28/02/2010/11:29 am, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
With one front (meaning cold temps and strong winds) out of the way, we headed north to introduce Linda and Charles to the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We have never managed to get a mooring in the North anchorage before, so we said yes when Darcy offered #1. It didn't seem like such a mistake at first. We'd have been bouncing in Emerald Rock too, but ooooh boy.... However, I'm getting ahead of myself.
We tied up, dropped the dinghy and got ourselves quickly ashore. After checking in, we lingered on the deck to feed the bananaquits - those pretty little Bahamian birds that love to pick grains of sugar from our hands - and to enjoy the view. While we were there, Pat and Wayne (Kolibri) came along and of course we had to chat with these fellow Bayfield owners last seen in Vero Beach. We made our way down to the beach to check out the almost 60 ft long sperm whale skeleton (he died from ingesting garbage bags in the early 90's) and chatted with Wayne and Patti (Bum's Rest).
That first night was just fine out there at the entrance to the mooring field, and we all slept well. There were no mournful booo-hooos from Boo Boo hill from where the moans of lost souls sometimes drift on the wind; the wind behaved itself and the surge from the cut to Exuma Sound was minimal. Thanks to the kindness of our friends, we have a new sirius satellite radio so we were able to listen to our beloved CBC as we sat in the salon after dinner. Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe has always been a favourite, and it was especially sweet to listen to his stories after a couple of months of deprivation.
On Saturday, we enjoyed an exquisite day in the water. We headed out to the snorkelling site by the red buoy, floated above the coral, admired the variety of colourful fish and then, while Jim moved the dinghy, the other three of us walked all the way up the centre of the mooring field on the sandy shoal. It is just amazing to be able to walk along so close to where boats are moored in deep water. After another exploration of the coral, we dinghied across the channel to our favourite little "Turnabout Beach" where we picnicked and basked in the sun. (It was warmer this time than when we were there with Oz and Star of the Sea!)
We had thought we'd go ashore to the Happy Hour on the beach, but by 6pm, the seas were beginning to pick up and after much "Will we go? Should we stay here?" discussion, we decided that prudence indicated remaining on the boat. (An interesting little aside here - I hate to miss a party and I wanted to go, but I'm also averse to making potentially dangerous dinghy trips in big waves after dark so I had a lot of trouble making a decision here. The others were non committal, but when I finally said, "I think we should stay home" we all breathed a sigh of relief! Once the decision was made, even I knew it was the right one.)
The night got worse. We pitched and rocked and rolled in every possible direction. The mooring lines coming up over the anchor roller squeaked. The wind generator howled (while producing great power), a halyard flapped and the anchor lying on the deck slid around until I wiggled up out of the forward hatch and secured them both at about 3 am. (We didn't want to disturb our guests in the salon berth - as if they were really sleeping with all that noise going on? - and I fit better up through that hatch than Jim does.) After a night of napping, and some queasy stomachs, we decided we really needed to get ashore for some solid ground under our feet.
Fortunately, the waves laid down a bit and we managed to get ourselves ashore without getting soaked. We had a good chat with Bill and Judy (Jubilee) and set off to walk the trail to Boo Boo Hill to add our driftwood contribution to the Boat Board pile. Because the tide was low, the blow hole wasn't doing its impressive "blowing" but we had a look anyway. The walk along the beach on the east side of the island and over the sharp limestone rocks through scrubby shrubbery was good for all of us. On the way home, we stopped for a great visit with Lynn and Peter (First Edition) who had come in the day before, and whom we had last seen a couple of years ago on our first trip to these waters.
We had hoped that the next night would be a lot more peaceful, but those 3 balls out at the opening of the north anchorage are just not quiet ones, and even though the wind was down, we still moved around a lot on Sunday night. Dinner was pretty simple - pasta with a bottled sauce - followed by some mean rounds of crib and then just getting horizontal!
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!