Home Up Sampson Cay Staniel Compass






It’s a short ride from Sampson Cay to Staniel Cay today.  It’s much shorter if you draw a straight line from point to point but we had to go back out to the banks to the deeper water and then double back in.  It’s a bit out of the way.  We are beginning to see (or understand) the waters better now and can see the deeper path that we must take.  Does this mean we are finally getting a little experience?  We doubt it.  You can never become too confident in these waters.  We pull in to the dock and tie up.  Staniel Cay marina is very exposed to the open waters of the sound and as long as the winds aren’t blowing Westerly we should have a nice stay. 



F&J have only one day and night here as their scheduled commuter flight to Nassau leaves tomorrow morning.  They have a late morning connection to catch in Nassau heading back home to Santa Barbara, California.  I’m feeling very under the weather and opt for a nap while they head out to explore Staniel Cay, check on their flight and figure out the airport logistics.  You can’t take things for granted here so best to double check and double confirm the flight.



We have a beautiful vista here at the marina.  It’s as if you can see forever as if to the edge of the earth in all directions.  I can understand why man used to think you could sail right off the edge of the earth as you feel like you can see the edge from here.  The surrounding waters are so beautiful and are of multiple shades of turquoise.  I’m amazed at the dozens of little uninhabited cays scattered in this great expanse of beautiful water.  From the fly bridge we can watch as huge white motor yachts, out over the deeper blue waters, pass each other on the horizon heading in crazy non direct courses, to and from one destination to the next, being careful to watch the colors of the waters for the color of “baby poo” which indicates or should I say warns of the shallow reefs.



J&F found the two grocery stores in what would be a stretch to call a town.  It’s more like a small settlement of funky houses.  Joe and Fran said there wasn’t much in the “grocery stores” and the much like shopping in someone’s house.  They said they bought something in one store from a black lady sitting behind the counter who was eating some greasy chicken for lunch.  They said she never stopped eating the chicken during the whole transaction and as if normal handed back some greasy change.  They said she was very nice and friendly though. 

They also found the airport if you could really call it that.  It’s nothing more than a small airstrip with no office, just an open covered bench air for passengers to wait under but somehow they got their flight and times confirmed.  They were told they can get someone at the marina to take them to the strip in the morning by golf cart.

They spent the afternoon with Larry on the dinghy re-exploring the area.  There was a quick stop to see the swimming pigs, this time without Ziggy and fully loaded with some leftovers.  They also took their snorkeling gear timing a visit to Thunderball at slack tide and took the dive to see the cave.  I can’t comment as I never did have the chance to do it with the darn cold that I got during our stay.




Our friends are leaving this morning, too soon really, as we feel like they had just arrived.  There was so much more to see.  I wish that they had had more time as they just barely scraped the surface of the beauty of the cays.   They experienced that one minor Front which threw a bit of a monkey wrench into our schedule and because of it missed the opportunity to see the marine park.   Over all though, they saw a lot and there’s no denying the spectacular beauty of the Exumas no matter where you are.  Larry and I were talking after they left about how difficult it is down here to keep schedules for visiting guests due to the frequent unpredictable weather and the remoteness, making it a bit of a challenge getting in and out of here.  The provisioning leaves a bit to be desired and restaurants are few and far between but I think overall it’s a fantastic place to come to and who cares about provisioning when you can get fresh, off the dock, lobster and conch?  And Joe certainly proved to earn his new title of Joe the Conch King.  It is an amazing place and we hope that F&J are going home with some great memories.



We will miss our friends as they have been great guests, always positive, cheerful and full of good conversation.  They join right in helping out with whatever needs to be done and see the beauty in every little thing no matter how rustic.   They are leaving this morning on Flamingo Airlines (what a name).  A golf cart is the standard mode of transportation to the air strip which is only about ¼ mile away.   They made arrangements for a golf cart to pick them up at 9:00 AM. 

We decided to ride along with them to the airport to send them off and secretly wondered if it would all go smoothly.  We had heard rumors about the unreliability of airline schedules in the Bahamas so thought we’d go to keep them company just in case.  The golf cart was a four bencher.  The front cart pulled the four bencher, connected by a hitch, like a trailer and it was a funny and silly sight us riding to the air strip in this thing.  Like a big rig truck the young black driver backed her around the palm trees and other clutter at the marine shack and soon we would be off on our bumpy ride to the air strip.   We were delayed a few minutes by another golf cart hauling out the trash container (priorities first) and soon we were off.  There was no urgency around here and schedules are not important even if you do have a connecting flight. 

We soon arrived at the “airport”, which is nothing more than a wide patch of old asphalt and a parking lot for a few private prop planes.  There was a homemade sign forbidding anyone from running across the flight path.  Who the heck would think of doing that?  Although another person said that a local had done it awhile back and was lucky as he only lost one arm.  Hmmm, nice information to know before take off. 

Everyone gathered at the roofed structure covering a deck with benches for travelers to wait. This was, I guess, what you could call the “waiting room.”  We waited patiently making small talk as the minutes passed by and soon the flight was 30 minutes late.  There were a few other people arriving and all not familiar will the drill, were confirming with other strangers what flight they were on, to make sure this was what was supposed to be happening.  Finally a golf cart arrived with a black lady and her cute little 3 year old boy.  She was apparently the “ticket agent” but you’d never know it unless you asked her.  Joe stepped up and asked about his flight and then it was clear that this is who writes your ticket and takes your money, and hopefully, you have cash because, if not, it’s an extra 10% service charge.  Fran quickly dug out $180 cash and saved themselves about $20.   



There was no rush or worry here, even though the plane was over 30 minutes late.  We patiently, but nervously, waited as a couple small planes came and went, though none of them were F&J’s plane.  45 minutes have lapsed and we’re all getting a little tense now, looking at watches and discussing connection times, when low and behold, the “pink flamingo” arrives.  She’s not fancy or modern, and embarrassingly pink and a bit silly with a name like “Pink Flamingo Airlines” painted on the outside. She didn’t instill a lot of confidence. 

The chubby black Bahamian pilot got out of the plane and Joe and Fran shuffled up to the plane with their bags.  This little commuter was not big, just a six seater, if that.  It looks claustrophobic to my senses, and maybe Fran’s, as she rushes to get a seat position in the front.  I’m looking at the plane and thinking, there’s no way I could get in it.  It was very tight and cramped and the windows were scratched and hard to see out of.  Always, positive though, F&J climb up on the wing, give us a cheerful wave, duck their heads and crawl in followed by a couple other passengers.  We watched as they all squeezed themselves in like sardines. 


Just before they left the “ticket agent” came up to the pilot and mumbled something of importance to the pilot.  He looked a little concerned as his eyes dart left and right like he was trying to figure out how he was going to do whatever she was demanding.  I over heard a few words, something like “pick up lady at Black Point” but that’s all I heard.  The pilot climbed aboard and we waved a final “goodbye” to F&J as they taxied down the old asphalt parking lot and down the strip out of sight.  Soon they sped by in the opposite direction, now a few feet off the asphalt slowly climbing in altitude.   We watched as they picked up speed and altitude above the rustic airstrip that runs along beside a beautiful sandy beach and turquoise waters.  We watch as they head off into the sky, but they don’t make the turn back north towards Nassau, instead they continue south disappearing into the sky and now are looking like a small fleck the size of a fly, still going in the wrong direction.  I tell Larry the partial conversation that I over heard with the ticket agent and the pilot and wondered out loud if the could possibly be making an unexpected stop at Black Point just a few miles south.  If so, the likely hood of making their scheduled flight is on “Bahamian time” and we know what that means.




We got an email the next day and sure enough, they did make a stop, unscheduled, to Black Point.  The pilot had to pick up another passenger.  J&F said she was a big fat black lady and when they escorted her to the plane, the “attendant” said “She’s not going to fit!” and the big fat black lady stared Joe straight in the eyes and said “Get in da back!”  Joe said there was no arguing with that and he quickly got in a small space in the back and in to the plane comes the huge black lady.  Somehow she fit, I guess, and off they went to Nassau.  They luckily made their connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale with only 10 minutes to spare after running all the way to their gate.  That’s the Bahamas!  

Day at the Dock

I am nursing a cold and we’re just lying low for the day, doing laundry, reading, napping and just watching the goings on at the marina docks.  Ziggy keeps pawing my leg and looking up at my as if to ask “Where are Joe and Fran?”  He became very attached to them while they were here.  It made me feel a little sad.

Boats are coming and going, some just little small fishing skiffs, one is playing the same tune over and over as he scrubs the salt and fish smell off his boat.  It’s some kind of reggae.  Some blacks are sitting at their hangout on the dock, a little benched area under a palapa.  They are yelling and laughing loudly.  Mega yachts appear on the horizon, traveling across the surreal turquoise waters.  They come and go all day like some amazing mansions skirting across the horizon. 

The Trade Winds are constantly blowing, as they usually do, always blowing, always busy, never resting but gently cooling us a bit on this hot humid day.  Boats come in to the docks loaded with mahi mahi and mackerel and the little shaded fish cleaning stand, under another palapa, is busy all day, as fishermen are filleting their catches and tossing the scraps into the surrounding shallow waters, filled with nurse sharks and huge stingrays, begging for scraps.  The black Bahamian fisherman walks through the shallow water amidst the sharks to get something out of his skiff.  He is not the least bit concerned about the surrounding giant sharks and sting rays who could care less about him.  They are intent on catching a delicious piece of scrap fish thrown to them and then when it hits the water there is flurry of tails and fins flapping in the waters in a mad feeding frenzy.  Life is good here. 




People are on the move, from one anchorage to the next or heading out the cut to the Atlantic going south to Black Point or George Town.  The weather is at its best today, calm and peaceful, compared to the frequent fronts, and it shows with the migration of boats.  We see some come and go, some are familiar faces and familiar boats, as the stops are all the same.  We all migrate to the same places.  It’s almost surreal the beauty and the boats we see in the distance from this wide vantage point.  We can see a boat in full sail out in the Atlantic rounding behind a small cay, and inside on the banks, we see the many little cays with their pure white empty beaches.  In the distance, big white yachts are weaving their way through the dark blue deeper channels, unmarked only by the color of the water. 

We saw “Scoter”, the sailboat with our Maine friends that we met in Nassau, going by early this morning, heading to Black Point.  We hailed them on the radio and wished them a good trip and hoped secretly that we’ll catch up with them at the next chance meeting. 

Things were quiet and nice but as the weather improved the marina got more crowded.



Lady Tricia, or more appropriately, “Lady Stinko”, was a green hulled motor yacht with a crew of 3 and two guests that pulled in the day we arrived and completely blocked our view.  It ran its generators non-stop the entire three days it stayed beside us at the docks.  It became quite annoying and unbearable especially when the winds died down, and the heat and humidity rose in the evenings.  It generated a continuous disgusting poisonous cloud of fumes.  We coughed our way through the days and nights next to them.  When he arrived, we immediately noticed the sputtering of his smoky, noisy generator as it coughed and spewed just below the water line.  We became acutely aware of the stink and noise and when the wind blew it directly into our portholes it became obvious that we were going to have a miserable stay with them beside us.


Larry asked the captain if he was going to be running the generator all the time and the captain rudely answered him, “Yes!” as he climbed aboard and slammed the door in his face.  Later, I guess, realizing how rude he’d been, said he’d run the generator on the other side during the day and the one on our side during the night.  At least we knew when to close our portholes.  Our only break was if the winds picked up and blew the stink away from us but that wasn’t always the case.  We still haven’t figured out why boats have to run their generators at the dock when there is perfectly good power.

Finally, they left and we secretly cheered as they faded into the distance, that green hulk of bad breath, but not long after they left a small sports fisher arrived behind us and could not seem to get his power loads sorted out and he too ended up running his generator and engine for hours each day and several hours at night.  The fumes this time were blowing right out his stern and directly in our salon.  I was suffering from this darn cold and cough and felt like I couldn’t breathe. 



As the weekend got closer, more boats came in.  It was a whole new breed of boats, those with loud stereos, noisy jet skis, loud drunk parties, fat girls sunning themselves in way too small bikinis and thong swim suits on the bows of their boats.  It became a disgusting display of loud mouths.  What happened?  We don’t have a clue but suddenly it was a different environment and one that didn’t go with the beautiful surroundings.  Do you ever feel embarrassed about your fellow Americans when you are in a foreign country?  Well, this was an example of poor behavior to the max.  It was just a bunch of obnoxious loud mouth showy boaters who had no consideration for anyone but themselves.  We should’ve have left but I was still sick and Larry was giving me a chance to rest and get better.



We just laid low the best we could and didn’t do much except take a dinghy ride each afternoon and explore the beautiful surroundings.  We found the most beautiful place nearby and rushed to enjoy it every afternoon.  It was just inside the Atlantic cut and on the point where some say Columbus made his first landing.  There is a small pile of rocks there to serve as a informal monument.  We instead were fascinated by the small protected lagoon which had a small rock ledge formation that separated the calm lagoon with the wild Atlantic just inches away.  It was an amazing place and we would come at different times of the tide to see the changing landscape.  Someday the Atlantic would be rough and strong and others it was calm as the lagoon.  It was a great place to swim and hunt for shells and just relax.  Ziggy loved it and would entertain himself for hours swimming and hunting for crabs and fish.  Some parts of it were totally rocky and arid looking much like a moon scape.  We would hunt for shells and examine the rocks and marine life.  It was spectacularly beautiful.






We made the decision during our stay in Staniel Cay that we would go no further south.  We were anxious to get back now.  I couldn’t swim or snorkel because of my cough and cold and that’s really what a lot of the Exumas are all about.  Larry doesn’t swim, so that counts him out.  We decided we had seen the beauty of the area and it was time to head back.  We decided our next stop would be Compass Cay.  We had tried to reach it by dinghy with J&F but the seas were too rough to make it in the dinghy.  Someone at Staniel Cay said it was beautiful and quiet and the setting was amazing so that’s what we wanted right about now.  So the next day we headed out.

We were anxious to get out of Staniel Cay, which at first was quiet and now had become Grand Central Station of loud mouths, drunks and show offs. 



The morning of the day we were leaving, the stinky sports fisher behind us, decided they were going to head to Nassau.  It wasn’t a particularly good day weather wise to head to Nassau but they didn’t seem to do anything quite right since they pulled into the dock behind us, and they had a schedule.  They continued to run the dam generator the whole time at the dock and it was terrible and inconsiderate.  Larry was polite but had told him several times his smoke and exhaust was blowing right into us but he just couldn’t seem to get his power sorted out so we just gave up.  We don’t know what his problem was but I was so glad to see him go. 



He really didn’t seem to know what he was doing from start to finish during his visit.  At one point his boat almost banged into ours as he didn’t have his boat tied properly.  Larry had to tell him they were about to bang into us and he needed to tighten up his spring line.  When they finally were leaving, it was windy & Larry went out to help them with the lines and they undid one of the lines from the boat and left it on the dock.  I don’t quite understand how they did that but never the less, he swung around the end of the dock and thought he’d come up to the fuel dock and have someone throw him the line but he was driving the boat all over the place erratically.  I actually thought he was going to run right into the two big yachts on the outside dock.  I just couldn’t believe my eyes nor could anyone else.  Finally, the captain on the big beautiful yacht beside us called Gi Gi, got in his dinghy and took the line out to him as it was obvious he didn’t seem capable of getting his boat safely in close enough to get it on his own. 



Once he got the line, he turned his boat and headed right out over the reef by the dock and ran momentarily aground! We could hear his props grind on it.  We all watched as he limped off the reef and out to the banks at a snails pace.  He obviously was damaged.  Did he think he could make it to Nassau?  He’s nuts.  About an hour later you could see he had turned around on the horizon and was heading back.  What a goof. 



It was now approaching high tide and we needed to get on our way as we had to time our arrival at Compass Cay on high tide because it had a very shallow entrance that could be managed only on higher tide.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, just as we were getting ready to leave, ding bat was back with his damaged prop.  He was limping into the marina and we had to wait for him to get docked.  He was blocking the channel out and then everyone ran to get him to the dock safely after his last display.  He delayed us about 45 minutes which created problems for us at the other end on our arrival at Compass Cay.

I was so glad to get the heck out of this place!


Back to TOP