The last cold front that stalled over the central Exumas coincided with a big snowstorm in Ottawa where close to 50 cms of snow fell. Blairâ€™s sister Wendy captured the height of snow banks in the most apt description Iâ€™ve heard yet; â€œAll the front walks look like goat paths now!â€. In March, the weather’s unsettled everywhere it seems. We’ve hung out in this area for the last three weeks because of guests flying in and out of Staniel Cay and each day the traffic increases both on land and water. The anchorages are noticeably more crowded, late arrivals to each anchorage are more prone to anchor well within Strathspey‘s personal space and the day after the groceries arrive by mailboat, pickings are slim. These days too, as we sail between islands, it’s not unusual to count 10 sails along the horizon at all times; this is the same area where two months ago we’d see barely five boats in an entire day.
Last week we celebrated Blair’s birthday week and the parties and good wishes stretched between anchorages and other boats. On Monday we had a pre-birthday party with our friends Nancy and Jim on Solitaire. Nancy produced a very cool birthday card with a photo collage of all our encounters with Solitaire since the first time – day one on the ICW in the first lock way back in Norfolk, Virginia in early November. Since then, we’ve spent Christmas and New Years with them at Warderick Wells, a few days down at Thompson Bay, Long Island, at Little Farmer’s Cay last week and now Staniel Cay for Blair’s birthday. In the past nine months of sailing, we’ve probably only spent three weeks with them but we feel like old friends every time the two boats join each other in a new anchorage. On Wednesday, we had another pre-birthday celebration and a goodbye party with Beth and Jim aboard Madcap at Bitter Guana Cay. We traveled a good long way with Madcap down the St Lawrence and 2300 miles to the Chesapeake Bay but this past week was the first time weâ€™d seen them since last December. It was a poignant reminder that our year of cruising is winding up as we waved goodbye to Madcap on the way out of Bitter Guana Cay. In the ebb and flow of cruising life, they continue south to Georgetown as we head north through the islands.
Blairâ€™s best present came Friday with the arrival of Sandy and Brooklyn whoâ€™ve joined us for a week down here. They flew in from Nassau in a single engine Cherokee Cessna with a big box of groceries and lots of energy and enthusiasm. Trying to fit in as much as possible this week, we rented a fast boat to get to some of the more distant sights: Pig Beach at Big Majorâ€™s Spot, Bitter Guana Cay, Gaulin Cay South, White Point, Thunderball Cave and Oven Rock Cave.
At Pig Beach, the porker population had changed slightly. The biggest pig is gone now; he was the center of attention at the pig roast held after Captain Greyâ€™s funeral a few weeks ago. But rounding out the numbers now is a tiny piglet, no more than a week old, who trotted out to the waterâ€™s edge squealing bitterly as his mom swam out for our food scraps.
At Bitter Guana Cay and Gaulin Cay South, the kids were intrigued with iguanas so curious that they ran out to meet them but then swiftly retreated as soon as we got too close. We snorkeled Thunderball Cave, swimming through schools of colourful fish â€˜til the tidal current grew too strong for us. And we explored Oven Rock Cave, a popular scuba diving cave down near Little Farmerâ€™s Cay. The outer part of the cave was dry with stalagmites dripping calcium-laden water into wonderful formations and coating the rocks and a drinking bucket so that it looked like a modern sculpture. At the far end of this cave, was a small pool of water good for a cool dip. For the more adventurous sort who didnâ€™t mind going under a collapsed floor passage to the next set of caves, this water cave stretched on for another 100 feet.
We had a relaxing week all â€˜round, borrowing bikes from the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to explore the island, playing cards in the cockpit, reading, napping and eating well. Brooklyn made friends with the crew of Clueless, a 58 foot sport fishing boat from the Florida Keys, and because the owner and his family were eating out every night, they were happy to pass on large quantities of freshly caught Mahi Mahi, Grouper and Snapper. The Grouper and Snapper had been caught at depths of 600 feet or more and were just as tender and tasty as those caught in ten feet. For two nights we dined on the generosity of Clueless; fresh fillets lightly dredged in flour, then egg and milk, another delicate coat of Panko breadcrumbs and then quick seared in butter. Wonderful!
This is the last bit of luxury and civilization weâ€™ll see for a little while. Weâ€™ve filled our diesel tank, our water tanks and topped up our gasoline here. Blair hauled the dinghy up onto the dock here at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and cleaned the bottom for the first time since December and Florida.
After almost four months, the dinghy bottom was coated with a disgusting scum that resisted a power wash and had to be scrubbed off with a stiff brush. Blair is sure that weâ€™ll increase our dinghy cruising speed measurably; we shall see.
Itâ€™s spring now. First day yesterday. Daylight hours are equaling night, Bahamian spring flowers are sprouting forth, the papayas are getting ripe, the water is 29 degrees C and once Sandy and Brooklyn head out today, our thoughts are turned northward. Itâ€™s timeâ€¦..