Holy blog break, Batman!

Just when I get caught up, I fall behind again. Ah well, such is life when you’re blogging for fun. But now it’s time to start catching up before it’s too late. Prepare for many posts over the next few weeks!

So where did I leave off? Oh yes, the new outboard. We have been cruising with our trusty Honda 2.3 hp outboard since we cut the docklines in 2018. While it didn’t have a ton of power, it was reliable and light enough that even I could remove it from the stern pulpit and hand it to Jeff down in the dinghy.

When we were in Big Majors, however, we were thwarted from going to shore for the first time. There was a good 20 knots of wind on the nose, the fetch was substantial with the dinghy slamming into each wave, and we weren’t even halfway there before we were thoroughly soaked. It was at that point we started kicking around the idea of a slightly larger outboard.

The pros: we could explore longer distances; when we had farther to go to shore we’d get there faster; and it would be quieter than the 2.3 hp which is air-cooled. The cons: it was heavier than our 2.3; likely less fuel efficient; and the cost. We hemmed and hawed over it for several days.

We always knew if we bought a bigger outboard it would be a two-stroke because they are substantially lighter than the same-size horsepower four-stroke. Yes, you have to mix the oil and gas but big deal. However, you can’t buy a new two-stroke outboard in the United States. But guess where you can buy one? Yep, the Bahamas.

We e-mailed Harbourside Marine in Nassau to find out what a four hp Yamaha two-stroke would cost and how to go about getting one. When we discovered that it was the same price as a four-stroke at Defender and there was no VAT on it, it was a no-brainer.

When we were ready to leave Prime Cay and return to Big Majors, we gave Harbourside the go-ahead and they delivered the outboard and a one liter jerry can to the mailboat. Of course, this being the Bahamas, they didn’t know exactly what day the mailboat would arrive. “Could be Wednesday, could be Thursday.” I tried to call the harbormaster in Nassau but she said she didn’t know and to call back later. Well alrighty then.

On Thursday we couldn’t see any mailboat, and there wasn’t one on AIS. We radioed the Staniel Cay Yacht Club who told us that it was already there. Shit! We jumped into the dinghy and took off with our mighty 2.3 hp outboard, concerned that the mailboat would leave with our outboard still on it.

But this is the Bahamas man. No hurries, no worries. We rushed for nothing. When we landed the dinghy half an hour later, I took off running for the government dock only to find the mailboat slowly being unloaded. I gave the guy with the clipboard my name, and he pointed to the outboard and jerry jug – no identification required. After signing for it and paying him $42 for the shipment, we had our new outboard.

We already had a cruiser lined up in Staniel Cay to buy our Honda, so once we had the Yamaha up and running we dinghied to their boat and sold them the Honda in exchange for some much needed cash (the only ATM in the Exumas is in Georgetown).

Jeff was very pleased to discover that we could hook up an external fuel tank (that wasn’t an option on the Honda), so we priced out the tank and hoses at $180 from Defender for when we returned to Connecticut. Then, about a week later when I was anchoring the morning Cruiser’s Net, a fellow cruiser said he was selling a three gallon external fuel tank and hoses for a Yamaha for $40. It was exactly what we needed!

I decided one of the benefits of being the anchor was that I get first dibs, so we jumped on it. Not only was it $40, but it included 2 1/2 gallons of gasoline (which runs around $6/gallon here)! We were thrilled!

So now that we’ve had the Yamaha for over a month, how do we like it? Well, we don’t like it – we love it. It’s SUBSTANTIALLY quieter than the Honda. It has a shifter so we can choose forward/reverse/idle – the Honda had one direction – forward. If you wanted to go in reverse you turned the outboard around. The fuel efficiency is much better than we expected (unless you go wide open throttle, in which case it drinks gasoline like a thirsty man drinks water in a desert). And it’s MUCH faster than the old one – easily 30% faster, and that’s not even at wide open throttle. We can actually plane on the Porta-Bote in the right conditions, and if either one of us is solo it can plane in any condition.

As we expected, the heavier weight is a drawback. The Honda was 30 pounds and this is 46 pounds, but the same Yamaha in a four-stroke is 59 pounds so it’s a lot better than that. We though we’d have to rig a block and tackle to hoist it on and off the dinghy, but Jeff is able to take it off the stern pulpit by hand, and I lower it down to him once he’s in the dinghy. Maybe if I actually did some push-ups, I’d eventually be able to take it off the pulpit myself.

Bottom line, it’s an excellent upgrade for cruising life!

A first-time visit to Prime Cay.

One of the many anchorages we’ve been meaning to check out in the past is Prime Cay. We didn’t even know about it our first year, but on our second trip we read about an anchorage that is only accessible for our draft on a rising tide. Once in, you are rewarded with very nice protection, several beaches, an abundance of marine life, and some hiking. For various reasons we weren’t able to explore Prime on our second or third trip. This trip, the fourth time was going to be the charm.

We had a lovely, lazy sail from Staniel to Rudder Cut Cay where we anchored for the night. Once again, there were 14 boats anchored by the Active Captain anchorage, so we went around the corner and had the anchorage to ourselves. Go figure.

The next day we did some calculations to figure out when we could leave for Prime Cay, knowing that we were going to be navigating through some skinny water. We added a buffer but should have added more, because the trip was a bit of a pucker-fest. We didn’t find the bottom, but there were more than a few occasions where we had less than a foot under the keel. No big deal under calm conditions, but with a steady 20 knots of wind it was choppy so it was stressful. However, the color of the water was stunning, and after a tense few hours we successfully slid into the anchorage.

The shade of blue in the deeper water on our way to Prime was gorgeous…

And the varying shades of blue were also jaw dropping. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

The arrow shows the route we took to sneak into the anchorage. The depths are in meters on the chart, and we tend to stay away from anything under 1.5 at low tide just to be safe. But mid-tide gave us enough extra depth to get in and out without any issues, and the anchorage itself is deeper than charted.

We ended up staying for five nights, sometimes having the anchorage to ourselves, but never sharing it with more than one other boat. We saw plenty of turtles and rays from the cockpit, and we enjoyed snorkeling and checking out a different beach for every day we stayed – beaches we had all to ourselves.

At low tide the area next to the anchorage drained of virtually all water, creating an extremely large sand flat. We enjoyed exploring one day, looking at the small fish waiting in pockets of water for the tide to return, and doing a bit of hiking.

Looking out towards the anchorage.

The water was as warm as a bathtub in the shallows.

There was this random wall made out of coral rock on the cay. We didn’t see any signs of a former house.

After a very enjoyable stay, it was time to tear ourselves away from Prime and head back up towards Staniel. Once again we had a very nice sail – cruising the Bahamas is fantastic if you like sailing the vast majority of the time!

Wing and wing for a bit while we navigated around the shallows near Big Farmers Cay.

After dropping the anchor south of Staniel to try a new spot for one night, it was time to go back to our anchorage at Big Majors. We had an outboard being delivered on the mailboat!

White Point near Jack’s Bay on Great Guana Cay. Disappointing snorkeling, but very scenic.

After four trips, we’ve found our Exumas winter base.

The Exumas offer beautiful cruising grounds, but they aren’t perfect. Protection from westerly winds when winter fronts arrive is hard to come by. More than a few cruisers base themselves in Georgetown or Red Shanks and do what’s known as the “Georgetown shuffle”, moving as necessary depending on the wind direction. But long-time readers of this blog know that we have spent enough time in Georgetown and Red Shanks to realize that those spots are not for us.

I forgot to put this picture in my last post – the big boat towing the little boats (they remind us of ducklings) – is always so cute to see.

In the past we’ve kicked around the idea of basing ourselves out of Staniel Cay, but always found ourselves being sucked down to Georgetown (“Maybe this time it will be better!”) and getting pinned down there. This time, my best friend and her husband were going to be vacationing in an Airbnb in Black Point in mid-March, so we decided to avoid going farther south than Lee Stocking until after they leave. And that’s how we discovered that Staniel Cay is definitely the winter base for us.

But before we arrived in Staniel for the first visit of the season, we upped anchor on our second morning in the Exumas and spent several lovely days at Shroud Cay, even sitting out a mild cold front.

We love Shroud – it’s so scenic.

We would have stayed longer at Shroud but the trash situation was getting critical, and we needed to replenish the snacks and the booze which was even more critical. So off we went on a beautiful sail to Staniel.

Staniel Cay is a regular stop for us, and typically we anchor right by the settlement. But since we were last here the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (i.e. marina) has installed moorings along our preferred anchor site, so we decided to round the bend and try Big Majors Spot – a place we had previously stayed for one night.

This nurse shark came by to say hello as soon as we dropped the anchor at Staniel.

Being sure to anchor far away from Pig Beach (too many go-fast power boats with tourists who want to swim with the pigs), we tucked ourselves close to land and were VERY well protected from the strong easterly winds. Yes, there were more boats than we prefer and it was a wet dingy ride into town (more on that in another post), but it was comfortable and had a good “feel.”

Having several boats in the anchorage isn’t as bad when you’re in the front row.

Between the number of boats in Staniel and nearby Black Point, I was surprised that there wasn’t a cruiser’s net. So I took the script that I had from Vero Beach and started one up, which was a lot of fun.

The first morning I was concerned I’d be like the person who invites everyone to a party and no one shows up, but to my surprise there was good participation. Encouraged, I kept it up for the next 8 days, including while we were tucked away in Rat Cay for a cold front. I had a lot of fun with it, and by doing it we met several cruisers.

It was when we moved to Rat Cay for the cold front that we were convinced that Staniel would be our winter base in the Exumas. While Rat isn’t the PERFECT spot for a cold front, it’s good enough. Great holding, and it’s a short hop from Staniel.

A beautiful view from our anchorage in Rat Cay.
And we only had to share it with one other boat.

While we waited for the weather to improve, we relaxed, baked bread, and even had a visit from Joyce and Matt who we met at Shenny back in 2017 when they bought their first cruising boat. We hadn’t seen them since New Year’s Eve in Miami, right before Covid hit, so it was wonderful to catch up.

English muffin bread has become a breakfast staple on Pegu Club.

But once the front passed it was time to go explore. I couldn’t get any volunteers to take over the net, so it went silent until we planned to return. But we were definitely planning to return – we had to pick up our new outboard that was going to be delivered on the mailboat! More on that in the next post.

Scooting down to the Exumas.

Our strategy for this trip was to get down to the Exumas as quickly as possible. Typically the water is a bit warmer and the air temperatures are a bit higher than in the Abacos, and ideally the cold fronts don’t make their way that far south quite as often. Of course as we’ve seen, that doesn’t always pan out, but we were willing to give it a try again.

Towards that end, we had a great sail from Green Turtle to Marsh Harbor where we stocked up at Maxwell’s and picked up an Aliv card so we could finally have reliable internet again (yay!). We spent a few days there waiting out a cold front, meeting with cruiser friends and making new ones, before we had another fantastic sail down to Lynard Cay.

Our anchorage at Lynard. Several hundred yards to our starboard were at least 15 other boats, but we had this area all to ourselves. I just don’t understand the herd mentality when it comes to anchoring.

We spent one night at Lynard and then motorsailed across to Royal Island in Eleuthera where we connected with cruiser friends we had made in Marsh Harbor. Two nights later, we were up with the sun to the Exumas!

Our anchor chain in about 8 feet of water at Royal Island.

Typically we go down Eleuthera and leave for the Exumas from Rock Sound. We’ve shied away from dropping down from Royal Island because the chart makes it look like you have to dodge a minefield of coral heads. After talking to other cruisers though, we decided to go for it.

The + marks are deeper coral heads. The + marks with circles are shallower ones. No way were we taking any route other than the one with the green arrow. People that take the other two lines are braver than we are.

The lines on the Explorer charts are usually bang-on for avoiding obstacles, but in this case we did find ourselves having to dodge the occasional coral head that was right on the line. But, they were easily seen with a lookout on the bow (they look like a black puddle of oil on the water).

Courtesy of Google Images, a coral head on the bank heading to the Exumas.
Starting to see that beautiful Exuma blue water!

It was a bit stressful, and we wouldn’t take the route again in anything but settled weather and sunny skies, but we WOULD do it again. That’s because before we knew it, we had the anchor down in Highborne Cay and we were basking in that beautiful, gin-clear Exuma blue water!

A series of poor decisions.

I think it’s almost inevitable.  If you do anything long enough, you start to get a bit complacent.  The only problem with doing that on a boat is Mother Nature will give you a smack in the face to bring you back to your senses.  Fortunately the repeated smacks we experienced over a a few weeks didn’t do any damage except to our psyche.

Leaving Red Shanks turned out to be the first of a series of poor decisions for Pegu Club’s crew.  After a rolly motor sail to Lee Stocking, we enjoyed a great day anchored in front of “our” beach, doing some snorkeling and swimming.  The water was already warmer than it had been just a few weeks ago which was a welcome development – it will only get warmer as the days go by!

Looking at the weather forecast, the wind was going to clock more to the south-southeast which meant that the anchorage in Lee Stocking would be fairly exposed.  We decided we would ride it out the next day – our first poor decision.  The winds ended up being substantially higher than forecast so that by mid-morning it was honking in the steady low 20’s with higher gusts, bringing 3+ foot waves onto a lee shore.  For non-sailors, that means the wind was blowing towards the land – not good.  We raised the anchor and motored over to Rat Cay – a much better decision.

A pretty sunset off of Rat Cay.

The next day we took a look at the tide tables and the weather and decided we should move north in anticipation of a front that would be arriving in several days.  It was a long day but a very nice sail, and we ended up back in Pipe Cay where we anchored in our up-to-that-point favorite spot in Pipe where we planned to wait out the front.  Our second poor decision.  We dropped the anchor slightly west of where we had during our previous visits – something that we would find out later was our third poor decision. Continue reading “A series of poor decisions.”

Escape from Red Shanks.

Last year we were stuck in George Town and Red Shanks for close to a month as we waited out cold front after cold front.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with George Town and Red Shanks per se.  It’s just that it’s not for us.  So what did we do this year?  The strongest front of the winter was coming, we were 25 nautical miles away in Lee Stocking, and we let the siren calls of the most well-stocked grocery stores in the Exumas suck us back in.

Passing the Three Sisters on the way to George Town.

Continue reading “Escape from Red Shanks.”

Next stop: The Exumas.

We had to settle for a motor sail from Rock Sound, but it was well worth it because after an uneventful day (except for the joy of the dolphins that followed along beside us for ten minutes – they never get old!) we were dropping the anchor in one of our favorite spots: Pipe Cay.  A small blow was predicted so the next day we followed our track from last year’s adventure and slid into our hands-down favorite hidey hole in the back of Pipe. Although we still play the tides, it’s MUCH less stressful being able to follow last year’s track on the chart plotter.

I never get tired of this view from “our” spot in Pipe Cay.

After the blow we moved over to Staniel Cay (another favorite spot), then proceeded to spend the next week and a half moving between Staniel and Pipe as the weather dictated. We found a great spot to snorkel in Pipe and alternated between exploring and loafing around until we saw a nice stretch of weather to continue farther south.

We found this lovely new-to-us beach on the northern part of Staniel Cay. Next time we’ll return with our snorkel gear and our swimsuits!

Weather can be so cool.  This picture was off the starboard side of the boat at Staniel one morning:


And this was the view off the port side of the boat:


A stop in Little Bay was next, along with a hike to the blow hole (which I find very entertaining) in Black Point:


Thar she blows!


We then moved on to Lee Stocking where we snorkeled among plenty of fish and several rays, including one that was literally at least three feet across.


We absolutely love Lee Stocking.  The water is so clear, and between the swimming, snorkeling, and hiking, we could easily spend weeks there (something we hope to do on our way north now that we have a water maker).  

The water is so clear. When the wind drops off we could see the marks our anchor chain made.


It’s always nice to be able to glance down and see how deep the anchor is buried.


The dinghy looked like it was floating on air.

Unfortunately after several days a look at the weather for the upcoming week made it clear to us that it was time to skedaddle. After debating whether to head north back up to Pipe or south to Red Shanks, the desire to get more food at a well-stocked and reasonably priced (for the Bahamas) grocery store tipped the scales, so we pointed the bow towards Red Shanks near George Town.

Same cay, completely different experience.

There are some people who return to the Exumas year after year. It’s not surprising given how beautiful it is, but last year part of me wondered if they didn’t get a little tired of revisiting the same cays. Now that we are repeating some of the same spots ourselves, I can see why they do it. We’ve discovered that simply by anchoring in a different area in the same cay it can be like going to an entirely new island.

This really became clear when we finally arrived at Lee Stocking. After two aborted attempts to get south of Staniel Cay (a steady 18 knots+ dead on the nose with accompanying chop had us turning back – no need to beat up ourselves or the boat if it’s not necessary), the third time was a charm on a windless day. Yes, we would have preferred to sail, but at this point we were beggars who weren’t going to be choosers.

Continue reading “Same cay, completely different experience.”

Hiding out in Pipe Cay.

The water in the Exumas is unquestionably gorgeous, and it feels like you could spend months here in a different anchorage each night. But one thing it lacks is an abundance of anchorages with good all-around protection from the wind. As a result, you will generally find yourself sharing one of the decent anchorages with a bunch of other boats. Not a big deal if nobody drags, but as we witnessed in Norman’s Cay, you can’t necessarily count on that. So with those events fresh on on our mind and another front coming in, we decided to head to Pipe Cay.

Pipe Cay was one of our favorite anchorages last year. A quick five mile hop from Staniel Cay, we decided to head over there just before high tide to see if we could sneak into the back on the northwest side of Little Pipe Cay. Last year we had seen one boat anchored there, and it looked skinny but doable on the charts.

It was a cloudy and windy morning and we were keeping an eye on a big squall heading our way as we motored over. Fortunately it dissipated before arriving, but by the time we were entering the Pipe Cay channel I was out of sorts.

Continue reading “Hiding out in Pipe Cay.”

Motoring into 18 knots when the engine dies. Great.

Rainbow upon leaving Norman’s Cay.

We do seem to be in the midst of a streak of adventure.  Hopefully it’s almost over and I can go back to more boring posts (we swam, we snorkeled, repeat) complete with pretty pictures.

The cold front had finally passed and we decided it was time to get out of Norman’s Cay and move to one of our favorite anchorages last year, Pipe Cay.  We were down to slightly over a half tank of diesel and our reserve tank of water, so it was time to make tracks down to Staniel Cay where we could replenish both.  The plan was to stay in Pipe Cay for a few days, wait out a mild front with westerly winds, move to Staniel, and then backtrack north and spend some time in the Land and Sea Park.  Well you know what they say about plans.

Continue reading “Motoring into 18 knots when the engine dies. Great.”