24/02/2010/4:06 pm, Staniel Cay, Exumas
We rented a golf cart and took a little drive around the island before heading back to the airport in good time to greet our friends, Linda and Charles from Ottawa. It was a clear day and we saw two private planes take off, and then a plane fly overhead and on toward Black Point at about the right time. Another private, twin engine plane left and finally, the Flamingo flight came in. We waved wildly and an arm came out the window, waving back!
After a short tour of "downtown" Staniel Cay - showing them the government dock and the church and the cottage we rented last time, and a visit to Isles General Store to see what the shelves look like pre-mailboat, we deposited luggage on Madcap enjoyed slabs of coconut bread with fresh Irish butter as we caught up on the news. In the evening, we returned to the Yacht Club for the first Kaliks and a supper of fish sandwiches (mahi mahi) and fries and salads. It is always fun to introduce another group of visitors to this special place, including the requisite viewing of the nurse sharks swimming around under the wharf. They've travelled with us before in northern waters, so they didn't even complain about the "dinghy butt" (wet bottom) that is almost inevitable when we have 4 people in our little dinghy.
Fortunately the night was still and starlit so even though we all headed for books and bed by our usual time of 9pm, we had time enough to sit and enjoy the sky, and the crystal clear water that was so illuminated by the moon, we could see right to the bottom even after dark.
Today brought a leisurely breakfast of - yes - more coconut bread along with some Andros grapefruits and several pots of coffee. Linda and I went to town to pick up groceries - post mailboat. The Captain C was still at the dock so we had a look at the pallets laden with bags and boxes, stacks of lumber, and the piles of assorted other items that had been ordered by island residents, along with the crowd of golf carts there to pick up and deliver the goods. At Isles General, we had to wait 20 minutes or so while the local volunteers stocked the shelves and got everything in order. Once in the door, we scooped up peppers and bananas and even grapes, yogurt and meat and fresh milk. A stop at Brenda's yellow house netted a few more loaves of fragrant coconut bread - that we are going through like there is no tomorrow! Back at the dinghy dock, we ran into the lady of Northern Lights - anchored not far from us - and gave her a lift back to her boat so she wouldn't have to wait for her ride. (I just cannot remember her name - I hope we see her again so I can rectify that - and because she has travelled to so many places that I want to hear more of the stories too!)
Next on the agenda was snorkelling at Thunderball grotto. I was afraid we had missed slack tide and wouldn't be able to go in, but although there was some current, it was still safe and do-able. There is more colourful coral and a wider variety of fish in the park, but it never fails to be exciting to see this famous spot where James Bond had his fun and games. There are pictures in the yacht club of the making of the movie.
We had planned to dinghy over to Club Thunderball and then walk to Ocean Beach, but the fellows wanted to go ashore to get water and wander around - Charles with camera in hand - and then weather was coming in so Linda and I have enjoyed settling back with our books. Speaking of books, I am reading Chaos to Serenity by Martha Crikelair Wohlford, a long time resident of the island. I was thinking of buying it on Monday, but after I walked down the road in the company of her delightful grandson, Gage, who told me I "really should buy it because it is really interesting", it became a must have. I'm happy to have it because it fills in lots of history on the old days and the development of Staniel Cay, as well as giving a fascinating look at the adventurous life of a very cool lady!
Dinner will be hogfish - delivered, if not caught - by the Captain!
23/02/2010/9:00 am, Staniel Cay, Exumas
We tore ourselves away from Warderick Wells on Sunday and (mostly) sailed down to Staniel Cay. Our plan to sail as much as possible is working out well so far. We ran the engine for half an hour to charge up the batteries and sailed the rest of the way until we made the turn into Staniel Cay and turned on the engine again.
By the way, we have been very happy with the job our KISS wind generator has been doing. We were stopped at the park for 5 days and didn't turn on the engine or Honda generator once! Mind you, the wind did blow there!!
As we got close to Staniel, a familiar voice came over the VHF radio - Rob from Celebrian! (another Bayfield 36) He and Christine are tucked away next to Fowl Cay to wait out Monday's storm and we were sorely tempted to join them. We contacted Windswept IV, a boat Richard (Kilissa) had told us to look out for, and look forward to meeting them in person, and then we had fun acting as relay in a reunion conversation between Solution and Windswept IV.
Once anchored in front of the Yacht Club here, we hustled ourselves ashore to have a beer at the club and see the familiar sights remembered from our stay here 2 years ago. At that time, both our neighbours from Ottawa and our children joined us for visits. First stop was Brenda's - the yellow house on the street leading to the Blue Store - to order bread for the next day. Brenda's coconut bread rivals any around. We walked by Bernadette's pretty cottages that were home to our visitors last time, and checked to see if there were any fisherman at the dock. (No luck) We picked up onions and carrots and a pack of sliced ham and the one remaining yogurt container at the Blue Store - and were reminded why we try to bring staples with us. Things cost more here!
Then it was back to the Yacht Club where we perched at the bar and ate delicious fish sandwiches while we talked with Doug on Water Torture. With garbage disposed of (for a fee) and water cans filled (for a fee) and the resident nurse sharks observed, we dinghied back to the boat for a peaceful night.
Next morning was not so peaceful and we knew a front would be coming through later in the day, so we up anchored, intending to go around between the Majors, but we spotted a couple of empty mooring balls by Thunderball Club. Corning (Blessed Spirit) called to say he didn't think one of them was in very good shape (confirmed after we picked it up and examined it). We dinghied by the other one to check water depth and it seemed OK for a boat of our length (much longer and we'd be aground when we swung around to the south) so we moved over and picked up a nice new line.
Ashore again, we picked up the aromatic bread and managed to resist tearing into it right then, answered e-mails at the club (a wifi card is $10 for 24 hours), got a few more groceries at Isles General - and learned that the mail boat is coming on Wednesday, and if we want our pick of groceries we should be there by 11. As the wind picked up, we made our way back to Madcap without getting too wet. The evening saw us aboard Blessed Spirit for sundowners with Corning and Tita and their Canadian guests, Jack and Janet - and hope we didn't overstay our welcome. We enjoyed their hospitality and the conversation never lagged, but Jack was beginning to tip forward from fatigue! Mary and Blair (Strathspey) - if your ears were burning, it was because we were all saying such nice things about you and missing your company.
The wind blew hard again overnight and rain washed us nice and clean and we were pleased to be tucked in here with nice neighbours, a bit of shelter and and a secure tether!
Tuesday brings our own company, Charles and Linda from Ottawa, for a week or so of fun in the sun .... ah.... and blowing in the wind ...
21/02/2010/10:00 am, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
We ended up staying at Warderick Wells an extra day because the pull of the water was just too strong.
The wind died and the sun shone and the reefs beckoned. We spent an hour or so on Friday with Ken and Connie (Oz) and Peaches and Chris (Star of the Sea) at the small snorkelling area just near the red marker deep inside the north anchorage. At first all I saw was grass - then a couple of large rays floated by and then I was into it! A great variety of coral and sponge came into view as I drifted over and gradually the fish appeared too. There was a huge Nassau grouper - they're not very pretty but oh, they're tasty - some parrotfish and triggerfish - lots of grunts and some snappers (Hey, that last bit sounds a bit like a family!!) I always like to just drift slowly around, gradually turning my attention to smaller and smaller fish and coral bits. The current was moving fairly strongly, so I'd drift one way, kick my fins to get back to the top end and do it all over again. Just as I was about to get out, a magnificent Spotted Eagle Ray drifted past. It was just beautiful with its spotted body, looooong tail and a more pronounced head than the sting rays have. A long silvery fish stayed under its right wing all the time and I couldn't get a good enough look at it to tell what it was. I wonder if they have some sort of special relationship or if this is normal behavior for rays.
We went up to Turnaround Beach where we had enjoyed a special spa-like afternoon a couple of years ago, and it was still pretty, but not as warm. After shivering on the beach for a bit, (and warming our bottoms on the rocks) we all headed back to our respective boats, with the Madcap crew stopping to visit all along the way! First visit was with Mary and Bill (Southern Vectis) whom we had last seen very briefly in Chub Cay and it was a treat to get to know them a little better. Moving on, we waved at Knot-ha-Gan from Halifax but didn't stop since we knew they were expecting company soon. Lys and Michael (Lys) last seen in Frazer's Hog Cay were next, and we chatted with them while petting their remarkable cat who seems born to life on the water. We stopped by an Ottawa boat, (No Keys) to visit with Chris and Louise for a few minutes and then made our way back to Emerald Rock for a quiet evening of books and left over dinner (spicy rice with chicken and sweet potatoes with a side of cole slaw).
It was a night to dream over. Absolutely still - the sky filled with stars - the kind of night to just sit outside and let it all sink into our souls. Between the snorkelling of the day, the visits with friends, and the still, starry night - it was that perfect combination that is the reason we come cruising. All the sleepless nights and failed boat parts and weather watching go to the trash and there is just this.
It was so good that when we got up on Saturday morning, we couldn't tear ourselves away. We did boat jobs in the morning - things like cleaning and sorting (and thought about sanding and cetoling but didn't do any) - went snorkelling again in the afternoon - this time near Emerald Rock. The coral wasn't quite as pretty but, once again, there were beautiful fish - and those lobsters just poke their noses out as if saying "Ah, hah, I know you can't get me here!" (No fishing in the park - and we swear the sea creatures know it!)
We hiked the Causeway trail to Hutia Hill and over to the west side of the island, and from there up to Boo Boo Hill where we looked for our sign from last trip. There were a couple from 2008 but I think they've been cleaned up to make room for new ones. We'll make a new driftwood sign and put it up next week.
By the time we made our way back to the dinghy, we needed to put a move on to get back to the boat in time to clean ourselves up and make a snack to take to the weekly beach party. With boat cards in our pockets, rum punch in glasses and a plate of appetizers, we joined the crowd at Powerful Beach for conversation, food and fun. The bonfire was warming, the eats were good, the hutias (the nocturnal rodents that are protected here - and who surely know that Saturday night at the picnic shelter means good eatin') roamed in and out of the brush, and we visited with old friends (well - old since November /09) new friends (including Marianne and Paul (Knot-ha-gan) and lots in between.
The park warden had pictures of the Haitian freighter that caught fire this afternoon up north of us a bit. Apparently the 6 or 7 passengers were safely removed and the ship continued to burn. There were several cars on it, and we all hope there wasn't too much fuel spilled. We also heard the news that the Concordia - out of Lunenburg - sank off Brazil. That must have been so frightening for all concerned, and their safety drills must have been well practiced since all passengers (60 some?) were rescued from it too. It is a reminder that light and shadow live ever side by side. For all the glorious days afloat, the sea and the wind are still more powerful and it reminds us to pay attention while we appreciate and enjoy.
Just as I was writing this on Sunday morning, Gloria from the very cool catamaran moored near us (Fourth World) came by and we spent some time exchanging experiences and thoughts - including the importance of finding and bringing happiness in a troubled world. She is reading the Dalai Lama's book and I must do that too. Her visit was one more reminder of why we are out here - to be - to appreciate - to experience.