Pristine uninhabitated beaches, crystal clear water and smooth sailling grounds make the Exuma Islands the perfect place for cruising. Every morning we wake up, surrounded by unbelievably turquoise water, and it feels like we are dreaming.
At 08:15 on March 5th we pulled up our anchor from Rose Island near Nassau and set our course for the Exumas. Under all three of our full sails we sailed on a beautiful beam reach all the way to Allens Cay. Travelling at about 4 knots, we didn't mind a slower pace as we piloted our way through many coral heads that are present along the Bahamian Yellow Bank. By late afternoon we were anchored at Allens Cay, where we were greated by its only residents - endangered iguanas. It was here that we had to spend the most rolly few days and nights on our boat as a strong cold front stormed through, shoving swell in all directions through the anchorage.
As the winds died down, we were excited to move on to our next stop. We visited Highbourne Cay Marina to refill our water tanks and anchored along a stunning beach for the night. Another storm rolled through and we had another sleepless night as we watched lightning strikes around us all night long and into the late morning, followed by gale force winds. It was the biggest storm that we experienced yet, but we sat snug in our boat, with our anchor clinged to the sandy sea floor.
We made a quick stop at Normans Cay and snorkelled the submerged airplane wreck from the island's previous life as a major drug lord's private hideout. We then sailed to Hawksbill Cay, that lies within the boundaries of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Up until now, most of our anchorages had been pretty crowded, but here we were all by ourselves.
We moored for a few days in Warderick Wells Cay and enjoyed snorkelling beautiful, healthy coral reefs with plenty of fish and pristine white sandy beaches. Cambridge Cay was our last stop within the boundaries of the sea park, and my personal favourite. It had a beatiful hike to Bell Rock, that opened up a breathtaking view where you can see the contrasting turquoise of the Exuma Bank, only 1 to 5 meters deep, and the rich sapphire blue of the Exuma Sound, that drops off to over a kilometer deep. It also has some unique caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations near by, called Rocky Dundas. Magical place.
The next stop was the island that is home to some cute, free running, swimming pigs - Staniel Cay and Big Major Spot. When we arrived, there were probably close to 30 pigs of all different sizes and colours, including some very cute baby piglets. Another cold front passed by, so we hunkered down in Staniel Cay for a few extra days waiting it out and then had a beautiful last sail on the protected Exuma Bank Side to Black Point Cay.
Sailing in the Exumas is safe, pleasant and rewarding. Throughout all of the Bahamas, but especially here, it was important to develop visual piloting skills to avoid dangerous shoals, sand banks and coral heads. Another potential danger is moving through cuts from the shallow Bank side to the deep Sound side. These cuts could become very dangerous if attempted during tides that oppose the wind direction, as these conditions could create standing waves.
Up until Little Farmers Cay we travelled mostly along the Exuma Bank side, giving us great protection from the prevailing wind open ocean swell. Afterwards, the water depth became too shallow for us to sail on the Bank Side, and we hopped through Black Point Cay, Little Farmers Cay and Rat Cay until we made our way to George Town. Some cruisers spend the entire winter in George Town, others treat it as the last stop before they return home to the United States or Canada. For us, it was a place where my childhood friend visited us, and also a place where all three of us swam and played with a wild dolphin right near our boat. Both will be cherished memories for the rest of our lives.
We are now onto our next adventure, exploring the Far Out Islands of the Bahamas. Jeff just finished cleaning DD's propeller and hull, so we can travel a bit faster during our next sails!
Alena, Jeff & Znak