Snorkeling Our Way To Georgetown Part 1: Norman's Cay
We had a great crossing to The Exumas, even though there was very light wind. We had hoped to sail the 50 or so nautical miles and left Kemps Point at 5 o'clock in the morning. The route out Davis Channel was very straightforward and we hit the waters of Exuma Sound just as the sun started to come up.
We put up both sails and were making a not so impressive 2.5 knots. It was a gorgeous day and if we didn't have as far to go, and didn't have to worry about timing the tide to enter a cut, we probably would have just happily bobbed along; but we did have to worry about those things so the motor came back on and we ended up cruising the whole way across at 6 to 6.5 knots!! That may not sound like a lot, but it was probably our fastest cruising day yet!
We were so fast, in fact, that we ended up reaching Norman's Cut at high tide (around 11:30am) instead of the evening's low tide that we had originally planned upon! The changing hues of blue as we relatively quickly moved from 6000 feet of depth to 15 feet of depth were mesmerizing. Unfortunately, we couldn't sit back and enjoy it because we had to enter the cut, but it turned out to be an absolute breeze! Once safely inside the channel, we had to dodge a bit of traffic and carefully pick our way between the shoals, but boy do we now understand why everyone goes on and on about the water in The Exumas! It's almost indescribable - the clarity, the dozens of different shades of blue - just magical.
We came around Norman's Cay's southern end and kept heading out to avoid a shoal before back towards its shores to anchor by Skipjack Point. Our buddy boat, Scintilla, arrived about an hour later and we enjoyed a wonderful lunch aboard before all hopping in their dinghy to retrace our path to the southern end of the island in search of the famous drug plane.
Norman's Cay, in the 1970s, was taken over by Carlos Lehder, a cofounder of Pablo Escabar's Medellin cartel. He used the island and the other nearby cays as part of their drug network, funneling cocaine by plane from Colombia to the United States. He built a 1000 foot long runway which runs right to the end of the island and a C-64 plane, popular in WWII, lies just to the east of it in almost perfect condition. Stories abound about it being too laden with cargo (aka drugs) that it dropped from the sky, but the real story, as told by Jack Reed, Lehder's first pilot and resident of the island, is a bit stranger. The plane was apparently brought to the island by 'British Andy', a man who had flown for the cartel a few times and who had quite the drinking problem. One day, after already imbibing himself with a lot of drink, he decided to practice some touch and goes (landings and take-offs). You can imagine how that went, with a narrow runway and a drunk pilot, and so there lies the largely intact wreckage of the C-64.
When we arrived, the top part of the cabin was sticking out of the water so it was definitely accessible for snorkeling without having to dive down too deep. As soon as we jumped in the water, we were greeted by many sergeant majors all milling around looking for food. The plane is much bigger than I had expected and the top of the cabin is gone, allowing you to swim through the fuselage. The two props are still there and it's deepest point at mid-tide was about 15 feet. There is a ton of coral growing in and on the wreck and we saw many different fish. The current wasn't bad when we went but it is just off the channel leading to the cut so I wouldn't go on a windy day or a day with strong current.
We spent about half an hour at the wreck and enjoyed every minute of it. After we all piled back in the dinghy, Aaron and Woody took us over to the channel and they hopped out for some spearfishing. After moving to a couple different spots, they came back with four beautiful lobsters! You can guess what we had for dinner that night!