Sampson to Pipe Cay- hangin’ out 2/23- 2/27

Most days the view out our window is this:

View from Ortolan toward Exuma Banks

but sometimes we can’t see it when we’re upside down working.

Replacing shower pump

Our SHURflo shower drain pump was under-performing. So, Captain Russ, long overdue for a meaty boat project, removes the thing and lo-and-behold the macerator cutting blades inside are completely wrapped up in a wad of hair- not mine- noooooooo. Ah, remove that wad and problem solved, right? Back in to the bilge it goes and Russ silicones a round piece of screening under the drain.  The next day we take showers and guess what? Problem not solved. Russ switches it out with the never-used one from the “guest” shower and further dissection shows 2 broken impeller vanes in the next chamber. No obvious cause for the break, but a replacement impeller will not be expensive.

On our way to Sampson Cay the club restaurant announced their Thursday 2 for 1 pizza special; hey what luck, we were headed there.  Well, turns out bad luck. We went in to raid the store (nothing fresh there either) and checked out the attractive dining area only to be told that the announcement was a mistake and the usual Thursday pizza special was not happening today. Sigh. We consoled ourselves with a very pricey box of Duncan Hines brownie mix.

Friday morning we gave Benj our farewell phone call since he was flying out Wed and we might not have cell service after today. Naturally we wish we could see him off (spending a few days at GMC then school vans will transport kids to Albany airport Wed) but we are comforted (and proud too) by how well he’s handled the bazillion details of the trip, taken care of car issues, dealt with our mail, visited his grandfather, spent time with friends and worked fulltime for seven weeks. We’ll keep in touch via email and occasional Skype.

By 11:30 we’d anchored off Pipe Cay on the north-west side, the spot chosen for its protection from NE and E winds. With more current than expected the Captain said, “better try a Bahamian moor”. Sure, why not and we spent several hours total, trying to get the anchors in the right place, with wind and current not exactly helping matters.

I think that's too far.....

One line out in front, the other towards the stern


I wasn’t too sure about this spot when we arrived, although Tina on Mattina and an ActiveCaptain review said it was a terrific place, a favorite, in fact. Within a day I was in complete agreement and would return in a heartbeat. Over the 3 ½ days we spent relaxing here (ok, so we hardly needto relax), we checked out several beaches on both the east and west shores, enjoyed the company of a barracuda who hung out in the shade of our hulls, watched the seaplane land and take off every day and got our butts in gear enough to deal with the shower sump pump, bake bread and brownies and plan our exodus from the Exumas within the next 10 days.

Sea plane landing toward Compass Cay Marina

Saturday, near low tide, we ventured over to Pipe Cay’s northeastern shore/beach and came upon the mother lode of young Queen Conch, a veritable conch nursery. So this is where they all were, we’d hardly seen any live conch in our explorations. The camera got a work-out to be proud of.

Felt funny eating conch chowder for dinner tonight

Conch life in a nutshell: conch are mollusks, along with octopus, snails, clams, limpets and oysters to name a few. They use a foot, a muscular organ, for movement- and yes they do move…. s l o w l y. The Queen Conch is the pride and joy of The Bahamas and the most numerous, although at the rate they are collected it’s hard to imagine any remain. Conch are found extensively in sea grass beds and sandy, muddy areas feeding on sea grass in relatively shallow water while the young ‘uns are found closer to the shoreline.  So that’s what we came across, a plethora of young (less than 3 years old) conch living along the shore in mere inches of water at low tide.

A just hatched baby conch can barely be seen with a magnifying glass and after a few weeks will bury itself in sand to hide for a year while it feeds and grows its shell. It will rapidly develop a long snout with a mouth at the end and a foot with a claw – eyes too. By a year old the shell is pinkish to yellowish brown with pink or yellow inside the lip and it keeps growing around and around until age 3 when the conch reaches full shell size and begins to grow a broad lip on its shell.

We walked along, marveling at all the conch, watching closely for any movement and helping any who’d been tossed bottoms up by the waves.  Further down the beach the stones gave way to all sand and to what I call the conch boudoir. The water was so shallow and clear you could easily see the tracks left by the conch as they moved. We didn’t see much movement from any but the evidence doesn’t lie.

Sea stars were scattered along the beach in the shallow water and we helped a couple who’d had the misfortune to be tossed too far up on the beach.

The Pipe Creek area (Compass Cay to the north, south to Sampson Cay) contains quite a bit of sand flats and very shallow areas accessible only by dinghy, if that. We walked off the beach to a sand bar area dry at low tide and came upon what I think is a helmet. Large like the conch, it has a foot muscle but no claw and feeds on sea urchins not plants.

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