Staniel Cay


We enjoyed the Exuma Land & Sea Park and Warderick Wells, and after some discussion, decided to move a bit further south. The game plan was to head to Staniel Cay as our turning point. Staniel is the site of the Thunderball Grotto, and is on the cruisers’ required destinations list, so we dropped our mooring on Friday morning and headed the 21.5 miles to Staniel. A call to the marina there as we approached put us in queue for the fuel dock, where we put on about 200 gallons of RO water at 40ยข/gal. and filled the dingy fuel tanks. Gasoline is still more expensive at $4.03/gal.!

Our arrival in Staniel was accompanied by calmer winds. Hooray!! The sloppy conditions of the few days prior in Warderick Wells were soon forgotten as the temperatures climbed into the 80’s and the calm winds made the water clearer. We decided to choose an anchorage spot behind a sand bar, with entry between the rocky cays of the grotto. We found a good sandy spot and the anchor set quickly, stripping the chain off the windlass gypsy as the boat drifted back on the chain. The anchor disappeared into the sand, and we were set. As a bonus, we were able to connect to the wi-fi hotspot; $10 for 24 hours, but it enabled us to keep in close daily contact with family to keep tabs on my dad’s condition. Skype works from the Exumas, there’s a considerable delay which can be cumbersome to work with, but it works.


Staniel Cay is one of the larger settlements in the Exuma chain, and is a popular fly-in spot for vacationers. As many of the settlements we’ve seen, golf carts are the preferred method of transportation, and of course all sorts of boats.


Staniel is very low-key, with the Yacht Club holding the distinction of being the hub of most of the boating and social activity, as well as being the only bar on the Cay.


Some mega-yachts stop here, but most can be seen anchored just around the corner at Big Majors Spot, a great anchorage offering good protection from E and NE winds and home to the famous swimming pigs. A dinghy trip to the beach there brought the excited pigs swimming out to meet us, squealing and snorting, hoping we brought them some goodies. Our second trip there we had carrots, a very big hit! Much more popular than the salad greens offered by some other visitors. The oinkers can be a bit obnoxious, but they’re well-behaved for the most part. A scolding will send them packing if they get too wound up, but they have no qualms about stepping on your feet if they’re in pursuit of some morsels!


No trip to Staniel Cay should be without a snorkel outing at the Grotto. The Thunderball Grotto is a cave that is open to the sky at the top, allowing light to stream into the interior. Accessible only by swimming in, at low tide an opening about 3 ft. above the water surface is visible, at high tide it nearly disappears. Strong currents flow through the grotto, which has a larger opening


on the NE side, and some smaller ones on the opposite end. Depth inside is about 12 ft. It’s an easy snorkel, provided it’s done at slack tide. When the current is running, it’s nearly impossible to move against the current as we discovered on our 3rd visit when we dove the grotto with scuba at high tide. The Grotto is ringed with coral heads, home to fish and many forms of coral and other undersea wildlife.


The colors are simply indescribable, brilliantly colored fish sparkle in the sunlight that streams into the water through the openings in the rock. The fish inhabiting the area are accustomed to being fed by visitors, and swarm as you swim into the opening. It is a beautiful spot! Visiting with scuba enables a slower pace, and affords a better view of the wildlife close-up. The fish will come very close if you’re slow and still. We spotted a stingray on our scuba visit, they are very docile, and so graceful, simply floating along with very minimal movement. A barracuda hung just below the surface at the north entrance to the grotto, a motionless sentinel guarding the entrance. Our scuba trip ended with a workout, Barb could not get past the current to exit the grotto, and being the good buddy diver I am, I returned to make sure she was OK, then fought the current back to the dinghy a second time, making sure we came out together! It was pretty tiring, but a good workout for us both. A renewed respect for the current was reinforced!


The coral heads on the north side of the grotto offer nearly as much to see as the grotto, and are navigable when the tide is flowing. The depth is only about 15 ft., and when the sun is shining brightly, the colors are brilliant. Our return to Maerin for gear cleanup and a dip with the dogs gave them a workout as well. They know now that when the dive gear comes out, it’s chill time for them, but they get some play time when we return. The rinse water from the dive gear provides a fresh water rinse off for the dogs, and cuts down on the ingress of saltwater stickiness inside the boat.


Being we were in Staniel Cay for Easter Sunday, we attended services at the Baptist church, the only one on the island. It was our first experience with a Baptist service, and it was a memorable one! PRAISE DA LODE!!! Lots of A-MENS, and praise, and the local congregation could not have been more welcoming, it was a wonderful experience!


A mechanical problem with the generator prompted our turn north, where the outcome of our repair will determine whether we continue to the Abacos for another week or so, or head home. At this writing, parts are on the way, and the game plan at this point is to finish our time here in the Bahamas by working our way up the Abacos chain before making our way stateside. Weather windows at this time of the year are more frequent, so our return should not be delayed for too many days when we are in a position to make the crossing, but that is up to the weather!

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