March 7th had us cruising the relatively short hop (2.5 hours) from Warderick Wells Cay to Staniel Cay. After dropping anchor, we got the dinghy in the water and cruised over to a grocery store to both dump trash (large amount and stinky …) and buy some provisions. We planned a bigger shop the next day, but we have learned that when shopping on these islands, if you see something you want/need, buy it – it might not be there later.
We toured around the area, ending up at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and Marina, where we were happy to discover the Karen Marie, with Dale, Karen, Sean and Debbie – friends we last saw in Norman’s Cay. They invited us aboard and we enjoyed a great hour catching up, friendship, beverages and seeing a plethora (Kathleen just loves using that word…) of sealife – about 10 nurse sharks, rays, one barracuda, and a myriad of other tropical fish. After our visit, we grabbed dinner at the bar of the Yacht Club and wandered back to the dinghy, well after sunset and nightfall. The long dinghy ride back felt sketchy except for Elaine who enjoyed watching the stars and maybe the newness of the ride not feeling the tension that Kathleen and Neil did while trying to navigate the waters and many anchored boats back to our boat in the dark. We got back safe and sound, no worse for wear.
The next morning had us up and out, first checking out the “swimming pigs” on the beach near us, along with nurse sharks and rays and other fish. From there we cruised over to the town to do some proper shopping and a bit of sightseeing. We got back to the boat, where Neil changed the generator oil and the rest of us relaxed (Kathleen trying to master Fair Isle knitting and Elaine and Dave alternating between reading and “contemplating with eyes closed.”). Neil had checked the current and tide, and found a good window to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto (the scene of last summer’s fiasco where Kathleen banged her head on the limestone). This time, it was PERFECT. Hardly any current, water low enough we could just gently swim into the grotto. The fish were fantastic, the light dancing across the water in different areas through a larger hope at the top of the grotto, grasses hanging down from the ceiling, stalactites and stalagmites growing with. We snorkeled in and around for about an hour, all declaring that it was one of our more stellar expeditions.
We left Staniel the next day around 1:00, after a tour around the Sandals resort and another visit to the pigs and company, and a quick trash dump. We were ready for a short hop (ten miles) to the Little Bay anchorage off of Great Guana Cay. On the way, we connected via VHF with Christine and Joe Cook on Legacy, our friends from Vero, who were headed to Staniel. It was a bummer that we couldn’t stop to visit, but hopefully will catch up later.
The Little Bay anchorage hosted a seeming Nordhavn convention, with 4 Nordhavns anchored (including us). Kathleen’s back decided she had had enough bouncing while in the dinghy and needed a long rest, so she headed to bed, but everyone else had a grand evening, with folks from one of the Nordhavns coming over to meet and greet.
Although the anchorage was pretty, it was very rolly, so the next morning we weighed anchor and cruised around the point to the Black Point Settlement anchorage. There were A LOT of boats here, both for nominal protection from some anticipated blowing later in the week, as well as a pretty town with friendly people. We had lunch at Lorraine’s, a popular restaurant/bakery, which definitely ran on Bahamas time (lunch took about 2 hours, of which 1.5 of it was spent waiting for our food..). We came back to the boat where some quick snorkeling and longer sunning took place, and we are still waiting to play Euchre (Elaine did teach Kathleen, but somehow, every night after dinner and stars, we are all just ready to collapse into bed – there are worse things…).
On the 11th, we went to shore around noon, hoping to rent a golf cart to see the island. Apparently, they are a rare commodity – although we saw several scurrying around, there were none available to rent. Just as well, as we had a great walk along the one main road here, with the island narrowing at one point so much that we could see both the Atlantic side and the Bank side at the same time. We also ejoyed a very active blow hole and a dip from a pretty beach. It was very shallow (like 2-3 feet shallow) for a long way out, so we had fun just floating around. The water was really warm – a harbinger of the months to come. Back at the boat, we all snorkeled around for a bit, with cooler (aka more refreshing) water, and not a whole lot to see beneath us. The sea bottom for a lot of the Exumas is a vast desert, with amazing coral reefs exploding in color and life popping up with regularity. We went to a restaurant for dinner and were treated to dining on an outdoor patio, by ourselves, for the most part, watching another amazing sunset and a very adorable local child who had fun entertaining us with his antics for a bit before mom had had enough. We are still trying to figure out the night life – or lack thereof – on these islands – it seems that most people eat out at lunch, and it’s pretty quiet come 5:00. We enjoyed fresh conch prepared in various ways, Kalik beer (local brew) and an easy cruise back to the boat – we left extra lights on this time so easier to find in the dark…
The next day we awoke to waves hitting us on the beam causing us to roll. The whole day was really rough, even too risky to try to get on the dinghy to get to shore. So, we had the difficult task of entertaining ourselves – lots of reading, Kath working on new knitting techniques, Neil doing some tax work (yuck), and Dave and Elaine practicing maintaining balance and stomach calmness in between well earned naps.
Still no Euchre yet, but we are getting through the Harry Potter movies (again!).
We had one more day at this anchorage, again visiting the small village of Black Point Settlement. It was very quiet as it was Sunday and not yet 1:00 – people here seriously use this day as a day of church and rest. We walked around a lot of the island, and evenutally had lunch at a local spot, where the owner had JUST opened as she had just come in from church. After a nice relaxing meal, we walked around a bit more and then headed back to the boat. This time, we did have a somewhat raucus round of Euchre!
We headed south late in the morning the following day, March 15th, to Oven Rock at the southern point of Great Guana Cay. We towed the dinghy using a bridle that we had yet to use since we had bought the boat. All went well, it was a nice easy ride. It was a gorgeous day, and after securing the boat and anchor, we went exploring. There were several coral areas to snorkel, with lots of tropical fish, sea stars, and even a playful young turtle! We saw our first lionfish here, and appreciated it from a distance. They are actually a menace here and hunting them is very encouraged. Unfortuately, we did not have the equipment, so we just watched.
We went ashore on the 16th, with Kathleen, Dave and Elaine exploring the island to a cave with fresh water, stalagtites and stalagmites to stagger the senses. Neil stayed back with the dinghy, as the anchors did not give him a great sense of security given the rough surf. The hike also opened up a panorama to the other side of the island, with crashing seas and limestone landscapes. We can never get enough of this. We then took the dinghy over to Little Farmer’s Cay, which was right next to the end of Great Guana and very close to the anchorage. The townspeople were crazy friendly, from the moment we pulled up with helping us to tie up and giving us the rundown of things to see and visit. Dino appears to be the head of the weloming committee, inviting us to take part in “feeding the turtles” with him if we so desired. We gently declined the offer, but did stop by the next pier to put in an order for lobster tails and conch salad. We then took a short walk around the immediate area, having fun talking with local about a project to complete a recent monument (a local who had moved to Nassau to live and work as a nurse is currently in charge of a memorial to all the family members who have lived on this island – it has an interesting history, as it was bought from the British by the children of a freed slave, with the understanding that only family members could own property on the cay.) We also had an “enterprising artist” who corralled Neil, Elaine and Dave to check out his wares – none of which really sparked any interest to purchase.
At the dock, Kathleen got a free lesson on how to make conch salad, which we consumed on site. It was a truly perfect Bahamian moment eating conch fresh from the sea, watching rays and nurse sharks coast around and watching Dino enthrall some new tourists with feeding his 80+ year old sea turtle (which was, in fact, very cool). We spoke with the owner of the local restaurant, confirming that we needed to make dinner reservations and promised to do so for the following evening (it was too late in the day to do it for then). Back on board, after some swimming and unwinding, it was time for relaxing beverages and another spectacular sunset, along with grilled lobster!
In the morning, Kathleen made Irish soda bread as it was St. Patrick’s Day – admittedly not a big holiday here. We made dinner reservations via VHF for that evening, and went back to the island around 2:30 to do some more exploring. We walked all around the island this time, seeing goats, chickens, beautiful waters from all sides, the “airport” aka – landing strip for one or two propeller planes, ending up at TJ’s a beachfront bar and grille that was touted as “the best” on both Active Captain and our Waterway Guide. Unfortunately, TJ’s was not open – it did look like a really fun place, but also that it may have suffered from Pandemic restrictions. We were pleasantly surprised when a woman came by, said it was her day off, but was happy to get us a drink. As this was all that we really wanted, we were grateful. She told us a lot about her life, both on Little Farmers as well as in Nassau. Kids from the out islands leave their homes at 10th grade to go to school in Nassau. The university is there also. Many families choose to mover there, understandably, to be near their children. Many never come back. At one point, Little Farmers had over 200 people living on it as permanent residents – today, it’s aroun 75. The people are eager to show off their home and would love to have more tourists come – we heartily encourage anyone going to visit this little gem.
After our visit, Dave took a dip off the beach to cool off, and then availed himself of the outdoor shower! (we were glad for the blue planks…)
We walked back over to the marina for dinner at the Ocean Cabin, a great Bahamian restaurant/bar just up from the water. Terry and his wife Evangeline run a very pretty place, with great food, music and company. They also have more unique tee shirts for those of us who don’t want to have ones that just scream about swimming with pigs…
Terry has had a very interesting life and is more than happy to share it with you. After realizing we were probably keeping them from closing up (it was nearing 8:00), we said our good nights and dinghyed back to the boat. We had an early evening too as we were leaving at sunrise (or so) the next day to head out for George Town.
One thought on “Staniel Cay and Great Guana Cay”
Love to read about your adventures. Thank you so much for sharing. Also, your pictures are really great. Be careful and enjoy the adventures.