Exumas – The First Ten Days
We arrived on Allen’s Cay ten days ago and it has been fun and, sometimes, a wild and hairy ride!
Allen’s Cay is one of the more popular Exuma starting points from cruisers coming from the north and it is known for its Exuma Iguanas. As we sat at anchor dozens of tour boats brought people to pester the lives out of the poor creatures. Though from what we could see the vast majority of the visitors were well behaved towards them.
Paul did try and send up the drone,but it turned out that it was too windy. When bringing the drone back to the boat Paul had to catch it rather than try landing it – and one of the propellers got him nicely on the arm! He is waiting for someone to ask him what happened so that he can answer “got cut up by a prop!”
We spent a couple of night at anchor here before moving south in pleasant weather to Hawksbill Cay, using the shallower western side of the islands. The chart directions were “Visual Piloting Required, navigate around the coral heads!” We had read that this Cay was one of the most beautiful, if not THE most beautiful of the cays. Looking around while at anchor we couldn’t see much to wonder at, but then we climbed aboard the dinghy and motored around the south end of the cay to see beautiful long, sheltered, shallow, sandy beaches. And the water was gin clear.
Unfortunately that night the wind turned to the west and increased in intensity. This was now a strong on shore wind. We had our 75 pound anchor and 80 foot of chain out in 10 feet of water and our anchor snubber* on. We got pretty well tossed around all night. Paul sat up for about four hours during the worst of it to make sure we were not dragging the anchor towards shore. Two other boats had joined us and picked up moorings and were also being tossed around.
The wind was still howling from the west the next morning so we decided to head further south to find a better anchorage. We also had to be at Great Exuma Island by Friday to pick up guests that were flying into Georgetown Airport. After three hours of heavy seas we arrived at Staniel Cay and tucked ourselves in behind some rocks in a small anchorage right by the marina for shelter. After a few hours the winds died and Sonas sat comfortably.
Staniel Cay is a busy little place. We went up to the Bahama Telephone Company office and bought a Bahamian SIM card and a data plan so we could be connected. We initially got there at 1:45 to find an “out to lunch, back at 1:00” sign on the door. We finally got the card at 3:45!
We visited the two little grocery stores, got rid of a bag of boat trash, and swung by the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. While there we grabbed a dinner menu to take on board. We later called over on the VHF and booked ourselves in. We also had to give them our dinner order at that time as they cook to order. The food later that night was excellent and very good value!
WE remained at Staniel for another night. We had been watching the forecast and saw that there was a front coming through with more very strong winds. So we decided to high-tail it to Great Exuma and get there a day early for the arrival of our guests. We used the Big Rock Cut right there at Staniel through the island chain and turned south towards Emerald Bay and the marina there.
We arrived at Emerald Bay early afternoon on Thursday, backed into our assigned slip, and attached the power and water supplies. Unlike marinas in the US, marinas in the Bahamas charge for water by gallons consumed. This is due to the fact that water is not naturally plentiful in the islands and in most, if not all, of the islands it is made through reverse osmosis – i.e. water makers.
Unfortunately the description of the marina that we read on the cruising guide was not accurate. There was no restaurant, store, bar etc. at the marina, though it was obvious that the building was designed to include those. So we walked about a mile down the road to the little Emerald Bay bar and grill. We were warmly greeted by the waitress and handed menus with the advice that “we do not have a soup of the day, any salad, and no grouper.” So we had a couple of burgers!
On Friday Hubert and Carolyn arrived. We got them stowed away and a cup of tea on the table. Again another front had come through and the wind was howling nicely through the marina. Based on the forecast it would be best to stay at Emerald Bay until Sunday. So we took walks on the beautiful crescent shaped beach, walked to the liquor store for some rum, and generally took the time to catch up.
Sunday came with calm wind – initially! We filled our water tank, settled our bill at the marina, and headed north along Exuma Sound in around 3000-4000 feet of water! We were headed for back to Big Rock Cut Cut and Staniel Cay again. About half way there the wind, which was from the north and on our nose, got up again and we pounded along for a couple of hours. We made it through the cut safely and anchored behind the little rock islands, one of which was Thunderball Grotto, which we planned on snorkeling.
We ate on board and then settled down for the night. Unfortunately the wind got up again and for some reason the snubber did not do its job. As the boat moved around the anchorage it moved the chain along the sand making a grinding noise. Paul had to get up and reset the snubber, By then the noise had woken everyone up. We did get back to sleep though.
The next morning we decided that we were too close to a sailing catamaran that was nearby so we decided to move away and re-anchor. We started the engines, lifted the anchor, moved about 200 feet away and re-set the anchor. It was then that Paul looked around to see if we were now far enough away from the catamaran, to see our dinghy floating free! He ran through the salon peeling off his shirt, past a startled Carolyn, and dove into the water to chase down the wayward boat! He got to the dingy and then couldn’t get over the side and on board. So he abandoned the dinghy, swam to a nearby boat, climbed on board, and then they used their boat to go get the dinghy, which had been snagged by another boater in his dinghy! The day was saved! Later we took a bottle of wine to each boat as a thank you!
As we maneuvered the boat we had forgotten to shorten the line on the dinghy and it got around a prop. We have line cutters on our props and they did their job – severing the dinghy line! No damage apart from our pride!
It was only 10:0 am and already the day was full!
We went ashore, got some bread and milk from the grocery store, and booked in for dinner at the Yacht Club. We went back to Sonas and waited for slack tide*. We then dinghy’d across to Thunderball Grotto and snorkel into the cave. It was quite an experience. Thunderball Grotto received its name from the James Bond movie “Thunderball,” which, along with “Never Say Never Again,” was filmed there.
We had a very pleasant and good quality meal at the yacht club, then we introduced Hubert and Carolyn to the card game Sevens before turning in.
The next morning we tried to contact the Exuma Land and Sea Park over VHF to get our name on the list for a mooring ball. Unfortunately we were too far away and we could not contact them. So we upped anchor and moved around the corner from Staniel to Big Major Cay. We anchored above beautiful clear sandy water. Paul snorkeled out along our chain and inspected the anchor, which was well planted!
We watched as boats brought visitors to see the swimming pigs on the beach. Then when it was quieter we went ashore with some stale bread that we have saved to meet the pigs. See hilarious video below for the result!
More as we move north towards the Exuma Land and Sea Park and then Highborne Cay!
Video of Sian and Carolyn “feeding” the wild pigs!
*An anchor snubber is a rope, often with a rubber strip in the middle, that attaches to the anchor chain, and then is tightened to take the strain from the portion of the anchor on the bow of the boat and nearest the boat. This rope then takes any “bounce” and movement from the chain and does a number of things. First it holds the chain lower in the water giving a more horizontal pull of the anchor itself, allowing it to dig in better. It takes the energy from any wave movement of the boat so allowing the chain to stay steady and not impact the anchor. Finally it deadens any noise from coming along the steel chain and onto the boat, especially during sleep hours.
* Slack tide is that time where the tide is changing from going out to coming in, or vice versa, and the water is not moving.