We left Exuma Park with a short hop from Cambridge Cay, across the cut to the top of Compass Cay. One of the recommended stops had been ‘Rachel’s Bubble Bath’ at the top of the Cay – I have no idea who Rachel is but we decided to drop the anchor and go and have a look. A short walk took us to a rocky coastline where the sea came rushing in through a cut in the rocks. The girls had a great time avoiding the waves and then climbing the surrounding rocks. Yet another great opportunity to get them off the boat and tire them out with plenty of exercise.
From there we motored a couple of miles south and anchored for the night at Pipe Cay – again a recommended spot. It was extremely sheltered and really scenic but we found that there was nowhere to take the dinghy ashore and there was absolutely no marine life, so nothing exciting to see whilst snorkelling. What we did see was several empty beer bottles and an old ladder, and that is it. As a result we decided to move onto Big Major’s Spot the following morning.
Having safely arrived and dropped anchor, I decided to take a look round the boat. I was just about to call the girls out and tell them there was a very large ray by the boat, when I looked again and realised it was a shark!! It was a nurse shark (which, I now know, is pretty safe) and about six feet long, who had a good nosey at our boat before swimming off. With lots of other boats anchored in the bay and plenty of people in the water, I figured it was still safe for a swim so we all cooled off with a dip. See how my confidence with marine life has grown? I have never seen Hannah’s little legs kick so quickly when the shark made a surprise reappearance from under the hull just as she jumped in.
Up until now we had only seen one other boat with kids on in Nassau. We kept being told that we would meet lots of boat kids on our travels but we were getting to the point where the girls were growing impatient. Well, we had been anchored for less than an hour and we had visitors – the crew from Taia, that included nine year old Camila and six year old Matias, came to say hello. The girls were so excited and we arranged to meet on the beach later.
Big Major’s Spot is famous for its swimming pigs so a visit here would not be complete without a trip ashore to see them. We had been warned that they would try to get in your dinghy if they could smell food, so I wrapped up the sacrificial carrots extremely well. I really didn’t fancy a punctured dinghy – or a pig as company for that matter! The pigs were not shy and they knew what they wanted; once the food was gone, so was their interest in us. Hannah thought the piglets were very sweet and spent the time following them around. I just had to warn her to beware of protective mothers. We would have stayed longer but the ‘no-see-ums’ were out in force and we were proving to be a very tasty dinner so we headed off to douse ourselves in Skin So Soft.
Further north from the pig beach, there is another beautiful beach, these days known as “Bill’s Beach”, that has been taken over by a group of Canadian regulars who spend their winters in the bay on their Hatteras motor cruisers. Every year for more than 20 years they bring down various items of garden furniture, BBQs and beach games. They have also built benches and produced decorations out of driftwood and other flotsam and jetsam. They are very welcoming to visitors so we headed across to meet the crew from Taia and enjoy a playdate/sundowner and great conversation with several other cruising crews.
The following morning we headed round the point at low tide to go snorkelling in ‘Thunderball Grotto’, which is yet another location from the film. Apparently Sean Connery sits inside the grotto awaiting a helicopter rescue – we have yet to watch the film to see if we can spot the scene. Myron and Dena from Holdfast, who we had met the previous evening, very kindly offered to help us with our ‘load’. Yes, they had a big dinghy and a big engine (it’s all about the horsepower
), but we really appreciated the lift and got round to the grotto a lot quicker and a lot drier than otherwise would have been the case. The snorkelling really was great! Dena had brought some crackers to feed the fish with so they were immediately attracted by the food and we had so many of them around us, much to the girls’ excitement. There was so much marine life and the water was really clear so we got some great photos, with Eleanor yelling the names of the fish through her snorkel – her hours pouring over the fish books have obviously not been in vain. Eleanor and Stewart had great fun exiting the grotto several times through the three underwater holes.
We headed into Staniel Cay from there and bumped into our old friend Igor, who was anchored in close to the harbour for easy access with his rowing boat! He seemed to be enjoying the buzz of the town and the marina after several weeks of solo sailing through the quiet Exuma Cays. Staniel Cay really does cater to the mega yachts that pass through and we saw several crews clearing out the local shops of milk and fresh fruit and veg. The marina does not have any shower facilities – we were certainly not checking in – but we enjoyed a cold beer in their very nice bar.