Thunderball Grotto!

Sunday, the 22nd of February was likely to be our last day in Staniel Cay. The next day we planned to start inching our way northward, back to Spanish Wells to await a weather window to cross the Northeast Providence Channel back to the Abacos. We hoped to take a week to ten days to do that however, stopping for several days in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

The day started with a dinghy ride to the yacht club to go to church. There is only one church on Staniel Cay, the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. It was unlike any Baptist church we’ve been to in the states. The worship was almost identical to the worship I and my wife grew up with in the Pentecostal church. There was a lot of shouting and praying loudly and singing the same chorus over and over. We stayed for the worship, prayer and offerings, but had to leave prior to the preaching. It was noon and we had a busy day planned. We walked the quarter mile or so back to the yacht club and had lunch. Cindy loves the club sandwich (which is, in fact, excellent) and I love the blackened mahi sandwich. Mmmmm! We then sat in the dining room for a little over an hour for wifi access. I was able to put up another blog and get one ready to publish for the next day. Afterwards, we watched a couple feed frozen squid to the nurse sharks out by the yacht club docks before picking up a couple of bags of ice and heading back to Beatitude.

Beautiful Bougainvilleas

Beautiful Bougainvilleas

Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Staniel Cay

Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Staniel Cay

Blue Reflections on the Wood Ceiling from the Stained Glass

Blue Reflections on the Wood Ceiling from the Stained Glass

Looking out the windows of the church: Blue beyond Blue

Looking out the windows of the church: Blue beyond Blue

Staniel Cay Marina, taken on our walk back from church

Staniel Cay Marina, taken on our walk back from church

The Dinghy beach from our lunchtime table at the Restaurant

The Dinghy beach from our lunchtime table at the Restaurant

Enjoying lunch time

Enjoying lunch time

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Nurse Sharks hanging out in the marina

Nurse Sharks hanging out in the marina

The weather today had finally calmed to 10-15 knot winds. So… we decided to snorkel Thunderball Grotto. This spectacular, sunlit, underwater cave was made famous by the 1965 James Bond film, Thunderball, starring Sean Connery as Bond. There is a cool picture in the yacht club of the film crew hanging out. There are three entrances to the grotto, all of which are underwater at high tide, requiring one to dive briefly underwater to enter the cave. At low tide however, one can snorkel right in. We decided to go at low tide since Cindy would not be up for diving to enter.

Dinghy ride back to Beatitude

Dinghy ride back to Beatitude

So, around 3:15 we reboarded Dalí to head over to the grotto, which is right around the corner from our anchorage. Before leaving our anchorage, however, we took a side trip over to Hog Beach where we were the only boat around. A large hog immediately hit the water and started swimming toward us for food. While feeding him, we actually drifted quite a ways from the shore. I was a little concerned about the poor pigs stamina in being able to make it all the way back to the beach. I shouldn’t have however. His swimming muscles are obviously in shape as he handled it with no problem.

One more time with the swimming pigs!

One more time with the swimming pigs!

Please feed me!

Please feed me!

Once at the grotto, we dropped our dinghy anchor in about 12-15 feet of water and jumped overboard. Unfortunately for Cindy, she just could not get comfortable this time with her mask and snorkel and decided to get back in the dinghy. I went on in alone. It really was magnificent. Several holes in the roof of the cave allow sunlight to shine in from above. Hundreds of fish, used to being fed by snorkelers, gather around you upon entering the cave. There was a great variety of fish inside: Sergeant Majors, French Grunts, Squirrelfish, Rainbow Parrotfish, Yellowtail Snapper, Queen Angelfish, Wrasses, and many more. The water was clear and beautiful. At first there were two other people in the grotto with me, but they soon left and I had the place to myself. How wonderful it was!

Thunderball Grotto

Thunderball Grotto

Ready to enter Thunderball Grotto.

Ready to enter Thunderball Grotto.

Inside Thunderball Grotto

Inside Thunderball Grotto

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

A look at the top of the Grotto - several holes through which sunlight fills the cave

A look at the top of the Grotto – several holes through which sunlight fills the cave

Before returning to Beatitude, I snorkeled briefly around the exterior of the grotto, enjoying the beautiful coral and a few more fish. Once back in the dinghy, Cindy wanted to drive Dalí back to Beatitude. I gladly let her as she does not drive it nearly enough to be really comfortable with it. So, that was good. Upon our arrival to our mother ship, I jumped in the water once again for a little more fun. I snorkeled up to our anchor and noted that it was still buried, but had twisted in place in the spot that we had dropped it five nights ago. The wind has done nearly a 360° since then. It was cool to see the patterns in the sand made by our anchor chain radiating out in each direction. Along the way I spotted a crab playing with our anchor chain. I also spotted two flounder, well-disguised in the sand. Once I took my eyes off them, it was difficult to find them again.

A fan coral outside the grotto

A fan coral outside the grotto

Outside the Grotto

Outside the Grotto

Cindy in charge of Dalí

Cindy in charge of Dalí

Our anchor firmly set in the sand

Our anchor firmly set in the sand

Impressions from our chain anchor rode

Impressions from our chain anchor rode

Cindy enjoying the water off the back of the boat

Cindy enjoying the water off the back of the boat

After playing for a while in the water, I ascended the swim ladder and rinsed the salt water off of me and the snorkeling equipment. I then radioed the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park to be put on a waiting list for their moorings in the park. Tomorrow, we plan to weigh anchor and head a few miles northward.

Sunset over the Big Majors Spot anchorage

Sunset over the Big Majors Spot anchorage

Setting sun

Setting sun

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