Crossing from Nassau to the Exumas

It’s been a week since we last were able to find internet access! Thanks for your patience! We are in the Exumas now, and here is the story of our crossing.

After checking the wind forcast, we left Nassau on Sunday morning, hoping the wind would pick up so we could sail the final leg of our trip to the Exumas. Alas, it did not, and we got out onto the Exuma Banks to find the little wind to be on the nose as usual. Tacking into non-existent wind was just not an option, so we ended up motoring across turquoise glass to the Exumas. We found ourselves in the middle of a gigantic swimming pool — water 13 feet deep, so clear you could see right through it to the bottom, for as far as the eye could see. At one point in the afternoon, we decided to just drop the hook and go swimming, as we saw black spots in the water that indicated a coral reef. At first sight it didn’t look like much, but upon closer inspection we saw hundreds of beautiful fish inhabiting a magical underwater wonderland of brightly colored coral. We saw a big lionfish, an “invasive” species of fish that has found itself in the Atlantic, which has no natural predators in this area and is said to be responsible for killing coral reefs. This fish is threateningly awesome to witness with it’s large spiny display of venom. It screams “don’t mess with me”, although we’ve been told to kill them if we see them, as they are so deadly to the magnificent variety of life in the coral reefs here.

Wee Happy in Allen's Cay, Exumas

We arrived in late afternoon at Allen’s Cay, a group of several islands. A perfectly protected anchorage surrounded by islands awaited us, and we dropped the parking hook in the most amazing lapis colored water. The color of the water in this place amazed us each and every time we looked out upon it. We would look out at it and be stunned speechless, then go back in the cabin to get something and come back out and be completely stunned all over again. This is one of the most stunning anchorages I have ever been to, and hope to return to again. Did I mention the water is stunning? The islands themselves are rather dry and scrubby, but the Bahamas is all about the color of the water. Stunning. We both jumped in for a swim right off the sailboat as soon as we arrived, the water was so inviting. The water was so clear, it was deceptive how deep it was. I looked down through my snorkel and saw sand just below my feet and thought it was shallow enough to touch the bottom, only to find it was stil 10 feet deep. I swam to the beach nearby and checked out the iguana population. Yes, that’s right. Iguanas. These cays are known for being the last place on earth to find a population of Bahamian Iguanas, which are now an endangered species. They seem to be doing fine on these islands, however, and when you walk on the beach they will walk right up to you, expecting food. Lots of tour groups come here with people giving free handouts to the iguanas, and they have become quite used to people.

That evening we were invited to dinner aboard Sea Wolff. Robert had caught a gigantic pompano fish the day before, and we helped them finish off the last of it, while enjoying a maginifect lightning show in the distance up the on the top deck of their glorious 47 foot catamaran.

The next day we inflated our dinghy and explored the islands around us. The first beach we went to was small, but with sizable conch graveyard around it. Thousands of conch shells were discarded on the beach, greyed and bleached by the sun to look like rocks. The rocks themselves were sharp and jagged, and looked like they were hungry to eat boats alive. The islands here are harsh, arid, and covered in sharp rocks and scrubby bushes. It’s not a very inviting landscape, and there is no shade.

The big daddy rock iguana in Allen's Cay, Exumas

The second island we visited had one lone coconut palm providing a wee bit of shade, and we longed to set up camp underneath it, if it were not for the slightly aggressive iguanas looking to us for food. But there was an idyllic beach with shallow warm water where we could at least escape the sun’s heat by getting wet. On the third island, we found a concrete building whose roof had collapsed and was now in ruins. The walls were covered in graffiti written by various sailors who had also found this lone building.

After returning to Wee Happy to find reprieve from the relentless sun, we decided to move on to the next cay in the Exuma chain, Highborne Cay. The Exumas are a long chain of islands only a few miles apart, and so it is a sailor’s dream. Finally we can just sail from island to island, finding a sweet anchorage at each one. And FINALLY the prevailing East winds are not on the nose — the chain lays in a north – south direction, so we can sail from one island to another on an easy reach. Ahhh, sweet sailing at last! We deserve this!

Ahhhh, but maybe it’s not so sweet after all. After a recent incident with the boom that nearly ripped Lala’s arm off, she has developed a severe paranoia of the boom. To get out of the anchorage we had to sail downwind, and Lala became unreasonably panicked about the remote possibility of the boom jibing to the other side and taking someone’s head off in the process. Lala lost all her hard earned confidence in sailing and became a fearful wreck. Communication between Captain and Skipper dissolved until saling became difficult, and almost impossible. But somehow we managed to get the boat pointed in the right direction and an hour or so later sailed into the Highborne Key anchorage, where we again dropped our parking hook only a few yards from the beach.

That night we had a long conversation that went nowhere about our upcoming plans (or lack of plans) for the summer. We need to go back to New England and move our yurt that is in upstate New York, but there are a long list of unknowns in the situation that make it very difficult to make any decisions. It is especially hard to plan concrete details about the future when we are in a turquoise paradise surrounded by white sand beaches. So we went to bed.

The next day we slept in a wee bit. Got up to coffee and breakfast that consisted of potatoes and eggs. We took the dinghy into the marina that is on Highborne Key, where we got gas and some water. We took a look in the marina store, that had a great selection of essential items at ridiculous prices. $9 for a box of Cornflakes?!? $60 for a scrub brush to clean your deck?! But the 200 foot mega yachts that were docked there probably wouldn’t blink at those prices. This is the playground of the rich, and we are just lucky enough to anchor here for free.

We then decided to check out the coral reefs near the anchorage. The main activity around here really is the snorkeling. The winds were strong, and the waves a bit rough, but we went out in the dinghy anyway, and anchored near the reef. Below the surface of the water was a miniature magical bonsai forest, teeming with many kinds of coral, like long spongey yellow and purple fingers, little tree like corals, waving fans, and squiggly brain coral. Nooks and pockets and holes provided protection for hundreds of technicolor fish. We saw bright indigo blue fish that looked like they were glowing, they were such a bright blue. A humbling reminder of the vast diversity of precious, gorgeous life on this planet.

For the last few days we have been looking for our friends Mimi and Richard, on the catamaran Maffick, who we met in Andros. We were supposed to meet them in the Exumas, but haven’t found them yet. We’ve been calling them on the radio but have not reached them. We decided to press on to the next cay in hopes of finding them there. Norman’s Cay was just 5 miles from Highborne Cay, an easy hour sail. We sailed into the anchorage under the jib alone as the winds were nearly 20 knots. We managed another crash landing anchoring job under sail alone, only to realize we were too close to other boats and decided to move to another spot with the motor. We anchored right off the calm, long white sand beach in 6 feet of water, while all the other boats were way far out, rocking and rolling in the surge. No sign of Maffick. Oh well. This is our view!

Our view from Allen's Cay

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2 thoughts on “Crossing from Nassau to the Exumas

  1. Larry

    So relieved to get your blog! A week without hearing from you was stressful as I guess I am spoiled. Glad all is well as prayers continue daily for you!

    Love Dad

  2. s/v Gemini Dreams

    Wooo Hoooo. Allen’s Cay I want to take my son sooooo bad! He would live with lizards if he could. He is kind of a Jane Goodall of the lizard kingdom. He just can’t get enough. Glad all is good. Hope Lita’s arm is all good. Rig a preventer! and keep on going. Even a 1:1 line will work.



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