We spent most of the month of January 2011 within about 12 miles of Staniel Cay, moving from anchorage to anchorage with the weather and when we wanted to see new places or introduce friends to a place they had not been to yet. We met many more wonderful people and reconnected with friends we had previously met.
The days and months are a blur….time goes by so quickly. It must be because there is so much visual, aural, mental and emotional stimulation! Also, taking care of the day to day business takes a tremendous amount of time.
After the first of the year, we returned to Black Point for our second visit which was very enjoyable. We had to change the elbow between the raw water pump and the heat exchanger on the boat, because we had a pin hole leak that sprayed water all over the engine compartment and it turned to steam…… so after that excitement we returned to Between the Majors as another cold front was coming and high winds were expected. Patty and Gary on Last Tango and Donna and Jerry on Bluejacket were our neighbors and they came over one evening for sundowners. We had lots of fun and the next day Bluejacket left for the Jumento Cays. Linda and Wes on Odyssey were anchored north of us near Sampson Cay, so Steph dingyed up to go diving with Wes. The next day we both went to visit them. Linda and I stayed on Odyssey and chatted while the guys went searching for lobsters. They saw and swam with 3 or 4 sharks. They came back empty handed, though Wes had had good luck a couple days before when he went out with folks from another boat.
There were only two boats left Between the Majors (Bentaña and another ketch) and as we were preparing hoist anchor to make another visit to Black Point to do laundry, Joe and Angela from the other ketch Amarock came over and offered us some lobster. They had just caught 3 and had no room in the freezer for anything except the tails, so they offered us the legs and the antennae. (Bahamian lobsters do not have large claws that northern Atlantic lobsters have, but they do have antennae bigger around than Steph’s thumb and have lots of meat. They are like big crayfish.) We gladly accepted and chatted for a bit. They are Americans who have had a charter business in the Bahamas for many years and they were between passengers at the moment. They catch about 80 % of their protein from the local waters. Angela has published a Bahamian cook book.
The lobsters were actually quite huge, and the legs and antenna were not unlike king crab legs. I filled a large pot with the parts and some sea water and steamed them till they turned red. Not having lobster tools, we had to break into the succulent legs with channel-lock pliers, one of the handiest tools on the boat. It was a lot of work, but the meat was tasty. After dinner I shelled the two thirds of the parts we couldn’t eat and set them aside for tomorrow’s Lobster Chowder.
Well, the Lobster Chowder was eaten in Black Point and Jean and Art from s/v Samana came to share it with us. It was delicious!!
On this trip to Black Point we had the ramoras under our boat. They are supposed to bring good luck and they did!! We met Mary and Paul and puppy dog Jasmine from Merry Sea.
We sailed back to Staniel Cay to fuel up and Steph stickered the fuel pump with a West Marine sticker. We anchored at Big Majors Spot near Merry Sea for the approaching easterly winds. We had a lovely evening aboard Merry Sea splicing the main brace and chatting. Merry Seas was awaiting the arrival of family so they stayed in the Staniel Cay area to pick them up.
That Sunday, we decided to attend church in Staniel Cay at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. The owners of Isles Inn and General Store are Berkie and Vivian Rolle. We did a lot of shopping there and ordered Mary’s kitty litter there. Berkie is also the minister at Mt. Olivet and Vivian is a Deaconess. The first day we attended church, Berkie was out of town at the installation of the new minister at Little Farmers Cay (who we met a few weeks later) and the service was led by Vivian and Mother White, an ordained minister, elderly, charismatic mother figure who knows everyone on the island and spoke to many of them in her sermon, spoke in tongues and blessed everyone. She also said that Staniel Cay was an answer to the town’s prayers, but if some people did not shape up, then the Lord would take away the good things that had happened to the town.
Isles Inn and General Store are located on South Staniel Cay and linked to Staniel Cay by a small bridge over Bonefish Creek. Staniel Cay is a “family island” (originally Gray Cay) and as such, only progeny of the original land granted families can claim land there. Since Vivian and Berkie are not originally from Staniel Cay, they had to build their facility on South Staniel.
After the church service which lasted about 2 hours, we wandered towards the yacht club and passed Big Dawg’s bar/restaurant. We asked if they were serving lunch and we were told we could have Stew Fish and Johnny Cake. We got one order of Stew Fish, vitamalt and a coke and sat down to eat. A golf cart pulled up out front and asked what was for lunch. Come to find out, it was Coral, a woman that Steph had mentioned Geocaching to and she said she would be willing to be the caretaker for a Cache on Staniel Cay. We told her about the cache we had already found there and she and her son went to find it. They were very excited! We made arrangements to get together later that day as she was trying to catch her dog who had just killed a wandering chicken and she asked at the restaurant who could use the chicken. We called her on the VHF radio and drove the dink to their dock.
Coral’s mother Marty, an American, has been in Staniel Cay for several decades. She is an author and has Serenity House, two octagon buildings set up as a guest house. Coral, also an American, teaches a geometry class via internet to school kids in the USA.
After our lovely visit at Serenity House, we dingyed back to the east side of Big Majors Spot and took a walk. It was amazing to see just about every hole in the limestone filled with individual beer bottles. We saw a pond with pig tracks around it and then dinked back to the boat. When we got back, we heard on the radio that a catamaran “See Yawl Later” was going to beach his boat and show “Avatar” on the mainsail. Having two hulls, a catamaran has the ability to anchor in the shallows at high tide and wait till the tide goes out and left to sit high and dry, and level too. All were welcome to attend. It has been years since we have been to a drive in and we had never been to a dink in, so off we went with our chairs and blankets and we sat on the beach to watch the movie! I had seen the movie twice, first in 2-D, then in IMAX 3-D, but this was a new wrinkle (in more ways than one.) Each time the wind shifted or shuddered, it sent a wrinkle across the screen, and our heroes on Pandora moved into a literal space warp. BTW the first time I saw Avatar in 2010, I thought it was the only evidence that our culture had moved into the 21st century, of course I’ve never ridden a Segway.
We decided to spend a few days in “Pipe Creek”, an area north of Sampson Cay and Staniel Cay. Our friends on Last Tango, Maribel, Bluejacket, Just Ducky and Anjo spent weeks/months there. Joe from Just Ducky is the self declared mayor of Pipe Creek and has been there for many weeks each winter for many years with his lovely wife Carol. When we pulled in, besides Anjo, we were the only non Island Packet sailing vessel in that particular anchorage! It was really nice to see Becky and Kevin from Maribel again (and to see their dog Danny again for the last time. Danny was elderly and went ashore on Raccoon Cay in the Jumentos and disappeared. We were so sorry to hear that.) We also got to meet Joe and Carol on Just Ducky and other folks who were in the anchorage. Maribel sponsored a beach party in celebration of their replaced transmission, which had arrived on another cruiser’s boat from the USA. The party took place at the Pipe Creek Yacht Club (aka PCYC). Everyone brought food and drinks, we chatted and had a wonderful bonfire. The fire also presented the opportunity to bid our trash good-bye. Cruisers who don’t frequent settlements must manage their own waste. Except for the half dozen major population centers, garbage is usually burned at “da dump.” These pillars of smoke not only can guide you from island to island, but it can also tell you the day of the week, (or if you know the day of the week, they can tell you which island.)
Pipe Creek was our first experience of “Bahamian anchoring” which is using two anchors at the same time approximately 160 degrees apart to keep from swinging too much. The “surge” or current that goes through Pipe Creek to the east of Thomas Cay can be fierce and it often fights with the wind. One morning we woke up at slack tide and there was no wind. The water was like glass and we could read the printing on our anchor at the end of the anchor chain in 15 feet of water!
There were lots of things to do here. We snorkeled, saw a Conch nursery, walked on the beach and hiked to the Atlantic side of Thomas Cay to a lovely beach. The hike was through a partially dried swamp that had some really soft parts, so we got kind of muddy on our way to the beach and on our way back. Unfortunately, we forgot the camera that day. We had a picnic lunch, collected shells and spent some time saying farewell to our friend Helen who had passed away a few days before.
Joe and Angela from Amarok who had given us the lobster parts were anchored in another area of Pipe Creek. On the beach they taught us how to clean conch and then came over for sundowners. I kept the largest and prettiest shell to make into a conch horn, traditionally used as a fog horn, and a USCG approved sounding device. Nowadays, it is used as a male ritual announcing sundown in the anchorage and inviting a testosterone driven hornblowing contest. It’s how Horatio got his name.
One afternoon we were sitting on the boat and had a visit from another couple. They came to tell us that their names were ALSO Steve and Judi and that we had to form a Steve and Judy Club as they knew other sailing couples with the same names! This Steve and Judi are on Adanaco (O Canada spelled backwards) and we saw them in many other places after that.Pictures may follow at a later date.