Friday, February 7, 2014

Staniel Cay, Exuma Islands, Bahamas

Joe sailing Simple Life from Warderick Wells to Big Major's Spot
    Two familiar names are synonymous with Staniel Cay in the Exuma Islands. James Bond and the movie
Thunderball of which the underwater scenes were filmed in the Thunderball Grotto off Staniel Cay. Joe and I sailed from Warderick Wells to anchor for a few days off Big Major's Spot (a cay on the Exuma Banks near Staniel Cay) with hopes of diving at the Grotto. The Grotto is actually a fish and coral filled cave that can be accessed only with snorkel and mask at low tide due to the stalactites at the cave's entrance. As you can imagine this is a popular dive site with small tour boats arriving from nearby Staniel Cay at low tide. Even though Staniel Cay can be accessed only by boat or plane, a boat load of 20 sunburned tourists kicking about in the cave can wreak havoc with a positive dive experience. We'd hoped to arrive at the site just before or after the dive boat. As things turn out, it was a rather choppy day and we opted to wait for a calmer day.
Simple Life at anchor at Big Major's Spot

     While surveying my onboard provisions I made note of diminishing supplies. I tend to get anxious when food stores are dwindling. This can happen quickly when three meals a day are served and eaten aboard. It was time to go ashore in seach of food. My memory of Staniel Cay's "grocery stores" had escaped me since it had been ten years since we'd last arrived. I remembered the Blue Store and Pink Store. No lights inside, hot with minimal provisions because the mailboat was late and hadn't been to Staniel Cay in a week. Ah yes, we have definitely arrived in the Exumas. Yesterday after locating both stores we bought a potato at the Blue Store and Joe bought ginger beer for dark and stormys. There was nothing else to buy. I was happy I'd canned all that meat prior to leaving New England this summer.

     A few cruisers stopped by Simple Life in the anchorage later that afternoon and told us that the mailboat which was bringing supplies and more to the Family and Out Islands was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday but, had a problem with an onboard crane. Thus the reason for the bare shelves and supply delay. Maybe it was time to squeeze in a short dive.
Dive site

     This morning while enjoying our morning coffee I'd spotted several dinghies speeding from the anchorage around the rocky outcropping of Big Major's toward the direction of Staniel Cay. Apparently, the mailboat had arrived. Joe and I scurried about, packing bags for groceries, finding the wallet, sunglasses, hats and backpacks. Joe started the outboard and we were off in a flash. The warm, wet dinghy ride was at least a mile away from the uninhibited island of Big Major where we'd anchored. It was nice to have a 15 hp engine and a hard bottomed Caribe inflatable dinghy to pound through the chop on the southeast side of the island. Just as we neared the dinghy dock the engine conked out. We'd recently purchased gas and feared the gas may have been tainted with water. It would have been impossible to row had the engine quit earlier in the chop. Joe planned to fiddle with the engine but, I was on a food mission. We needed to get to Isles General Store (another store) NOW! Other cruisers were arriving too, and that meant less food for us. We walked up a narrow hill, down a narrow lane, crossed a narrow bridge and came to the store with no lights or air conditioning inside. A line paved with sweaty but, cheerful cruisers went from the cash register toward the back of the store. Everyone was excited about the tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and other fresh produce. We needed eggs, half and half, bread, milk, broccoli, onions, peppers and apples. The Bahamian woman at the counter added the cost of supplys with a calculator as each cruiser placed their items In front of her to be weighed and accounted for. She also left the "checkout" at intervals that added up to ten minute intervals to restock shelves when supplies started dwindling due to the high volume of customers. We all waited patiently, without complaint. As I said, it's the Bahamas and life moves at a much slower pace down here.