Thursday, March 23, 2006

James Bond and the endangered Iguanas

From Allen Cay we motor sailed down the chain of islands in brilliant
sunshine and light winds. We called the Exemua Marine Park officials on our VHF and checked in. Unfortunately the best anchorage there was filled up, so we continued to Emerald Rock and anchored. We were still within dinghy range of the park headquarters. Sean and Scott went in to the cocktail party on the beach later while I vegged out on the boat. The next day we hiked up Boo Boo Hill with Doug and Sandy from "Interlude". A collection of hand made signs painted or carved on wood or stone decorate the top of the hill.
Hundreds of cruisers have left their mark here and it's very picturesque. We went back to the beach for a swim and snorkel and then hiked all around the south end of the island. The views were amazing but we wished we had taken water by the end of the trip!
We left early the next morning for our next destination. The entrance into Staniel Cay was only guaranteed at 6 ft. so we timed our arrival for close to high tide. Near the yacht club the channel turns dark blue and deep. It winds around a series of small cays and into a harbor where an inlet empties into the Exuma Sound. The currents were very strong and we argued a bit about an anchoring spot. Sean pointed out a deep channel through two of the small cays which led to a good looking area surrounded by the pale blue sandy shoals. After setting the anchor Scott and Sean dove to check it.

One of the close by cays contains Thunderball caverns where the Bond movies Thunderball and Never Say Never were filmed. We explored them three times over the two days there, both at high and low tides. Several entrances on three sides lead into a series of chambers, one of which was lit dramatically from above by several openings. Under the water schools of fish surrounded us - many visitors feed them. Outside around the cay were some great coral heads. From under the water inside the caverns windows of light indicate the exits and highlight the underwater landscape. Next we walked around the island exploring and trying to do some grocery shopping.

This is a much different process here. There are three "grocery" stores here on Staniel. Each contains various canned goods, several each of medicinal and cosmetic products, a few potatoes, onions, carrots and occasionally a forlorn head of iceberg lettuce. A freezer contains some frozen meat and ice cream products. A refrigerator contains eggs, two types of cheese and butter. There is no fresh milk for example or any other vegetables. One big plus is freshly baked bread - a few loaves at each store. That's about it. The prices are very high naturally. We assume the local people do a weekly trip to Nassau or Georgetown for their shopping.
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club (really a marina) has some charming multicolor cottages for rent and several huge motor yachts are tied
up there - along with a classic wooden sailing yacht that took all of our breaths away. The restaurant and bar ceiling is hung with boat flags from all over the world. There is free internet service for customers so this evening we're going in for dinner with the computer. It's a single sitting and you order your meal in advance. Tomorrow we're sailing south around 20 miles and anchoring close to the reasonably deep Galliot cut through the islands into the Sound. We'll then sail 40 miles on Thursday down the coast to Elizabeth Harbor and Georgetown. Conch Cut into the harbour is a tricky entrance so we're planning to do it early in the afternoon and get settled in a slip at a marina. Sean has a very early plane flight to Nassau on Friday morning and we need to buy his ticket Thursday afternoon. It is going to be very hard to say good-bye.