It’s been a while since my last post because we’ve been busy with visitors and had limited internet access.
Pete’s brother Brian and his wife Stephanie flew into Staniel Cay to spend a few days with us at end of February. We had walked to the Isles General Store, looking for some parts, and met Brian and Steph hitching a ride on a local’s golf cart near Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We had a few drinks at the Yacht Club and gave Brian and Steph a chance to acclimate before taking the dinghy back to Delphinus. We enjoyed a swim off the stern of the boat and then a quick dinner on board.
Because the winds were still pretty high, we took the dinghy back to Staniel Cay the next day to hike to the Exuma Sound side of the island. We found a lot of very high end new construction – almost like a gated community, without the gate. It also restricted access to the Exuma Sound beaches. Eventually we found a public beach access and were in awe of the powerful waves and rock formations. We ended up back at the Yacht Club for lunch, drinks and shooting pool.
The next day the winds calmed and Brian and Stephanie rented paddle boards. Pete & I took the dinghy and met them at Big Major’s Spot, which is known for its swimming pigs (who are looking for food.) Brian and Stephanie arrived before us and stayed well offshore hoping the pigs would not try to upset their paddle boards looking for food. When we arrived, we were able to divert their attention. I think they smelled the Ziploc bag of galley scraps we brought. One of the “mama” pigs actually tried to climb into our dinghy as we got close to shore. I swatted at her snout and told her to get down, which she actually did! They are very used to human interactions.
After observing the pigs (adults, adolescents, and babies) I’ve come to the conclusion that the “mama” pigs are not at all nurturing. When the adolescents and babies started going after food that had been dropped on the beach, the “mamas” flung the babies away their snouts and tried to bite the adolescent pigs.
After feeding the pigs we found a delightful beach nearby which has been set up by other cruisers with tables, umbrellas and lots of mementos. We enjoyed a picnic lunch, snorkeling and some paddle boarding lessons for Pete & I.
Brian and Stephanie’s visit continued with a whirlwind of activities … paddleboarding, snorkeling the grotto (where 007’s Thunderball was filmed), and exploring the settlement. Their last night with us was topped off by catching up with some local fisherman and purchasing some of their fresh catch for dinner that night. Yummy!
After seeing Brian and Stephanie off, we departed Staniel Cay, only to run aground on a rock not far off the docks. It was quite embarrassing to sit there and see other boaters at the docks watching to see when we would be free. We were fortunate in that the tide was rising and within a half hour we floated off. Next stop – Little Farmer’s Cay.
We anchored off the shore at Ty’s Bar & Grill. Pete took the dinghy into to shore to check things out and met a nice young man named Aaron (about 10 years old). Aaron was curious about who lived on the sailboat with Pete and what it was like. Pete promised that if Aaron got his parent’s permission we would come back the next day and take him out to Delphinus on the dinghy. True to his word, Pete called the folks at Ty’s and arranged to come in and pick up Aaron the next day. Aaron enjoyed the dinghy ride and the tour of Delphinus. We even gave him a chance to sit at the helm. We returned to Ty’s for dinner and drinks. Aaron stayed with us all evening, even downloading several video games onto my phone so I would be able to play when we left. If we are ever back at Little Farmer’s Cay, we will definitely stop at Ty’s. Aaron’s Aunt & Uncle run the place and provided outstanding service, food and drinks.
On our way to Georgetown we spent a night anchored off Rudder Cut Cay. The nearby island, Musha Cay, is owned by David Copperfield. Rudder Cut Cay is also privately owned. Off the shore of Rudder Cut Cay, David Copperfield sunk a stainless steel sculpture of a grand piano and a mermaid in about 15 feet of water. It’s a great snorkeling spot and quite a site to see!
We finally arrived in George Town, Exumas, the southern end of the Exuma chain and something of a meca for cruisers. We heard over the VHF that there were over 300 boats anchored there and looking over the harbor at night, it was easy to believe. All of the anchor lights appeared like a close-up constellation of stars. We were there for the Sunday afternoon pig roast at the Chat ‘n Chill beach bar and were totally amazed at the number of dinghies lined up on shore and people gathering under the palm trees. The food was delicious and the beer was cold. Who could ask for more?
Again, this area has more boats and people than we’ve seen since leaving the US. We took the dinghy into town on Monday to re-provision and found the dinghy dock two and three boats deep. The town of George Town is bustling compared to many of the communities we’ve visited, with locals and cruisers alike. We were delighted to find a bank with an ATM, which we haven’t seen for weeks. As so many of the small businesses in the island settlements only take cash, we were running low on reserves. There is an actual grocery store with aisles and carts; although the day we visited was the same day the mail boat was due to arrive to replenish the stock, so the shelves were a little bare.
We have run into people through our travels who think the cruiser community in George Town is a great thing, with lots of organized activities and sense of community. We were fortunate to be part of an event that showed the true sense of community. While listening to the VHF one morning, we heard about a medical emergency on another boat. Turns out the injured person had a neck injury with numbness in his extremities. Word was sent out for assistance to safely move the injured person from his boat to shore where an ambulance could transport him to a medical facility. We just happened to have a neck brace on board (thanks to our friend in emergency medicine) and offered it up as part of the solution. Quickly another boater offered a paddle board to be used as a back board and another offered his tender which could easily accept and transport the patient to shore. In less than an hour all of these assets were consolidated, transported to the patient, and the gentleman was moved onshore to an ambulance. That is truly a community that works.
Our next stop was the Emerald Bay Marina, just a bit north of George Town, to await Colleen’s arrival. My Dad was supposed to travel with Colleen, but unfortunately he had a mild heart attack two days before they were supposed to leave. As I write this he is back home and recovering nicely. When I explained to Dad the troubles Colleen had, he said he might have had another heart attack from the travel stress!
Colleen’s travel morning started out badly when the cab she had arranged for the night before did not show up at the appointed time (o’dark early). She called for another who promised to be there in 15 mintues. Thirty minutes later with no cab in sight, she jumped in her car to drive herself to the airport. She got to the gate for her flight to Philadelphia just before they were about to close the plane door. Her flight from Philadelphia to Miami was delayed because the flight crew wasn’t there. As a result she missed her connection in Miami to George Town, Exumas. Without asking her, the airline booked her on a flight to Nassau with a connecting flight the next morning to George Town, and offered no accommodations in Nassau. Pete & I scrambled and found her a hotel room for the night.
She was on an early morning flight which arrived in George Town about 7:00 a.m. Unfortunately her checked bag did not follow the same path she did. She came off the plane wearing a sweatshirt and jeans as the temperature and humidity climbed. We met a local woman from the same flight who worked for the airline and who also had to stay overnight in Nassau. She took our information and promised to look into finding Colleen’s bag once the offices opened for the day.
We stopped at a local place for breakfast, walked around George Town and then found a souvenir shop and bought some shorts for Colleen. The lady from the airline stayed in touch with us by phone throughout the day and by mid-afternoon the bag had arrived at George Town Airport! I think Colleen finally relaxed once we had her bag in hand.
Our next stop was at Rudder Cut Cay for the night. Our friends Rick and Helen, of Symmetry, were nearby and joined us on Delphinus for drinks. The next day we all snorkeled David Copperfield’s piano sculpture again. What a sight to see a full sized grand piano and mermaid under the water! We continued to snorkel near the local beaches (which are all private and included a guard dog) and found stingrays, fish and starfish. We found a cave which was accessible, with its own little beach at low tide and a natural chimney for light!
We returned to Little Farmer’s Cay and Ty’s Sunset Bar & Grill for another night. While walking around the beaches on the island we found piles of conch shells. The locals dive for the conch, clean them and discard the shells. We picked up a couple of shells to decorate and use later.
I’ve noticed throughout the islands that when something, a house, car, boat, etc., is abandoned it will be overtaken by nature. Trees, vines and grass will take over. Here I found a pair of sneakers in the lawn of an abandoned house looking almost like garden planters.
Next stop is Staniel Cay and Big Major’s Spot. We spent the rest of Colleen’s vacation exploring this area with her. We hiked around Staniel Cay to the Exuma Sound side and showed Colleen some of the highlights of the community there. She was quite adventurous climbing to the edges of the cliffs. Colleen and Pete snorkeled the grotto and a sunken airplane off Staniel Cay.
We made a visit to the swimming pigs at Big Major’s Spot, feeding them our scraps and watching other families do the same. Colleen enjoyed photographing them, especially the young ones. At one point I was just standing at the water’s edge watching them when one of the larger sows bit me on the backside! I’m still sitting gingerly as I write this.
Our next stop that day was back to Pirate’s Beach – this time with our conch shell to paint with Delphinus and leave it as a memento along with all the others. We had just assumed that the tables and chairs on the beach were left there by other good-hearted cruisers to be enjoyed by all. After eating our picnic lunch and swimming we were greeted by the “owner” of the table we were using and told we had to leave it. He informed us that he brought that table here on his motor yacht and we could not use it! Kind of a deflating end to a fun day. Colleen commented that he was the first unpleasant person she had encountered in the Bahamas.
We finished off Colleen’s vacation with dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, which was a wonderful experience. They have two dinner seatings each evening and ask you to preselect your entree when you make your reservation. When it is time to sit down to dinner, they ring the dinner bell and seat you. From that point on everything is taken care of. We were served soup (conch chowder), salad, our entrees and dessert by a friendly, efficient staff.
The next morning it was time for Colleen to catch her flight from the Staniel Cay Airport. The airport consists of a runway, parking apron and an open air gazebo which serves as a waiting area. We were greeted by a local who took down Colleen’s information, weighed her bags, and even asked how much she weighed. The planes flying out of here are small and they work to evenly distribute the weight of their passengers and luggage throughout the plane. In case you can’t see it in the picture, Colleen was terrified to get on the small plane. Her return home was safe and uneventful.
We’re not sure where we are headed next … maybe back north through the Exumas to visit a couple of Cays we missed on our trip south. Stay tuned and stay in touch!