We’re at anchor at our last stop in the chain: Mayaguana. The water is so clear we had no trouble threading the needle through three miles of coral heads and sandbars in the long narrow harbor here. The bottom is so sandy we had no trouble getting our anchor to hold. These are things we’ll miss dearly when we head south and east – clear water and sandy bottoms.
Waderick Wells: We spent the one-month anniversary of our retirement here. It is a picturesque horseshoe-shaped mooring field, tucked tightly behind the sand dunes and the sand bars. We snorkeled with sharks. We hiked the hills to desolate beaches. We soaked in the crystal blue waters. There is a warm feeling here, from the friendly park ranger to the other sailors who all meet for happy hour Saturday nights on the beach. I’d go back, and stay for a while. Maybe if Andrew ever quits his position as park ranger.
Staniel Cay: We anchored right up against the rocks, because you can trust your anchor to hold. We snorkeled Thunderball Grotto, which is featured in a couple of James Bond’s movies. We dinghied over to the see swimming pigs. Yes, pigs swim! Not particularly gracefully. And then they try to come aboard your dinghy to eat the food they assume you have. Again, not particularly gracefully. It is a sight to see. Not one I ever need to see again. The 80 or so residents of Staniel Cay are friendly. The laundress chatted with me for the hour or two it took me to do laundry (and I don’t like to talk to strangers), and the bartender at Staniel Cay Yacht Club refilled our glasses generously.
Conception Island: It is a tiny island, with no inhabitants, no structures, just a beautiful long beach along a quiet anchorage, and miles and miles of mangroves behind it. We celebrated Jason’s 40th birthday here, a day delayed after a longer than expected overnight. I made French toast for breakfast, banana nut bread for snacks, and enchiladas for dinner. Jason blew out the scented candle next to the fudge nut brownies, as his friends and family sang him happy birthday and sent him best wishes in the video I’d compiled. And the main event, which brought applause from our neighbors: Dinghy Dance Party starring Brita and Moon Shadow.
Crooked Island: It is a long island, with a beautiful old lighthouse marking the reef, and a long beautiful beach below it. As soon as our feet hit the ground, the local caretaker Andy had invited us to the weekly Tuesday night fish fry on the beach and told us where to buy groceries, lunch and fuel. Andy and his sister Wille (at the lunch place) were so warm and friendly. It appears they are building a marina and resort at the northwest tip of the island, alongside the airstrip.
Acklins Island: We were only here from sunset to sunrise, and never touched land. The beach was pretty and the anchorage was calm. That’s a lot in my book. Oddly, the water was green.
Plana Island: Same as Acklin.
Mayaguana: We are stuck here for a few days waiting for the wind and waves to settle. There are two groceries, where we were able to hobble together a bag full of eggs, bread, tomatoes and deli meat. There is a bar where we bought two Heinekens, but are waiting for cases to be available (at some indeterminate time in the future and some indeterminate place on the island). There is wifi on the front stoop of Reggie’s house or on the front porch of the Department of Social Services – neither of which we’re sure we’re welcome at, but both of which we’ve camped out on for the better part of today. Reggie comes down off the roof of the new church they’re building to make us lunch, because that’s they way they roll around here.
In these out-islands (Conception, Crooked, Acklins, Plana, Mayaguana), all the boats are headed in the same direction: Turks & Caicos, and maybe further south. We’ve met a handful of boats along the way that greet us when we make it to harbor at night, and wish us a fair sail when we all pull in the morning. We swap information on wind speed and wave height. We remark when a cargo ship appears on the horizon. It’s nice to know someone’s looking out for you, accompanying you (albeit from afar) on this journey. Their problems are much worse than ours – a whole in the bottom of the dinghy, a water desalinator pump that doesn’t work, a dinghy engine that doesn’t spit water out the back, not enough fuel to make it to Turks, etc., so we get a kick out of listening to their travails over the radio, and we try to help as we can.