Yesterday was a record day for happenings worth noting. We came to Staniel Cay the afternoon before to snug up to the island and get some protection from the forecasted windy weather. Staniel Cay offers plenty of great spots to tuck in as well as a variety of things to do on the water and on shore in case we felt it was too windy to sail comfortably.
Our first night, I stayed up late to finish sewing the awning/rain-catcher. This was a challenging project for many reasons. One, I was making it out of a worn out old main sail that I had cut up last month. Two, no pieces were large enough for the pattern, so they had to be cobbled together. Three, space down below on Alembic is limited and I ended up doing gymnastics to lay out the pieces. Four, the previous days were sweltering hot, resulting in a sauna like situation, with me beneath a bulk of sail cloth, pushing it through the sewing machine. Finishing it at night, with the cooler air, was worth staying up late for. Disclaimer: staying up late is 10:15. Usually we are in bed by 8:45!! If any of you know me well, this is quite a switch. I used to stay up to midnight every night and be up by 6 every morning. Out here, I get nine hours of blissful sleep a night.
Back to our eventful day. I started off by tying the new awning in place. The photo shows that it looks more like bird trying to fly than a functional addition to Alembic. The sewing is done, but now I have to bring it to shore to bang about sixty grommets and snaps into it to hold it in place. Then, I’ll have to figure out how to invert it, install a drain hose somewhere, and start using it as a rain-catcher as well. I decided to procrastinate about this a bit because the mail boat was coming in, which was far more interesting.
While Bill was working on some navigation electronics, I dinghied over to the government dock (a rickety wooden pier) when the mail boat tied up. This boat had been in dry dock in Nassau for maintenance for a few weeks, so the locals were going to be celebrating the arrival of fresh produce, letters from loved ones, and supplies to continue work on ongoing projects. What a scene. Everyone helped everyone load their boats, trucks, golf carts, and bicycles. People sat patiently for hours for their treasures to come off the boat.
While waiting for her deliveries, Sister Vivian told me of the many challenges and joys of living on this small island. There is a one room school house for the six island children, and Dr. Battie is the teacher. “A very creative woman, who can teach K-12” When kids are ready for high school, they leave the island, most going to Nassau. Vivian’s daughter started there this year, and, sadly, they won’t see each other until Christmas. Locals depend on this mail boat for produce because the island soil is too hard to grow anything except a few bananas. There are chickens everywhere, but eggs are hidden and hatched before any humans can get them! So many more stories from Vivian helped me to understand these people and their beautiful island.
After warm goodbyes from the residents, I checked in on Bill. He had acquired a trigger fish from a local and learned a new method of skinning it which saves so much more of its delicious meat. You can even eat the meat in its face, we learned. Bill spears and cleans these fish, but learning from the experts bumped him up a notch.
We headed to the town dock and were greeted by dozens of shark. Nurse shark swam around my feet as I walked up the stone steps and they allowed me to stroke their sandpaper-like skin. Locals stood at a table, cleaning fish and throwing the guts into the water here so the shark were well fed and not interested in tasting my fingers or toes.
We headed out the cut (the water between islands which gives access from the banks which are shallow to the sound which is deep) to find fish and conch. While the snorkeling was beautiful, there were no dinner fish anywhere. Plenty of beautiful reef fish, but none of these are good for spearing and eating. I think the expert locals here know where to go. Maybe they will share some secrets.
Empty handed, we headed for the grotto. This is also known as Thunderball Cave. A James Bond movie was filmed here and I can see why they chose this spot. You can snorkel into a huge cave with several tunnels below the water and beams of sunlight from above which come from a few holes in the ground thirty feet up. I tried to take photos of this spectacular scene, but my skills are in need of tuning.
Sufficiently waterlogged, we headed back to the boat to cook that trigger and fresh veggies. We are definitely eating well on this journey!
After dinner, we again took the dinghy to shore, this time to check out the night life. Walking through town, we could see only two or three customers in the two local restaurants. Where is everyone? I guess we are early. Many more visitors will be coming to this island in a few weeks, bringing good business for the winter months. We reluctantly headed back to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and were welcomed warmly. We are not Yacht Club types, preferring to hang with locals and learn about their communities, but we were willing to give the Yacht Club a chance.
This Yacht Club is not your typical US club. What a hoot. You could play pool, try to swing the metal ring on the string to catch it on the hook (so sorry Mr Handsome for hitting you while trying!), chat with the 90 year old cheerful man who still rides his bike all over the island, learn from Mr. Watermaker (forgot his name) who has been working the water makers here for over thirty years, have an insightful conversation about religion and homosexuality with a man my age who grew up here, join the new sorority of women who have a special way of bonding in a room full of testosterone. We finally had to leave when we realized that this party was never going to end.
Dinghying home to Alembic, I reflected on what a rich experience this is. Sewing and creating, participating in a big mail boat event, snorkeling for fish, exploring nature’s tunnels, dining on exquisite food, and mingling with such a diverse group of people all in one day. I am one lucky lady. My heart is full.