Bahamas – Visit from friends
Our days in Georgetown were coming to an end and we made our way to Emerald Bay, one of the few marinas in the Exumas. We were looking forward to a visit from friends from Europe. After a long journey, it makes sense to slowly get used to life on board. And a marina is ideal for this – especially in strong winds.
We had a stretch of only 12 nm ahead of us, but it was a tough one. We had to leave the sheltered area of Stocking Island and turn through a cut into the Atlantic. The waves were getting higher by the minute and finally they were crashing over our helm, at a considerable height of 4-5 metres. A vessel that had left with us called us on VHF and turned around: “its not safe” was the message.
We couldn’t argue with that, but we bit the bullet and continued our wild journey. The next few days were going to be even worse and we didn’t want to leave our friends waiting at the jetty. An unpleasant trip ended with one last highlight, the wildest harbour entrance of our sailing career. The waves piled up and broke in front of the entrance. The rising tide gave us a wild dance before the swell calmed down again in the inner harbour. The strong wind remained. We were glad and grateful to have this day behind us as we lay docked, salt-encrusted but safe.
The surroundings of Emerald Bay are like a painting. For Ocean Bight, the coastal designer once again gets the highest rating for the perfect beach.
After two days the wind dropped and the exit from the marina was relaxed. Lee Stocking was our next destination, 22 nm away. A few miles in the Atlantic and then we went through the Rat Cay Cut onto the sheltered west side of the Exuma Sound. These cuts are the inlets from (or to) the Atlantic into the protected Exuma Sound. They are relatively narrow and the Atlantic current is pushed and accelerated. 3-4 kn water currents are normal. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to keep a close eye on the tide. We calculated our arrival at high tide, which means the water was with us and pushed us through the cut at 7 knots. We had calculated the tide correctly, because at the anchorage we had 10-30 cm of water under the keel.
Lee Stocking once housed a maritime research station. Today the buildings are abandoned and the island is uninhabited. This earned it the nickname “Ghost Island”. Our anchorage on the west side was, as always, in the turquoise clear water. A few hundred metres of walking and climbing the 30 m high tip of the island presented us with the clear Atlantic on the east side. From the “height” we saw sunfish and sharks swimming in the clear blue water.
Actually, we wanted to continue to Rudder Cut Cay, but we were not allowed to enter David Copperfield’s private island. So it was Farmers Cay. On this day our friends experienced the Caribbean Big Four: a Mahi-Mahi catch, dolphins in the entrance of the Cut, sharks and turtles at the anchorage. The time was just right and we went through the Cut on the slack tide. Later we heard a radio call advising a vessel two hours after us to wait a few hours “out” on the Atlantic until the tide would come back in. These Bahamas Cuts are really not fun when you miscalculate the tides.
Our anchorage at “Oven Rock” was nice and lonely, but the anchor didn’t hold and it was quite roly. We added another 8 nm and after 30 nm we found a perfect holding at Black Point in Great Guana Cay. Black Point is a large cay with plenty of room for boats and quite poor but expensive restaurants.
Swimming with sharks
The bay was full of nurse sharks and rays. Our first jump into the water was watched by a nurse shark, who swam closer and closer to us with interest accompanied by his two pilot fish. Swimming with sharks is archaic. Assumed they are not bull or hammerhead sharks. Then swimming with someone full of testosterone at the top of the food chain is just plain stupid (Thanks Jeff). Nurse sharks observe curiously, they seem relaxed. And if a swimmer stays relaxed and doesn’t reach out – or even feed – the sharks, it’s not dangerous. They are, of course, hunters and not pets.
We stayed a few days in the bay of Black Point and then strong winds announced themselves again. Staniel Cay became our next destination. This time we could stay in Exuma Sound and didn’t have to go out into the Atlantic. On arrival we were lucky to find a free mooring ball.
Staniel Cay is unusual, but quite nice. There is a tiny marina where almost only motor yachts are moored. A berth costs USD 5.50 per foot of boat length. Compared to that the mooring balls are almost cheap at USD 44 per night. Slowly we realise why the Bahamas have the reputation of being expensive. In the small village shop, a toast and 6 bagels cost 17.50 USD, a measly cauliflower was offered for sale at 8.50 USD. It’s probably still there.
Thunderball and pigs
Staniel Cay is famous for the Thunderball Grotto, where the 1965 James Bond of the same name was set. Now we have also been to a place where Sean Connery spent time. It’s actually a pretty cool grotto, in the middle of an island in the bay. At low tide, all you have to do is dip your head under the water at the entrance and you’re in a partly sunlit grotto, with sand, fish and several underwater exits. We’ll have to watch the James Bond again sometime to see what was made of it.
The second attraction is the Major Cays swimming pigs. This is made into a bigger thing than it is. There are actually some notes squatting on the beach. Well, they swim, but otherwise do what pigs do. Wisely, the boats anchor in another part of the bay, because the water colour on the pig beach is not Bahamas-typical.
After 9 days, our friends boarded the plane back to Nassau. We enjoyed the time with old friends. It reminded us a bit of our former life in Europe. Our journey through the Exumas continues now. Ka and I wish you all a happy Easter. / Holger Binz