Staniel Cay Part 3 and Pipe Cay

 

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Itsy the Silver Argiope on the beach at Pipe Cay.  Do you feel a tickle on the back of your neck?

We threw out our jib like an offering to the blue sky who gratefully filled it with the kind of wind sailors dream of.  We returned to the same anchorage spot we spent a week at and had the inlet all to ourselves this time.  We dinghied in to pick up our solar regulator and to do a load of laundry with Ruth’s company at the laundry/liquor store.  It really is the best bar in town with its three bar stools and counter next to the washing machines.  The tourist tour boats don’t go there and sailors and locals are frequently dropping in for a cold one and to bask in Ruth’s comical boldness. She told Captain Methismatch when he was teasing her to hurry up and get him a beer, Sit small until you’re called.

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Itsy         many pictures courtesy of Soul Divers Photography

In order for Captain Ohboyabigproject to do any kind of work on the boat he needs to empty every crevice, settee, cupboard, underwear drawer, medicine cabinet, fridge and tool box.  The boat looked like a hurricane hit it as the solar regulator was installed, a battery system control monitor put in and some shunting of batteries went on.  I sunned in the cockpit, sipped umbrella drinks and ate bon bons.  It was a big project that went well and now I can have my fan at night and even some lights on without any lectures about it.  Captain Myhero is really quite a remarkable fixer guy and I thank his mother, Caryl, for buying him that erector set when he was just a wee little trouble maker with bright blue eyes.

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We provisioned with an $8.00 package of frozen, sliced, water injected, yuck deli ham, a $7.00 bag of Fritos, a $7.00 box of Wheat Thins, a $9.00 bunch of asparagus, a $75.00 case of Heineken and because I was starting to talk backwards and my left leg was doing a nervous jig, one bottle of $35.00 Josh Sauvignon Blanc.  I could not and would not spend $28.00 for the bottle of Barefoot.  Forgive me if I told you this already, but back in February a kind marina employee gave us a lift to a liquor store and grocery.  I bought sixteen bottles of wine.  I bought them in a hurry.  I later found the whites to be dated 2012 to 2014.  What should have been pale yellow was dark gold.  The wine was most likely sold cheap because it was old in the first place and then it sat in a two hundred degree freight car on a baking ship for three weeks.  Three bottles we used to stun and kill fish with or I simply dumped.  The others I drank with sparkling water to cut the vinegar taste.  Even the shit wine was gone.  I drank Soul Divers out of their wine.  The wineless princess was whining.

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A LOT!

Project completed, boat stocked, we headed off for Pipe Cay with Soul Divers on our way back to the Exumas Land and Sea park.  I don’t even mention our diesel/water stops anymore as Captain Toocooltobumpdockswhilegettingfuel has become one with Echoes.  It is a thing of beauty.  My digestive tract is most grateful.  Captain Scoringbigpoints is also really good at filling our water tanks with rain water saving us the fifty cents a gallon for water and affording me longer showers.

Pipe Cay is a quiet cay with a beauty all of its own.

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We walked around the ruins of a US Navy Decca station and followed a path to the west side of the island.  We came upon a vast expanse of sea floor at low tide.  It was like stepping on to a beached moon .  We walked for a mile on rippled sand to the slim Pipe River where boats were anchored in the river but appeared to be sitting on the sand.  Conch shells littered the vast and vacant sand floor.

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Happily worn out we settled in for a quiet night of reading and star gazing.

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Black Point

An angry squall was coming with her bully brothers wind.  We tucked in to the well protected harbor of Black Point to wait it out.  The winds were a steady twenty to twenty five with gusts up to thirty five.  We spent days stuck, swinging around on Echoes and with my hands getting closer and closer to Captain Notagoodboredman’s neck.

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Black point residents take great pride in building their own class C boats and racing them in competitions.

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We leave the VHF on twenty four hours a day when there is heavy weather in case someone sees a boat, hopefully not yours, dragging anchor, or a runaway dinghy.  We were woken up at three am to a VHF argument between two freighters one stormy night.  A smaller delivery boat was tied to a dock where a big freighter felt he had the right to be.  We woke up to their angry curses and threats.  Woke up implies we were sleeping.  We barely slept that howling night.  I imagined the roar of the wind was from kraken drowned banshee spirits recruiting for the dark undersea by trying to send our boats into the craggy walls.

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A small grocery store on Black Point.  Typical Bahamian meats in the freezer are steak of an unknown cut, pork shoulder chops, chicken wings , occasional lamb shoulder chops and frozen hamburger patties.  All are packaged in plain ziplocks and are of questionable quality.  The women at Black Point weave fronds to make the purses, baskets and dolls you see on the left.

All boaters underway, and often when anchored, have VHF tuned to channel 16.  Channel 16 is the hailing and emergency channel.  You move channels to have a conversation with the boat you hail.  There is a protocol of procedure and language;  roger, come back, over.  For instance, if we want to reach Joy we hail them on channel 16… Joy.  Joy.  Joy.  This is Echoes, over.  And then they respond, Echoes.  This is Joy.  Let’s go to 17.  You move channels and carry on.  Sometimes you hail boats for social reasons or other times with questions of navigational intentions, or to gain information.  You soon recognize not only the many boat names within your VHF vicinity but the voices that go with them.  Some of those voices are almost cartoon like and we have our favorites that we make fun of regularly because we are not nice people.  It is fun to run into the boats (not literally) you have been hearing and occasionally you meet their people.  Oh look, there is Von Yachtzki.  Or, So that’s Bumfuzzle.  Once we were at a happy hour and as soon as the man spoke I knew exactly which boat was his.  He was one of the voices we often mimic.  Like we might say, Dahhling, can ahh pour you ah libation of yah pleasuhhhhh?  I couldn’t look at Captain Twinkleinhiseyes as the man introduced himself or I knew I would lose it.  Hah, Ahm Thurrrston from the yachhht I’vegotmoremoneythanyouandbiggenitaliaaswell.

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Myself, Elizardbeth, Igor, Tinkerbell, Godzilla, Junior and Juanita the protected Bahamian Rock Iguanas.  Well, not me, I’m not a protected Iguana but the rest of them are.  These and many pictures courtesy of Soul Divers paparazzi.

As you know by now, Captain Mercelesslybadgersme never, ever tires of his jokes or games.  He is still making ridiculous bets.  And  remember Echoes, like the Pink Floyd song that I stupidly let him know drives me nuts?  I went to sign a guestbook at Farmers Cay yacht club and Captain Itsstillfunforme had already signed it.  I didn’t even let him know I saw it.  Do not fuel the fire.

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Captain Mustbedoingsomethingconstantly is frankly not pleasant to be around when he is bored.  Bugging me becomes his favorite time filler.  You can not give him any reaction to his shenanigans or he will grab hold of said annoyance and beat you with it until you want to kick him in the nylock nuts.  You have no idea how hard holding in your annoyance is on your third day stuck bobbing in howling wind.  Sometimes I can feel my eye twitch and my veins pop.  I was loading up pictures when he decided to hail Soul Divers about something.   Soul Divers!  Soul Divers! Soooul Diiiivers!  This is ECHOES!!!  Cooome on back, ya’hear?!, Captain Obnoxious shouted in the VHF with his best and quite accurate Gomer Pyle imitation.  I couldn’t help myself.  I lost it.  I screamed, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!  as I threw a pillow at him.  It was the nail in my coffin.  He giggled like a ten year old finding his first Playboy and did a little happy dance.  He got me under my skin and he knew it.  So now this is his new VHF hailing voice he uses frequently no matter how much I have ignored it since my fatal mistake.  And now when we pull into an anchorage our fellow boaters will see our cattywampus, bounced between pilings bow pulpit, our dock rash, me at the bow wrassling B.P. with rust all over me and mumbling obscenities like a mad woman and then they will see the name Echoes and think, Oh my word, its that boat with the guy that sounds like a complete idiot.  Should we pull anchor and reset somewhere else?

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Colonel Oliver Osprey keeping watch

The winds began to calm in the late afternoon after three days of captive Captain hell.  I’m sure everyone was anxious to move on, get off their boats and a few more feet away from their spouses.  Our neighbor pulled anchor at 4:00 in the afternoon which is unusually late.  Captain Curious watched them go because they left their anchor dangling in front of the bow where it could bang into the hull and cause damage.  Let’s call that boat Oops.  Oops went about two hundred yards weaving through the boats in the crowded anchorage and unfortunately cut a small sailboat a little short.  Let’s call that boat WTF.  Oops drove right over WTF’s anchor chain, or most likely anchor line, and got all tangled up in it.  Next, Oops swung smack dab into WTF.  WTF ran out with fenders to put in between the boats.  Several fellow sailboaters jumped into their dinghies to provide assistance.  It seemed as though WTF’s anchor line was wound around Oops’ keel, or maybe even his prop.  People were snorkeling and buzzing around in their dinghies trying to fix it.  Finally, WTF released their anchor line from their boat and drove off with the anchor still set to nothing but the seafloor.  Oops somehow got loose after some assisted fiddle faddling and also drove off to reset.  WTF came back to their anchor and with aid of a couple dinghies retrieved the loose end of their line and retied their anchor to their boat.  I don’t know which boat I felt the most sorry for.  For some reason I seemed to relate more to Oops.

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Sadie and Toby enjoying the last beautiful evening before the weather turned some of us, ok me,  all grey and grumpy.

The excitement over, Captain Boredoncemore started acting like a pirate…again.  Come ‘ere ya wench and bring me some rrrrrum! he growled simply to entertain himself.  And then he chased me around the boat, I’m Long John Silver and I’m gonna shiver your timbers.

I’m ready to move on from Black Point.

 

 

Hetty’s Land

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We desired a bit of solitude and protection from the north wind for a couple of days.  We tucked into a little inlet called Hetty’s Land on Great Guana Cay.  We walked inland from the beach to explore the island after Captain Fishless fished and I snoringly snorkeled.  Hetty’s is not a popular stop so we were surprised to find an interestingly marked path.  The path is not walked enough to leave a recognizable track so some thoughtful sailors hung washed up flotsam every fiftyish feet to guide you, a white crab pot hanging from a palm here, a yellow flip flop on a bush there, a bit of orange line hanging from a scrub tree over yonder, marking the way.  I felt like a child on a birthday party scavenger hunt.

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The trail led us through a mushy salt marsh, under tickling palms, around shin scratching brush, and up a rocky climb to the dramatic beauty of the atlantic side.  Ah!  Captain Notusuallysopoetic exclaimed, That must be the color cerulean.  Cerulean is a magnificent color of blue green and also the boat name of our friends Robin and Christopher.

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The sea was striped with vivid varying hues.  The water crashed noisily against bleached white rock boulders.

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There were small caves that water would rush through and a view to a distant horizon to get lost in.  We gobbled it up with our eyes and rushed back leeward to hail our friends on Soul Divers.  Come check out this path, we called, Bring your gear, spear and beer.  There could be lionfish here!  We all trudged back over to the windward side.  There were no live coral heads to hunt on but the beauty alone was worth the hike.

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That night Soul Divers had us over for homemade, amazing tamales.  I didn’t think I would taste anything better until Captain Breakfastisthebestmealoftheday fried up leftover tamales with fried eggs on top the following morning.  Best.  Breakfast.  Ever.

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Matt and Sadie took all of the line and rode out of their deep, narrowly partitioned anchor locker to search for their troubling leak.  They filmed the box by lowering down their gopro as only a five year old razor skinny kid could stand inside of it.

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Happily, they concluded the leak is not structural but more of a seepage through a rotted area.  An easier fix than structural but it would have to wait until they can hall out the boat.  Captain Livestofixormix was happy to take a look and help come up with a temporary improvement.  In the end, they decided to plug the lowest drain hole so as not to take on as much water on the seas.  Some creative, loose engineering went on to plug the hole and tie a line on to the plug to remove it if necessary underway.

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Having solved the world’s problems by noon we decided to celebrate.

Sangria Saturday
On the Bahamian Sea
A slow buzz with soft edges
My Cap’n and me

Peanut butter cookies
For lunch with friends
Baritone laughter
Time stalls and bends

Sunshine through closed lids
A smile tugs at my lips
The Cap’n is telling jokes
That I’ve heard quite a bit

Clear waters calling
Gunkholing for reefs
Tossing a line to mermaids
Shelling on the beach

Sangria Saturday
On the Bahamian Sea
A slow buzz with soft edges
My Cap’n and me

 

Little Farmers Cay

Little Farmers Cay was settled by a freed slave from Great Exuma who moved there with her two sons and daughter.  Apparently her children did not have any hobbies other than creating children of their own, the plentiful Nixons and Browns.  The English Crown willed the cay to her descendents as a generation property.  We paid our twenty dollar a night mooring fee to the hard working, friendly, eighty years plus, Roosevelt Nixon.

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It was good to be back in the Bahamas of its people rather than with the taint of tourists.  I realize that I am a tourist too, but I am starting to feel Bahamian.  Ya mon, whas da hurry?  Farmers Cay Yacht Club is my kind of yacht club, laid back, good bahamian food (fried snapper, chicken, lobster or ribs with peas and rice) and with a happy hour that pulls in our fellow sailors with rum punch (the key is coconut flavored rum) and conch fritters.

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Fortyish people, mostly Nixons and Browns, live on this three and a half mile island which has two very small grocery stores, one church and five bars.  Captain Saynomore wanted to “see” all five.  We have attached ourselves like desperate octopuses to Soul Divers as they are fantastic cooks, have wine (which I, GASP, am out of), are most excellent underwater tour guides and they have a snarky cat I love, Toby.  Soul Divers often sets sail before sunrise and forgets to tell us where they’re going but we are clever at tracking them down (I have a nose for wine) and then we anchor right next them.  Hi de ho neighborino!  The four of us began our bar to bar hike around the island.  We only found three bars but found island charm times five.

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A comfy hammock made with a mattress in a fishing net

We visited a wood carver with a fruit tree garden.  He gave us a tour of the pomegranate, almond, sarsaparilla, and odd fruits I’ve never heard of.  The walk made us thirsty so we stopped at a restaurant.  Read their hours.

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There was a sign in the bar that said no swearing so we needed to remove Captain Tellsdirtyjokesregularly quickly.  Removing Captain Onemorelastone from a bar is like removing a Remora from a Sea Turtle (I’ll explain later.)  Especially when he has a new friend who thinks his ancient, worn out jokes are funny.  But we finally managed by promising him there were more bars on the island.

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See Speedy the hummingbird resting in the top right of the picture?

We walked into one of the small grocery stores which had less food in it than I had on Echoes but had the most glorious smell.  The proprietors were sitting in the shade out front.  I told them the smell of their store brought me back in time to my grandmother’s most wonderful kitchen.  That would be my coconut bread, she replied.  Is this coconut bread for sale?  I asked.  Five dollars.  I bake right here, and she pointed to a kitchen attached to the store.  Five dollars bought me a fragrant, warm loaf of golden, spongey bliss.  I dreamt that night I was sleeping on a bed made of warm coconut bread.

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By far, for me, the bestestest part of Little Farmers Cay happened below the water.  There is a turtle and fish sanctuary right in the center of town.  There is no fishing or hunting in these Green turtle breeding grounds but you are welcome to swim with them.  The turtle man will give you conch to hand feed them with.

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The turtle nemesis under Michelle Turtle is a Remora fish.  Our family calls them Shoe Heads because the top of their heads are flat and have a shoe tread like texture to them.  They have suckers on their front dorsels and attach themselves to anyone they think might bring them a free meal with a free ride.  Ramone Remora took the conch that I am feeding Michelle in the above picture out of her mouth.  Michelle slapped him up silly on his head with her fin, took it right back and gobbled it down.

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Sadie is feeding Squirtle.  These awesome shots are from Soul Divers’ gopro.   I have now added a gopro to our never ending wish list of purchases for the boat next year, right below wine cellar.  Who needs a bilge?  Green turtles get their name from the green tissue under their skin.  They can get over five feet long and weigh over seven hundred pounds.  These guys were smaller but still breathtaking.

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We also saw rays and puffer fish.  Puffer fish have a permanent smile of their faces.  When they are agitated or scared they can puff up to more than twice their size.

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There were about ten turtles swimming around looking for conch handouts.

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After swimming with our new hard hat friends we had conch salad ceviche that Carselle made for us on the spot right on the dinghy dock.

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We had previously seen locals fighting over the conch penis and pissel when fisherman were shelling conch in Great Harbour.  Both the pissel and the penis are said to be Bahamian Viagra.  Captain Courageousanddofeelsorryforme ate them both.  The little brown doodle is under the spoon and this is the pissel (also called a pistol).  The pissel is a part of conch anatomy used in digestion.

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The conch ceviche was spicy and out of this world.  And this was the scenery as we waited for our ceviche to be made.  There were Browns and Nixons returning from from fishing.

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There were Nixons and Browns catching bait fish with a net.

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Our turtle friends would visit.

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Even puppies!

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I called this day Princess day because the princess was very, very happy.  There was no B.P., no smelly meat juice in fridges, no roly polys, no yuckified sausage, no full waste tanks or hungry no see ums feasting on my every inch.  Instead there were the many hued, turquoise waters of painters’ dreams, friendly turtles, spicy conch ceviche sprinkled with laughter and cold beers to wash it all down with.

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And the next day wasn’t too shabby either.  The next day we went lionfish hunting…oh my!

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Photo credit Dr Googlesearch and Wickipedia

Lionfish are venomous and extremely invasive.  They are prolific breeders and have very few predators.  Their sharp spines are poisonous and they hang hidden upside down in crevices protecting their soft underbellies.  They eat juvenile reef fish like pigs on a beach.  They are dangerous to marine life balance.  Most people do not hunt or eat lionfish because of their venomous spines but Matt and Sadie are both scuba dive instructors and are both experienced hunters.  Equipped with sling type spear guns, thick gloves and a container called a zoo keeper to keep the fish in after its killed, we went lionfish hunting.  Or at least they did, we just went along for the fun of it.

There was a dancing Sea anemone.  Sea anemones are animals that use their tentacles to catch their prey.

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Then we saw a gorgeous pufferfish partially puffed up.

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And finally, Sadie and Matt found a lionfish hiding in a hole.  They speared it and put it in their zoo keeper.  Did I tell you lionfish is delicious?  You just have to know what you are doing to clean one. Sadie filleted the small beauty.

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I had never eaten lionfish.  That evening Sadie brought over lionfish ceviche and I will never forget its succulence as long as I live.  I declared it Princess day 2.  It was a very good day.

 

The parts for our broken solar regulator have finally reached Fort Lauderdale.  Next they are to be flown on a small plane to Staniel Cay.  We will begin to make our way back up north to pick up our parts and end the arguments of battery use priorities.   I’m tired of living in the dark but I do look my best.  I miss my fan at night.  However, these experiences are most definitely worth it.

 

 

 

Staniel Cay, Part 2

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Soul Divers dinghy, Trikke

Soul Divers haled us on VHF to catch up after a few days.  I lamented about our broken solar regulator and some long nights bobbing around our anchorage.  They had it worse.  As they were bobbing around on their anchorage, their boat started taking on water.  They were up all night pumping one gallon of water every twelve minutes out of their bilge and figuring out where the saltwater was coming from.  Apparently there is a leak coming from their anchor locker into their boat.  These are the people who have been through hell getting their boat fixed after Irma beat it up.  It is not a cruise stopping leak but it is not good news or easily fixed.  However, if you are going to be stuck with problems somewhere, Staniel Cay is about as good as you could ask for.  We made the most of it by fitting in some fun.

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I am completely humiliated to admit this, but I love the reality TV show, The Bachelor.  It is so lame and so ridiculous and so unreality that I simply can’t help myself.  In one episode of The Bachelor the young stud looking for “a wife” went with several candidates blessed in the bikini top region but shorted in the brain region to Pig Beach on nearby Big Major Cay.  Much to Captain Whywouldyouwantoswimwithafilthypig’s dismay, this was a must on my list.  I had to see this with my own eyes.  The pigs greet you on the beach and swim up to your dinghy at your arrival.  You are encouraged to them feed vegetables and bring them fresh water.  Unfortunately, it was another tour boat, crowd cringing, attraction.  There were so many bikinis that Matt said, Pigs?  What pigs?  I haven’t seen any pigs.

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You are to throw the veggies in the pigs mouths but never turn your back on one.  They can be assertive, jump up and knock you down.  I brought a huge bag of carrots and Sadie had a variety of vegetable and fruit goodies.

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There were adorable piglets.  The tour boat guests would pick the piglets up for pictures and the poor piggies would squeal with disdain.  Watching piglet pee run down a disgusted bikini girl as she manhandled a squealing piglet was a true highlight for me.

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They liked grapes best.

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I got tired of feeding pigs so I started feeding Asians.  (I was actually sharing my carrots with these polite visitors.)

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And since we had pork on our minds, Soul Divers invited us over for homemade pork tacos.  They even made corn tortillas from scratch.  It was a feast of piggy proportions and wonders.  We were so excited we forgot to take a picture.  Sadie pointed out to Matt that he forgot to add avocado and all the good fixings to his first taco as he dove in.  Matt said, I am so hungry I had a premature etacolation.

We returned to Thunderball Grotto a couple days later with Soul Divers purposely choosing a higher tide and stronger current to avoid tour boats.  We practically had the place to ourselves.   It was truly beautiful.

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Photo credit Dr Googlesearch and Tamarisk

We have been at Staniel Cay over a week waiting on parts.  We have gotten to know the island and the store owners fairly well.  We have our favorites but one of the best is Ruth.  Ruth’s brother owns the combination laundromat, liquor store, tiny bar.

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Ruth did our laundry for us.  That was her first in.  But best of all, she gives Captain Rarelyspeechless so much shit that I am sure he has met his match.  We have often gone to the laundromat simply to hang with Ruth and have a beer.  I call her, Ruth the Truth.

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Ruth is saying, Hurry up with the picture!  I can’t suck it in any longer!

We skipped the St Patrick’s day whoop it up at the Yacht club to relax on the boat.  First Captain Creativebait caught a fish on old chicken skin.  We identified the fish in our scuba diving fish book and then googled it to see if it was good eating.  It was not.  It is called a Sand Tilefish and is referred to by  locals as Slippery Dick and the Haitian Hot Dog.

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And then Captain Welldonesir caught our dinner on old steak gristle.  This was a most delicious Yellowtail Snapper named Yummy.  Captain Tookatripdownmemorylane said Yummy was quite a prize but not even close to the monster lunker of a walleye he caught with his childhood friend, Timmy, on Pine Lake in Crandon, Wisconsin.

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The Solar Regulator company we paid second day air shipping rates to made a mistake and sent our regulator USPS ground.  It isn’t due to arrive Fort Lauderdale for another four days before it can be sent to the Bahamas.  We will leave Staniel Cay tomorrow making due with limited power and return to pick up our parts as soon as they arrive.  It is time to head north again so this delay is frustrating.  We are heading south to Farmer’s Cay where we will hopefully catch a mooring ball before the crowd arrives to ride out another blow.

 

 

 

Staniel Cay, Part 1

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Someone who is not especially good at details, but not too shabby at helping you pick out the right wine to accompany your meal, did not screw the fresh water caps on the deck properly the last time they filled up the water tanks.  Two of the three tanks took on salt water as Echoes’ nose crashed through big waves in heavy seas contaminating the water.  Plus, we were almost out of store bought water as someone had been drinking it because of tummy issues.  Cerulean filled up some drinking water for us before she left Warderick Wells and Soul Divers filled up ten gallons of water that we carried to our boat in a jerry jug to top off the largest of three tanks.  But we needed to head to Staniel Cay where we could water up and provision.  Bad weather was coming and Staniel is a good place to hunker down.

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This is Staniel Cay’s racing sloop, Tida Wave

Staniel Cay is the second largest epicenter in the Exumas for cruisers.  There are three small grocery stores (think convenience store), laundry, cell service, a hardware store, an airport, fuel, water, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club with a fun restaurant and there are several must see attractions nearby.  There were nearly 100 boats within a mile radius from us waiting out the foul weather.  We found a protected anchorage, snuggled in between several boats and looked over to find Cerulean within our view.

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People petting and feeding the Nurse sharks at Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Previously, someone who is not especially good at details, but is not too shabby in the galley, did not give enough power to Echoes as they left autopilot to assist getting the sails down.  Someone else was up on deck tending to the sails as they dropped.  Auto lost his GPS signal because he did not have enough speed and waves tossed Echoes willy nilly.  The sail flogged horribly and the Dutchman monofilament broke along with a Dutchman sail puck that holds it in the sail.  These dutchy thingamabobs help in stacking the huge, heavy sail as it comes down.  Someone needed to do some sail repair work.  We also had been out of data and cell range for over a week so we had bills, emails and calls to make.  We settled in for a few days.  Also, weather was coming.

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We were working on emails during a stormy morning when the wind began its haunting howl and Echoes began testing B.P.’s hootspa.  The rain came down in sheets.  Captain Someoneisquiteimpressivesometimes let the rain wash the deck for a good long while, changed into his swimsuit and went up on deck with two winch handles and two clean hand towels.  He opened the two empty tank water caps (we used the tainted water for showers and dishes), wrapped the winch handles in the clean towels and laid them aft of the freshwater openings creating a dam.  He also got a free shower out of the deal.  Then he dried off and went back to his emails.  Thunder crashed and lightning hit so close that I shot out of my seat with a yelp of a sailorly nature.  We checked our tank levels after the storm blew through and the rain stopped.  Captain Raintamer filled both tanks to the brim accumulating fifty gallons of rainwater in less than forty minutes.

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B.P. had drug a bit.  You can’t blame the girl as Echoes was swinging hard in almost three hundred sixty degree spirograph patterns.  We were closer than we liked to be to a craggy,  hull busting shore.  It was a crowded anchorage so we did our best to reset B.P. but she was tired and uncooperative.  It is difficult to find the appropriate sandy bottom needed to set B.P., not crowd those around you and compensate for enough anchor chain to keep you safe in blows and not swing into your neighbor.  I think we set and reset B.P. eight times until we were finally satisfied.  Then we had a princess pleasing lunch with Christopher and Robin, got a tour of the island and made plans to snorkel with them the following day.

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Captain Samehatandclothesineverypicturefortwentyyears with Robin and Christopher of Cerulean

We woke up the following day to no power.  That means no fridge, no lights, no instruments, no charging cell phones, zip, zilch, zapped.  The solar panels were doing their thing but the solar panel regulator and charger were dead.  The lightning must have fried them and we wore down the batteries with the windless setting B.P. the day before.  We’ve heard many stories of lightning taking out all of the electrical and navigational equipment on boats so we were grateful for just this problem.  Long story short, Captain Resourceful ordered parts from the states to be second day aired to an airport hangar in Fort Lauderdale to then be flown to Staniel Cay airport.

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The terminal at the Staniel Cay Airport

Having that wrapped up, we went snorkeling with Cerulean’s humans.  Gorgeous Staniel Cay has been the set of several movies.  One of the most famous filmed here was a James Bond Movie, Thunderball.

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There is a scene in Thunderball where James Bond fights off bad guys while scuba diving in a grotto.  This cave/grotto is where we went snorkeling with Robin and Chris.  It was absolutely stunning.  It was also here where our trusty, heavy duty camera, which has provided you all of the previous pictures, gave up its life.  I truly hope someone who is not especially good with details, but not too shabby with coming up with Captain names, didn’t break it by hitting the wrong underwater setting.  Let’s go with the lightning.  And then tour boats came by a disturbing number flooding the water with hordes of swimmers leaving a suntan lotion sheen on the water.  I am quite unaccustomed to crowds after these months at sea.  Please exit my quiet Bahamas at once!

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Photo courtesy of Dr Googlesearch and Robert’s Island adventures

We enjoyed our time with Cerulean very much and bid them farewell as they ventured south.  About the time that Cerulean left, Soul Divers found their way to Staniel Cay.

 

Warderick Wells Cay

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Warderick Wells is the headquarters for the Exuma Cays land and sea park and is a spectacularly magical place.  The park location was chosen for its rocky bluffs, sand dunes, salt flats, mangrove creeks and beautiful reefs.  We were blessed to score a mooring in the coveted north channel right next to a well known snorkeling site.  As we pulled in we saw our buddies on Cerulean were moored there as well.  We settled in, put the engine on Tip Sea and headed to land.  You are greeted on the beach by the reconstructed  skeletal remains of a 1953 Sperm whale who died from eating a plastic bag.  Our friends from Joy rebuilt it after a hurricane knocked it down several years ago.  The small park office is just off the beach and as are trailheads to over seven miles of hiking.

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We headed to the most famous of these trails, Boo Boo Hill.  There is legend attached to Boo Boo Hill.  The hill is famously haunted by missionaries who went aground on a reef and parished just below Boo Boo Hill.   You can hear their singing on the nights of full moons.  I think these parished missionaries are what makes this place so magical.  It is a tradition for cruisers to appease King Neptune and the sea gods with an offering of driftwood with your boat’s name on it at the top off Boo Boo Hill.  We didn’t bring any driftwood and you are not supposed to remove anything from the park so we put Echoes’ name on a shell from my shell collection and left it with the driftwood pile.  I figured this was appropriate because you can hear the echoes of the sea and its ghosts if you put a seashell to your ear.

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We continued hiking through beautiful, rough terrain.  The earth beneath our feet felt wonderful and the sights were soul quenching.  We hiked for hours.

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When we came off the trails there was a large sundowner happening on the beach.  All the cruisers grabbed their cocktails and snacks and dinghied to the beach to mingle and sip.  There we found our good friends Christopher and Robin from Cerulean.  They introduced us to people in which we had something in common.  There were maybe twenty boats moored at the north end of Warderick Wells.  Unbelievably, three of the boats there were from our home town of Stillwater, Minnesota, population of less than twenty thousand.

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We made plans to have our friends from Cerulean over for a sundowner the following evening.  The next day we hiked on snaking trails beneath the palms and across craggy, sandy cliffs.

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Warderick Wells is a mystical place of no such thing as coincidences.  Christopher and Robin came to our boat for a sundowner.  We had been on their boat before but this was their first time on Echoes.  When Christopher stepped aboard he said, Oh, is this a Catalina MKII 42?  I’ve been on one of these before.  Remember Selah, Robin?  Captain Areyoukiddingme? said, This is Selah!  We bought the boat from someone who only owned the boat a little over a year.  That guy bought the boat from the people of Selah.  They were sailing instructors.  Christopher and Robin did their ASA sailing training living aboard our boat for a week.  They have been good friends with the instructors ever since.  Have you seen the movie, The Red Violin?  It is one of my favorites.  It is the story of a magnificent, soul filled violin and the lives it touched all along its way.  I brought up the movie about a week before and said to John, I’d like to know about Echoes’ story and her people.  It turns out there is quite the story about Selah and her owners, Bob and Ana.  In fact, Ana wrote a book about it.  You can buy the book on Amazon.  Bet you know what I’m reading just as soon as I have enough wifi to download it.

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These adventurous sailing instructors had to sell Selah because tragically, Bob was hit by a car and hung on to life by a chafed sheet for quite a while.  I’m pleased to say he is doing much better now.  I was sad to hear the circumstances of selling Selah but am happy to be connected in this unusual way.  Christopher sent their friends an email with our picture and said, The new name is Echoes, which seems very appropriate given the circumstances of our meeting.

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The next day Cerulean went on her way south and Soul Divers came in to take Cerulean’s exact mooring.  We had sundowners (well, the sun does set every day!) with Soul Divers and made plans to go snorkeling the following day.

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The Eagle Ray gets its name from its beak like snout

Matt and Sadie are both scuba instructors.  It was a blast to snorkel with them as they have a sixth sense to the whereabouts of all living sea creatures within possible eyesight and even those that are not.  We popped in the cold water on a cold day directly off of Echoes.  Within ten minutes we saw eagle rays, sea turtles, a large variety of fish and colorful coral reefs.  Have I mentioned Warderick Wells is a magical place?  We watched four Spotted Eagle Rays swim in circles around our neighbor’s boat.  It was like watching an underwater ballet in graceful timelessness.  But the highlight of the day was Grandpa the Spiny lobster.  Matt noticed a tentacle waving out of a cavern in a reef.  He freedove down and rooted its occupant out of its hiding place.  Out came Grandpa.  I screamed in excitement through my snorkel.  I had absolutely no idea lobsters could get this big.  Everything appears twenty five percent larger under the natural magnification of water.  Grandpa looked like the size of a well fed labrador but Matt guessed him to be a little over three feet in core body and around twenty five pounds.  DSCN3390

I will never forget the enchantment Warderick Wells land and sea park.

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