From Highbourne Cay we sailed to Wardrick Wells where we slept that night attached to a mooring ball and left for Staniel Cay in the morning. Liz had less than 24 hours on the island and Cass wanted her to experience everything that the small Cay had to offer before flying out. We arrived in Staniel around noon the next day and wasted no time in getting to the pigs on Big Majors.
After an hour or so of being chased by the 350-400 lb swine, we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed off to the famous thunderball grotto (famed for the James Bond movie Thunderball). At low tide you can swim in one of the two entrances on the West side of the island. Once inside, you’re surrounded by corals that outline the interior of the rock walls, small ledges that you can climb up to rest and relax, and tropical fish of all sorts that are not shy to check you out. There are three large holes about 30 feet above the waterline on the top of the grotto that let light shine down inside of the cave. We’ve never seen such a wide variety of corals in one place. There isn’t an inch of live rock without a coral head growing on it along the outside of the island. Somehow we missed this spot last year when we sailed through the area and felt pretty dumb after getting to see it this year. It’s a must-see dive spot if you’re in the area!
The next morning was a dreary, dark, and rainy day . We all put our raincoats on and walked Liz to the airport. Her flight was supposed to leave at 9:30 so we arrived about an hour early. Before she had even made it to the line, a woman frantically ran up to her screaming “Didn’t you know check-in is at 8!!??” Without much being said, this lady then rushed Liz through checking her bag. The luggage was placed on a scale, Liz’s confirmation number was jotted down on a piece of notebook paper, and the check-in process was complete. Short goodbyes were said and Liz was shoved on a plane all in a few short minutes. This flight actually left an hour ahead of schedule. Since when is anything done ahead of schedule in the Bahamas? Liz, you are missed!
The next 3 or 4 days were spent dealing with some rough weather blowing out of the west between 20-30 knots. There are so many sandy anchorages that it’s not typically a bad deal unless the wind is blowing out of the West. When wind comes out of the West in the Exuma Cays, most marinas empty out and boats all hide within narrow cuts between narrow cays. Sure enough, the marina kicked everyone out so that their docks wouldn’t be torn to shreds and most of the boaters in the area anchored between Big and Little Majors, just a mile from Staniel Cay. We hadn’t yet moved the sailboat but knew that we had to. Cass and Char headed to the grocery store to stock up, knowing we’d be stuck in the boat for a couple of days as Brian and Alex took care of some last minute online shopping. Once they were done, they hopped in the dinghy to go pick up Cass and Char, the only problem was that the tide had gone out and the tender was now laying on her side. With the help of a passerby, we were able to drag the Miss Led back into the bay and tried to fire her up. Nothing… The engine cranked over and it was clear the battery was not the problem, but the engine would not start. We tried to troubleshoot the engine to the best of our abilities and when we removed the dipstick to check the oil, out billowed an oil/gas mixture that shocked us both. This is not good, we thought. Brian headed off to the marina to see if he could find someone that knew anything about outboards and when he got to the marina he noticed that there was an identical tender to the Miss Led tied to the dinghy dock. He rushed into the bar and began asking around to see who owned the beaut. As luck would have it, the first group he approached were the rightful owners and Brian, the captain, knew a thing or two about outboards. He ordered himself a couple of beers and made the short jaunt to the beach to see if he could be of assistance. His first thought that it was a seal around one of the head gaskets. How else could fuel get into the oil compartment. Well, we now know… There was nothing that Cap’n Brian could do so the only option was to get a tow to the anchorage so that we could at least secure the Miss Informed to a new, safe anchorage.
We enjoy anchoring out and spend a lot of time on ‘the hook’, however, we still need to head to shore every other day to get internet for work. This is a difficult task when the weather is rough and it certainly looked like it was going to be rough. Without a working tender, we were stuck to read, watch movies, and watch other boaters in fear for their lives as they drag through the busy anchorage. The first day in our new anchorage was an exciting one. A 40 foot sailboat started the chaos by dragging through the anchorage. Fog horns and screaming boaters brought us up on deck to witness the carnage sure to come. It began with one sailboat dragging over other boats’ anchor lines and pulling them up out of the sand. Within a couple of minutes the one dragging sailboat had drifted over four lines and had pulled up a large catamaran, a 50’+ Nordhaven yacht, and had got his anchor caught on another 50-60′ yacht’s anchor. Brian took a look through the binoculars and realized that the yacht that had his anchor locked to the dragging sailboat’s anchor was our pal Brian from the yacht club who tried to help us with the dinghy. The two boats swung wildly as they drifted through the VERY crowded anchorage in our direction. The current was moving through at about 3 knots and the winds were nearing 30 knots through the cut, making it extremely difficult for them to maneuver. Dinghy’s all rushed in from different directions to help them out as crews from each boat barked different strategies for getting untangled. When they got within about 100 feet of us Brian made the decision to pull up anchor and get out of their way. Just as we kicked on the engine, the motor yacht began to reverse, pulling the sailboat with him back up through the cut. Eventually they were able to unsnag themselves and the excitement, at least for now, was over. That night we got a hold of Brian on the radio and he invited us all onboard his boat for dinner and drinks. Onboard Brian and Marlene’s boat was a young couple, Deanna and Matt, who were in their early 30’s. They had recently sold their home and their belongings, quit their jobs, and moved onto a good-sized catamaran. They were new to sailing and cruising the Bahamas and we found that we all had a lot in common. It just so happened that Matt and Deanna were on their way to Georgetown and after hearing that Alex and Char were heading there as well, offered up a ride. The stars had aligned at just the right time. Two days later Alex and Char boarded S/V Fox Fire and sailed out. Peace out, guys! We’ll cross paths with ya’ll soon.
No sooner did we lose two crew that we gained two more! Cassie’s sister Sarah and her boyfriend Eric flew into Staniel Cay two days later and planned on spending their week in the warm bahamian sunshine. However, the unpredictable weather had something totally different in store for them. They got about 2.5 days of pure sunshine while the remainder of the week was frigid and extremely windy! We still managed to show them everything Staniel Cay has to offer; the pigs, the grotto, the sharks, the Yacht Club and more! We played an epic game of french darts in the most beauitful french darts official stadium (shhh it’s a secret location)!
We had an amazing time hanging out with them and were sad to see them go. You guys are welcome back anytime!!