09/03/2008/5:15 pm, Sampson's Cay
Oh what a difference a few degrees of latitude makes. Our friends were supposed to fly out of Ottawa on Saturday and join us in Staniel Cay on Sunday. Because of the huge storm (bringing Ottawa's total up to well over 300 cm this winter) they are still there and we are in Sampson's Cay. We're keeping our fingers crossed that they can get here in a day or two.
When we left White Point, the plan was to go straight to Staniel Cay, but we were getting low on both diesel and gas and the Marina announced on VHF radio that they were out and wouldn't have more until sometime next week. So - we decided to go a bit further north to Sampson's Cay where they still had a supply. The rumour we heard was that the fuel boat ran aground - don't know if that is the truth or not. When we got here, there were 3 huge boats tied up and the gas was pouring into one of them. Jim was worried that there might not be enough left for our little jerry cans but they had a good supply.
Sampson's Cay has a stunning little marina. Great long fuel dock and room for boats well over one hundred feet in the first bay, and then more docks are through a little channel and around the corner. The store is small but well stocked and the restaurant serves economically priced breakfast and lunch, and elegant and pricey dinners at night. We anchored in the bay - 3 times in 3 places (because of tide and swinging with wind shifts) and have been happy to be here.
The marina charges $2.25 per foot per night. The anchorage is free. A mega ship is tied up at the dock - 164 feet long, 3 stories high, staff of 7 or 8. We heard that it burns about 480 gallons of fuel per hour. We burn half a gallon - if the engine is on. We are both here in the same bay with the same view; same services available to us. Pretty nice!!
We ate a company dinner without the company - curried lobster over rice with one of our new bottles of white wine. Absolutely delicious! See the book, "Embarrassment of Mangos" for the recipe. (I have tried many of Ann Vanderhoof's recipes from that book and have liked them all - good narrative too!)
About the multiple anchorings: the tidal drop in the corner we chose was more than we figured so at low tide we started to bounce off the sand. We moved. During the evening, the wind clocked around exactly as had been predicted and we swung in a wide arc. We had dropped the hook quite far off the shoreline to keep our stern clear of the rocks, which meant that with 90 feet of chain out, we ended up more than180 feet across the bay and with the stern facing the docks, after the wind shifted from S to N. In order to clear the channel we up anchored and moved again just after dawn. Good thing we were the only boat here! The wind is supposed to stay NNE tonight so we shouldn't have any trouble with the 2 boats that have joined us today.
Jim and I took a lovely walk this morning - in and out through beautifully groomed paths and along the shoreline. We chatted with Sue and Ole (Southern Toy) - and that man is a born storyteller! and Ann (Aurora) and enjoyed Eggs Benedict in the restaurant. The afternoon was for working - Jim installed the new starting battery and hallelujah! It worked. Now we'll see if it holds the charge any better than the old one. I sat myself down to do some serious updating of the website.
A note about that website - I'll try to get information up more often. Jim's computer has a little malfunction and he can't connect with winlink to update our position reports. Neither can he receive any e-mails at the winlink address. If you've been wondering why he has not replied to any you've sent there and if you've been wondering why it doesn't look like we've moved, that's the explanation.
Marg Stubington in Ottawa took the pic above. Thanks, Marg U. for sending it! We picked a good year to be away.
We decided to stay here again tonight since the wind is still strong and we really like this little bay. We're off to Staniel Cay in the morning to pick up the replacement parts for our head (aka toilet) that were flown in by Watermakers Air. With any luck we'll also pick up our guests soon too! Fingers crossed!! More lobster waiting!
08/03/2008/5:12 pm, White Point, Great Guana Cay
After a "see you soon" farewell to Strathspey as they left for points north, and to Little Farmers Cay, we headed north ourselves on Friday. We had spotted some sweet anchorages on the way down along Great Guana Cay and decided to pull into the little bay just north of White Point. The wind was blowing at close to 20 from the S and we wondered if it might provide a bit of protection. Not so!
Madcap was the only boat there till just before dark, and we had a fine time picnicking and walking, swimming and snorkeling the little coral head near the boat. It was a gorgeous beach, and by climbing over the big dune we could walk the south side of the point too. A huge osprey's nest occupies an outcropping of rock and one of the birds kept up a steady stream of whistling at us whenever we ventured anywhere near that direction. Palm trees, flat rocks, a gently sloping beach made it a perfect place to wile away some hours.
Finding the little coral head was interesting; here it was - all by itself - about 12 feet in diameter - surrounded by sand - and teeming with life: Nassau groupers (a big one and some small ones), grunts, huge angelfish, squirrelfish and a host of others.
It was a remarkable experience to have these long, beautiful beaches completely to ourselves. Palm trees dotted the horizon, iguana tracks traced through the sand, the ospreys called ...and that was all.
On land and in the water, the setting was absolutely perfect. On the boat it was a different matter. We each spilled anything that we weren't hanging onto even with nonskid placemats. Neither of us had enough hands to hold plate and glass and knife and fork all at the same time! The gimbaled stove flew back and forth as I tried to make dinner and hang onto knives and bowls at the same time.
Sleep was scarce but at least we didn't drag anywhere, and there was enough light to see our way when we left the next morning. We'll pick a calmer night next time.
06/03/2008/4:59 pm, Little Farmer's Cay (and Georgetown)
Oops - is Blair a corrupting influence? Nope - I'm just trying out experiences I missed when I was younger!
Let me tell you a few facts of cruising life in the Exumas.
1. There are very few banks; the last one we saw was in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera - back on January 29. The next one down the way is in Georgetown, or across the way in Nassau. Most places want cash and when a person can pay with a credit card, there is usually a 5% service charge. When we pay out some high-ticket items (airplanes and cottages) along with the regular stops for beers and lunches with friends, the cash flows quickly out of our pockets.
2. While every little town has its grocery stores - and we have come to love the eccentricities of them - there are some products that we haven't seen for awhile - like tortilla chips and tortilla wraps, interesting cheeses. Other products are pricey in the little stores - fancy crackers, breakfast cereal, wine, beer. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sometimes there and sometimes not. We don't really mind passing up exotic or out of season produce, but we do like crisp carrots and celery and a pepper or two.
3. Marine parts are really hard to come by in the small centres. Things break down anyway.
We were down to our last few dollars; with company coming, we thought it would be nice to restock our snack food larder, and Jim decided he really wanted to replace our starting battery. Blair and Mary (Strathspey) also wanted to make a trip to Georgetown to pick up some parts so we met up in Little Farmers Cay, pooled our dwindling resources and hired Hallen Rolle to take us in his boat (fishing boat - like a Boston Whaler with 150 hp motor) to Barraterre on Great Exuma Cay. From there we rented a couple of cars from Wellington Charles and drove to Emerald Bay (Scotiabank and Bristol wine store) and to Georgetown (Exuma Market for groceries and Top to Bottom for starting battery - and a looky bucket!)
Jim restocked his wallet and I proceeded to spend some of it right away. I purchased wines ranging from $5 to $14 and beer for $32 a case (24 cans). The cheapest wine in Staniel Cay is $15 and most of it is much more; beer is $63 a case. I stocked up on bags of tortilla chips, an armload of cheese and fresh peppers and fruit. I've been making a good little artichoke appetizer and couldn't find any more artichoke hearts. I found them here at $5.80 for a 12 oz jar. Pricey - so I'll use them for special occasions. No wraps anywhere so I'll have to make my own. The last ones tasted right but were very odd shapes!
We raced around town, meeting up with folks who exclaimed "You're here!" and we replied, "Not really!" The "around town" part is literal. Georgetown has a one-way loop around the pond so if you forgot something back a bit - you have to drive around the loop again. I think we did it four times.
We made it back to Barraterre after an hour's drive, bought fuel from the man down the road and returned the car to Wellington. ($70 per car) One other thing cruisers might be interested in is that since we no longer own a car, we have no vehicle insurance, and because the rental is a cash transaction, the insurance that comes with our credit card is no good. You can guess that we drove carefully!
Hallen was waiting for us; we loaded all our boxes and bags and climbed in and around them for the return trip past all the little cays that we would be hard pressed to come close to in the sailboat. We zoomed by Musha Cay, once owned by Oprah (we heard) and now owned by David Copperfield where it costs $2000.00 to stay for a night; past Cave Cay which is being developed into a magnificent resort where it will cost a half a million dollars to stay for a week! We passed Lee Stocking Island where Mary and Blair pointed out their beautiful anchorage and checked out the various cuts to the Sound. We roared over sandbars and in between little private cays, and an hour later we were back in Little Farmer's Cay. Hallen pulled up next to our boats and we unloaded all our new goods before heading ashore to buy fish for dinner from his son, Jeffery.
We had bought triggerfish from him yesterday - brushed them with lemon butter and grilled on our little BBQ - mmmm. After discovering that we had paid Ocean Cabin $20.00 for two nights mooring on a ball that really belonged to Jeffery, Jim got his money back and we walked up the road to Jeffery's house. There we purchased four lane snappers (each one a meal for one person) and some lobster tails (for company dinners) and paid for our mooring. (Ocean Cabin owns 3 moorings next to the shore at the SE end of Little Farmer's Cay, and Jeffery owns the one on the outside)
On our way back we stopped to chat with JR - the local wood carver. His bonefish - all intricately carved scales and looking as if they could swim right out of your hands - were gorgeous. Perhaps when we come back I'll find a small fish that I can afford.
Backtracking just a bit... when we arrived here on Wednesday, we met up with Blair and Mary (Strathspey) and Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) for beers and other vices at Ocean Cabin. Blair had an extra cigar and I decided to try it. There were lots of laughs around as they realized I didn't even know how to light the thing. I took a few puffs and gave it back - good for a picture or two but that's about it.
The folks in Little Farmers fondly remember Joel and Kailin (Achates II) from Nova Scotia who spent a few weeks here earlier. Apparently Joel tuned up every bicycle in town and repaired an engine or two as well. Nancy told us that the cruisers worked with the locals to spiff things up for the 5 F festival (First Friday in February Festival on Little Farmer's Cay) and Jim pointed out a house that belonged to an early settler. He bought the land from the crown and had the excellent idea of making it generation land - which meant that as it was passed down, it required consent of the whole family to develop or change it. Not much chance of it being sold for a pittance to an outsider that way!
We really liked this place and will come back soon.