Friday, June 10, 2011

Family, Friends, and Fun

Sorry for the delay in updating the blog but we have been busy with guest and showing them the beauty and wonders of the Exumas. First we had Dirk’s mom Anke in for almost 3 weeks travelling as far up the Exuma chain as Allens Cay to view the Iguanas, and then we turned south again to travel back to Staniel Cay where she was due to fly out on the 17th. Dirk & his mother Anke

On the 18th we had friends Mike & Denise we met while docked in Wilmington for the summer come visit for 10 days.

Here is Mike with one of the two Mahi Mahi he caught while visiting. He is one happy camper....
Dirk with Denise enjoying a mid morning Mimosa

So as not to repeat myself I will give a highlight of where we went and did at each place. After leaving Emerald Bay close to Georgetown we hit Galliot Cay, Staniel Cay and then we stayed a couple days at Compass Cay so we could enjoy the Pipe Creek area which turns out this season to be one of our favorites.

Anke enjoying the beauty of the Pipe Creek area

A huge hermit crab we found
A honeycomb cowfish i spotted while snorkeling in Pipecreek

And here is a pretty pink-tipped sea anemone

We took the dinghy over to Compass Cay Marina and docked for an $8.00 per person docking fee. This allows you the use of the trails and beautiful beach front that faces the Exuma Sound.
The beautiful Exuma Sound beach at Compass Cay

They also allow you to swim with the many nurse sharks that they have claimed as pets and thus have them named.

Anke & I petting the sharks

Me swimming down to pet these very docile guys

You are allowed to snorkel the entire marina area and I was surprised how many coral heads and beautiful fish there were lurking under the yachts docked there.

A very pretty queen triggerfish finds us lurking about his coral head. He better be glad he is in a no fishing spot as these babies are fantastic to eat.

From Compass we went to Warderick Wells, grabbed a mooring ball in the north mooring field, snorkeled the reef and walked the trail to Boo Boo Hill where we added Ankes name to our boat sign and where Denise & Mike made their own sign to add to the pile.We were also visited by these beautiful little birds called Bananaquits that will come and eat sugar right out of your hand.

Anke enjoying the company of a hungry bird

We also found that during breakfast they would come sit on the table trying to steal your muffins and sip your coffee. Sometimes we had four at a time and even had a brave one fly below to see what he could grab from the galley.
From Warderick we hit Normans Cay which is another favorite of ours as it has the drug plane that crashed that you can snorkel and its full of wonderful fish always ready for someone to toss some food to them.

Plane from the top side

View of whats left of the cockpit

Side view

There is also a place we call sand dollar beach as you can pick up so many sand dollars in such a short amount of time if you snorkel. It’s like a grave yard for them and the white shells are just lying strewn along the white bottom. Anke was excited about this as she loves finding them and wanted to take some home with her to decorate her Christmas tree with. Right across the anchorage there is “Palm Tree Island”, basically a tiny island that has a single Palm Tree growing on it.

Someone has put a memorial for two fellow sailors there and placed a bench so you can just sit and enjoy the scenery.

Here Dirk is being the good son and fanning mom

Normans Cay is also the home of the Beach Club, formally McDuff’s Restaurant. This is the only place you can get a meal for several Islands. The atmosphere is cozy with old worn wood tables and chairs and the owner works and mingles with the guest with a wonderful staff of friendly people. I don’t mind paying $18.00 for a burger when you can have it in such a cozy place. Anke, Denise, and Mike all seemed to enjoy themselves here. Dirk & Mike enjoying the porch atmosphere after dinner watching the sunset

From Normans its just a short hop to Highborne Cay which is where we stopped to fuel up and top off our water tanks. Anytime you can get fuel and water you do, even if it means going another hour or so out of your way. From there we headed back south to Staniel Cay which is a good anchorage to hang out in. You can anchor at Big Majors, ”Pig Beach” where you can take your scraps of food to feed the several large and other assorted sized Pigs. They can get pushy from time to time but in general are fairly docile.

Dirk feeding some of the big ones

Denise petting one that is laying in the water keeping cool

Also around the corner in front of the yacht club there are several anchorages which make it handy to get into town and it’s very close to Thunderball Grotto which provides beautiful snorkeling with fish that come out of the woodwork looking for food.

Inside Thunderball Grotto

Dirk & Anke resting on the wall of the grotto

Many people bring food for them so they are use to being hand fed and are not afraid of you. I usually take boiled rice which they seem to love and a lady gave Dirk a hot dog to feed them with. Can I say they love hot dogs but it’s a little unnerving to hold the hot dog and have these fish, some with very sharp teeth fighting for their piece. Even the queen angel fish and parrot fish were game for the dog along with many sergeant majors, snapper,and assorted other fish I don’t know the name of. We visited it several times and got lots of great photographs. So as I said, Anke, Dirk’s mom stayed almost 3 weeks and one day after she left we had Mike & Denise for 10 days.
The Staniel Cay airport, yup that's it, no gift shops or food courts here

After they flew out it signaled it was time for us to start heading to the states. Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t quiet have that in her plans yet. So we sat at Staniel thinking we would wait for the mail boat to come in before leaving so we could re-provision some things before heading north. There was a strike recently with the mail boats once fuel got to be too much. Apparently the government doesn’t want to pay them what it cost and from what I understand it takes about $8.000 a week in fuel for the boat. So now the boat doesn’t come once a week, it is now every 10 days. For one thing the stores here are not like the ones you find back in the states. The blue building on top of the hill is the grocery store as the sign reads. That's how you find it.

They are very quaint with the minimum of supplies so when the boat doesn’t come in, well there is nothing to buy. So the mail boat was supposed to come in on Friday and we waited. Friday we called Isles General and asked what time the boat would be in only to be told that the crane was broken on it, and it was still in Nassau. Hummmm, were not waiting for it to be fixed, so we decide to take off the next day and head north. We were gonna stop at Compass Cay again so that Dirk could fill up on conch there but then we decided to skip it and continue on up to Warderick Wells where we took a mooring ball in their south mooring field by Emerald Rock. The next morning we headed up to Normans Cay to anchor. The winds were fairly strong so we wouldn't be going over to the Beach Club tonight for our last Cheeseburger in paradise. Oh well, next year. The following morning Dirk decided this was the last chance for conch so we loaded in the dinghy and headed through the cut where he always finds conch. The winds and waves were fairly rough but he kept at it and after only finding one we decided to go to a location that Rick from s/v Naked Lady had told him about. Every time he dove down he came up with one in each hand, so we spent the next half hour hunting and when he would find a big one, one smaller would be put back as you are allowed only 6 per boat at any one time. When he was happy that he found the 6 largest, we went back to the mother ship and he set about cleaning them as several stingrays were happily under the boat gathering up the scraps as they went overboard. Upping the anchor the following morning we headed up to Highborne Cay where we filled up on the last of the water and fuel we would get before heading out. We also purchased coffee creamer and eggs for $7.00 a piece. And that was a small creamer and only one dozen eggs.Our plan at first was to head to Morgans Bluff in Andros than to Bimini from there. Plans change as does mother nature and we sat in Highborne for about 2 days before we caught a decent weather window. We were finally able to pull out of Highborne at 5am the following day and traveled throughout the night deciding to make it a long trip and head directly to Bimini as our weather window had gotten shorter. After 26 long hours we finally pulled into Alice Town Bimini but not without bumping bottom first going into the not so well marked channel. Apparently were not the first from what we hear and the channel is actually a bit different than marked. Now we know... So the next leg of the journey will be written once we get back to the states. Till then we will enjoy a few days here in Bimini exploring this small island and again waiting on weather.

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