Staniel Cay, Bahamas

Cave in Staniel Cay

Cave in Staniel Cay

 

We left Cat Island in the early morning hours while it was still dark. Although we were following the same line on the chart plotter as when we came into the harbor I was on the bow with the spot light, wanting to make sure we could see a coral head if there was one anywhere near our path. We needed to make good time to get across the Exuma Sound and enter Dotham Cut on a rising tide so we would have the best steerage and complete control of the boat while heading into the current (instead of the current pushing us through the cut). We had a beautiful motor sail through the Exuma Sound, I put out the fishing rods with a cedar plug and a mahi jet determined to catch a fish. Unfortunately I didn’t get a single bite! I guess it will be steak, pork or chicken again for dinner unless Bellissimo (who is meeting us in Staniel Cay) has had better luck…

Dotham Cut - White Horses

Dotham Cut - White Horses

 

Dotham Cut is gorgeous, huge white cliffs on the Great Guana Cay side of the cut, they call them “White Horses” because they resemble a herd of running white horses. It is a big wide cut with plenty of water depth, once through the cut you do have to follow the route south, into an S curve to get around the shifting shallow sand bars. The change in water color helps with this navigation in addition to just looking at the charts. VPR (visual piloting rules) are always a requirement when you are making your way through the Bahamian waters, you get to know how to read the color of the water pretty quick, or suffer the consequences in the shallow depths. We make our way around the point of Harvey Cay and head to Big Majors Spot. This will be our home until it’s time to move again.

Thunderball Grotto Opening

Thunderball Grotto Opening

 

We were invited to have dinner on board Bellissimo and watch the sunset from the back deck. It’s nice to be with our friends again. We checked the tides and the weather for the following day to see if it would be a good day to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto. This is an underwater cave that has been used as several settings for Hollywood films, the most famous of which was the 007 / James Bond movie “Thunderball”. You want to be sure to snorkel near low slack tide due to the current and the level of the water that covers the entrance to the cave. If the water is too high, you have to free dive to get into the cave opening, if the current is not slack it can be very strong and carry you off in a hurry. We picked the best day and time to snorkel the grotto. Paula packed us each a little baggie full of chip crumbs to feed the schools of expectant fish. The sergeant majors line up as soon as a dinghy picks up the mooring near the grotto, they are certainly not shy. There are so many different types of fish gathered here, it is pretty amazing. Both the inside of the cave and the area surrounding the grotto is beautiful, scattered with colorful fish and coral, it is the highlight of the snorkeling we have done this season so far. I eye a big yellow tail snapper and think “lunch!”, but since this is a protected no-take zone that fish is safe…

Feeding Sergeant Majors

Feeding Sergeant Majors

 

After our snorkel we head into downtown Staniel Cay for lunch. The special at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC) is a grilled mahi mahi sandwich, since I couldn’t spear and cook the snapper this is the next best thing. We walk off our lunch by exploring the island, the cliffs, the beaches, all the grocery stores, we order coconut bread from the bread lady and pull off our sandals and walk in the water at Pirate Trap Beach. We walk up the hill to check out Club Thunderball, it is still empty, weathered and even more worn than the last time we were here. The docks are in shambles, results of neglect and the hurricane that touched the Bahamas last season.

Beausoleil at Anchor

Beausoleil at Anchor

 

Speaking of the hurricane last season, there is a lot of construction going on here on the island. Roof repairs, new houses, a new restaurant, busy busy. We also noticed several trucks with local construction company names emblazoned on them. It looks as if there is a job for all who want to work. Another discovery – the bread lady not only makes the bread for the visitors, the grocery stores and the restaurants, she is also on the wait staff at the SCYC. Berkie, the owner of Isles General, one of the grocery stores that is also a hardware/rental property/laundry/docks facilities, is also the minister at the local church and the dock master at the SCYC. We also met Chubby working on a roof at the pink grocery, we were looking for fresh fish – he promised to hook us up if the fishermen went out that day. We didn’t have any luck in getting the fresh fish from the fishermen so we tried our luck fishing off the stern of Bellissimo. Dave caught a shark, threw that back, then he caught another fish we didn’t recognize. While we were trying to find the picture that matched the fish, he decided to throw it back in the water before it died. Turns out it was a Jack Crevalle, good looking fish, great size too, good thing we threw it back in because the chart says the food value is “poor”.

We were approached by a local fisherman with the option to buy fresh lobster or conch (pronounced Konk). We ended up buying three large lobster tails for dinner that night so I made broiled lobster truffle/butter with creamy truffle butter mashed potatoes and green apple blue cheese salad (all of these recipes I learned from the amazing chef Martin Liz in Key West). The tails were so large that I ended up having to cut them in half to cook them all the way through! Delicious dinner and great times with our friends on Bellissimo.

Exploring the islands

Exploration of islands

 

One day we packed a lunch and went for a long dinghy ride. We took the cut between Big Majors and Fowl Cay Resort, around North Gaulin Cay and into Pipe Creek. Beautiful scenery, lot’s of boats anchored throughout the creek, we noticed a lot of development in the area as well as more “Private” signs on some of the cays. We were told that the beaches of all the cays in the Bahamas are public, even if the island says private. We found our own little private island with a beautiful protected beach and had our lunch. After throwing the stick for Angel for hours we jumped back in the dinghy to continue our tour.

Swimming Pigs - Big Majors

Swimming Pigs - Big Majors

New Pirates Lair

Jon leaving "Beausoleil" signature at the new pirates lair

 

After Bellissimo took off to head back to the States, Jon and I continued to explore the islands, feed the swimming pigs, check out the natural caves along the island, and even discovered a new pirates lair on one of the secluded beaches on Big Majors. It looks as if everything is very new and well thought out, there is a bar for the cruisers to bring their pot luck dishes, a sharpie pen to sign your boat name, a pit with benches around for beach bon fires, several lawn chairs and mini side tables, and a pick nick table complete with an umbrella that says “enjoy, m/y Pirate”. Too bad we found this the day we were taking off, it would have been fun to participate in one of these organized pot luck dinners. Oh well, I am sure there will be many pot luck opportunities in our future. Onward to Black Point Settlement and the 5F’s festival…

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2 Responses to Staniel Cay, Bahamas

  1. Really enjoying seeing again the magnificent clear, shallow waters of the Bahamas. Sometimes as the dinghy planed, we felt as if we were flying. Love your swimming pigs picture! Trish

  2. Janet says:

    OMG. Those pigs are the cutest EVER.

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