Exumas Northbound
Staniel Cay - Sat & Sun May 7 & 8 
Saturday - We left near high tide, around 9:30 am, heading the 8.5 nautical miles to Big Majors Cay and Staniel Cay (which are right next to each other).  Big Majors has a long white beach with a beautiful anchorage right next to it.  The beach is famous for it's friendly swimming pigs, who swim out to your dinghy to find the leftovers and veggies the boaters bring for them.  With our binoculars, we could see three to five adult pigs and around eight piglets running around the beach.  Boaters with inflatable dinghies (like us) have to be careful to stay in deep enough water so the pigs can't stand up.  Otherwise, they'll try to climb into the dinghy, and those sharp hooves are not ideal for inflatables!

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We dinks over to Staniel Cay Yacht Club to fill up the dinghy's gas can and then walked around "town."  One shop, a closed restaurant, and two grocery stores.  Barry bought lunch, a frozen Milky Way, and after trying and failing to get some service at the YC restaurant, we went back to the boat.  Low slack tide is between 5 and 6 pm, and that's the best time to snorkel Thunderball cave (think James Bond.)  I managed to snorkel without drowning.  The cave was full of fish, mostly sergant majors.  Holes in the roof let in light.  It's a shame that low tide wasn't between 11 and 1, when the sun would have really lit up the inside.

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Sunday - Barry's Birthday!  The Big 70!  He wanted to just laze the day away, so that's what we did.  We cleaned up the boat, which is filled with sand from all the excursions.  At five there was a beach party at one of the beaches (with no pigs).  The outboard wouldn't start and Barry had a fit.  Finally, we signaled to Nancy and Peter to pick us up.  Dennis and Bettye Smith were there from Son of a Sailor, the people Peter knows from Barefootin, and two couples from Sidewinder and something else.  We shared appetizers and talked until the no-see-ums started to arrive.  Five chickens kept us company and would have jumped on the picnic table unless shooed off.  From there we went back to Iffin, where Kindred Spirits and Sea Angel shared jambalaya and birthday cake.  In a test, the dinghy started

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Pipe Cay, Monday, May 9

Kindred Spirit decided to spend more time at Big Majors and explore the northern islands by dinghy, while Sea Angel and Iffin decided to move the boats to Pipe Cay.  The weather today and tomorrow is supposed to be light and variable winds under 10 knots, so we can anchor just about anywhere.  We headed out around 10, towing the dink for the first time, and set anchor an hour later.  Then came the fun stuff.  

We took both dinghies (our started fine) and explored Pipe Creek, the area between a bunch of small islands.  Some very shallow water.  Barry and I decided we'd had enough and would head back.  Although it was high tide, one area was too shallow for the outboard, so Barry made like Humphrey Bogart in African Queen and waded, in about a foot of water, pulling the dink and me.  Then we couldn't figure out where we were.  We had brought sunscreen, water, Propel, a camera and our handheld VHS radio, but we hadn't thought about a copy of the chart or a compass.  Finally, we saw a tiki hut on one island that we knew we had passed earlier and sure enough, the other side of that island pointed to the way home.  Then the dinghy motor stalled.  Started, stalled, started, stalled.  We finally got going.  We think that when we raised the outboard in the shallow area, so it wouldn't hit bottom, the gas had drained out of the motor and back into the gas can.  Finally, everything started and kept going and we headed back to Iffin to read, sleep and quilt.  Between getting lost, the shallows, and the outboard problem, our adrenaline had gone up and down so much we were exhausted.


Norman's Cay - Tuesday, May 10
We intended to stop at Shroud Cay and go dingying down the mangrove creek, but the wind was much higher than the forecast had predicted, and after putting down our anchor near the mooring field, we decided to leave.  Norman's Cay is an hour away and much better protected from the north.  

Norman's is known for its involvement in drug running in the late 70's.  At that time, Carlos Lehder took over the island and used it to distribute Columbian cocaine into small planes and boats for the US market.  His new plane crashed in the flats off the southwest tip of the island and is still there.  In September 1979 a huge raid in the arrest of 33, including Lehder, but huge bribe payments let him return to the island within two days.  Finally, in 1988, Lehder was convicted in US courts and sentenced to life without parole..

We took the dinghy over the airplane wreck and then to a small, unnamed island to the south with a lone palm tree sticking up.  Strangely, there was a nice wooded bench at the high point, with a plaque to a couple's "favorite place."  A short ways away, there was a memorial to them over when we think two urns are buried.  They died in 2007 and 2010.

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We took the dink over to the main island and walked around the ruins a little.  Trying to return the boat, our outboard started acting up again.  It must have taken 50 pulls to finally start.  We were about ready to radio Nancy and Peter for a tow.

We don't know how, but we have a great internet connection here.  Perhaps from the Norman's Cay Resort on the western side of the island. Right before we left, I received an email from Cook's Country Magazine.  The "old family recipe" I submitted for their contest, Gus' Kosher Dill Pickles, was accepted for their new cookbook, coming out in August!  They had 1200 submissions and accepted 115.  I had to send a 200 word essay on why the recipe was important to our family.


Allen's Cay  and Leaf Cay - Wed to Fri May 11 to 13
Wednesday - Once we were all back on board, we decided to pull anchor and head for Allen's Cay, around 2 hours to the north.  These two islands have loads of snorkeling places, some pretty beaches, and the famous iguanas, which we're not supposed to feed but everyone does. 

On the way over, some dark clouds appeared and two waterspouts started forming.  Scary.  Fortunately, they passed south of us. 

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I joined Nancy and Peter in a reconnoiter around the area and then we went to Sea Angel for a pasta and salad dinner.

Saw some of the iguanas, but tomorrow we'll go on the beach with them.  We saw many adolescent conch in the water near the beaches, and we plan to see if any are empty.

Thursday - Wind again.  15 to 20 knots. Barry and I went to the nearby beach, looking for empty conch (all were alive) and feeding some dog biscuits to the iguanas.  At one point, we counted 30.  In the morning and afternoon, high speed boats come from Nassau with 25 or 30 tourists.  They feed the iguanas and leave in about 20 minutes.  They must be day excursions from cruise ships.  We went back to Iffin and decided to move our anchor, since we were getting very close to a sailboat named ZigZag.  It was so lumpy that we raised the dinghy.  We'll decide in the morning whether we'll leave for Spanish Wells.

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Friday - Wind died down to around 10, but the forecast seemed to show that tomorrow will be the same or better, so we'll take off tomorrow.  Besides, today is Friday the 13th, and we've had enough problems this trip.  Kindred Spirit is at Shroud Cay, but they will be coming up here today and will join us tomorrow to Spanish Wells.  We didn't even put the dink back in the water.  It was a nice, relaxing day.  I got out the bread machine to make Chinese sausage rolls and spent the rest of the day quilting.

Spanish Wells - Sat May 14 to Tuesday May 17
Saturday - We left at 8 am and had a perfect 50 mile cruise up to Spanish Wells.  This island is very different from the ones we have been seeing.  It's the commercial fishing center of the Bahamas and most of the people are of English descent.  The name Pinder is as common here as Smith is in the US. 

We took slips in Spanish Wells Yacht Haven and Nancy and I explored ashore while everyone else napped.    I bought a nice pair of blue seaglass earrings and a few groceries.  Tomorrow is Sunday and everything will be closed, so we plan to get down the bicycles and explore some more.  On Monday we'll take the fast ferry to Dunmore on Harbour Island.  We had dinner at Eagle's Landing - which was OK and VERY slow but crowded with locals.  Across the street at Papa Scoops was our dessert - homemade coconut ice cream.

Sunday - Everything is closed!  We biked around the entire island, which is extremely well kept, with beautiful flowering plants all over.  There is almost no crime here.  When Laura asked the marina where we could lock up our bikes, they just laughed.  "You must have come from Nassau," they replied.  The Methodist church as a beautiful garden with benches and all kinds of plantings, most of which are just house plants at home. I started a seed collection.

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Monday - We took the "fast ferry" to Dunmore Town on Harbour Island.  To get there, you must go through a stretch of coral called "Devil's Backbone."  It is strongly suggested that if you wish to take your own boat instead of the Ferry, you hire a local pilot to get you there and back.  Dunmore was more hype than reality.  It is supposed to be the home of "movie stars, celebrities, etc. with a beautiful pink sand beach."  Didn't impress us.  We liked Spanish Wells better.  But we did find a phone booth in which to take a picture of Barry in his new Superman briefs.  And low tide here is REALLY low!

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Back in Spanish Wells, we stopped at Ronald's Seafood for some grouper and lobster tail, and then went off on our bikes to the second ice cream source.  This one is Monica's, owned by the sister of the other ice cream place.  Coconut tonight.

Tuesday - Forecast is about the same for today and tomorrow, so we opted for tomorrow.  Biked around some more and bought conch salad for lunch at Norma's.  Picked up some coconuts.  Barry managed to get the outer husk off of one - with a pry bar.  Left the machete at home.  Grilled grouper on board and more ice cream at Monica's.  I had mulberry and Barry had sopadilly (think pawpaw or custard apple).

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