Kevin and Jeannie originally booked their flight out of Staniel Cay for Monday, March 6th, but a cold front with a very high pressure system on the backside changed our plans. Chris Parker, the marine weather guru who I listen to every morning on the SSB, called it the “longest high-wind event of the winter.” The wind was forecast to pick up to 25-30 knots with gusts to 35 in the early morning hours on Saturday, and wouldn’t really subside until the following Wednesday. Accordingly, Kevin and Jeannie wanted to switch their flight to Friday, March 3rd, and that meant heading down to Staniel Cay on Thursday – two days earlier than planned.
So we skipped the Warderick Wells south mooring field, and we skipped Cambridge Cay – Dawn and I will hopefully return to those later this week or early next week. We dropped the mooring ball at Warderick Wells North at 9:20am, hoisted the mainsail around the corner clear of the sand bores, and motorsailed southeast with the wind straight on our nose, tacking 20 degrees each side to keep the mainsail full and powering us through the chop. Nineteen miles and four hours later, we anchored on the southwest side of Big Major’s Spot, in a large cove that would be well-protected in the coming blow.
Big Major’s Spot is best known as the home of Staniel Cay’s swimming pigs, which have been in the news a bit lately. About two weeks ago, six of the pigs died under uncertain circumstances. The rumors have been flying up and down the Bahamas and beyond. Some claim a tourist poisoned them; others, tourists were giving them beer or booze; supposedly, a cruiser/vet did an autopsy on one and found impacted sand in its stomach, indicative of dehydration due to the pigs’ fresh water supply drying up. Whatever the truth, by the time we showed up there was a slew of young replacement piggies on Pig Beach along with new water dishes (refilled daily) and food trays along with signs instructing tourists to not place their offerings in the sand. Of course the minute you put the food in the trays, the pigs knock it into the sand! There are still a number of larger pigs that I remember from last time, so apparently the Staniel Cay Pig Massacre didn’t decimate their numbers quite to the extent that some rumors had it.
After visiting the pigs we headed to shore so Kevin and Jeannie could rebook their flights while Dawn and I did a little reprovisioning at Isles General Store. After that we dinghied around the corner to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, watched the ever-present nurse sharks and rays in the shallows, went in the bar for a few drinks and the first good wifi we’d seen in a week, and then had a really nice fairwell/sunset dinner on the deck. Here’s a good tip about dinner at SCYC: their dining room is nice but a bit formal, dinner prices are quite expensive, and reservations are required. However, you can order off the lunch menu all the way up until 9pm, eat al fresco on the deck (or in the bar), the food is still fantastic, and the prices are downright cheap - for the Exumas, anyways.
Friday morning I got up early and swam some laps around the boat in the clear sapphire 10’ water, then made breakfast. The Flamingo Air flight wasn’t until 2pm so Kevin and I had time to grab our snorkel gear and head over to Thunderball Grotto for some snorkeling. It was a gorgeous day – the last one in a while – so the grotto was pretty busy, but there were more fish than last time I was there, and the high tide opened up several routes I don’t remember in and out of the grotto. Such a neat, gorgeous spot.
We ran Kevin and Jeannie up the creek by the airport around 1pm; we said our goodbyes and they headed to the airport while Dawn and I waited for Isles General Store to open after lunch so we could dispose of the two bags of garbage we’d accumulated over the last nine days. While we waited we chatted with an older cruiser couple on a gorgeous trawler around the corner that we’d been admiring, Linda Lee. After an hour we gave up (later learned the proprietors had flown to Nassau for a funeral and would return Monday) & headed over to SCYC. They happily let us throw our bags in their trailer for nearly $7 per bag!!! There is supposedly a public dump on the island, we intend to find it tomorrow. We headed up the hill and found both the Blue Store and the Pink Store; they had everything we needed and then some, with the Blue Store in particular carrying a good variety of excellent produce at not-terrible prices. I checked out the liquor store (& Laundromat!) to see about replenishing my beer supply, but prices were predictable expensive and they had only glass bottles – we try to do aluminum cans for ease of storage/crushing/disposal. I still have plenty of beer (I tend to drink rum- or gin-based cocktails anyways) so restocking can easily wait till Georgetown.
Finally we had a drink at the SCYC bar and paid our ridiculous garbage fees before heading back to the boat. The wind had already switched to the northeast but was quite light; I motored the boat back to lay the chain out nicely, made sure the anchor was realigned, and then backed down on it hard. A quick dive on the anchor confirmed it was well-buried. All the boats around us – and most importantly, those northeast of us – were cruising boats that appeared to have good tackle with all-chain rode. One French boat had anchored right on top of us that morning, but on my request he moved another two boatlengths northeast, which spaced everyone out quite nicely. As the sun set, I counted 52 anchor lights in the anchorage; everyone was settled in for what promised to be a long night followed by a long couple of days.