25/02/2010/11:25 am, Staniel Cay, Exumas
It's amazing what opportunities a one-word photography assignment can provoke!
Our friend, Charles, had a mission when he set off to walk the streets and beaches of this bit of the Bahamas: take "laundry" pictures for his photography group back home in Ottawa. That assignment took him into a back yard in Staniel Cay where he and Jim shared some laughs and conversation with the owner and "hanger-upper". Jim was a little hesitant about entering someone's yard and taking pictures of the clothesline, but Charles is not easily discouraged so in they went! The lady of the house laughed at his story and kindly posed for pictures as well as telling them about her flowers and shrubs. They moved on to the government wharf where they purchased a hogfish for dinner - cleaned and split into 2 lovely big fillets - and picked out a beautiful conch shell for Linda. She really wanted to find her own, but just in case that didn't happen, the guys decided to choose one from the day's catch. While the fishermen cleaned their catch, and the locals lined the wall along the beach, Charles picked up one after another and the group indicated which was the best. I must say, he brought home a beauty - a large flared and rippled lip tinged with orange and gold, with a deep pink interior. It is gorgeous.
As they walked down the road, fish in hand, Stephen came along in his golf cart and it was time for another photo op and conversation. He agreed to have his photo taken and took one of them also, while agreeing that their fish purchase was a good one. Stephen is the local electrician - having grown up here with his grandparents after his mother died, studied in Nassau where his father lives, and after getting his accreditation as an electrician, moved back to Staniel Cay where he is able to make a sustainable living. (All students have to go off island for high school and further education, and most of them go to Nassau where they can live with relatives. Charles visited the school and learned that there are 17 students and 3 teachers.) Also of note is that Stephen has one hand. This guy is impressive - smart, skilled and determined. Among all the bits of information he gave the guys was some real estate info. It costs about $1.5 million for a 1.5 acre lot with a beach view. Whew - I think we'll stay on the boat! Staniel Cay is experiencing a building boom at the moment, but they are being smart about it - no high density development that might change the character of the island.
It was so windy that we had to panfry the hogfish rather than grill it, but it made a fine dinner with peas'n'rice and cole slaw, and we dipped into the bag of chocolate truffles donated by Sandi and Steve (Princess) to finish things off. Mmmmmm.
We stayed on our mooring ball in Staniel Cay another day because of the first cold front of their visit. After a night when the wind howled around, and we bounced some, but managed a reasonable nights sleep, we got up, ate breakfast and headed ashore to Club Thunderball. The club is closed, but the solid dock is handy for those of us anchored and moored in this part of the harbour. From there, it is an easy walk down the road, up the hill past the dump, and then down the sandy slope leading to Ocean Beach.
Despite the strong wind that set the sailboats rocking, this protected beach was perfect for walking. Unfortunately, the temperature was cool so it was not perfect for swimming - unlike the days we spent there on our last trip. Also unfortunately, there were few pretty shells and no sea glass to put in our pockets. On the other hand, Charles managed to take a few pics of shirts draped on rocks and boards, we got some good exercise and we managed to spend a chunk of the day on land!
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 ...