January 20 – 21.
We have spent our last night in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, leaving Bell Island and crossing the invisible boundary to where only the luckiest conchs die of old age and fish may fall prey to the enticement of tasty snacks only to be reeled out into the suffocating air to their fatal end. We have left behind the mostly uninhabited cays of the park preserve and have entered the central Exumas, dotted with settlements, grocery stores, marinas, resorts, rental cottages, bars, and restaurants. Civilization is so close, but first we stop at one more uninhabited island.
Pipe Cay was once the home of a US Navy Decca station. Abandoned, the ruins still stand along with dolphin pilings marking a channel from the Tongue of the Ocean to a small cove where the deserted buildings of the station stand on the west side of the island. There is a concrete wall inside the cove with enough room for two 40â€™ boats to tie up to.
We explored the ruins then worked our way through the thick scrub to a trail leading to the east side of the island. Child-sized footprints led us down the path and across the beach where they disappeared into the water. From this vantage point we could see several boats anchored a mile away on Pipe Creek, a narrow waterway nestled between several cays bordering the Sound to the east and the Banks to the west. The water was so shallow here, it looked as if you could almost walk to one of these boats at low tide.
On the east side of the island we walked along the coast finding many small conch shells ashore, caught on land by the ebbing tide, ending their conch lives way too short.
The next day we explored the west coast of Pipe Cay where we found starfish, mangrove swamps, beaches, and small reefs we viewed while we rowed over them in Fever through clear quiet still waters.