Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Welcoming More Boat Guests: Staniel, O’Brien’s, Cambridge, and Warderick Wells Cays, Exumas, Bahamas

Saturday, February 26 – Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Please help us welcome our friends from Annapolis, Skip and Betsy! We know how lucky we are to spend every day in paradise, but paradise is even better when you get to share it with great friends. Skip & Betsy arrived in Staniel Cay on Saturday. We had visions of meeting them at the plane as they arrived, snapping pictures as they got off the little nine-seater Flamingo Air flight. Since this is the Bahamas (“island time, mon”), we felt pretty safe showing up for the 2:45 arrival right at 2:45. As we learned during Geoie’s visit, 2:45 really means sometime between then and 4pm. Imagine our surprise when they were waiting for us at the boat landing! The plane managed to get in five minutes early – that’s got to be a first for Staniel Cay. Since Betsy’s bag had been put on a second plane arriving 45 minutes later, we figured we could take them to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to change clothes, watch the neighborhood nurse sharks, and have a welcome drink. Rene went back to the airport to get the bag, only to watch the plane take off…with Betsy’s bag still on it! The airline hadn’t said we had to physically be there when the plane landed to receive the bag, so it was on its way back to Nassau. Oops! Fortunately we had planned to spend the night at Big Major’s anchorage, giving us a chance to show Skip and Betsy the swimming pigs, have happy hour with Genesis, and pick up Betsy’s bag the next morning.

Sunday we enjoyed a lazy motor-sail up to O’Brien’s Cay, where we anchored near the submerged plane and the Sea Aquarium. LA and Susan joined us for Mexican night – chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, and margaritas – which also kicked off the week-long celebration of Skip's birthday. We spent the following morning snorkeling the plane and aquarium. The sergeant majors swarmed us as soon as we got into the water, and the corals and sea life were absolutely beautiful. Afterwards Rene took the dinghy to a nearby sandbar while we swam behind him. What a gorgeous spot! We got back to the boat in time for lunch and a short two-mile motor to the Cambridge Cay mooring field. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon on the boat, followed by dinner aboard Pipe. Tuesday morning brought a spectacular hike along the Bell Rock bluff, followed by snorkeling at the Rocky Dundas cave. The stalactites and colors were fantastic, but we could easily see how this could be a dangerous place to visit in the wrong weather; even at slack tide, the waves were pounding against the cave walls. The corals outside the cave were gorgeous and worth a snorkeling trip all on their own.

Tuesday afternoon we made an outside run to Warderick Wells. We had hoped to moor in the southern field at Hog Cay (which requires two good weather days for an Atlantic entry and exit), but the weather forecast warned against it. We were able to get a mooring in the north field, and were greeted by a resident eagle ray soon after our arrival. A rainstorm woke us up before sunrise, and the dark clouds signaled a boat day in our future. Wouldn’t you know, winds picked up to 25-30kts and stayed that way until Saturday. We managed to get off the boat long enough on Thursday to show Skip and Betsy the resident Banana Kwits and hike some of the trails criss-crossing Warderick Wells while Rene replaced the whaler pump in the macerator. (Poor guy…for those of you not familiar with a whaler pump, in our world of pink and blue jobs, it’s a VERY “blue” job.) The winds were strong enough that no one wanted to get soaked on a dinghy ride for further exploration, so we ended up having a couple of lazy days with good books on the boat.

We finally decided to brave the seas on Saturday for the 25-mile trip south to Black Point. We’d shown Skip and Betsy the more remote side of the Exumas, and wanted them to have a chance to see a Bahamian settlement. Black Point is filled with friendly people and good shore-side spots, and also allows for a short 10-mile jaunt back to Staniel Cay. We arrived in Black Point at 3pm and were lucky enough to get a reservation for the Bahamian BBQ night at Lorraine’s CafĂ©. Fresh battered grouper, fried chicken, barbequed chicken and ribs, crab salad, Bahamian mac and cheese, peas and rice, and coleslaw…what a feast! The place was filled with Canadians, one of whom entertained us with songs on his guitar. There’s nothing quite like hearing “This Land is Your Land” from “Bonne Vista to the Vancouver Islands, from the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake waters…” Can’ say we’ve ever heard that version before! Best of all? Lorraine still had plenty of fresh grouper for the next day’s lunch. We knew we’d be back!

Monday’s light winds allowed for an outside run to Staniel Cay, where we spent our final day with Skip and Betsy before their Tuesday departure. We picked up a mooring ball near Thunderball grotto and were able to get to the grotto in time for low slack tide. Thunderball was first introduced in a James Bond film of the same name; now it’s likely appreciated more by snorkelers than by film buffs. The light coming through the different cave entrances was spectacular, and we were surprised at how much fish life we found. We managed to swim through the back entrance to explore the corals, and made our way back around to the dinghy on the opposite side of the rock.

After a final happy hour at the SCYC, we enjoyed a last dinner of the Omaha steaks that Skip and Betsy brought with them. Tuesday morning Rene dinghied them to the airport, and they were on their way back to reality. Skip and Betsy are such great friends (not to mention incredibly easy boat guests), and we’re really going to miss them. We can’t wait until they get to begin their own cruising adventure, and hope to see them in another beautiful anchorage in the next year or two. In the meantime, we’re heading for Black Point and Galliot Cut, where we’ll make an outside jump to Georgetown. The Texas Navy has been down there for the past two weeks partying at the regatta, and Genesis should be arriving in the next week or so. Til next time…

Pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/Rene.Foree/2011BahamasVIII?feat=directlink