Anchoring!Staniel Cay is a very popular cruising destination in the Exumas. We headed here after leaving Waderick Wells on an easy uneventful 10 mile sail. The most popular anchorage is called Big Majors Spot with at least 30 boats in it at any one time. Our highest count was about 50 boats. Besides excellent holding, there is in close proximity a cave you can snorkel in, a world class (but expensive) marina, a hidey hole for cold fronts, a beach populated by too friendly pigs, fuel/water dock, groceries and lots of island to explore by golf cart.
Our first few days we just hung out in the anchorage making daily pilgrimages to Staniel, once for lunch and once for a golf cart excursion with our friends Wayne and Gaye from Celebration. We used Celebration’s dinghy as much as possible as it has a 40HP motor and can plane with 6 people in it where as Pup-Pup, our dinghy, planes with one adult and two kids (not three!). On the way back from Staniel, after gold cart touring, I left everyone else in Pup-Pup while they were buried 2 dinghies deep at the dinghy dock. I motored hard with about a 5 minute head start and still lost the race to Viatori by a hair. Wayne and I also went on a grocery run while the sea was running over 2 feet for the nautical mile (2km) from the anchorage to Staniel. Our trip was extremely successful with all list items complete until we realized we left the ice on the fuel dock. Wayne and I punched it and for 2 miles I sat in the bow trying to absorb what felt like 2 to 4 foot drops as the dinghy bounced over the waves. My back was sore for two days after, but it was a ton of fun. Our 20 lbs of ice probably made it to the cooler as 15 lbs due to this oversight. The boys also had a sleep over on Celebration on the first night in the anchorage.
After a couple of days at Big Majors, we tried to move Viatori to a fair weather anchorage near Thunderball Grotto, an cave that is filled with fish and was used in the 007 movie Thunderball. There were plenty of boats anchored in its vicinity but we could not get a anchor to set and after five tries ended going back to Big Majors after getting fuel, food, water and groceries. There was a beautiful hole in the middle of the boats that we anchored in, only to be informed by an irate power boater that the seadoo in the middle of the hole was saving a spot for a 70 foot power boat – opinions are split 50/50 whether this is bad form or not. We pulled and re-anchored for the 7th time that day.
As we have begun to expect, another front was on the way. Wayne and I scouted out the anchorage between the Big Major and Little Major to see what the depth and holding would be like. Per Eve’s advice the North end of the channel between the islands was the best – Thanks! We moved around the island taking the cowards route instead of running the cut between Big Majors and Fowl Cay though we have seen power boats make the run. Celebration was already anchored and directed us to anchor off their stern, despite it feeling a little closer than we would have done on our own. We dropped the hook and had a wonderful evening in a protected spot… then the weather turned. I lay in bed and listened to the wind howl through the rigging – I would never get to sleep.
Up on deck I set up for a long night of anchor watch while I hoped the rest of the crew slept. I was dozing in the cockpit trying to stay warm when out of the darkness I spotted Celebration “sailing” towards us stern first. They kept getting closer and closer, I realized they would hit us if I didn’t do something so I grabbed the boat hook and started to push them away from us. Celebration, however has no good spots for pushing off with a boat hook (too shiny with pretty teak) so ended with one foot on Viatori and one on Celebration pushing – Jean Claude Style! The useless boat hook I used to alternatively hit Celebration and Viatori in the hopes that someone would wake up to assist. Wayne’s dogs woke and soon Wayne walked onto the back deck Gaye not far behind.
The next few hours are a blur of sitting in the cockpit until the boats swung towards each other and then fending off. Gaye complained that she was smoking all of her cigarette’s but Wayne and I just enjoyed the adventure of the night. Leah spent the night listening to Wayne, Gaye and I chat when the boats were together and the wind when they weren’t. At the time of the near collisions, the wind was running to the south and the current running towards the north, opposite directions. The reason the boats swung together was that Wayne’s boat was responding to the current while Viatori was responding to the wind. Every time we thought that the current had slowed enough we would swing towards each other and have to fend each other off. At about 4:00 am the current switched as the tide changed and Viatori and Celebration parted ways. I went to bed for a few hours before the sun would rise. I never planned to spend the night fending off a 48 foot power boat but nothing bad happened and so it was a little adventure that I will never forget and will cherish. A few days later we were discussing it and I get the feeling that Wayne more or less feels the same way.
The front passed and we moved around the island back to the larger anchorage to spent a rolly night as the remaining swell from the westerly winds came into the anchorage. Celebration headed north with guests that had flown into Staniel Cay so we were on our own for a while.
The next few days the weather wasn’t great with really high winds and we hung out on the boat, went to Pirate beach and did school. Pirate beach is a beach that the owners of the power boat “Pirate” have claimed for themselves and their friends by setting up chairs, fire pits, picnic tables, some signs and some games like corn-hole (bean bag toss). They and their friends are continually moving through the anchorage trying to crowd out anyone who anchors near the beach. The Seadoo also belonged yo and the spot was defended by one of Pirate’s group. We went there anyway and I towed Spunky in their dinghy to the beach so that they and their dogs could “stretch” (poo) their legs. We picked the wrong day, as soon several more of the Pirate clan showed up and they started to setup a sound system so that a band could play. Mrs. Pirate informed several people that there was an “adult party” planned for that evening and in not so many words we should shove off unless we were part of their group. Grrr. We weren’t the only kid boat on the beach that day but all of us were feeling unwelcome. It was 4:30 and we needed to get back for supper so we left – I guess victory for Pirate. I hope they had a good time (I hope their boats sink….) Saying the quiet part loud again.
We will go to Pirate beach whenever we can from now on, just to bug them for their air of superiority.
Pig Beach is where a couple of wild pigs live for the tourists to visit and feed. These pigs are so used to being fed by people that they run down the beach when they hear a outboard engine. They will also swim out to the boats to get fed if you chose not to land on the beach. This all sounds great until you find out that they have actually climbed into dinghies and sunk them in their frenzy to get fed… the remains of a ruined dinghy on the shore stand as testament to the voraciousness of these pigs.
The day Celebration was headed back to Big Majors so was a potential front. Only about a quarter of the boats moved for cover from the forecast west wind as there were doubts about the strength of the wind or whether the front would even make it down to Staniel. We decided to avoid the west winds by moving between the islands again but the spot we had used last front was really rough with waves heading up the channel from the south. We ended up north of there in a spot that would be protected from west wind and the south chop but not from the north swell coming from the Atlantic Ocean, rolling, rolling, rolling. Had a great time for Happy Hour with Celebration and Family Business that night and found a great swimming snorkel beach 100 meters from the boat the next day.
The west wind didn’t show up until after we moved back around the island – rolling, rolling, rolling – again. We pulled anchor after the wind shifted and moved up to the shore almost totally protected from the 20 knot winds.
Our last chance to visit the Grotto was at low tide, 3:00 PM the next day. It would involve a 20 minute wet, bouncy dinghy ride each way to get there. James is the most resistant to the prospect of a wet dinghy ride but with coaching or resignation did make it aboard for the trip.
When we got there the current was running out of the cave which made it hard to get in, but easy to get out but you had to be careful not to hit the sharp rocks. I towed Matty into the cave on my back and we marveled at the fish in the cave. Leah tried to swim in but wasn’t able to beat the current because she didn’t have flippers. By the time she borrowed some, the current had risen and she couldn’t make it anyway. James decided to stay in the dinghy and not get wet. Ethan went into the water in a floaty for a while and then went back into the boat. Bob and Theresa from the boat Spunky were also there and assisted with crowd control. Bob couldn’t get into the cave either so he lured a lot of fish out of the cave by feeding them as he swam from the opening back to the dinghies. Leah, James and Matthew all got a good look despite not getting into the cave. Thanks Spunky!
The next morning headed south another 8 miles to Black Settlement to get free water and free garbage disposal.