We’ve had company aboard Vinyasa for the past 12 days, taking advantage of calm weather between cold fronts to circle back to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
We met Ben and Chantale in 2018 when they were our dock neighbors at Herrington Harbour North. They’ve since traveled 9,000 miles on At Ease, their Carver 445, and they wisely delayed their flight into George Town by a few days given a forecasted blow that would keep Vinyasa rolling at anchor.
We kicked off their visit with a dinghy ride to Chat n Chill beach, where rays swam around our feet, and where they ran into cruisers they’d met in Hope Town last year. It’s a small world when you’re boating!
After obtaining the required Covid tests and making a final provisioning foray in George Town the next morning, we set off for Rat Cay, a four hour sail north. Some swimming off of Vinyasa’s transom concluded the day.
From Rat Cay, we motorsailed to Big Majors and checked the swimming pigs box, snorkeled the Thunderball grotto—vowing to rewatch that James Bond movie, and enjoyed a casual dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
The pigs draw tourists by the boat and plane load. We watched in amazement as a seaplane swooped in and taxied right up to the beach, spent 15 or 20 minutes with the pigs and then took off again.
We dinghied to Sampson Cay the next day, oohing and ahhing at the beautiful water while well aware of the many “Private island – please keep out” signs. We were hoping to snorkel nearby, but the windy conditions dissuaded us.
After two nights anchored at Big Majors, we enjoyed a lovely sail north to Shroud Cay, where we spent another two nights to dinghy through the mangroves to see the turtles, enjoy scenic beaches, and climb up to Driftwood Camp, a secluded vantage point formerly used by drug enforcement agents to monitor traffic to and from adjacent cays.
The wind remained in our favor when we sailed south to Warderick Wells and found the Windjammer’s Liberty Clipper, which we’d seen silhouetted far away at sunset the evening before, on one of the mooring balls.
We got in our steps on some interesting hikes, left our mark on BooBoo Hill, and saw a 5-foot black tip shark swimming beneath us while snorkeling the Coral Garden near the north mooring field…it would have been intimidating to encounter it at eye level!
From Warderick Wells we sailed towards Soldier Cay to snorkle the Sea Aquarium, and skinny water led us to anchor off of Bell Island for a couple of hours, a private island owned by the Agha Khan, and dinghy the last nautical mile or so to the popular snorkeling spot.
Our dinghy rode wasn’t long enough to anchor at the Sea Aquarium so we tied up to a buoy instead. When we hopped into the water dozens of small fishes, used to eating food from the palms of snorkelers on guided tours, approached us looking for treats. The clear water next to a wall of coral housed a multitude of different sized and colored fishes and a couple of manta rays fluttered along the sea floor.
Our next stop that afternoon was Black Point, where we enjoyed dinner at the Emerald View Sunset restaurant, sitting next to two young men who were exploring the Bahamas by air in a Cessna 172 that they were piloting. It was another small world moment, as they hailed from a town across Lake Champlain from Ben and Chantale’s hometown of Plattsburg, NY, where Chantale’s father had a grass airstrip in the front yard.
We left Black Point the next morning, aligning our departure through Dotham Cut with low tide, hoping to minimize the nasty chop that ensues when stiff winds blow against a strong current.
Allan deftly maneuvered Vinyasa through the swell at the cut, but the unpleasant sea state prompted a pull into Rat Cay six hours later instead of pressing on another three to reach George Town. The ride in to George Town the next day was much smoother, yay!
Ben and Chantale fly home tomorrow, so another round of Covid testing is on today’s agenda, along with some final exploring close by.