It’s always a little unsettling when we pull into a popular anchorage to find it completely empty. All I can think is “Why is no one else here? Is there something we don’t know?”
We got our answer, though, as we bounced and jerked in the waves trying to get Hideaway tied onto her mooring ball in Shroud Cay. The winds were blowing 20 knots from the west and we had no protection in the mooring field on the west side of the island. We knew this would be the case before we left Norman’s Cay, but we were counting on the winds to die down to 5 knots that evening. And as long as the forecast was correct, we would be comfortable again by nightfall. Getting to shore during daylight hours on a bouncing dinghy in the meantime, however, was a challenge.
The plan was to stay one night in Shroud Cay and get to a protected harbor in Warderick Wells Cay early the next day before the gale-force winds in the forecast blew through Saturday night and kept us tied down again for a while.
And Shroud Cay seemed like as good a stopover as any, since it was highlighted in our Cruising Guide to the Exumas with a long paragraph devoted to the history of “a very special place” there called Camp Driftwood, which was described as impossible to describe. Apparently Camp Driftwood has been on Shroud Cay since the 1960’s, when a sailing hermit named Ernest Scholtes stayed on his boat in the anchorage and built the place, little by little, with pieces of driftwood, shells, seabeans, floats and colorful bits found on the beach.
But all we found were two totem poles, presumably marking the path up to Camp Driftwood, and a string of discarded beer bottles leading us up the hill like some kind of alcoholic bread crumb trail. Except when we got to the top, there was nothing there but a gorgeous view of the beach. No picnic table made of driftwood or works of art made from shells and seeds. Just a wooden frame that looked like it once held a plaque of some kind and some more trash.
We wondered if we’d somehow missed a secret path that led to the camp on the other side of the hill. But when we read the description again, it definitely said it was on the ridge at the top of the hill. After all, the U.S. DEA had a camera parked up there from which to spy on Carlos Lehder’s activity on Norman’s Cay. You can’t see Norman’s Cay from the bottom of the hill.
We were stumped. Did someone steal Camp Driftwood? Pack it up to bring back to Ernest Sholtes as a nostalgic gift wherever he resided now? Or did it all blow away in the storm that took down McDuff’s bar on Norman’s Cay?
It didn’t matter, I guess. In the same way that we went to Norman’s Cay to find a burger and instead found a sunken plane to snorkel around, I guess we went to Shroud Cay to find Camp Driftwood and instead found a beautiful, completely secluded beach.
But if anyone knows what happened to Camp Driftwood, please do tell…