Sunday, February 22, 2009

Staniel Cay, Exumas

Feb 14th – Feb 22nd

Staniel Cay is a mile marker for us since this is the most Southern port we visited in our 2006 trip to the Bahamas. Engine trouble made it impossible for us to continue that trip. Staniel has an awful lot of things to offer the visiting cruiser. From Swimming Pigs to Grottos to snorkel, there is always something to do.

This trip, our highlights were the good friends we met. We happened to arrive on the day of the Valentine’s Day festival which raises money for the library. Jennie was thick into the festival when she took over running the bingo. Ally aka “Lucky” struck again by winning the prized electric guitar.

During the festival, the girls made a new friend, Ella. She was visiting with her mom (Kathy) and Dad (Paul) from Kalamazoo, Michigan. The girls became inseparable from Ella, so we shared many adventures during our stay. Ella and her family were staying at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC). The SCYC is the center of activity in Staniel Cay. This is where the boats bring in their catch for cleaning.

Not only is the SCYC of interest to yachtsman, but sharks and stingrays swarm around the dock. Here are some pictures of Emma, Ally and Ella feeding the sharks.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, the Snead family decided to go out for a nice dinner at The Thunderball Club. Owners, Brian and Coral, were gracious hosts and we had a great meal.

One of the neatest features of Staniel Cay is the Thunderball Grotto. Many people will recognize this natural grotto from the 007 movie “Thunderball”. At low tide, you swim into a cave that opens into a large chamber with streaming sunlight and swarms of fish. We carried in stale crackers to feed the fish. They literally attack you and nibble at you when the food is released. Unfortunately, the first time our brand new digital underwater camera saw water, it got scared and blew a fuse, so we have limited pictures. If we get more from our Michigan friends, we will post them.

Next up, the swimming pigs. That’s right, swimming pigs! Right around the corner from Staniel Cay is Big Major’s Spot. This is the home of the swimming pigs. You dinghy up to the beach and all of the sudden pigs start lumbering down to the water looking for handouts. If you stand off the beach, they will go into the water and swim out to the dinghy for free food.

After several days of being anchored in front of Staniel Cay Yacht Club, we moved to a mooring to ride out a front passage. While paying the mooring fee at Club Thunderball, Brian met Chad and LeeAnn from “Cambyration”. They were on Staniel to get married. Only, they didn’t know where or when exactly. Brian asked if the Sneadfamily could come to the wedding and that the girls would love it. They promised to call us on the radio the next morning to tell us where the blessed event would occur.

Jennie could hardly believe that we were invited to the wedding, but sure enough, the next morning, “Cambyration” called with the location and time. The girls were to become the Junior Bridesmaid (Emma) and Flower Girl (Ally).

Before the time for the wedding, we had lunch plans with another visiting family on Staniel Cay. Brian had met them when he had taken the dinghy 3 islands away to get gas for the dinghy and generator. The family was from Montana and visits Staniel Cay every two years for vacation. After a most enjoyable lunch, the girls went out to play. They came across a neighbor that had a beautiful flower garden. She put together bouquets and provided loose petals for Ally and Emma to throw at the wedding.

The Snead’s were the first to arrive at the beach wedding. Next, Chad arrived and began to memorize his vowels. LeeAnn had written hers earlier, but Chad, being a guy, waited to the last moment. The funny thing was that at the service, Chad had his vowels, but LeeAnn had forgotten to bring hers. Oh well, the wedding was a great success.

Following the wedding, Chad and LeeAnn invited us to attend the reception at Club Thunderball. It was movie & pasta buffet night. If getting married on a tropic island with no fixed date, minister, location or guest list sounds strange, add to it that the first dance was between the groom and the Snead girls.

The next day, our good friends Kathy, Paul and Ella planned a beach day on Pirate Beach. The girls played and played. A fort has been constructed of all types of debris that has washed up from the Atlantic. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch under yet another flawless Bahamian sky.

The one thing you can say about Paul and Kathy is that they go at vacation 100%. From squirt gun battles, fashion shows to group wrestling, you never knew what was coming next. Every time we would dinghy up to get the girls, there would be this hysterical screaming and laughing coming from the waterfront villa. (Kathy, if you are reading this, Jennie still wants you to come visit!)

True to form, Paul was out exploring the island when he happened upon a beach at the end of the runway that was perfect for a cookout. Next, what shall we cook? Paul managed to get some lobsters (uncooked) out of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club kitchen. We still had some from our fishing in the Berries. With baked potatoes and salad, the meal was awesome. We talked a couple we met at dinner the night before to join us. They are a professional dance team from Russia. It is just amazing all the people you meet out here.

Leaving Staniel is hard for us. We have met so many warm wonderful people here. But, it is time to move on. Next stop – Black Point.