In George Town - waiting again!

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 16 Mar 2011 20:49
It's been so long since we put 'fingers to keyboard' and an awful lot has happened in a short time span to write about. We feel as if we are in a cruising version of Snakes and Ladders as we always seem to end up sliding down the longest 'snake' back to George Town. This is our third visit this season but when you need to get things sent its the obvious place to be. But more about that later.
We've had a lot of fun as well. Starting with Steve & Sheila's visit flying into Staniel Cay for nine days of cruising on Ajaya. We met them at the 'airport' at Staniel which, whilst boasting a long paved runway,  has no other facilities other than a shaded open sided hut where passengers and meeters and greeters all sit on the wooden seats waiting for their flights. Sitting ominously over to one side of the stand is a 50 gallon do it yourself fire extinguisher in case of any aircraft needing to put out the odd fire whilst running up engines or what have you. We presumed there was actually some water in the tank. Check-in is in the form of a local lady that arrives in a golf cart about 30 minutes before the flight arrives. You are trusted not to overload your luggage as there is no weigh-in!
Staniel Cay fire fighting  facilities                   Flamingo Air's 1400 flight from Nassau with our guests onboard  -  where have their other legs gone?
Having extricated themselves from the small Flamingo Air 9 seater they retrieved their baggage from the nose cone. The plane had arrived taxiing towards the stand with the pilots door already open for much needed fresh air. We wheeled the cases back to the dinghy and soon had Steve and Sheila on board with a rum cocktail to convince them the flight in from Nassau had been worthwhile. They certainly had great views over the islands that we were shortly to take them to see at sea level. That evening we enjoyed a meal in the Staniel Cay Yacht Club having had to row most of the way from the boat due to a slight shortage of petrol in the outboard motor tank! Skip delivered the guests and Admiral ashore before rowing the dinghy back to Ajaya to collect some more fuel. An embarrassing start to their visit but soon forgotten over a very nice meal.
Early next morning we headed north towards Warderick Wells and the Exuma Land and Sea Park headquarters where we managed to get a mooring ball in the favoured north field. We exited the Staniel Cut early with a lumpy sea running but a safe enough passage through,  at which point all the fishing lines were deployed in the hope of a fish supper that evening. It wasn't to be and we hauled them all back in again when we reached the Park boundary which is a no-take zone.
Definitely not so sunny that day                A baby ray in the shallows of the lagoon                and a small land crab with a very smart house
We spent three days in the park and enjoyed the spectacle of large rays gliding past us near the coral garden and nurse sharks visiting the back of the boat. A circular walk starting at the Park HQ building took us along the Causeway Trail across the lagoon and on up to BooBoo Hill where we searched again for our small piece of driftwood with 'Ajaya' painted in green. We drew a blank and decided against spending too much time pulling the large pile of driftwood apart and assumed it was buried somewhere.
An evening's jollity back onboard resulted in a session of  'spin the bear' which had us all laughing as we had to select our favourite music from over the years should the bears legs point towards us after a good spin - such simple pleasures for simple folk and it also helped polish the saloon table.
On the Saturday whilst sunning ourselves onboard we had the sight of an arriving seaplane which landed next to the moored boats, motored past and on up to the beach. Great fun. It stayed a couple of hours before taxiing out to the far mooring field, revving up and taking off into the distance.
Look out ! plane approaching ..........past us.............and over to the beach for a short visit.
Saturday evening is beach party night at Warderick when the rangers light a fire and cruisers bring something tasty to share with of course plenty of liquid refreshment. The Rangers even supply huge quantities of ice should your rum cocktail need cooling down. It's a great chance to chat with the people that help patrol the park, including the resident members of the Bahamian Defence Force that work with the Rangers to ensure there is no poaching within the Park boundaries. Sadly we heard tell they recently caught a cruiser poaching.
We were invaded by the pretty and mischievous Bananaquits which even flew in and out of the cabin looking for food
We left Warderick on Sunday and headed to Cambridge Cay motoring into the teeth of a brisk wind which gave us a slam, bang ride. We used the heart-stopping narrow passage on the north side of Bell Island to gain access to the mooring field at Cambridge which is still within the Park boundaries. The next morning we dinghied ashore and walked across to the beach on the south side, a trail we had not previously covered in our last visit. On the way back the Admiral stepped on a small snake which had been sunbathing on the sandy path looking, so the Admiral claimed in her defence,  just like a 'stick' (Hhmmm!) Following this incident our footsteps took on a heavier beat on the ground just in case the creature had any other friends sunning themselves further along the trail!
Steve finds a stranded starfish (unfortunately dead) Phil finds his shoe (also pretty dead) whilst the starfish makes a great holiday picture
Off on the beach trail - watch out for the snake - the views the other side are worth the walk as we set off to explore the deserted beach
New coral antlers for Steve then we walk the beach on the bank side
The beaches were pristine on the south side by the cut and we walked on the virgin sands cleaned by the last high water. Took lots of pics and walked back to the dinghy,  then on to the other end of the north facing beach and back to the boat. We all enjoyed the Cambridge Cay visit before heading further on to Black Point for a couple of nights as their nine days were quickly passing and there were still pigs and iguanas to see. Well you have to do the tourist thing! We ate at Lorraine's that evening where she had a cruiser playing guitar singing various shanties and ditties. There was a fantastic typically Bahamian buffet supper with Lorraine's Mum assisting in the kitchen out back. This wonderful lady of unknown vintage works tirelessly all day baking about forty loaves of bread in the searing heat of her kitchen and then helps out in Lorraine's Cafe when needed by her daughter. Just hope we have her energy and spirit when we get to that age!
Lorraine's at full swing and the conversation flows until stopped by free ice creams
The eyes say it all - I want some of your ice cream -  then Steve wins the fight to pay the bill - Lorraine calculates the damage
Next morning we motored over to Bitter Guana Cay where we were initially the only visiting yacht off of 'Iggy Beach'. Small reptiles could be seen moving slowly along the sand until a local tourist boat motored quickly into sight at which point the slow moving reptiles found reserves of energy and started to sprint to where the day boat was disgorging its tourists all carrying quantities of bread to feed the iguanas. Quite clearly there are two varieties of Iggy on Bitter Guana - the 'beach-dwellers' that exist rather well from the tourists boats that visit daily, weather permitting. They are by and large grossly overweight when compared to the shy bush-dwellers that scramble off in the opposite direction at the sound of human approach. These are slimmer models and have no need of any help from fat-fighters. Whilst on the island we made a quick search for Number 13 which had been on the beach a year ago. Maybe it was there but had shed it's number! We just don't know.
                                                             Just what has happened to No. 13 we ask!
Leaving the iguanas behind we headed round to Big Major's Spot the island next to Staniel with the resident family of wild pigs we had seen last time. We had saved up some vegetable cuttings over several days as an offering and having watched the two larger pigs swimming out to the tourist boats the previous evening we climbed into the dinghy with some trepidation. It was not misplaced!
Our mistake on approaching the beach was to go too far into the shallows and when the two sows caught sight of the plastic bag with the peelings in they ran into the water and headed towards us at a surprising speed (for a pig).  Then finding that they could stand up on their hind legs in the shallows and use our inflatable dinghy as a foot rest for their front trotters that's exactly what they did. The result was that in an already wet and crowded dinghy we now had two extremely large pigs with impressively long snouts trying to get at the plastic bag full of food. We had lost control of the situation and the pigs had gained the upper hand as we couldn't even get enough scope to pull on the outboard motor cord to make an escape. The only way to avoid further intrusion with more swamping of the dinghy was to quickly empty the contents of the whole bag into the water and make good our escape from the scene. Which we did as fast as we could leaving the two large sows scrummaging for the more tasty pieces of vegetable peelings whilst leaving various unwanted pieces of onion skin to float off downwind. We headed for shore and gained the security of the beach where at least we could run if necessary.
Here they come!!! Oh God, what do we do now, they're very large  and very hungry!  
A short while later another small dinghy arrived with some French holiday makers onboard. They reached the security of the beach which was more than we had achieved but had failed to bring any tasty offerings. The porkers took a dim view of this and emitted a series of high pitched whines and squeals which could clearly be taken as displeasure. After they had made their feelings known they collapsed down in the sand for a rest which gave one brave member of their party a photo opportunity.
Here come the French party - with no piggy food! Then a photo call in the sand
Meanwhile, back in the undergrowth behind the beach the baby porkers were parked out of the sun but were enticed to emerge by some encouraging calls, whereupon Sheila ably demonstrated some long-ago acquired skills in the art of pig-tickling. We were impressed to see the little pig emit a series of what could be described as pleasurable noises before keeling over in the sand on its side becoming almost hypnotised. Once the little thing had come round from its state of euphoria it was Steve's turn to try pig-tickling and sure enough the little thing collapsed once again in snorts of pleasure. 'Skip' obviously didn't have the knack as he couldn't get the little thing down without a shove which would have been construed as cheating. We suggested that our chief tickler have a go with one of the large sows but not surprisingly the challenge was declined on the grounds of health and safety.
Just ripe for a good tickle .............. the expert goes to work and down goes the little porker
With their holiday fast ebbing away we headed back to Staniel Cay for a last meal together in the yacht club before they reversed their route back to Nassau courtesy of Flamingo Air. 'Skip' escorted them to the airport to ensure their flight actually left in the strong north-east winds that were blowing across the airport runway. For anybody nervous of flying around in small planes it was a day best to be safely on the ground but the pilots must love these high winds, or maybe they enjoy seeing terror-stricken passengers in their rear mirror as these little planes have no flight deck cabin the pilot simply flies the plane from the front left seat with no co-pilot.
Skip takes our guests ashore to catch their flight home..
The flight was late in although nobody seems to actually know the scheduled arrival time.  Then there were too many passengers to get on the flight. Whilst the pilot loaded bags into the nose cone passengers scrambled to get a seat aft.  One extremely large lady boarded resulting in the plane's suspension bouncing around as she struggled to fit into a seat. Then suddenly, but in slow motion the whole plane tipped backwards with its nose wheel now 2 feet in the air! Steve had yet to board although Sheila had managed to get a seat cooped up in the rear with her head bent over. The pilot then had to get people off the plane stating that there was another aircraft on the way to take the overspill. Sure enough an even smaller Flamingo Air 5 seater screeched down the runway and onto the hard stand. The final sight of our guests was them crammed into this little aircraft albeit with two healthy sounding engines about to taxi off down the runway at which point  the pilot was handing round a box of 'dunkin' doughnuts'! That's the Bahamas for you. Steve and Sheila - it was great fun and we loved having you with us - but it all went too quickly.