Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Staniel Cay, Bahamas

     Here’s a recap of the trip through the Exuma Islands so far. After leaving George Town last Wednesday and spending the first night at Lee Stocking Island, we did another short day sail to a spot called Cave Cay Cut. Many of these small “cuts” exist along the long stretch of the Exumas (the shallower western side of these islands is known as “the bank” and the deeper eastern side as “the sound"). The water is dazzling everywhere along the bank side; always a clear and sparkling tropical blue. That afternoon spent at Cave Cay Cut, Sarah, Jamie and I donned our snorkel gear to explore the shallows along the shore, which had a long rocky ledge worn away underneath by the constant motion of tides. Small fish, corals and other sea life clung to the rocky walls, magical as always.
     The next morning we left CCC through large choppy waves created by the wind pushing against a receding tide and sailed to Staniel Cay, where we’ve remained since. For the first time in ages we’ve experienced strange currents created by the rise and fall of tides. Sometimes we look above to find the boat facing a strange direction and the water moving slowly by, which makes it feel like we are moving despite being firmly anchored. When Jamie went swimming back at Lee Stocking Island he almost floated away with the current and had to swim fairly hard to get back to the ladder.

     Staniel Cay has several spots to anchor and protection from different wind directions. Dad chose it primarily because some bad weather came through last weekend and it offers protection from a west wind. We had an unsettled night on Saturday when a barrage of rain and lightning came through. It was the only lightning we’ve seen on the trip that felt close and threatening. The anchor alarm was set to a short distance that night, so as we swung around with the wind and changing tides it went off at least three times. The next morning, our dinghy was half full of rainwater, which had poured down in a constant, pounding stream all night long. Since the storm the weather has been fairly good, but with stronger winds so we plan to stay here until Thursday or so.

    Staniel Cay is an interesting spot to visit. First, it is the site of “Thunderball Cave,” a beautiful snorkeler’s delight where scenes from the James Bond movie “Thunderball” and the movie “Splash” were filmed. With its wonderful variety of fish, various crevices to explore, small openings to swim through, and lots of colourful coral, it quickly became our favourite snorkel spot of the entire trip. With the strong currents created by tides in this area we had to be sure to visit at slack low tide, and even then a fairly strong current flowed through the opening on one side, through the domed central area, and out the side facing "the bank" where the dinghy moorings sit. Holes in the domed ceiling of the cave allow light to filter through, making everything sparkle like colourful crystal.

     A second feature of Staniel Cay is a section ashore with hiking trails. These trails meander over crumbly limestone that has been formed into some interesting patterns by wind and waves. In some spots the rock resembles the flaky, layered inside of a pastry, in other spots it looks like a dusty white moonscape. One beach over from the hiking trails has a whole area covered in white rock that has this moonscape feeling as well. The rock is incredibly soft and crumbly, so climbing up the hills sides in sandals felt a bit unstable, but the view of our anchorage and the water in the distance was spectacular.

     Staniel Cay also has a small town with marinas and an airport with daily charter flights. Doing a serious re-provisioning here isn’t really an option, but there is a small bakery and a few shops to peruse. The island beside us (Big Majors Spot) supposedly has freckled pigs on it that will swim out to a boat for scraps on occasion, but the beach on our side doesn’t have any trails leading across it and the bushes would be hard to trek through.

That’s all to tell for now, so until next time.

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