Saturday, January 9, 2016

Staniel Cay & James Bond's Thunderball grotto

You never what what you are going to see out here.  If we had to have a monohull, this looks nice...

We were informed by some fellow boater's in Warderick that today is New Years eve, and there is a big party in Staniel. Huh?  FaceBook usually keeps me abreast of holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this one snuck up on me.  We need water and groceries, so we release the mooring ball by 7:45 am with the 2.5 current coming in the cut. The forecast 15 kt winds are more like 20 (with 2 ft waves on the nose), so after a few tacks, we give up, drop sails and motor along shore. Staniel Cay announces on the radio that there is a regatta today! Dang. Our first choice anchorage is across from the marina, just east of Thunderball's grotto. (Snorkel, baby!) 

As we near Big Major, we can see at least 20 megayachts anchored around the corner from Staniel. Uh, oh. That was plan C.  As we near the entrance channel, two more race boats are headed out. We think we see a few openings in our second choice anchorage.  "I smell pizza."  Focus, people.  As I head back around the grotto, The Captain says, "What about over there?"  Yep, that's our first choice anchorage. It starts to look like there is not enough room with the other cat (Switch 51, sv Neko) until I swing around their stern then a huge patch of sand opens up. Score. Internet and Naps!  Too tired to drop the dinghy in the water.  (I was awoken by the fireworks on the beach and popped outside to watch.  The Captain slept right through!)

Chartplotter on the way into Staniel.  Yikes!

Stats:  Total time 5:15, avg speed 4.7, total mileage 24.8 nm.  One hour sail.  Motored 4:15.

Year end total: 1765.1 nm.  Averaged 75 miles/week (excluding 3 months at Brunswick for hurricane season).  Averaged 100/week since departing for the Bahamas.

Day 2:  We are headed to the marina by 8:30 am for 3 jerry cans of water & 2 of fuel. We're lured to the yacht club restaurant and have a huge breakfast that ends up being brunch! At first we were told the stores were probably closed, but after several requests, the marina calls around to advise everyone to open. We walk into town to the Blue store (groceries), then by the laundry/liquor store--brilliant!  I scramble back to the boat for sheets & towels while DH does another water run (he gets it up to 3/4--just enough to slosh). Kalik is $64 for 24 bottles, cheaper than going to a bar, at least. I'm back in time for an afternoon swim. We're told by the locals it's unseasonably warm and fortunately, we're anchored in our own little swimming pool--a triangle of sand that is 5 ft at low tide. We can see our anchor chain & bridle laying on the bottom. Too lazy snorkel, I grab a noodle and a deck line and tie myself to the boat and float around while DH snorkels the anchor and scrapes the bottom.

Nirvana.  This saves a stop!
Even the Staniel dinghy dock is scenic!

Day 3:  I do some bucket laundry and hang it out before heading back into town. We walk to BTC to top up our data plan but they're closed.  We head to the "grocery by the creek" where we score a dinghy anchor ($44 reasonable), a new Bahamian ensign flag ($24 less than West Marine), oranges, some veggies (potatoes, onion, bell peppers--hash scramble!) and diet coke (not expired). Big Dogs & Purple Restaurant are closed so we retire to the boat for lunch and an afternoon snorkel around the boat. I graduate from the Captain's school of snorkeling--"here's your scraper!"  Win, win. An afternoon swim to cool off, exercise and Odin gets his belly rubbed.

Dinghy beach

It's Sat, the weekend after New Years. In my previous life, day after Christmas through the weekend after New Year's was always busy.  I spent the last several years in Marsh Harbour. Apparently the customer service industry in the islands refers to it as "hell week".  The planes flying into Staniel are constant. A Prout and a beautiful Island Packet monohull (spoiler alert, Sasha) tuck in behind the grotto with us in anticipation of the west winds. We're all pointing in different directions because of the current. Calm winds mean bugs :-(

Odin behind the grotto

Our swimming pool

Day 4:  Low tide has worked his way to 8:00 am, so we head for the grotto with our snorkels and new dinghy anchor (moorings are all gone?). A little confused about the entrance, we were hoping for someone to follow, but we finally find our way in--about a foot clearance, just enough for my snorkel without holding my breath. As we exit the other side, the morning sun in shining down on the reef and the visibility is excellent. We can see Odin, but have to swim back around for the dinghy.  All the yacht tenders have shown up. At the boat, I jump in to wash my hair and discover I can touch bottom!  That means about 2 ft under our keels. Grab your scraper!  With extra money in our restaurant budget from Land & Sea, we hit the Yacht Club again for lunch. 

Staniel Cay airport

Staniel Cay FBO

Day 5:  The wind is supposed to swing around through west today. There are few anchorages that have protection from west winds, so more boats try to join us on our little patch of sand--we're up to 6! We forgo one more pass at the grotto, but by afternoon it's declared a nice day. Naps, reading and an afternoon snorkel. The Captain bails just as another ray cruises by the edge of my view. All of a sudden, the dark line of clouds associated with the front roll over the horizon. Heads pop out of every boat simultaneously. All hands on deck zipping, securing, stowing on every boat. It's over as quick as it starts. At least the boat is clean! Bean salad for dinner. 

Day 6:  We're officially bored and ready to move but the forecast calls for 30 gusting to 40!  The movie marathon starts at 9:00 am. All of our neighbors pull up anchor and by 1:00 pm, the incoming tide combined with the 20 kt NE wind has us sea sick at anchor. Despite the fact these were the conditions when we first anchored (and our anchor has to be BURIED), we decide to bail for Big Major anchorage around the corner.  It is considerably smoother here and we can see at least 4 pigs on Pig Beach, that run out to each dinghy that approaches. It begins to rain sideways just before sunset and we hunker down for the evening. We decide on anchor watch with a steady 25-30 kts gust 36. Is that megayacht getting bigger?

Stats:  Total time 0:20, avg speed 5.1 kts, total mileage 1.8 nm.  Motored

Being in these conditions on our boat is referred to as the bouncy castle--not uncomfortable but annoying after awhile. Throw in some rain (similar to a tin roof), sloshing water (next to our berth) and fuel tanks, bridge slap (waves hitting bottom of bridge between hulls), howling winds and humming rigging (wind blowing contrary to our standing rigging can create a vibration) and you've got yourself a party!  Seriously, who can sleep in that?  For variety, our depth finder is drunk--giving random alarms despite 10 ft of water, to make you run into the cockpit.

There's more. Stay tuned!

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