Monthly Archives: March 2019

Working south through the Exuma Cays

Emerald Bay Marina, Great Exuma, Bahamas
Position: 23 37.780N, 075 55.077W

Another “long time … no blog”, and I have no real excuse. We took the worst of the weather at Sampson Cay and on the 10th the wind died enough to jump to the next anchorage which was at Big Majors Spot, anchoring in position 24 11.261N, 076 27.482W. There is good protection from the east winds we were expecting and we wanted to take our traveling buddy Larry to Pig Beach there since he had never been. We fed the pigs table scraps and they were pretty aggressive!

The next day the wind died enough to dinghy over to Staniel Cay and get some gasoline, check out the small grocery stores and have lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The Yacht club was not our first choice, but the other two options for lunch did not have any food left when we got there. After a few rum punches and lunch, we headed back to the boats. We did a few sunset happy hours on Larry’s fly bridge and also did a “drink and drift” one evening. “Drink and drift” is where we tie our dinghies together, drink and drift as we watch the sunset.
The Drink and Drift:
A view from Staniel Cay:
Typical megayacht:

On the 12th we moved on down the cays to Great Guana Cay and the Blackpoint Settlement, anchoring in position 24 06.237N, 076 24.198W. Blackpoint is one of our favorite stops and we took advantage of the protection from north, east and south winds that built up to over 20 knots while we were there. We went to Scorpio’s happy hour 2 days while there and really enjoyed the rum punch special! We ate at Lorraine’s Café 2 nights and were disappointed both times, which surprised us. We usually get good food there. We also went to Deshamons and got pizza one night, which was really good. It was really windy and we didn’t do much else.

We were trying to get down to Emerald Bay Marina on Great Exuma around the 17th because our good friends Bill and Dondi from Southport had booked a room in a resort there so we could all hang out. They were only staying a few days and we were trying to maximize the number of days we could hang together. The weather was not really cooperating, but we built a strategy to move in that direction along the lee side of the cays until we had good enough weather to make an ocean run in Exuma Sound, which was the final leg. On the 15th we moved about 7 miles down Great Guana Cay to an a beautiful secluded beach at a place called White Point, anchoring in position 24 02388N, 076 22.574W. We enjoyed some wallowing on the beach there and all got together for drinks on Larry’s fly bridge. This is the best part of the Exumas…beautiful water, beautiful beaches, and the possibility of seclusion.

The next day we moved 12.65 miles down and anchored off of Cave Cay in position 23 54.421N, 076 16.646W. We spent the afternoon exploring by dinghy. We saw this grotto on Cave Cay:
Then road down to a group of Cays owned by the magician David Copperfield. The scenery was spectacular!
Including another cave:
We snorkeled a spot called “the piano”, where Copperfield sunk a baby grand piano along with a mermaid sculpture:
We then returned to the anchorage and when the tide shifted in the middle of the night, it turned the boat beam to the wind, causing a really bad rolling condition. We didn’t get much sleep, and I actually started to get seasick…my first time ever. The next day we were planning to run Exuma Sound to Emerald Bay. Based on the forecast, it was the best day we had to make the run…seas 2 foot falling to around 1, with winds around 10 knots out of the east. On top of being slightly sea sick, I had a very anxious feeling about making the trip, but we were trying to get to our friends ASAP and all agreed to push on. We went out Cave Cay Cut into the sound and were greeted by 6+ foot seas in the cut, slamming us and showering us with spray. Knowing the cut would be rough we pushed through until we got into the sound. We had 15 knot winds on the nose and 3-5 footers. Every part of me was saying “you need to turn around and wait another day”, but we didn’t want to mess up plans for the other 2 boats so we kept going. Needless to say…another 6 hour ass kicking, and another inaccurate forecast. And another confirmation of the adage “don’t travel based on a schedule”. The marina was nice and calm when we finally got past their break wall, and our friends were there to greet us as we arrived, which was very cool. Since here, we have been hanging with our friends at the nice pool at their resort, had a party on Larry’s fly bridge, and had dinner and played cards 2 nights in their room. It has been a lot of fun and we are honored that they booked their vacation time to be with us. We have never stayed at this marina before. They have nice floating docks and a nice club house for people to hang out. The marina pool is closed and you have to pay 25$ at Bill and Dondi’s resort if you want to spend the day at their pool, or you can pay to have a day pass at neighboring Sandals resort. The showers at the marina are pretty run down and not very clean. They regularly don’t have toilet paper, soap and paper towels in the restrooms. There is a swell with an east wind or northeast wind that causes you to roll at the slip. On top of that, the no-see-ums have been relentless. We haven’t had more than a couple hours sleep every night since we have been here. I am not sure I would stay here again.

We are now facing more high winds in a few days, after which we have maybe 2 days of calmer winds followed by what looks like another week of 20+ knot east winds, and are trying to decide which way to go. We want to go to Long Island, Cat Island, then Eluethera, then the Abacos, then back to the States. Not sure that is possible in the time we have left and the forecast we are looking at right now. We will keep you posted.

Another ass kicking…but we made it to the Exumas!

Sampson Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: 24 12.424N, 076 28.562W
Posted by Bill

While in Palm Cay Marina, the forecast showed 2 days of 10-15 knots of wind and seas of 1-2 feet both out of the SE, then a calm day, then 4 days of 20 knot plus winds out of the north as a front passed through. Overnight in Palm Cay, the winds picked up over 15 and the sea state was looking nasty. Our choices…leave now, make it to the Exumas and find a place to weather north winds, which is not easy in the Exumas, or stay in expensive Palm Cay Marina for a week. We opted to leave. One of the bad things about Palm Cay is that it is a very tight marina with not much room to maneuver a boat like ours. We had to back out of our slip with winds on our stern quarter with barely enough room to get the boat out of the slip and turned around to get out of the marina. I was concerned that as we backed out the wind would grab us before we could get the bow turned into it, pinning us down in the fairway, and that is exactly what happened. Fortunately, the boats on our port side were resting inside the outer pilings, and unfortunately, the boat on our starboard was sticking out into the fairway about 3 feet. I couldn’t clear the boat on the starboard side and we ended up pinned to the pilings of the slips that were on the port side. Thankfully, Tricia was able to push off the bow with a boat hook, and I got the stern off the piling by me just enough to clear the boat that was sticking out, but it was not fun! We motored out into the Banks heading SE, directly into 3-4 foot waves, with occasional 2 footers, all hitting us every 2 seconds. The 2 second wave period was the bitch of it all. We were bashing directly into it. We would get our speed up to 6 MPH briefly and then a series of 3 waves would bash into the bow, throwing it up and slamming it down, slowing us to 3 MPH. Winds were primarily 15-20. This turned a normally 6 hour trip into almost 9 hours of getting slammed. It was absolutely miserable. We anchored at Normans Island in position: 24 36.206N, 076 49.243W. We had cocktails and watched the sunset on the beach.

The next day we left and tried to get into the Warderick Wells north mooring field. This is a great place to sit out a frontal passage, but it was full with a waiting list. We executed the backup plan and went to Cambridge Cay, one of our favorite places. The moorings were all taken and the anchorage was nearly full, but we were able to find a place to drop the hook…position: 24 18.254N, 076 32.444W. Cambridge is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park which is a nature preserve. You can’t take anything (like shelling or fishing) and you can’t leave anything (like trash). It is absolutely beautiful. The weather calmed down and we enjoyed a couple of days there, snorkeling the Aquarium…a really cool reef that looks just like an aquarium (think like Columbus Zoo aquarium exhibit), a sunken plane, and a couple of caves in the Rocky Dundas. The day after we arrived, several people left and all 3 of us were able to get mooring balls, so we decided to weather the first couple of days of the frontal passage at Cambridge. We had decent protection from the winds as they clocked from north to northeast, but there is a strong current that runs SE to NW and put our boat sideways to the wind and waves for a good portion of the days and nights, making us roll side to side.

The winds died a bit on 3/7 and we decided to make a run to Sampson Cay, our absolute favorite anchorage in the Exumas. There is usually no one there, it is very well protected from all winds except west, there are great beaches within a short ride, and if you really need fuel or groceries you can take a long dinghy ride to Staniel Cay. We arrived just before noon and anchored in position: 24 12.424N, 076 28.562W. We were shocked to find the anchorage stacked full of boats! Apparently, our secret anchorage has been discovered…that sucks! I think part of it is that there are a lot more people cruising the Exumas. Normans Island was crowded, Cambridge was very crowded, Warderick Wells is croweded, and we are hearing that Big Majors/Pig Beach is packed full of boats as well as Georgetown. We have noticed this as a trend each year we travel here, with more people every year, and more mega-yachts every year. The mega-yachts are taking over the Exumas and making them a playground for all of their toys. In my opinion, this is ruining the Exumas for the normal cruiser and it is sad to see.

We played bocci ball on the beach in the salt flats of Sampson and had happy hour on Sofia Jeanne and have a very comfortable and protected position for the strong east winds we are expecting for the next 3 days. Then we are expecting a day with winds around 10 knots, immediately followed by several days of 20-25 knot winds. We are going to have to stay hunkered down or travel short distances in protected areas for the duration.

Some pics…..
We had these turtles visit us every day at Cambridge Cay:

One of the views from our mooring in Cambridge Cay:

Sights traveling around Compass Cay on the way to Sampson. The water colors are amazing and the pictures can’t do it justice:

We are anchored in front of this house on Sampson Cay, and another view of some of the boats here:

Breaking Bimini’s hold…and averting a disaster at sea

Palm Cay Marina, New Providence, Bahamas
Position: 25 01.254N, 077 16.460W
Posted by Bill

We finally got a weather window long enough to make our way to the Exumas. The forecast was showing winds around 10 knots for a couple of days with 1-2 foot seas, all out of the south, but by noon on the third day it was going to blow up to 20 knots. Since Larry was single handing on At Ease, we knew we needed to stop for periods of rest and break the trip up into 3 days, anchoring on the Bahama Banks by the Northwest Channel on day one, stopping at Palm Cay Marina on New Providence Island for day 2, and then make the Exumas on day 3. The first 2 legs are 75 mile and 12 hour passages, and the last leg is about 45 miles to Normans Island in the Exumas. The plan was to get to Nassau Harbor by 1 PM the second day before the winds started to build, and then wait in Palm Cay Marina a few days until the winds subsided.

We shoved off on 2/24/19 at about 7:33 AM and headed south to Triangle Rocks to enter the Banks. The seas were really rough, way above the forecast, so we took an hour ass-kicking bashing into them until we got on the Banks where it was on the high side of the forecast. Winds were stronger than forecast, but we could sail so it was comfortable and fast. About 32 miles into the trip, one of the boats started taking on water! We were in the lead and immediately turned around. The three boats drifted as they tried to determine the cause and remedy. After about 30 minutes, they discovered they were not taking any more water on, but needed to get all of the water out before they could continue, which was great because we thought they might be sinking. Water was above the floor boards in the cabin and had covered the drive train, making it impossible to use the motor. Just prior to all this, the winds picked up and the seas built to 3-4 feet, hitting us every 3 seconds…not a fun sea state. Here we are in the middle of nowhere, no other boats, no Coast Guard to help…it was pretty scary. Fortunately they could sail, so we turned back toward Bimini. Cat Cay is on the way back about 20 miles away and we could get assistance there, and maybe make it back to the marina we left in South Bimini, which is what we did. Unfortunately for us, we were going to get to the marina at sunset and also at low tide. There is a rock shelf at the entrance to the marina that carries less than 5 feet at low tide, making it impossible for us to enter. The other 2 boats have a shallower draft and made it in. We motored around in bashing seas for an hour and a half waiting on tide, and by that time it was pitch black. The marina entrance is narrow and surrounded by rock jetties on each side. There is also a short dog leg to the route in. I couldn’t see anything, but I did have a track on my chart plotter that I could follow which was the plan. Unfortunately, when I zoomed into the level I needed, the track would disappear! I radioed Sofia Jeanne and Crabshack H2O (Kurt and Sharon’s new boat) and asked them to lead me in on one of their dinghies. They came out, but we had to abort the first attempt because a fishing boat was coming out of the marina shining a spotlight, blinding me completely. On the second attempt a large swell grabbed the boat at the entrance and pushed us to the right, heading for the rocks, and at the last minute I gunned the engine and pulled out of it, coming really close to a major disaster. We made it in on the second attempt, grabbed a slip, and had several strong cocktails. A really bad and scary day on the water!

Our next weather window was 4 days later. We patched up the boats and waited. This time we had a 4 day window of light winds and calm seas. We left Bimini on 2/28/19 and went about 10 miles to Honeymoon Harbor, just inside the Banks at Gun Cay. We have anchored here before and it is a cool stop…secluded beach, and this is where the stingrays come up and swim around your feet looking for food (people feed them here). We anchored in position 25 35.015N, 079 17.877W, played with the stingrays and had a very nice evening, happy to have broken the hold of Bimini.

The next day we said goodbye to Kurt and Sharon as they were heading to their condo in the Berry Islands, and we motored 68 miles to the Northwest Channel and got an anchor down behind the Northwest Shoal just before sundown in position 25 31.095N, 078 13.148W. We had dinner and drinks watching the sunset. The winds and waves picked up around 2 AM, making the boat roll and making it difficult to sleep. We had planned to leave at 3 AM so that we could get to the Palm Cay Marina before they close at 5 PM, and we departed at 3 AM. The forecast wasn’t accurate, but it was fairly comfortable motoring into the wind and seas until the last hour and a half, where it got really rough. We made it into Palm Cay Marina at 4 PM, fueled up and topped off water, and got some well needed sleep.

Sunset on the Great Bahama Banks: