back. Yep, I threw it back. What I realized a split second after I let go was that I should have “placed” it back. What if it turns upside down and can’t turn itself over? Did I just kill it? Is it just going to lay there and suffer? Will it at least provide food for a predator? Shit, shit, shit. It all happened in slow motion in my mind. I even considered diving back into the deep while it was sinking to save it but it was just too deep for me to get to. I watched and talked to it as if I was coaching it to safely land right side up. Falling, falling, falling, tipping, tipping, tipping, damn it! It flipped upside down when it landed and now it’s screaming and crying for help on the bottom of the ocean. I felt awful. I was trying to stay positive and convince myself that it will turn itself over and/or I have just provided an easy meal for another animal in the food chain. Or am I just a starfish killer? Sigh…lesson learned.
I depressingly continued on, stopped at a deserted beach to stare in amazement at how plentiful they are around the Exumas, and we decided to head back to Minns as it was getting late and we didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the Regatta. I made it safely through the underpass again. Score! It was already an amazing day and we had permagrin for sure.
We were able to catch the last race of the regatta from Peace and Plenty and spent the evening at the last block party. The band was great, locals were dancing in the street, crew members were hammered, and a great time was had by all. The best part of the night was our dinner at one of the shacks. The menu was simple: Pork, Chicken or Steak. That’s it. They sure make it easy here. We ordered chicken and watched as the chef threw it on the grill. No gloves, no tongs, nothing. Why do I think that’s so cool? Most would be horrified at the lack of sanitary protocols. Doesn’t bother me one bit. I just wonder how they don’t get sick working with raw meat all the time with no good means of washing their hands. Yikes. Our order was ready and we received our dinner in a Styrofoam to-go container, the typical delivery method here in the Bahamas. The food was deeeeeelish. Spicy, but delectable. I closed the container to throw it away and…….ahhhhhh (angel sounds)….the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. “Wht Woman” written on the container. No wonder they didn’t ask us for a name. I cried I was laughing so hard. It’s made my whole trip so far. It’s ethnically accurate I suppose. Cheers to more days just like this!