Staniel Cay was a busy stop for us. Two days after we dropped Justine off for her flight back to Florida, we picked up our friend Dierky from Seattle. As soon as Rich rowed him to the boat, we pulled up our anchor and moved back around the corner to a familiar spot: Big Majors. Much as we were ready to head someplace else, we knew it’d be a safe place to spend the night with the high winds forecast out of the northwest.
Rich has known Dierk since they met in Chicago many moons ago and they’ve spent a lot of time together on boats doing deliveries and racing. They’re also both art school guys, so they have a lot in common. I met Dierk when Rich and I first started dating and he took us on an amazing sailing trip from Seattle to the South Puget Sound on Lavengro the cool old wooden schooner he was working on at the time.
Dierk arrived with his bags packed full of goodies, including a canister for making fizzy drinks, coffee, rum, and some rice crackers from everyone’s favorite Asian market in Seattle Uwajimaya, not to mention a couple of things we actually asked him to bring! Namely, an inflatable SUP, which I’d been thinking about buying since we left Florida. We finally decided to pull the trigger on that one so that we could have more flexibility in getting off the boat without launching the dinghy. Plus, we had a special place in mind that we wanted to take Dierk and thought it would be fun if we could all get their on our own human-powered vehicles. The SUP was a tall order, but Dierky was up to the task and we all got in some time on it, which was even more fun than we thought it would be. Rich even commandeered the SUP for the first time to rescue his hat when it flew overboard (for what seemed like the hundredth time of the trip. This became an amusing theme: When will Rich’s hat go overboard today?).
The crazy winds pinned us down in Big Majors for another day but we had fun playing with the paddle board and catching up. That night temps got down into the high 50s and I had to put on long pants and socks for the first time since we got to the Bahamas. (I know, life is so hard here, isn’t it?)
The next day we motored north to Pipe Cay. (No sailing for us, the winds have been on the nose since what feels like forever lately.) We spent the day hiking around the little island and exploring the old DECCA weather station. My favorite part was walking out onto the tidal flats facing Compass Cay. It looks like you can walk out for miles in water only inches deep.
On the way back Dierk took a spill on the rocks and gave himself a pretty nasty gash on his leg. He was okay, but it definitely looked painful. They call the limestone that forms the coastline here iron shore for a reason. Ouch!
After our hike we headed back to the boat and picked up our snorkel gear to see if we could find any good fish. Another awesome thing Dierk brought us: a new snorkel and mask. Rich dropped his snorkel in the drink the night before Dierk arrived and clear as this water out here is, the damned thing was also clear, camouflaging it so well that we never did find it. Around the same time we realized that the seal in one of our masks wasn’t working anymore. The new snorkel and mask were awesome, thank you, Dierk. Sadly, we didn’t see many fish, though we did notice a strange object in the water near our boat: a giant fisherman-style anchor that someone else had left behind many years ago. It looked like the anchor line had chafed sending them up onto the beach (Rich and Dierk noticed what looked like the remains of a boat washed up onshore). We tied the anchor to our boat and towed it out to deeper water when we left so someone else wouldn’t hit it when they came in.
Emerald Rock, Warderick Wells
The next day we motored (yep, wind on the nose again) to Warderick Wells in Exuma Land and Sea Park, picking up a mooring ball at Emerald Rock. We rowed ashore to pay the $20 mooring fee, only to realize once we were there that we’d misunderstood and there was no box for payments here. We were too far away to row the dinghy to the park headquarters so we figured we’d just hike there and give them the money in person. The trail started out pretty well-marked, but quickly the cairns and yellow arrows we’d been following disappeared and we soon found ourselves bushwhacking through poisonwood trees (the local version of poison ivy) and bushes to continue our forward progress. About three-quarters of the way across and about an hour later, we could just glimpse the park headquarters, but couldn’t figure out how to get there now that our trail had long since disappeared. Scraped and scratched from climbing through the trees and bushes we turned around and limped back to the boat. We’d have to leave our money at the next stop in Shroud Cay, also part of the park.
When we got back a big megayacht had anchored outside the mooring field. There seem to be more and more of them down here all the time. This one was called Mizu and boasted a basketball hoop on its stern. That’s the first time we’ve seen that feature. I wondered if one of the crew’s responsibilities was jumping in the tender to retrieve the ball when it glanced off the rim and into the drink.
The next day we motored to Shroud Cay, a really special spot where we had rowed the dinghy across a tidal creek to our favorite beach in the Bahamas last time we were there. This time we were each going to paddle over in our little armada: SUP, kayak, and dinghy. Getting over there was easier said than done with the wind blowing against us, but high tide meant we didn’t have to walk this time and it was a breeze on the way back! The effort on the way there was so worth it to get to share that beautiful beach with Dierk. The only fly in the ointment was the people who kept coming down the creek on their motorized dinghies. Ranger Rich decided to do something about it this time and told everyone we saw with a motor that per park regulations this creek was for non-motorized vehicles only. Not sure it did any good but we felt better. Obviously a lot of people don’t know about the restriction and the park just doesn’t have the manpower to patrol the area. It’s a beautiful place that we hope a lot of people will be able to enjoy for many more years thanks to what the park is doing to protect it.
The clock was ticking, but in Allans Cay we finally managed to check off one item on Dierk’s Bahamas bucket list: conchs! We went ashore on the south side of the inlet and walked over to the beach on the other side. The water looked a little rough and the current was strong but Rich snorkeled out to do a little recon and came back up with a couple of conch shells. Pay dirt! But let me tell you, getting those little guys out is a lot harder than it looks. Rich had gotten the scoop from a couple of experts beforehand and we had our trusty cruiser’s fishing guide complete with illustrations, but it still took about 45 minutes of hard work to get the conch out. And then there was the peeling of the skin and removal of the digestive tract and other gross stuff like the slimey substance that supposedly has a Viagra-like effect when ingested. After that, Rich pounded the conch before chopping it up with a little tomato and shallot, squeezing a bunch of lime on top, and garnishing it all with a little sriracha. Divine! Forget top snails, these are the sea snails you should be eating. They really were delicious.
After dinner, we all bunked down for what turned out to be a pretty rolly night at Allans Cay. Since the rolling continued into the morning, we were all up and at ’em early for the six-hour sail to Nassau. The seas were pretty big for a while there. I even took a little Dramamine. Buy we did manage to get the jib up for a bit, so Dierk got one more item checked off his bucket list: actually sailing (okay, motorsailing, but still).
All tied up at the dock in Nassau we took Dierk down to Montagu Beach for conch fritters and sky juice at a little stall run by Edward, a super-nice guy and also, we learned, a sailor. He grew up sailing those beautiful Bahamian sloops we admired last time we were in town. He told us that the thing the guys sit way out on to balance the boat when they’re heeling is called a pry board. Edward also gave me extra rum in my sky juice. I’d asked for rum only in the beverage, which normally comes with rum and gin (why??), but somehow he interpreted that as me wanting an extra shot of the coconut rum. Oops.
We ended the night with dinner at the Poop Deck, a place down the street from the marina. It might be a little touristy, but they served me some of the tenderest, juiciest fried chicken ever.
The next morning we said goodbye to our dear friend Dierk. But it’s all good. Next time he’s bringing his wife Katy and staying for two weeks instead of just one. Right, guys?