DAY 34 | January 16, 2022
Warderick Wells Cay to Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
It's a heart breaker to leave Warderick Wells behind, but it would be tough to top the day we had there yesterday, plus, the weather seems to be cooperating enough to allow us to head farther south. Although the winds are back up again, Skeet and Ron studied their various resources and decided it would be a good day to shoot for Compass Cay. I forgot to mention that Predict Wind is another tool they both use for forecasting.
It only took us about an hour-and-a-half to get to Compass Cay, and we looked for a good anchorage that would be fairly flat and protected from the wind. We could see the Compass Cay Marina just ahead of us, with some pretty ginormous yachts tied up at their docks.
Ron's plan was to anchor outside of the marina area and dinghy over there with Skeet to get a closer look and see if they had fuel, water, and maybe a few basic staples available, like Pringles. 😜 Just kidding; we kind of need milk.
I've got to put in another plug for the handlebar Ron installed in the dinghy. Totally his idea. He keeps saying that he needed to add it because we're old (thanks a LOT!!🙄), but I can objectively say that it's incredibly useful no matter your age, as getting onto and off of a floating, unstable dinghy from another floating vessel is anything but a graceful process. And you can see that even our 19-year-old son finds it handy, so there!! Old schmold! Ron said he found it on a website that sells handles for docks and swim platforms, so it's definitely not a "normal" dinghy accessory, but I think it's an A+ addition and it's already made our lives so much easier (and less awkward, so I can save face when the paparazzi are around). It also gives you a great way to hold on when you're on a choppy dinghy ride, which has happened a lot on this trip.
Skeet and Ron learned that Compass wanted $10 per person just to come ashore, and Ron said thanks, but no thanks, and felt like it would be best if we kept chugging away to Staniel. While Ron was getting the dinghy ready for our next passage, I came to the back of the boat to toss some old slaw (🤢) and saw this enormous creature getting a closer look at Ron. I caught Ron completely off guard and understandably scared him to death when I couldn't help but blurt out OMG RON LOOK! And once he'd had a chance to put his heart back in his chest, we all enjoyed watching this curious nurse shark swimming around the stern.
We had to hold Steve by the collar at first, and finally decided to close him in the pilot house to be sure he didn't try some heroic stunt to rescue us from this "predator". 😂You can hear me asking if both of the doors to the pilot house were closed.
Compass Cay has a tourist attraction (that we didn't visit) where you can feed the sharks, and my theory is that this nurse shark spilled over from the ones who gather at the marina to be fed, so they're used to be around humans and boats. Poor thing came to the wrong place if it was looking for edible food 😜. Old slaw and not even one Pringle to be found. 🤷♀️
The short journey to Staniel was windy and pretty rough, and you can tell Steve wasn't a fan. I feel ya, Steve. This is why Ron keeps saying that KORKZcrew isn't a "bluewater boat". While it's great in calm seas, it's not made for a transatlantic journey, for example, due to its shallow-draft hull design. We knew this when we bought KORKZcrew, but actually considered this a plus because it would allow us to get around the shallow waterways of Wilmington AND be able to use it for a trip like this. Our boat really is incredibly stable and seaworthy; you just have to plan for proper weather windows, and sometimes even with the best planning you can't avoid some of the rocking and rolling along the way. That's to be expected. No ragrets!!😜
Once we made it to Staniel Cay, we called the marina on the VHF radio and asked if we could be next in line for gas, diesel, and water — gas for the dinghy, and diesel and water for KORKZcrew. When it was finally our turn, we pulled up to the dock where some really nice guys helped us tie up. One of them complimented us on our boat, saying they'd never seen one like ours, and that it reminded them of a Nordhavn, which I took as a compliment, as I've always admired those boats. The Nordhavn IS built for an Atlantic crossing, but they draw closer to 6' which would be a dealbreaker for us in Wilmington, not to mention the fact that they cost about a gabillion dollars. And I'm not one to exaggerate so you know it's true. KORKZcrew is actually a Great Harbour N37, and Ron thinks only 27 or so were ever made of this particular model, so you definitely don't see a lot of them around. Great Harbour makes 5 different models of their boats, and ours is one of the smallest.
It takes a lot longer than you might imagine to fill up this boat's one 500-gallon diesel tank and two 150-gallon water tanks. Or maybe you already have a sense for the time-consuming nature of this process. But even when they aren't completely empty, we usually have lengthy visits to fuel docks. This is a ballpark, but I don't think I'd be far off to say it takes us 45- to 60 minutes each time.
It felt good to be topped off in almost all of our tanks, with the exception of the most important one: my STOMACH! So we set off to find a good anchorage with a plan to dinghy back to shore for FOOD. We passed the famous Thunderball Grotto on our way to find a parking spot, which some of you may know from the James Bond movie by the same name. It is a fantastic underwater cave we were lucky enough to visit with the Reddins in 2019, and it's actually featured in two James Bond movies: Thunderball in 1965, and Never Say Never in 1983. From the outside, it doesn't seem like there's anything that special about it, but when you snorkel inside, you find this hollow cave with sunlight streaming in through an opening at the top, highlighting a myriad of fish swimming all around you. '
The third island on the far right is Thunderball Grotto. From the outside, it's kind of "eh". But from the inside . . . ooh la la!!! Make sure you go at low or slack tide if you're snorkeling. The weather didn't allow us to go on this visit, unfortunately, but it's well worth it if you get the chance.
After finding a decent mooring ball and taking a bumpy dinghy ride to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, we went inside their charming restaurant for drinks and conch fritters. The conch fritters were pretty charming too I have to say 🐷. I love the atmosphere of this spot — we visited here with the Reddins too, and it's exactly as I remembered it, with flags hanging from the ceiling, photographs on the wall from when the Thunderball crew was there filming, and fried food on the menu. What more do you need?!
There's an area at their landing where the nurse sharks gather and you're allowed to feed them and/or pet them on their backs, neither of which we did 😂, but it was still fun to sit there and watch them swim around.
We worked off all of those calories with a dinghy cruise around a bunch of other anchored boats, looking for our friends from Norman’s — the ones who had so kindly come over to KORKZcrew to say hello a few days ago. Of course, that ride didn't REALLY work off any calories, and we didn't find our friends either, so back to the mooring ball we went, only to learn that it was someone ELSE's mooring ball, and we'd have to move. This was a large bummer as we are expecting thunderstorms with high winds and lightning overnight, and late afternoon is not when you want to have to start over in figuring out the best place to anchor. We didn't have to go far to find another spot, so we got situated and settled in for the night.
During our dinghy ride it was really interesting seeing the variety of other boats, and all the different live-aboard arrangements. While at first there appear to be an abundance of super yachts in the Exumas, which tend to grab your attention, the vast majority of the boats around us are our size or a little larger - primarily in the 40—50’ range, with around 90% of them being sailboats. You just don’t see that many trawlers or motor vessels. I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of the sailboats we’ve seen are catamarans, which are roomy and much more stable in rough seas. We've chartered a lot of catamaran sailboats over the years with the Reddins, and loved how each family could basically have their own hull so there’s more privacy and options for finding your own space than you might imagine. The typical arrangement of these charter boats was 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in each hull, and a shared living space and kitchen in the middle. If you decide to charter a boat one day, please feel free to ask Ron about his experience with various companies including their respective pros and cons, and also ask him which features to look for in the boat itself. He never wanted to charter a boat that was so big it made docking or anchoring a major hassle, so we usually stayed around 40-42' in the sizes we chose. One thing we quickly learned to avoid were older boats in the fleet, which sounds like an obvious red flag, but in this case, it only means that the boat is a year or two old. Charter boats take a beating, so even if you take one that's only two years old, it might already be in pretty poor shape. Another thing to think about is where you'd want to charter a boat. While there are a wide range of options, our two families tended to gravitate toward the Caribbean, and our favorite destination was the British Virgin Islands, primarily because the navigation is line-of-sight, the passages are relatively short, and you can cover a lot of territory in the limited time allowed for a charter trip, which is typically a week to ten days.
Here's the show the lightning put on for us tonight. Night night, Staniel Cay!
2.5 hours underway; 17 nautical miles traveled