Posted by: catamarantwooceans | March 30, 2016

Sailing the Exuma Cays

24.3.16 – Thursday – We left Allan’s Cay to go the one of the most popular cays in the chain – Norman’s Cay. The guide Describes it with superlatives and the crown jewel (for an airman at least) is a sunken C-46 airplane, lying only 4 feet deep in the southern anchorage of the cay. We went in following two other yachts. They anchored near the wreck and we continued a bit further to anchor behind a charter motor yacht. As I dropped the anchor I saw that a swift current was pushing us toward that yacht. Anchor up and on we went to search for a better position. Second try was the same – the current took us for a ride with our chain between the hulls and the anchor dragging.

The two yachts had already finished snorkeling the plane and were motoring away and I was still trying to have our boat stationary. When a third attempt was unsuccessful I had enough. Having qualms regarding that anchorage in the first place, I selected an alternate. Shroud Cay, about four miles to the south; it had good and protected anchorage and there we went. As we got closer we saw that we were not the only ones to consider the place worthy of a visit. About twenty sailing and motor-yachts were spread along the coast. We anchored in 2 meters over a sandy bottom, the anchor embedded itself perfectly – time to relax.

Contrary to our habit of having the main meal of the day in the evening, we had a steak dinner at two p.m.  A nap for Miki and then we put the SUP into the water and paddled in turns to the beach and a lagoon opposite our anchorage. We went snorkeling in the clear, cool water; not a lot to see except a solitary coral head where an astounding number of fish lived and inside a crevice  a giant lobster resided.

We were very happy with Shroud Cay; this is how sailing here is supposed to be.

25.3.16 – Friday – Today’s destination was Warderick Wells Cay, on which the headquarters of the Exuma Land Sea Park is located. You are not allowed to anchor there but only to use the moorings the park provides. The demand for those moorings is so big that it is advised to call a day or two in advance in order to secure one. To get there we motored through the shallow Exuma bank, with the wind on the nose and a surprisingly annoying chop. Coming close to Warderick we called the park office on channel 09 and received our assigned mooring – number 4. A lot of yachts, mainly catamarans, were swinging with the current in the bay.

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                              note the colors of the water!

After tying up we went to the office, paid a fee of 20$, collected some info sheets and went back for lunch. That over we took the dinghy to one of the reefs and snorkeled. It was a nice reef, with two resident 4 foot barracudas, a single nurse shark lying motionless under a rock and other reef fish. Later we went back to the main island and did a one hour walk. The park people did a good job of marking and maintaining the trails. There is a skeleton of a sperm whale on the beach which they say died by ingesting plastic material.

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On the whole – a nice place.

26.3.16 – Saturday – My original plan for the day called for another motoring day on the Exuma bank (that’s the shallow area west of the island chain) to Staniel cay but as we were preparing to leave we saw one of the yachts going out through the cut in the reef towards the open ocean. somehow it did not occur to me; I quickly entered the route into the plotter and found it to be shorter in distance and free of the stress of navigating shallow, reef strewn sea. As we went out, I checked the location of the southern border of the park, in which you are not allowed to fish and as we crossed it I let out the trolling gear. We caught a small barracuda and let it go due to the possibility of it having ciguatera. I employed Danny Lanis’ tactics and announced that we were certain to catch a Mahi Mahi. These tactics may work for Danny but we entered Staniel Cay Cut without catching a thing.

We decided not to try the local marina and anchored in a very shallow area near some small islands. I dropped anchor at 1.5 meters and after the maneuver was concluded, the boat found itself with just one meter showing on the dial. I swam forward, stood in front of the boat and had Gili take my picture. according to it the actual depth was more like 1.5 meters. New depth transducer – different calibration.

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Staniel is a very popular destination for yachties as well as regular tourists. Small planes are landing and taking off in the local airport and boats are bringing tourist to see the “Thunderball Grotto” an artificial cave with interesting light effects, constructed for the filming of the ancient 007 movie “Thunderball” starring Sean Connery. We decided to give it a miss. We also gave up going to the marina’s bar and restaurant, preferring Gili’s cooking at home; first course ceviche, main – shrimp Pad Thai – excellent!

27.3.16 – Sunday – Aiming to divide the distance to George Town into legs of around 20 miles, we designated Cave Cay as the destination of the day. Probably because of my desire to catch some fish trolling I set my mind on sailing out on the Exuma Sound, the deep body of water on the east of the islands chain. Having slept well I was not aware that the wind blew strongly at night, the outcome of which became apparent as we went out of the pass: rough seas that combined with the contrary wind made the ride very unpleasant. Gili, although feeling absolutely fine, asked:”Couldn’t we sail to Cave on the protected side?”. Back to the charts I went and found that in four miles we would reach Dotham cut, from which a safe and reasonably deep route (not less than 2.4 meters…) could be sailed.

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Into Dotham we sailed, passing the Black Point settlement, where about 30 yachts were at anchor. A large section of the route was sailed close-hauled at nice speed, with no slamming into waves which would have been the case had we continued outside. On our way we passed close to a Seawind catamaran called “Flight Plan” sailing a reciprocating course. I was curious about the name and called them, asking whether the the owner had an aviation background. Sure enough he did, starting as an Air-Force pilot and moving on to an airline – same as I did. That was a nice encounter.

As we got close to our destination, I noticed an anchorage, between Big Farmer Cay and Big Galliot Cay, about 1.5 miles north to our intended one, which looked more inviting. We dropped anchor on dazzling white sand, backing to a blue, slightly deeper area. It was calm, we swam around, finding a small area of coral but not seeing a lot of fish. Once evening came, the lady of the manor demanded that efforts in the fishing department were required. A few pieces of chicken breast were used as bait. One snapper was taken and then a big something took our line, hook and sinker. During the time I worked on a new set, I let the trolling lure out into the current and in seconds a large Jack took it. Nice to catch but inedible, according to our experience, so we let it go. I continued fishing with scrounged shrimp and got two more snappers. Have food – stop fishing, that’s our motto. Another beautiful day in Paradise.

28.3.16 – Monday – Continuing towards George Town we went outside the cover of the islands, the wind was light and the sea slight, so we had a fast ride to Rat Cay, where we planned to stay the night. Trolling for fish – and again a small barracuda took the lure. Once it was released we used all our positive  and wishful thinking for a type we like but to no avail. It seems that Poseidon allotted one trolling catch per day and that’s it.

We found a great anchorage on the west side of the island. White sand and calm, turquoise water 2 meters deep. We lowered our Sup and took turns paddling around the bay; nice workout.

29.3.16 – Tuesday – Motoring to George Town. Trolling with no results. Around midday we entered through Conch Cut. To navigate the area you need to strictly follow a set of waypoints and watch the water for shoals and reefs. We passed near the hurricane hole, where a large number of yachts were at anchor and turned towards the Exuma Yacht Club where we wanted to take fuel and water and if the price was right – stay the night. I called them on the phone and got a voice message:”Nobody can take your call now, thank you for calling”. No option to leave a message was given. Trying to call them on V.H.F was also fruitless, so we simply went into the marina, asked people on a catamaran berthed there about the location of the fuel dock and tied up. Only then a gentleman came by; his name was Colivon (if I got it right) and he gave us the information about the marina.

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Two dollars a foot to stay the night, 30$ for a day – leave before sunset. Fuel was 4.15$ and water 40 cent a gallon. We filled our tanks, went ashore to the Exuma Markets supermarket and provisioned for the next week. Later in the afternoon Yaron, Gili’s brother arrived. As usual for him, his first concern was having cellular and internet connection.

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The man was very tired, having flown from Israel with two stops on the way; actually we were all a bit tired, so a light meal and an early night was in order.

Tomorrow we’ll leave the Exumas and start advancing towards our jumping point to Jamaica. I’ll report on that in the next post.

Until then – Adios from Gili, Miki and Yaron on “Two Oceans”.

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