A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
After leaving Warderick Wells, we headed further south in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park to Little Hall's Pond Cay and the nearby Sea Aquarium. It was a brief and straightforward passage other than the tight squeeze between a sand bar and rock off Bell Island. After setting and diving on the anchor in the presence of a nice big barracuda, we took the dinghy over to the Sea Aquarium. The Sea Aquarium is sheltered from waves and current and boasts a great diversity of fish and corals. Although the park actively discourages feeding the fish, it was obvious that they are quite accustomed to human visitors (actually there was another family there feeding the fish when we arrived). The fish are not shy! We saw plenty of sergeant-majors, schoolmasters, yellowtail snapper, and two scrawled cowfish, a queen triggerfish, and many others. After snorkeling, we explored in the dinghy, checked out a sunken airplane (not very exciting, other than Brian and Eoin's black-tip reef shark sighting), and floated in shallow water watching conchs move slowly across the sand below.
Little Hall's Pond is perhaps better known for its owner: Johnny Depp. The kids were excited to anchor next to Captain Jack Sparrow's island for the night. In honor of this occasion, we watched Pirates of the Caribbean in the cockpit after dinner. He did not appear to be in residence, however, so we have no Depp sightings to report. As the kids were getting ready for bed after the movie, we heard some unusual splashing sounds toward the stern. Unfamiliar water sounds must always be investigated when one lives on a boat, so we went to check it out. The current was strong at the time and we noticed many many large fish just below the surface facing into the current feeding on something. It was hard to get a good look at them, but it appeared to be a very large school of jacks.
The next morning, after coffee, breakfast, and the weather report, we raised the anchor and set off for Staniel Cay. This would be a very different type of experience from the more remote and isolated anchorages of the past month. It is a popular holiday destination and there were a lot of families vacationing there in addition to those who had arrived by boat. There was a regatta going on as well, with a series of sailboat races and associated parties between Christmas and New Year's. It was a busy place.
We proceeded to our intended anchor spot near the Thunderball Grotto (the James Bond movie was filmed here in the '60s). Once the anchor was set and checked, the tide was right (low, slack) to explore the grotto. Thunderball Grotto is basically a hollow island with entrances scattered along the waterline. At low tide, most are above the water level so one can swim right in. Once inside, light filters down through holes in the rock above, providing good visibility to the fish and coral below. When we went, the grotto was crowded with tour boats. Although the fish and corals didn't seem to be as diverse as other places we'd snorkeled, it was still an interesting experience. Eoin and Marin found an underwater entrance and had fun diving down and swimming through it to emerge inside the grotto.
We spent three days at Staniel, provisioning, exploring, and visiting with friends. We were also waiting: for our mail to arrive by airplane and for inclement weather to pass through. The mail was delayed due to customs and import issues, but it finally arrived on New Year's Eve, and we departed soon afterwards.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars