Friday March 22, 2013
So the winds did shift during our night at Allen’s Cay, but luckily it was only enough that the questionable boat had it’s beam to our beam and they only thing they’d do damage to was the iguanas behind them. There was a thunderstorm that woke us up at 2:30 am and we quickly ran around closing all the hatches and keeping an eye on the winds for 30 minutes until we were too drowsy to keep our eyes open any longer. When we woke up again at 7:00 we weren’t even sure if we wanted to leave the anchorage, everything outside looked pretty nasty and we weren’t even sure if we could make it outside of the little cut without being able to read the water or smashing up against some rocks. But while standing with my head sticking out of the companionway I watched three other boats leave with ease, including the questionable boat next to us. If they were competent enough to get out, so were we. Getting our anchor up was only slightly nerve wrecking since it was almost under a boat next to us and I was almost positive we’d run into them while trying to haul it. The winds were in our favor though, and we were pushed back as soon as the anchor was up and a decent amount of distance was put between us. Getting put behind the wheel I made our way back out into the banks, although at a speed of just over two knots due to the high winds and waves pushing against our bow. What were those wind speeds? I have no idea. We haven’t yet bothered to re-wire our anemometer, there’s been too many other interesting things to do and see.
Once we had gotten far enough east and were out of the way of the coral spread out near the islands, we turned south and cut the engine. It was a very comfortable and fast sail south, averaging close to 6.5 knot the whole time. When the islands cut east we had to cut in with them, which meant that we were now on a dead downwind course. Using our whisker pole to go wing n’ wing with our sails, we were still going pretty decent at 5 knots for awhile, but as we got later into the day the winds began to die out and we were slowing down and struggling just to keep three. Our intended anchorage for the night was Staniel Cay, but since it was over 40 miles, we agreed that if we were to come in there too late in the afternoon, that we would settle for Sampson key which was literally just a few miles north of it. It did end up coming down to this and we pointed into the little cove with just over an hour of daylight left. Wedging our way into a secluded area in the back, we once more dropped in 10 feet of the clearest water either of us has ever seen.
Doing the usual evening chores, we put the boat back together and enjoyed dinner while watching some Law & Order SVU. Once it got dark out we went out on deck to check on the cat, which we hadn’t heard in awhile. Finding that she had somehow gotten herself into the small area on top of our bimini but under the solar panels, we batted at the underside of the fabric until she made a manic leap back into the cockpit and then up to the front of the deck. Following her up there we looked around the beautiful cove we were in, and then the water below us and became instantly mesmerized. I don’t know if I could describe it, or if we’ll ever see anything like it again, but what we saw looked like something that was constructed for a movie. Surrounding us were small rock bluffs and stone cottages. The half full moon shone bright in a cloudless sky into the water which reflected on the sandy bottom like a swimming pool. It almost didn’t look real. It was one of those perfect moments where everything was calm and still, and if we had to stop cruising tomorrow I’d be satisfied just from this one moment.
Getting to sleep in until one full hour after the sun has risen today, it was time to move ourselves over to Staniel Cay. We had to go out about a mile to round a small cay before making our way back in, but even then the trip was only an hour. Reading that Staniel Cay anchorages can be a little difficult, and then looking at all the masts crowding Big Major’s Cay next door, we decided to go with simplicity and follow the flock. It wasn’t a bad situation since Big Majors did happen to hold something that we were desperate to see. Getting the dinghy lowered as soon as the anchor was set, we jumped in it and headed toward the beach. We hadn’t even gotten to shore yet when we had a visitor coming to greet us in the water. What we were looking at was a swimming pig. There’s a few different stories on how the pigs got there in the first place, but you can bet that they expect to be fed by you. As soon as they see your dinghy coming up to shore, at least one or two of them will come out to the water to check you out and see what kind of goodies you’ve brought them. We only had orange peels which we had heard were among their favorites, but they shunned the peels floating in the water next to them. I jumped out once we were shallow enough, dragging us the rest of the way to shore, and one of the very large pigs tried to make it’s way into the dinghy with Matt to see what else we might be hiding from it. From the looks of a deflated and run down inflatable on shore, we were lucky it’s sharp hooves didn’t do any damage on it’s conquest.
When they realized we had nothing else for them they left us alone and went back to burrowing for a comfortable spot in the sand. We explored the beach a little, but with all the thick brush and sharp coral around we didn’t get far. Realizing that we had done all there was to do on this little beach, we got back in the dinghy where all of our snorkel gear was waiting and went around the corner to the Thunderball Grotto. Featured in a James Bond movie, it’s a hollowed out island where rain has eroded in a few skylights and is a favorite hangout for multiple kinds of fish. Going near low tide, we didn’t have to dive under much water to get inside the cave, but there was only still an inch or two above our heads as our snorkels cleared through. The grotto was very crowded with not only plenty of fish, but plenty of tourists as well. Trying to keep our eyes on the bright colored fish below, we’d constantly bump into the 15 other people crowded into the small space. Making our way to a secluded corner the best we could, we opened up a ziploc bag we brought full of corn to make the fish swarm our way. This definitely sent the fish in a frenzy, clouding around you trying to eat the kernels, but it also sent all the other snorkelers our way too. Spending another 10-15 minutes in the grotto and realizing the tide was slowly beginning to rise up, we went back to the dinghy to throw on clothes and take a tour of Staniel Cay.
Pulling our dinghy into a little basin by the yacht club, we grabbed our trash and began to make our way inland where we heard we could dispose of it for free instead of paying the $2/bag at the yacht club. Anything to save a penny! Getting ourselves completely lost on the sweltering hot paved roads, we eventually flagged down a local riding around in a golf cart to ask for directions. Instead of pointing out the right place to us, he told us to hop on and he’d take us there. It was such a nice thing for him to do since he was only on his lunch break from work, but we’re already beginning to notice the friendliness and hospitality of every Bahamian we encounter. Bringing us back into town after it was dropped off, we walked the main street and poked our heads inside a few of the buildings. We checked out the local grocery store, even though we were fully stocked, and commented on how nice an ice cream would taste at that moment except we had left all of our money back on the boat. Walking through the streets a few more times, we felt we had pretty sufficiently seen Staniel Cay and now it was time to see something new.
Dropping all our gear off back at the boat, we grabbed our money in case there was actually something we’d want or need to spend it on, and got back in the dinghy for a tour of the other near by islands. Running low on gasoline, we found the only place to get it was Sampson Cay, where we had anchored the previous night. Zipping through the ‘back roads’ in the dink we went back to fill up our jerrycan, and spent the rest of the afternoon slowly making our way back to the boat, circling each island on the way and comparing the Great Bahama Banks on one side to the Exuma Sound on the other. On the way back to Serendip there was one more brief stop at Big Majors to see the pigs, but it was mostly to try and salvage a pad-eye from the delapatated dinghy on shore. Try as we might with our screwdriver and lots of force, that thing was back bolted and waaay to secure to even begin to come out. Guess we’ll still have to wait for our first salvage. Anyone know of an abandoned boat with good winches?