Little Bell Island/Staniel/Farmers/Sampson Cay January 31 to February 7, 2006

Click on the above thumbnail for a map of points visited during this time period.

We're in Paradise...

After leaving the Exuma Land and Sea Park, we cruised south with Pat and Ted Edmunds on Seaclusion to Little Bell Island (aka Cambridge Cay.)   Although they are still enjoying the immediate area, Paul and Karin on Dream Weaver have joined their friends Mennow and Val on the sailboat Eira, with whom they will travel to the Caribbean during the next year.  On Little Bell we discovered a place rightly called the Sea Aquarium.  It is a beautiful wall in less than 20' of water with all sorts of coral and fish including queen triggers, parrot fish, queen angels, rock beauties, butterfly fish, yellow tail snapper, yellow jack, and especially pesky sergeant majors that were looking to be fed.  It is definitely a place that should not be missed for snorkeling.  We also snorkeled a place  south of Little Bell called Rocky Dundas which consists of two high rocky islands that have caves that can be accessed at low tide.  We discovered fish and coral in front of the caves.   But the real reason to see these caves is the beauty of the caves themselves.   They feature stalactite and stalagmite formed 15,000 years ago when the water level was some 300' lower than what is is today.   At that time, the Great Bahama Bank was one large island.   Absolutely beautiful, with light streaming in though the openings at the top.  We snorkeled in at low tide and so could enter and leave without much current to deal with. 

We also hiked across Little Bell to the eastern shore where there is a 50' high rock outcropping (Bell Rock) 120' offshore that is/was shaped like a bell.   We made a couple of trips to Bell Rock since the view from the Rock and the high bluffs on that side of the island were spectacular.  On our first trip it was high tide, so we just climbed the bluffs rather than try to swim out to Bell Rock and possibly get cut by some of the sharp coral near the rock.  Our second trip was at low tide and Chuck and Ted made the trip over and up.  Barb was sure glad she hadn't made the climb as Chuck reported that her fear of heights/falling would have made it very uncomfortable for her to be on top or on the side of that rock.  We took lots of photos but they don't do justice to the beauty of the place.  The many shades of blue are incredible.

Our next destination was Staniel Cay.  We decided to cruise down on the eastern Sound (deep) side rather than the western Banks (shallow) side.  This allowed Chuck to try his hand at fishing/trolling again.  Within 30 minutes we got a strike on one of the lines.  As Chuck is reeling it in, we get a strike on our other line.  Thus, Barb had to get in action on the other pole and figure out how to reel the fish in.   The seas were a bit rough but the stabilizers were keeping things comfortable as long as we were underway.  So Barb left the boat in gear, but throttled back to idle with the autopilot engaged to keep the vessel pointed into the waves.   Thus, they could each concentrate on reeling in their respective catches.   But who would get the gaff, and who would do the gaffing while Chuck and Barb were each involved with keeping their catches on their lines?  Pity that no one was videotaping our performance as Barb held two poles while Chuck took swipes with the gaff.  Somehow we managed it and Chuck soon had two nice dolphin cleaned as we proceeded to Staniel Cay.  We did not put the lines back in, as our freezer was pretty full.

Staniel Cay was the first bit of civilization we have found since leaving Nassau.  It boasts a "yacht club", two marinas, three small grocery stores, and is adjacent to the famous Thunderball Cave (site of the movies Splash and Thunderball).   We anchored in a large anchorage off of Big Majors Cay with about 25 other boats and dinghied into Staniel Cay numerous times during the next few days.  We discovered that the "yacht club" offered free wi-fi if one brings ones own PC.  If one uses their PC, it is $5 for 10 minutes and $1 a minute after that.  Pretty pricey!  Needless to say, we covered our PC case in plastic and enjoyed fast and unlimited access to the world for a few hours each day.  At Staniel Cay we  finally caught up with Phyllis and Tom on Cocoon ( a 42' Krogen).  We had spent time with them in the Chesapeake last summer and we had followed Tom's recommendation for our SSB installation and weather service.   We had kept in touch with them over the past few months and were looking forward to seeing them again.  They invited Ted and Pat and us for dinner one evening.  We were treated to an awesome prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes, yorkshire pudding, and all the fixin's.  First class!   Phyllis told us about a beach called Piggy Beach near our anchorage that was home to a number of pigs and goats.  We never saw the goats but heard them bleating early in the morning.  We did see the pigs though.  As we approached the beach in the morning they came tearing out to get the goodies we had to feed them.  They even swim out to the dinghy to get the scraps.  It is quite something to see.  

We decided to attend the "5F" festival at Big Farmer's Cay 20 miles south of Staniel -- the "Farmer's First Friday in February Festival."  We didn't get to Farmer's until after 3:00 pm, and so missed the wet t-shirt contest -- much to Chuck's dismay.  But we were there for the men's best legs and buns contest -- much to Barb's delight.  (See photos below.)  The festival was not at all what we had expected, but it was fun to watch and participate.  There were lots of families:  boaters as well as locals from Little Farmer's and surrounding islands.  The festival had two sites of blaring music.  One was playing rap music and we were truly amazed at the obscene lyrics being enjoyed by the locals -- including children.  The other site, the famous Ocean Cabin, featured Bahamian music.   A sign on the outside of Ocean Cabin says:

                         OUR HOURS









Chuck tried to bargain for a wood carving by the local carver JR, but didn't have any success in getting the price reduced.   After enjoying the festivities we headed back to the boat and finished the evening watching a movie.

A front was forecast to come through on Saturday evening so we headed back to the Majors the next day for some protection from the strong westerlies-turning-to-northerlies that were predicted to hit early Sunday morning.  We heard that the front was dropping large amounts of rain on Florida, and was blowing with gusts up to 70 mph.  Fortunately, the front weakened before it hit us so we had an easy time of it, although we didn't get a lot of sleep as we monitored things throughout the night.  After the front came through the winds did indeed clock to the north, and we discovered our "all weather" anchorage was a bit rolly, so we decided to find another anchorage with better northerly protection.  Tom and Phyllis on Cocoon called on the VHF and recommended that we come up to Sampson Cay (four miles north) to a very protected cove outside of the marina where they were spending the week-end.  (While in the islands they go to a marina once a month to plug up to power and equalize their batteries.  Although they had made their reservations far in advance, they had fortuitously picked a good week-end to do this what with the front coming through.)   We headed up to Sampson Cay and found the anchorage to be ideal.  We were invited in to the clubhouse to watch the Super Bowl with them.   Chuck and Tom placed a wager on the game, and Tusen Takk II's frig is now newly stocked with six frosty Kalik Gold beers!  

Samson Cay Marina and Resort, by the way, is the nicest (best kept) marina we have seen in the Bahamas.   Everything looks new and well-decorated.   The grounds, the store, the restrooms, the restaurant, the bar, the laundry, and the docks all appear to be first class. 

Exuma Land and Sea Park office

Houseboat at Park headquarters

Barb on Little Bell Ridge

West side of L. Bell Ridge

Scrounge on Bell Rock beach finding stuff

Little Bell Anchorage from Ridge

Chuck and Ted on Bell Rock

Crustacean glued to Bell Rock

Beach west of Bell Rock

Cocoon heading south past Bell Rock

Pat and Ted snorkeling

Dolphins caught simultaneously in Exuma Sound

One of the mahi-mahi

Using internet at Staniel Cay

"Pink Pearl" - largest of three grocery stores on Staniel Cay

Wine stewart Tom aboard Tusen Takk II

Chuck at Farmer's Cay for the 5F -- Farmer's First Friday in February Festival



Ocean Cabin restaurant on Little Farmer's Cay

Sign on Ocean Cabin restaurant

JR's woodcarving stand at 5F

Chicken race at 5F

Best Legs contest at 5F

Winner of Best Buns contest at 5F

Club Thunderball

Tusen Takk II at Little Farmer anchorage

Super Bowl at Sampson Cay