19/02/2008/8:29 am, Staniel Cay
What a treat it was to dinghy to the beach and find Pat, Sean and Margaret just alighting from the golf cart taxi. Pat and Linda and their sons Sean and Peter were our neighbours in Ottawa, and Pat decided to bring his son, Sean, and his mother Margaret south for a little sunny R&R. They have rented the "Shipwrecked" cottage, and will base themselves there while they explore the area with us.
We headed over pretty quickly to the Yacht Club where Margaret and I got acquainted while the fellows took over the pool table. We were too late to make dinner reservations (selections need to be made by 5pm in most restaurants around here and there is generally one sitting - the bell rings at 7pm here) so we ordered from the bar menu and were all happy with our mahi mahi (veggie burger for Sean). The place was loud, busy and friendly - a great intro.
We heard a cheery "Madcap, Madcap, this is Shipwrecked" on the VHF on Monday morning, and soon afterward, Jim ferried our visitors out to the boat. Sean had covered every nook and cranny within minutes and after a general tour we left Marg to relax on Madcap while the rest of us dinghied to Thunderball Cave.
This grotto was made famous in an early James Bond movie and is certainly worth a visit. Low slack tide was 11:30 am - the best time to go - and there were many dinghies tied to the two mooring balls. (Note - when we left we discovered another dinghy - a big, empty one was leaving too. It had been tied to OUR mooring line, not to the mooring ball. That bit of carelessness meant we had to motor back up to the mooring ball, uncleat his line from his boat, untangle it from ours, thread it through the proper place and tie it up again. It reminded us to be alert about multiple tie-ups.)
At low tide it was possible to snorkel through the opening into the cave without having to dive underwater. Great throngs of fish milled around in search of the breadcrumbs people often bring for them, and light shone through the holes in the roof, illuminating the coral, sponges, and fish. It was a bit of a crush as lots of folks swam in and out of the small openings, and the fish were really up close and personal. I think I prefer to snorkel over fish that just go about their own business on coral heads, and in less crowded places, but this is an interesting spot all the same. The shafts of light shining down into the water were beautiful and seemed almost like spotlights.
Sean had a blast feeding the fish and was a real trooper as he swam in and out of the grotto. He also proved to be a natural at handling the dinghy - exercising good control and getting us safely from one place to another. The three guys made a trip over to Big Majors Spot to feed the pigs. Two pigs waded out to greet them and received carrots and celery for their efforts.
We made the rounds of the grocery stores in town to top up the larder and fridge, and then it was time to gather on the beach for the school fundraising supper. Parent volunteers ladled up Chicken Souse, Conch Chowder and Stewed Conch. The Chicken Souse was a sort of stew with little chicken drumsticks - fall off the bone tender - potato and onion in a tasty broth. The difference between the two conch dishes seemed to be the colour and flavour of the broth - one was darker than the other. Jim had Stewed Conch (dark broth) and said it was delicious. It was a pleasure to meet many new cruisers and visitors and especially to discover Raoul and Karen (Issandra). We met them in a shed at Iroquois Marine back in Ontario last winter when they were hard at work repairing and preparing their bottom (boat bottom, that is) next to our friends Christian and Mireille (Nomades).
Margaret will enjoy the sights and sounds of Staniel Cay (yes - the roosters crow here just like in the Abacos) for the next two days, while Pat and Sean move aboard Madcap for a sail up to Exuma Park for more snorkeling. We'll be back in Staniel Cay late on Wednedsay.
16/02/2008/5:45 pm, Black Point Settlement
(Revised from the earlier posting with the same title)
We have developed a great appreciation for clean laundry during this cruising life. Our last wash day (other than swimsuits and the occasional t-shirt rinsed and hung on the rails to dry) was in Marsh Harbour on January 19th. Almost every textile on this boat was either soiled or salty, and the sheer joy of having them all clean and dry is just beyond description. This town knows how to fill a niche. There is a dinghy dock right outside the Laundromat; 12 modern washers and almost as many dryers take tokens - $3.50 each - and they all work. For a small extra fee - I think it is $10 - someone else will do it all for you. The place is spotlessly clean and is open till 8pm. (tokens must be purchased by 5, and it's closed on Sundays). As in many Laundromats, there is a book exchange, and soap and other cleaning supplies may be purchased there. Ida also cuts hair, and Jim plans to spend some time in her chair next week. Every cruiser knows or finds out about Black Point's laundry facilities, and the reputation is well deserved.
Another convenient stop during the washing and drying is Lorraine's Café - two houses down the road. Lorraine not only serves food and beverages, she has an extensive book exchange, and a whole room devoted to computer and internet service. She asks a small fee - minimum $5.00 or $10.00 for a day - and will also do printing and scanning. Along with wifi access, she has several computers there for the use of cruisers. She told me she just opened this room a couple of months ago, and is hoping people will stop in and help her recoup her investment.
To backtrack just a bit, Jim and I dinghied back into Staniel Cay on Friday from our anchorage at Big Majors Spot. It was great fun to spot Joel and Kailin (Achates II) last seen in Green Turtle Cay. They are Nova Scotians who have been having a fabulous year of exploring.
We walked over to Bernadette Chamberlain's cottages and just love the look of them. Our neighbour from back in Ottawa is renting one for a week and we have another one reserved for our family starting Thursday. They face the beach and come complete with comfy chairs on the porches and hammocks slung from gazebos. They are a short stroll from the Pink Pearl store where Flo Smith presides. The boat came in on Friday and we had a wonderful time stocking up on produce and cheese while we got to know her. I know we'll have many more pleasant visits.
Wine is in short supply here and prices are high. We'll need to ration ourselves until the next stocking up place - maybe Georgetown? We checked with the folks at the dock to see about buying some fish, but no luck. We'll keep trying. In the meantime the pork chops looked tasty.
On Saturday morning we took our 2-hour run to Black Point and you already know what we did during daytime hours! In the evening we devoured ribs at Lorraine's with Mike and Kathy (Sapphire). Saturday is BBQ night there and along with her regular menu, Lorraine serves excellent ribs and chicken, with conch fritters to start with and coconut cake to round out the meal.
Sunday morning the four of us hiked out along the beaches on the eastern shore, listening to the waves crashing in, bemoaning the amount of washed up plastic once again, and browsing for pretty shells and seabeans.
We bade farewell to Mike and Kathy as they continue on their southward journey while we headed back to Staniel Cay for a few more days.
14/02/2008/1:09 pm, Big Majors Spot
Happy Valentines Day from Big Majors Spot - home of the swimming pigs. We had a very good 3-hour motor sail down from Warderick Wells this morning. Sandi and Steve (Princess) headed north, and Sapphire and Madcap, in company with many other boats headed south. There is yet another north wind blowing and we picked this anchorage to give us a bit of protection, tucked up on the west side of Big Majors Spot and just south of Fowl Cay. Perhaps there is a bit of protection, but the wind is still blowing and the water is choppy. On the other hand, the water temp is 30 C and the air is 27 C so what's a little wind?!
Jim made a trip to Staniel Cay while I stayed on board to bake a birthday cake. It was probably just as well there was only one person in the dinghy - we have a teeny little 5 hp motor and it does us just fine in flat water, but it goes slowly and "wetly" with two persons aboard in choppy water. He arrived back with frozen pork chops and a pound of hotdogs, a cucumber, some spinach, a couple of oranges and limes and a dozen eggs - and a pound of mediocre coffee. We think the choices will be better after the boat comes in on Monday.
We ran out of water last night and when I went to pull out my emergency jug from the cockpit locker, I discovered the jug had sprung a leak and there was just enough for a pot of morning caffeine. Speaking of caffeine - we ran out of coffee two days ago and have been drinking tea. I made a pot this morning and then realized I had used decaffeinated bags that I had on board for the Strathspey folks so I had to add a couple more bags to the same pot - since I didn't have any more water. It was potent but it did the wake-up job. Dinners the last few nights have been canned beef with peas n' rice, corned beef hash, pasta with stirfried "whatever was left in the produce bag" and a bit of chicken. We haven't come close to starving, but it's been pretty boring!
There must be 30 boats here in this anchorage - people all seem to head for the same spots. Jim dove on the anchor, shoved it down in the sand a little more, and we hope it holds - no room for dragging here. We haven't yet paid a visit to the beach but I've been watching dinghies pull up to be greeted by the pigs. I've seen 4 of them; 2 swim out in search of food while the others are content to wait till folks land. Apparently it is considered OK to feed compost scraps to them and they are very used to being fed and photographed.
We elected to celebrate Jim's birthday (and Valentine's Day) on board with a dinner of BBQ'd pork chops, squash, and spinach salad with a celebratory glass of champagne and chocolate cake for dessert. It was the first time in 25 years that there have been no children at the dinner table to toast their daddio, but the 2 of us had a very nice time looking back over past years and reviewing old memories.
Staniel Cay looks like a fine place to spend some time - the casual yacht club is full of patrons eating, drinking and doing email. Nurse sharks (harmless! harmless!) swim along under the pier, Internet is free and the sun is hot. We deposited one big bag of garbage, bought 25 gallons of water (40 cents per gallon), and ate a good lunch. This afternoon, we'll walk around town, check out the cottage we're renting for the family next week and then move down to Black Point Settlement to do laundry. We'll have lots more to tell you because we'll stay in the area for quite a while.