Hightailing to Highbourne
25 January 2009
So, finally after having been cooped up in Nassau for a week, we are able to escape to start our treck down the Exumas. I may have earlier spoken about the Exumas; it is a chain of islands, cays and rocks extending some 95 miles in a lazy arc from south of Nassau to Great Exuma Island. Along with the Abacos, Exuma is considered to be the most popular and benign cruising area of the Bahamas. This is what we've been waiting for. We had our appetite whetted by our cruise with our friends Ann and Harold ten years ago and the tantalizing stories of many other cruisers over the years.
We're not the only ones; many other boats, stuck in Nassau, are itchy to leave Nassau. So, the weather systems have moved on and we plan on leaving. Well, so are about twenty five (at least) other vessels, mostly sailboats. It is a fascinating parade of boats leaving Nassau Harbour this fine morning. There is much "chatter" on the marine radio. Obviously, some are rookies like us, uncertain what is in front of us. Others are pros, who know there way down the Exumas and beyond.
Navigating in the Bahamas, as I've referred to before, presents another set of challenges. The charts are quite good but there is constantly shifting sand "bores" and growing coral heads. To cross from Nassau to the head of the Exumas means facing two banks; the yellow bank and the white bank. These are fields of coral heads sometimes less than three feet below the surface. You don't want to hit on of these!
We plan a rout which, while a bit longer in distance than the direct route, will mean the least exposure to these coral banks. Most of the other boats head straight across. We hear them on the radio, with watches (read, the wife) posted on the bow of the boat desperately looking forward trying to discern the change in water colour which denotes a coral head.
We, on the other hand, plunge along on a somewhat circuitous route but one which avoids the banks. Anyway, we motorsail our way to our first stop called Highbourne Cay. We anchor in seven feet of water in front of a wonderful, white sand beach. There are probably ten boats here but there's lots of room. Judy takes Chopin for a walk along the beach, something he has come to expect since we've been to Bahamas.
It is quite rolly last night given the left over ocean swell from the several days of strong winds and I'm up several times to ensure that we're still holding.
In the morning, we decided to visit Allan's Cay, where reportedly many large, wild Iguana's live. It is one series of Cays north of ours so rather than take our sailboats, we opt to dinghy over, the approximate two miles. Breeze Hunter, Sun Sweet and us make the wet trip over and are rewarded by quite a spectacle of many iguanas, primitive but adapted to their environment, especially the expected regular feedings by visiting yachters. Judy is particularly taken with them and gets lots of pics (we will post one shortly). The beaches are wonderful and the water colours are just what you might picture in the brochures. A very pleasant adventure.