March 31st: Neil picked up Meg and Liv at the taxi stand (aka “Exuma Markets”). The girls had been on the road since the day before, taking a red-eye from Denver and then spending 11 hours in Miami before the short plane hop to Great Exuma Island. They may have been a wee bit tired…. After some tropical refreshments and appetizers, they were very happy to be here – ALMOST as happy as we were to get to see them and hug them. The next day we dinghied over to George Town to do some grocery shopping. Lunch was spent at “Chat and Chill” on the nearby Stocking Island, another great outdoor spot where conch salad is prepared right in front of you, drinks are plentiful, and food is good, but takes a very long time to come out of the kitchen. After lunch, we had a quick stop at the boat to get stuff together to hike to the other side of Stocking Island – the view is spectacular and the swimming fun, so we really wanted to show it to the girls. It was another perfect day.
We lifted anchor on April 2nd and headed north for Bitter Guana Cay, a 7.5 hour run. Neil and the girls tried fishing, although none were biting. Bitter Guana Cay is JUST south of Staniel Cay, and MUCH less crowded (we had the place to ourselves!). This Cay is a wildlife refuge for an endangered breed of iguana. These giant lizards are very friendly and have, for reptiles, great manners. They also LOVE carrots and HATE having them fall in the sand – good to know. Liv and Meg took the kayak over the beach that first afternoon, arriving back in time for cocktails and another breathtaking sunset.
The next morning, we all rode over to the beach to visit and feed the iguanas, which were still excited about carrots… After emptying our supply, we hiked up a trail to the crest of a bluff, able to see both sides of the island from there. Kathleen and Liv explored the area closer down by the sea, and Meg and Neil checked out the surrounding views. The white cliffs, tidal pools, and occasional iguanas were amazing. We finished the hike back on the west side, exploring some rocky coastline and checking out a cave – which was already claimed by MANY iguanas cooling off from the mid-day sun. Back on board, Kathleen made some more chocolate chip cookies, and we settled in after dinner to watch one of the myriad DVD’s that Meg had brought for us – so much fun as the majority were Disney or Warner Brothers – guaranteeing trips down memory lane for some, and a chance for Neil and Kathleen to get caught up on the “must see animation movies” that we had missed.
Around 10:30 on the morning of the 4th, we took the two hour cruise over to Staniel Cay, anchoring again in the Bay of Pigs (no joke…). After anchoring at Big Majors Spot, we got the dinghy in the water and headed over to the beach to introduce Meg and Liv to the piggies. We still had some carrots saved, so we had a lot of fun, barring the one large pig that seemed to want to chase our dinghy instead of coming with us to the beach to get fed. It IS amazing how large these pigs are, and they are good swimmers – with cloven hoofs that can scratch if you’re not careful…
Our friends, Paul and Shannon from Time Out were anchored close by, so we finally got to visit with them (we kept missing each other for various reasons – pretty typical for cruising!). From there, we took the girls to the Grotto for a fantastic snorkeling experience (except for the crowds – lots of tour boats here which lead to lots of people) – we spent some time snorkeling outside the Grotto too, checking out some beautiful and varied coral with hundreds of fish swimming around for our viewing pleasure! We had brought some clothes to change into in our dry bags, and we headed over to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a very relaxing dinner, complete with frozen daquiris for the girls. Walking around the dock we were treated to many nurse sharks in the marina as well as smaller fish darting about. After some photos with the sunset in the background, it was back to Granuaile for showers and relaxing on the “Lido Deck” for the end of the day.
We took another short cruise up to Cambridge Cay on April 5th. The cruise was very easy until we started working our way to the mooring field. It was a good “learning experience” for Kathleen as she was piloting through narrow winding passages, and Neil exemplified great patience and calm, helping her navigate. When we got to the mooring field, there was exactly ONE ball left – good luck for us! Once we were tied up and secured, Kathleen needed a little decompression time, so Meg and Liv chilled on our floating chairs off the stern with Neil grabbing beverages and pictures. Later that afternoon, we took the dinghy to “the Aquarium” – a beautiful coral reef in semi-protected waters. Another fantastic place to visit, but way over crowded with people. The times to be able to swim at some of these spots is limited due to current and tide, so you go when you can – and so does everyone else! We went from there to a less crowded spot, diving over a sunken plane and more gorgeous “coral condos” with fish of every color, size and shape. Back on board, after showers, Kathleen made some Ahi poke with rice and shrimp scampi – amazing how these meals are raved about when everyone is starving from a full day! ;).
We had several nurse shark visitors that evening/night, and Neil hung the green fish light off the back of the boat once the sun had gone down. It was sooo amazing to see so many fish and nurse sharks milling around our boat in the clear water. They seemed to really like the warmer water from our generator, and possibly some shrimp-flavored water from cleaning our dishes…
The next morning dawned beautiful (as usual…), and after breakfast, we headed over to the Cay to explore. The trail we took was called “the Honeymoon Path” and it was a pretty, lush (for the area) short walk to Honeymoon beach, and the Kissing Rock (also called the Bell Rock). We hiked the beach and surrounding hills, getting fantastic panoramic views of both sides of the island, including a salt pond. Kathleen and Liv again explored closer to the Atlantic side, marveling at the cliffs and awesome power of the ocean. After more portaits with this background, we hiked back down, visiting the Salt Pond and then back to the beach. Liv was the only one brave enough (?) to swim over to Bell Rock and climb to the top – the rest of us watched a little fearfully, but cheered her on the whole way.
After checking out the other end of the beach, we dinghied over to the “Bubble Bath”, a recommendation from our friends Doug and Sue on their “not to be missed list”. A short walk in from the beach proved them right – a shallow pool backing up to limestone rock that had an area where waves crashed over from the ocean side was so much fun. We went back to the boat to grab our snorkeling gear, and headed out to the Rocky Dundas mooring, a short ride away. In addition to great reefs to visit, there are two amazing caves here, easily accessible at low tide. These caves sported unbelieveable stalagtites and stalagmites – many that had joined together and looked a lot like ET’s, lending an other-worldliness to the caves. They were also sacred sites for the indigenous Lucayans, so that probabaly added to the mystical air, too…
On the 7th, we went to one more snorkeling spot – Larry’s Reef, a drift spot. The winds had really kicked up the water, so it wasn’t an easy snorkeling, and not a whole lot to see – we were hoping to see a “rare stand of pillar coral”, but didn’t locate it, and after swimming around for a while, headed back in
Back on the boat we celebrated another fun day with fresh guacamole and humus – along with some beverages, of course, followed by pizza!
We left the anchorage early the next morning for a 9 hour cruise back to George Town. The seas were really rough and the only one not affected by it was Neil. Once again, we were very glad for Scopolamine and Dramamine! We secured an anchor spot and relaxed for the evening, enjoying a spectacular sunset.
Our time with our lovely girls was coming to a close. We spent Saturday, the 9th, in George Town, getting the girls their Covid tests, hitting the Straw Market for shirts, hats, ornaments, jewelry and other touristy items, and a bit of grocery shopping. We had lunch at Chat and Chill again, snorkeled some nearby reefs (that were unfortunately cloudy due to the active currents and winds) and then Meg and Liv treated us to a fantastic dinner at the Green Turtle restaurant. Another movie capped off our last night together.
The next morning, we took the girls to their taxi stand and after many hugs and not a few tears, waved them off, very grateful for their time with us. Neil and I did more grocery shopping, and headed back to the boat – we had a lot of cleaning to get done after so many days of cruising! It was strange to have the quiet again – we definitely enjoyed having guests, and with Meg and Liv departing, we realized we were in the last few weeks of our time in the Bahamas.