Staniel Cay

 

Our next stop after Black Point was Staniel Cay, an easy, lazy 11 nautical miles up the Exumas.  With one of the few places to get diesel and water in the area, Staniel Cay was the busiest place we had been since leaving Georgetown and it was initially a little jarring.  I can only imagine how much starker the contrast will be when we return to the United States at the end of the month!  Boats ranging from regular to mega yachts went in and out of the harbor, and the anchorage was busy with dinghies of all types and sizes zooming back and forth.

Despite all of the activity, we really enjoyed Staniel Cay.  The water was crystal clear and had the most beautiful shades of blue that we had seen so far.  The pictures really couldn’t capture it.

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A return to Little Bay – and our first blowhole!

As you can probably tell, we are not dawdling quite as much as we typically do.  Even though it feels like we just got here, it’s actually been a few months and we need to start thinking about the timing for sailing back to Connecticut.  We would love to stay longer, but we also want to spend some time in Connecticut and in the Chesapeake as we go south again.  As Jeff pointed out, it took us so long to get down here that in order to get somewhat back on track, something was going to have to get cut short.

We decided that a maximum of three months in the Bahamas was going to have to suffice this time.  We’ll make up for it next season.  We need to get back to Connecticut by the end of June for doctor appointments, so as a result we’re skipping up the Exumas with an eye towards crossing back to the United States by the end of April.  However, we are definitely taking notes on where we’d like to spend more time when we return at the end of the year!

One repeat visit for us already on this trip was Little Bay on Great Guana Cay.  Looking at the forecast we were going to be getting some westerly winds in the mid-teens for half a day before the wind clocked to the northwest and around.  One thing that the Exumas lacks are an abundance of anchorages with westerly protection.  Little Bay was only 10 nautical miles away from Little Farmers Cay, and while it was open to the west, we could tuck in and get protection once the wind turned to the northwest.  Bonus points for it being a lovely anchorage and a 45 minute walk into Black Point, which is a settlement where we hoped to be able to pick up a few provisions.

We had a nice, lazy, jib-only sail of 12 nautical miles from Little Farmers to Little Bay.  Although the wind was supposed to be light, it started turning west and picking up speed as we approached Little Bay.  By the time we anchored we already had two to three foot swells in the anchorage.  Good times – not.  Tom and Anita from S/V Lone Star pulled in a few hours later and although we had planned to get together that evening we decided to postpone until the next day given the conditions.

As the evening progressed the wind started to shift, but the wave direction didn’t.  This put the waves on our beam with Pegu Club rolling side to side, side to side, around 20-30 degrees at a time.  It was an absolutely sleepless night for both of us.  I wanted to set a swell bridle but we had never done it before and Jeff didn’t want to set it up in the dark.  While in hindsight this was obviously the right decision, it didn’t make the night any easier.  Finally we both fell asleep around 4:00 a.m.  The rolling hadn’t stopped, but we were so tired it didn’t matter.

The next day Tom and Anita came over and cheered us on while we rigged up a swell bridle.  The relief from the swell was immediate, and we won’t hesitate to do that again in the future.  Tom, Anita, and I decided to walk into the settlement while Jeff opted to stay on the boat and rest, feeling especially tired from our sleepless night.  I was on a quest to buy some bread from Mama, who reportedly made the best bread in the Exumas.

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Rudder Cut Cay and Little Farmers Cay.

As we head north we are trying to sail on the shallower Exuma Banks side as much as we can so we can enjoy the beautiful colors of the water.  To get from Leaf Cay to Rudder Cut Cay we were going to need to go around the Pimlico Cays which have low water depths of under 4′ (which is less than our draft).  Additionally, the chart indicated that the sand shifted so it was possible it could be shallower.

After asking about it on a Facebook group we belong to, we were encouraged by our friends on S/V Duchess who had been through the area a few weeks earlier with a draft 2″ deeper than ours.  High tide was in our favor so we decided to go for it, and we were glad we did.  It was a nice route, and once again it boosted our confidence a bit.

Dropping the anchor at Rudder Cut Cay, we found to our delight that we had it all to ourselves.  That hasn’t happened since we left the Abacos.  We were a bit surprised because Rudder Cut Cay offered good protection from a strong front that was going to be passing through, but no one joined us until the day we left.  Works for us!

Rudder Cut Cay is a private island owned by David Copperfield.  While we weren’t allowed to walk on the beach, we were still able to enjoy one of the prettiest anchorages that we have seen on this trip.

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Iguanas!

Our first stop after leaving Georgetown was Lee Stocking Island.  After motoring out of Georgetown harbor, we enjoyed a lovely downwind sail to Rat Cay Cut.  We motored through the cut (better safe than sorry), but then switched off the engine again and sailed the rest of the way to the anchorage.

As we ghosted between cays and over shallows, I marveled at how much more confidence we’ve gained over the past seven months (wow – can’t believe it’s been that long already!).  It’s a little thing, but I’ve wanted to sail into Block Island’s Great Salt Pond for awhile.  We sailed in once with Little Bristol, but we had the outboard on (in neutral) just in case.  After this sail, I looked at Jeff and said there is absolutely no reason why we can’t sail into the Pond this summer.  We had just sailed between unfamiliar rock islands that are narrower than Block Island’s entrance.  We’ve had the skills for awhile – we just lacked the confidence.  Now we KNOW we can do it.

On our way to Lee Stocking Island:

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Dropping the anchor at Lee Stocking Island, we were joined several hours later by our friends from S/V Lone Star and their guests.  Over the next few days we enjoyed nightly card games on Lone Star, floating on our noodles in the beautiful water, and exploring the abandoned facilities on the island.

Lee Stocking Island was the home of the Caribbean Marine Research Center which was one of six National Undersea Research Centers affiliated with NOAA.  The facility was one of the most productive marine laboratories in the world until it closed due to funding cuts in 2012.  All of the research buildings and residences remain, along with an airstrip, slowly being reclaimed by nature.  It was eerie walking around in what was essentially a tiny abandoned village.

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Rock Sound and Georgetown

When we decided once and for all to go to the Exumas, we determined that our strategy would be to get to Georgetown quickly and then explore as we slowly worked our way north.  We are thinking that for our return visit this fall we will start in the Exumas, so we wanted to see if Georgetown would be a viable base for us in the winter months.  But before we could get to Georgetown, we needed to wait out some weather in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.

Rock Sound proved to be a nice place to spend several days.  The harbor was large with great protection and holding, perfect for riding out several days of winds in the mid-20’s.  Our friends Jay and Tanya from S/V Minx were also in the anchorage so we were able to hang out several times with them (we had last seen them in Vero Beach) which was a lot of fun.  There is a blue hole in the middle of the settlement that we checked out (our first one), and we joined a group of cruisers for lunch at Sammy’s which had good food for a VERY reasonable price.

I have been charmed by the homemade signs all over the Bahamas pointing the way to various attractions.

 

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