Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thunderball Cave and other adventures in Paradise

A view of fish in the grotto.  The striped ones are sergeant majors.
 The famous view underwater in the grotto -- featured in the James Bond movie

Looking towards the entrance of the grotto.  Note sunlight overhead.

A view of the reef outside the cave.  Sorry about my finger on right side!

Scott serenading Tess on her birthday.

Tess cuts the cake as Tony looks on.
Sunday, 30 January, 2011

We're still anchored here off Big Majors Spot and have had a wonderful time in this area.  We snorkeled at Thunderball Cave on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings with various sailing friends.  This is the famous site featured in the 1964 James Bond movie "Thunderball" and it is a magical spot to snorkel in.  You go at slack low tide and snorkel in under protruding rocks to enter an amazing grotto with sunlight streaming in from holes in the ground above.  The fish there are used to being fed by snorkelers so they are teeming around you and the variety is impressive.  We saw tons of sergeant majors (small striped fish), a huge Nassau grouper, colorful parrot fish and many others.  Thanks to our friends, we discovered that the reef outside the opposite side of the grotto is very healthy and we saw beautiful sea fans, sponges and various corals there along with even more varieties of fish.  I tried to get some photos with my new underwater camera Drew gave me for Christmas so enjoy the pix.  Photos don't do it justice, unfortunately.

Along with the wonderful snorkeling at Thunderball, we've enjoyed meeting many sailors from all over.  One night, Tess organized an impromtu happy hour get-together on a small beach nearby and we had folks there from England, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and the U.S.  It's so wonderful how cruisers are all so friendly and helpful to each's easy to make new friends here!

Speaking of friends, our good friend Tess had a birthday on Thursday so we enjoyed having her and Tony over for drinks at sundown that evening.  Tony had tipped us off the day before about her birthday and told us that they were in Cabo San Lucas last January 27th and a mariachi band serenaded her then.  Sooooo.....I suggested that Scott could play "Happy Birthday"on the bagpipes.  Tony loved the idea so, sure enough, once we'd had a couple of drinks and chatted, here came Scott with his bagpipes.  She was totally surprised and delighted with his rendition of Happy Birthday to You, Scotland the Brave and a finale of Amazing Grace.  Apparently, many of the other cruisers anchored nearby were also pleased with the concert since we heard lots of whistling and cheering.  We then had some chocolate cake and Tess suggested we all go over to a nearby catamaran and share the cake with the folks partying there.  What a great idea!!  Dream Catcher was having a rockin' good time with owners Gary and Jayne joined by Varina and Silvio from Blues Breakers.  They were delighted with the arrival of chocolate cake since they had all just been discussing their craving for dessert when Tess's voice came floating across the anchorage "Does anybody want chocolate cake??"  They all thought they were hearing things until we dinghied over with the cake.  What a fun evening!!

We'd both read about how helpful cruisers are to each other but we found out firsthand this week.  Wednesday night after the beach gathering, we got back on our boat and started the engine to heat water for showers.  After a minute or so, we heard a terrible noise and Scott figured out it was coming from the engine compartment.  We quickly shut off the engine but, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.  We had cooked our starter.  Somehow, the key had gotten stuck in the "start" position on the engine and it only took minutes to kill the starter.  When we got on the radio the next morning and called another boater for help diagnosing the problem, other boaters heard our plight and one, from La Buena Vida, offered his spare starter to us.  It happened to be the wrong size for us but we were so amazed at his generosity and can't wait to see him again in George Town to thank him.  Murray from Windswept 4 came to our aid and spent roughly an hour diagnosing our problem ( definitely a cooked starter ) and he gave us great information re: how to get a replacement flown in.  Lucky for us, Staniel Cay has an airport and the Watermakers Air company here has 2 daily flights from Florida.  Scott has been telling me how cruising is really all about "fixing your boat in exotic places" and now I understand.

Tess and Tony from Endurance were very gracious and lent us a cell phone, enabling Scott to track down a replacement starter in Florida.  We went over to Staniel Cay Yacht Club (they manage Watermakers Air issues) and Scott got the part ordered and the paperwork arranged for the air delivery of the part.  Stu and Tony from Georgia E were also very kind to lend us their cell phone for other calls related to the part.  All of our sailing friends were wonderful support as we waited for the new starter to arrive and we are very grateful to everyone.

Happily, after we snorkeled yesterday morning, we headed over to the yacht club and there was our package!!  We dinghied back to the boat and Tony Marts from Endurance came over and helped Scott put on the new starter.  Then Tess and I did the "drum roll" like in Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation movie and I turned the key.  Hallelujah!!!  The engine came alive and life was good again. 

Today, we are going to refill our water tanks at the yacht club with their wonderful reverse osmosis water and Tony and Tess will join us at the bar for some dominoes and perhaps cribbage.  They're avid cribbage players and are teaching us the game.  We plan on heading over to Black Point settlement some time tomorrow where they have a real laundry so we can get some clothes washed.

Life is good and we are blessed.  Stay warm and healthy!

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