February 8, 2007 - Staniel Cay
Another nice day here in the Bahamas, although we are suffering from lack of high-speed Internet access. Of course, that's the normal condition in the Exumas, but lately we have grown accustomed to the excellent access provided by the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. So impressed was I with their policy of providing free WiFi to cruisers in their restaurant/bar that I didn't hesitate yesterday to do that expensive fueling (over $100, which is a lot for us) at their dock.

Yesterday and this morning, however, we're not able to connect to the Internet here, so I decided to try to use the Globalstar phone to check our e-mail. The result is an essay that I knew was boiling up inside of me, Globalstar Woes.

Later today we went to Pirate Trap Beach, near the entrance to the "Between the Majors" area, behind Club Thunderball. Actually, we went twice. The first time we were delighted to find Larry, Victoria, and Samantha from Magic already there, but Laura began having allergy problems in one eye and we had to retreat to the boat. In late afternoon we joined the crew from Grace at the Trap. I hiked a faint trail about a quarter mile to a view of the ocean beach on Staniel. Since Laura wanted to go back to the beach, we didn't get to Thunderball Cave at low tide. Thwarted again! I will try again tomorrow.

Pirate Trap Beach Hiking Staniel Cay The Pirate Trap

Photos: The title photo shows one of many purple sea fans we encountered on Warderick Wells. (1) Annie hikes Pirate Trap Beach. (2) The rugged eastern shore of Staniel Cay, just south of Pirate Beach. (3) Victoria from Magic brought her hammock to the famous Pirate Trap. Apparently this was some kind of beach bar associated with the nearby Club Thunderball.

February 9, 2007 - Staniel Cay
After doing chores and laying about most of the day, we headed for Thunderball at 3:30 PM. I was still toying with the idea of taking the Marlin, our Walker Bay dinghy, into the cave for photos, but decided it would be simpler just to float the camera in. That amazing picture was in there, somewhere, waiting for us.

Well, we may not have gotten the picture, but I'll tell you this: we got closer to getting it than any other crew today, if only because I was the only one there with a camera.

Thunderball Cave #1 Thunderball Cave #2

Photos: (1) We snorkeled into one of the alcoves in Thunderball Cave for this shot. (2) The photo crew insists we took over a hundred pictures back there, but honestly it was only a couple dozen. Sadly, I found it impossible to get a decent shot of the larger, sky lit room without having a super wide lens.

February 11, 2007 - Staniel Cay
There have been lots of kids here lately, so we have enjoyed just hanging around. Yesterday we did a quick trip down to Black Point for laundry, but were back at Staniel by mid-afternoon. We've made a couple more trips over to Pirate Trap Beach, this morning with all the kids from Grace and Spoony. This afternoon we finally checked and discovered that the high-speed Internet was working at Staniel Cay (it could have been working all the time for all I know) so we were able to do some fairly big updates to the website, adding a submenu for the cruising log. Laura had a good time playing with the kids from Spoony and Rio Dulce, where we enjoyed a brief happy hour later.

It's been two rare days without wind, but I can hear things picking up already tonight. By Tuesday we'll have the dreaded westerly winds as a front comes through. We will probably head north a bit to either Compass Cay Marina (where we hear they have both trained sharks and veggie burgers), Cambridge, or perhaps even the south anchorage at Warderick Wells.

February 14, 2007 - Lee Stocking Island
We got an early start from Staniel headed for Compass Cay so we would have lots of time to play on the island, but 'twas not to be. First, we wanted a sunny day for splashing around in the surf, and the clouds were rolling in. Second, we zeroed in on the old channel markers in from the Banks rather than the newer, much bigger ones, and before we knew it there was just six inches between the bottom and our keel. Third (and this harkens back to the first) it started pouring rain that made it impossible to read the water, see the markers, or do much of anything except get the heck out of there.

Instead we took the treacherous channel around Bell Island, still dodging showers, to the anchorage at Cambridge (Little Bell) Cay. At first we thought we'd anchor and save the cost of a mooring, but after one failed attempt to set the Delta due to a light cover of sand over rock, we picked up one of the two moorings still available. Exuma Park has installed about ten moorings, but left plenty of room for attempts at anchoring. As it turned out the wind was strong that night and a mooring was a good investment. Laura and I dinghied over to Cambridge and explored the beach on the sound side, then found Tom, Larry, and the Bahamian Defense Guy (I missed getting his name) had come in a park boat to pick up some bags of trash someone had collected and left on the beach.

Yesterday we drove the dinghy over a couple of miles to snorkel at the Seaquarium, which was as good as we remembered from last year: hundreds of fish, including lots of our favorites, Queen Angels, and pretty colors in the corals and sea fans. Today, rather than continue hiding from the west winds at Cambridge, we left at 7:00 AM and went out into Exuma Sound. The only problem was that no one had ever come to collect the money for the mooring. Fortunately, we talked with Ken on Oz who was back at the park and agreed to give them a message about what we owed. Forty miles of great sailing later, we anchored at Lee Stocking Island. Last year we had a great popcorn happy hour here with Promise; this year although we lacked Janet and Rhonda, we had more time for exploring. An attempt to dinghy around the north end of Norman's Pond Cay to see a "submarine cave" was aborted when we started hitting three foot seas in the dinghy and both the Captain and the Admiral simultaneously ordered me to turn around. This worked out fine since after checking out a nearby beach, we went back to Leaf Cay and found Victoria, Larry, and Samantha from Magic on a lovely beach there. Victoria and Samantha had dinghied over earlier to give Laura a Valentine. Annie is cooking a special dinner and we look forward to a great Valentine Night.

Beach at Leaf Cay

Photo: The perfect beach at Leaf Cay, just north of where we anchored near Lee Stocking Island. There are Rock Iguanas on this island, too. How did we miss this last year? I think we were sleeping a bit too late.

Note about Caribbean Research Center at Lee Stocking Island: last year folks were still able to get a tour of the research labs on the island despite the fact that Congress had eliminated funding for the facility. This year everyone is being told that the island is closed to visitors. Given the crisis facing coral reefs and the continuing decline in fish stocks, it is a tragedy that what is said to be a beautiful facility sits here deterioriating in the weather. We've got billions of dollars a week to waste elsewhere, but nothing to spare for the oceans that give our planet life.

Quote of the day: "Dad, have you ever noticed that you don't matter as much I matter?"

February 17, 2007 - George Town
We had a nice sail down from Lee Stocking to George Town yesterday, anchoring near Kidd Cove so we would be close for a shopping extravaganza at Exuma Market. Tiny in comparison to a typical American grocery store, Exuma Market is nonetheless a lot bigger than anything else we've visited in the past few weeks. Laura enjoyed playing on the playground nearby while I shopped at the eclectic Top to Bottom store, a hardware store where you might find anything from a boat battery to panty hose. I picked up some new fishing lures and a bread pan for Annie, who we all hope is going to bake some bread using some of the recipes that Victoria from Magic gave us.

After we'd been in George Town for one night, it was time to do the "G-town Shuffle" to prepare for two approaching cold fronts. Yesterday I raced over in the dinghy to check out Red Shanks, which is about the only protected area to anchor which is not already full of boats. While there was plenty of room, we decided Red Shanks was just too far away for us. Early in the morning we moved the boat over to Sand Dollar Beach, where we were amazed to find a great spot just off the beach that would be protected from anything except winds from the southwest. I suspect we will stay here for the duration of our visit. The front today was fairly mild but did bring some rain; fortunately, we had spent most of the morning already at Volleyball Beach. The weather should be better tomorrow and we hope to do some hiking around the island.

February 18, 2007 - George Town
Yesterday we joined about a hundred other folks for a hike on the Exuma Sound beach to see the stromatolites there, with an excellent talk by Bob of Shazza (I think I got that right). Although these examples are thought to be only 2,000 to 3,000 years old, the bacteria known as stomatolites were around 3.5 billion years ago and may have created the oxygen in our atmosphere that made other life possible. Bob mentioned other bacteria that sang Karoke, leaving me wondering whether I was hearing any of the lecture correctly over the wind.

Today we took a hike around from Sand Dollar beach, where we are anchored, then got back to the boat just in time for the fun as a squall line approached as part of a strong cold front. We saw winds up to 33 knots in our relatively protected spot but others in the harbor reported more like forty. Several boats dragged anchor, including one that went up on the beach at Masters Harbor over by Red Shanks. The radio was quite lively for a while.

After about an hour things had calmed down and I went below to take a shower. While I was gone a boat named Wahoo came in and anchored right in front of us, directly over our anchor. They wouldn't answer my calls on the radio for the next twenty minutes, even after I went up on the bow. Finally I went back to the bow and blew an air horn and got them talking. They did not speak good English but told me they had fifty meters of chain out and would be further away after the wind shifts tonight. This upset the big catamaran Sea U Manana anchored to port. They told him they had thirty meters out. Since I didn't see them anchor, I can't be sure. I wish now that I had persisted in asking them to move. There was plenty of room elsewhere and no reason for them to try to squeeze in between us.

Stromatolites Exuma Sound Beach

Photos: (1) Stromatolites (at least I think these are stromatolites) on Exuma Sound opposite Sand Dollar Beach. The bacteria cause rock to form in layers like these. (2) Waves were crashing today from Exuma Sound.

February 20, 2007 - George Town
The weather calmed down, the anchorage returned to normal, and we're back to relaxing as usual. Yesterday was my 46th birthday, and we spent much of it over at Volleyball Beach, where Laura played non-stop with all the kids. Annie and I played dominoes and ate conch fritters. I even tried playing a game of volleyball, where I really started to feel my old, old age.

We spent this afternoon on the beach across from Sand Dollar with Victoria, Samantha, and Victoria from Magic. Tomorrow we've got a busy day with a talk by Sara and Monty Lewis of Explorer Chart fame, the Ham radio luncheon, a child's birthday party in the afternoon, and then a "Bimini Reunion" happy hour on the beach.

Crew of s/v Magic Samantha and Laura

Photos: (1) The crew of Magic: Larry, Victoria, and Samantha. (2) Samantha and Laura may have gotten a little carried away playing with the sea foam.

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Copyright © 2007 by Rodger Ling. All rights reserved.