We departed Spanish Wells (Eleuthera) on a 12 knot SE wind towards the Exumas. Wind direction put us close hauled for 2/3rds of the trip and then straight into the winds for the last 18 miles. Motor-sailing on Jib and Jigger (Jib and mizzen) kept us at around 6 knots to meet tide timing we needed to cross the Yellow Banks just North of the Exumas. Before we made our turn South, we could make out the Atlantis Resort Towers on Nassau clearly.
This was our first time navigating coral heads in shallow water (10-18 feet). We were conservative in our route planning. It looks a lot different than the map. The sun is your friend between noon and 5 pm…the coral heads are clearly visible in the crystal clear water. They were much farther apart on Yellow Bank than the Middleground area which is why we chose to go around Middleground (as newbies) to find a less riskier path in deeper water.
With Nassau behind us we motored into 15 knot winds to Highbourne Cay and anchored off of the NW beach in about 13 feet of water just after sunset. When darkness fell and the moon rose, you could see the bottom in the moonlight…absolutely beautiful! A full day of movement with 80 degrees and sun sapped us for the night and after securing the decks from sailing we turned in rather early for a great night’s sleep.
Up with the sun on Monday (26 FEB) we surveyed our anchorage and the 14 or so other boats here with us and started our day. Most of our anchorage-mates remain Canadian. A few American flags wee hanging from the sterns, but not many. The bigger yachts (over 100 ft) are flying either Bahamas flags or New Zealand. One super yacht even had a blow-up slide in the water! Not sure if these were high end charters or private floating islands…but they were BIG!
We did some snorkeling along the Western reef of Highbourne Cay. It was beautiful, live coral and lots of colorful fish but nothing next day, we dinghy’d into Highbourne Cay Marina…pretty place but it seemed that most of the big yachts that were in there awaiting the fuel barge since the marina diesel tanks were empty when we called to ask about it. A nice little sundry store was on the property and a beautiful beach with gazebos and netted swimming areas…likely protection from the reef sharks we saw cruising near the docks. The fish cleaning station of their docks was at the end of the pier…and there were no less than 20 nurse sharks hanging out waiting for a fish-bit handout. Some of these bottom feeders were easily 10 feet long!
Gus did his usual doggy thing on the beach (digging holes) and enjoyed the romp but had to stay on the leash since we were in a “resort” setting for “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” Kimberly found some nice bananas at the store and we all enjoyed a soda; dropped off our trash ($5 per bag) and boarded the tender to get back to SV Take Me There for our next short leg to Lobster Cay just a few miles South.
Brandon and I (Steve) have been abject failures at spearing any fish or snaring lobster! Snorkeling is hard work. Current, tides, finding bottom structure (near the boat) and depths are our challenges. We have only been able to snorkel the leeward sides of any cays or islands so far – since the winds and surf on the windward side are usually too rough to take the RIB out into such conditions. We’ve also line fished from the boat and caught absolutely nothing!…maybe we should go take a class or something? Thank goodness we aren’t fishing for our dinner! Not even a “keeping size” conch! Ok – patience “grasshopper” … something will turn up!
The scenery here in the Exumas is beautiful! Every photo we take is something you’d expect to see on a screensaver or a post card. The clarity of the water is amazing! Snorkeling at Lobster Cay, we felt like we were in a big olympic sized swimming pool. We could see literally 100 yards under water. The coral here was amazing and we did see barracuda but nothing else worth chasing with the Hawaiian Sling (spear). Our final stop for this post was Norman’s Cay. This island was a former drug-runner airstrip and is being converted into a luxury marina but is still early into construction. The anchorage is a desert of sand but the water is stunningly blue and the moonlight plays like the sun on the bottom at night. We will try our luck about a half mile away on the leeward reefs for fish/lobster after the sun rises tomorrow.
Until the next post…stay tuned!