The next day started out with a light breeze that once again kept the bugs down on our exposed point on the west side of Norman's Pond Cay. The sun promised another good day, at least in the morning. All had had a good nights sleep on the soft sand.
We exited the little channel which was much harder now that we had to paddle against the current over the very shallow bottom that we had so easily glided over on the way in. With a little effort we pushed over the sill at the beginning of the channel and were once more in the open. Turning north we followed along the shore to the end of the island. There a strong current joined the current coming up the other side of the island before turning out to see. The waves were steep and confused, but small, as we turned the corner and headed south down the east side of the island. Several hundred meters further along we rode the surge onto a steep white sand beach just inshore of a tall meteorological pole. Between the beach and the pole several purple black patches promised that the snorkeling spot we had been told provided a good snorkel spot.
After packing the kayaks, we paddled north part way up the island to the little inlet to the pond. At one time the pond was used for making salt. There were a few remnants of concrete in the inlet where the flow of water was regulated. Now all was in ruins. Yesterday there had been a little falls here. But now the entrance channel had a strong flow of water into it and we glided over the grass covered opening into the mangrove lined passage. The current carried us along quickly. A small shark beat a hasty retreat, shooting with impressive speed along the bank of the channel as it squeezed past my kayak. The shore was covered with the breathing roots of black mangroves standing in the shallow water. We made a quick circle around the small pond, getting caught in the shallow water requiring a brief walk and tow for a few of us.
The rocks were about 50 meters off the shore. Donning our snorkels and fins we swam out to the rocks located in about 3 meters of water. The shallow depth and brilliant sun kept the colors strong. Large soft corals and gorgonians dotted the sea floor and numerous small fish weaved in and out of the complex forms. It turned out to be the best reef we would see the entire week. The good beach there made access very easy.
When we had splashed about for an hour we came out and had lunch at the high tide line on the beach. The sun was hot and we applied some more sun block lotion. Some had forgotten to put any on before going in the water, particularly on the back of their legs. As a result there would be some painful burns on calves by late in the afternoon. I walked around to the point to look at our next destination. I needed to clamber over the rugged and dangerous "iron shore". The splashing waves of sea water erode the calcium carbonate of the ancient coral reef into sharp and menacing spikes. The stuff is called iron shore because it looks like iron, black and deep rust colored. It also sounds like iron. If you step on a loose plate of it, it sounds more like a slab of metal than rock. Sturdy shoes are required here. Crox have been known to be completely pierced by this stuff, so beware!
When I got back we prepared for a surf launch into the small surge coming in from the open ocean. Slipping easily off the beach, some with an assist, we assembled near the point we had rounded earlier and made sure everyone knew where we were going next. Just a mile away was an island with a population of protected iguanas. Crossing the current rip we headed out with some waves and wind behind us and a strong cross current blowing out the inlet on the ebb tide. Staying close together we were all swept off the rhumb line by the strong current. At the end of our passage we were paddling nearly up current as some struggled with the strength of the flow. The waves were not large, just barely being big enough to obscure the hulls, but they were a little choppy as they ran against the current.
Once we reached the western point of the little cay and rounded into the quiet water on the north side, we saw a nice sand beach and an official looking sign on the upper edge. These guys were protected by the same group patrolling for drug runners in their black hawk helicopters packing machine guns. And the iguanas seemed to know it as they ran out onto the beach when they heard us arrive. Obviously they are being fed by visitors which I am sure is not good for them. We didn't feed them because we didn't believe in it and we didn't have anything but freeze dried stuff anyhow. But they came out and put on a little show of running each other off as the slower but bigger males arrived on the beach.
After spending a little time with the local lizards, it was back into the boats for a continuation up along the string of cays. Once again we ran into strong currents between Bock and Scupper Cays. Swept toward the open ocean once again, our bowed course made good hugged the southern shore of Bock Cay. When we reached the narrow and shallow opening between Bock and Melvin Cays, we opted to go to the west side of Melvin cay instead of chancing the shallow water in between the two islands. The waves were breaking on the shallow sand bar requiring that we swing a half mile west to get sufficient water to proceed to Neighbor Cay. We landed on this little island which was being mined for pure white sand that was being hauled off somewhere else. The low remnants of the mining operation was planted in coconut palms and made for a spectacular view.
On to day 3, Big Farmer's Cay....
After walking the beach on Neighbor Key we continued past Prime Cay and its little guardian rock to the north end of Lignum Vitae where we set up camp on a nice curved sand beach with casuarina trees covering the shore. There were a few sand burrs about but that was the only complaint one could have about this great site. Once camp was up Rick, Steve and I paddled out to the ocean side of the cay and watched the swell roll back and forth over the jagged coral shore. Steve tried to rock hop onto a ledge but capsized when the back end of his boat slipped off the rocks. He rolled up off the left hand side which was the side he went down on, with only the temporary loss of his hat causing any consternation. With the chapeau retrieved about 10 meters away after several more surges came through, all was well. We paddled along the shore some more without incident. We returned to camp where a red sun settled between a few unstable clouds.