After 2 relaxing weeks in the park we were ready for a bit of civilization, so we sailed about 3 hours to Staniel Cay. The guide book advertised several grocery stores, a local art/gift shop, renowned dining at the yacht club, and more. I was ready!
Scale, however, was relative. The island is less than 2 miles long, with a permanent population less than 100. It’s so tiny that there are few cars; people use golf carts to get around. There’s a wonderful cozy charm that the small size allows, and an island casualness. There is no such thing as a commercial district, no neon or plate-glass windows. The “shops” were merely bright-painted cottages; the only way to tell that they weren’t residences was the hand-painted signs in front. Fresh bread was baked daily by “the lady in the bright yellow house.” We found that one while we were walking around exploring town – even if we hadn’t seen the sign, we could have located it by the sounds of laughter and lovely smells drifting through the screen door. The two grocery stores, one pink, one blue, and nearly side-by-side, have quite a variety of products for places about the size of a convenience store in the States. The mail boat comes once a week (weather permitting) with mail and packages and fresh produce to stock the stores, and if you don’t shop that day everything may be gone. Bad weather delayed the mail boat while we were there; the owner of the general store made an announcement on VHF to let everyone know. Buying groceries was definitely an experience! In Annapolis, you decide what you want for dinner, then go to the store with a list. Here, you go to the store and see what’s available, then figure out how to combine it for a meal. At the same time, small and isolated doesn’t mean primitive – we also were able to get a good internet connection and buy a local cellphone.
We anchored near the incredible Thunderball grotto – think the James Bond movie of the same name – this was the place. The snorkeling was fantastic, although we had to hurry to catch slack low tide before the strong current came up. It was too chill to stay in the water long in any case.
The wind was supposed to pick up the next day and we looked forward to hanging out on the boat doing chores and surfing the ‘net. It didn’t exactly work out that way. We had a pretty dramatic night with an unoccupied boat dragging down on us until it T-boned across our bow at 3 AM. Our new Rocna anchor held us both while I hailed on VHF for “any vessel to assist.” Unbelieveably, the other boat was crosswise across our bow, perfectly balanced, held off by the tension on the snubber (rope rather than anchor chain). As a result, no damage to either boat at all; except they lost some bottom paint. Took 2 guys diving, in the dark and howling wind, to get their anchor off our chain and reset. We made some new friends in the process, with the local dive shop and water taxi drivers. A couple of days later everyone involved in the rescue went for a celebration at the yacht club. The yacht club boasted a dining room/bar that could have been the inspiration for a Jimmy Buffett song. The ceiling was hung with burgees, pool table in the corner, and photos of visiting celebrities – in this case, the James Bond crew in the 1960s. Found it amusing that many of the locals, all clad in sweaters and sweatshirts and hats ordered drinks like coffee or hot chocolate (some with a shot) – then we remembered that it is winter here, after all.
PS: The sign in the previous post with “<-this -="-" hat="hat" way="way">” was on a loop road on the south side of Staniel. So in truth, either direction would be okay. Still, it seems to me perhaps a metaphor for life in general.
|Celebrating the boat rescue: Gage, Cole, Coral, Jake (Staniel Cay Divers), Joelle (sp?), me, Dan, local author Marty, and Brian (Island Shuttle)|
Celebrating the boat rescue: Gage, Cole, Coral, Jake (Staniel Cay Divers), Joelle (sp?), me, Dan, local author Marty, and Brian (Island Shuttle)
|Brenda the bread baker|
|The general store had a dinghy dock, but we had to double check to make sure it really was a store and not a private house|
|Dan was intrigued by this wall paved with shells|
|The more typical disposition of conch shells!|
|Cubicle dwellers take note: a "government office building" on Staniel Cay|
(originally published 12 January 2010)