Back south along Exuma Chain
23 January 2017 | Emerald Bay Marina
Jan 5 - 23 Thursday we sailed south of Staniel Cay to Black Point Harbor, about a 12 nm trip. After anchoring near the famous laundry facility with its own dock, we went ashore to do laundry then for a dinner at Lorraine's which was very good. The next morning was near calm with super clear water. We could see the anchor chain in a big loop on the bottom under us so clearly and a huge school of silversides was hiding in the boat's shadow. We made a move to anchor around the south side of Black Point, just a few miles down the coast. After snuggling up to the northern shore there we were set for the coming frontal passage with strong north winds predicted in a few days. About 8 other boats collected in this small bay for the same protection. The holding was good with deep sand all around. Prior to the frontal passage we had about a day and a half of light to moderate winds from the SSW which made for a choppy ride at anchor since there was no protection from wind in that direction--you can't have everything! It made for some wet dinghy rides to the beautiful beaches here so we mostly stayed put until after the change in weather. The leading edge of the cold front passed through after midnight Saturday, with some lightning and heavy showers, but for the most part was well behaved in that the wind started from the WNW and quickly veered to the NW and N so that we had great protection from the island. Waves during the blow were actually less than prior to it since the protection from the windward shore kept them to a minimum. However, the wind continued to howl from the north (20- 30 kts) and gradually veered to the ENE over the next week. We made our way to shore via dinghy to the beach for hikes to town (Black Point) about one and a half miles away, and met with some of the folks on other boats there doing the same thing. On Monday the 9th we saw a military vessel anchored well off of Black Point and at near sunset their tender approached the anchorage. It turned out to be officers and crew of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and were boarding vessels to verify documents and check for contraband. They stopped and boarded about half of the vessels including us. We were glad that our papers were all in order and after filling out a form, they left us just after dark. The sound (east) side of this very long narrow island, Great Guana Cay, featured dramatic rocky cliffs broken up by steep beaches with high surf. By Friday (Jan 13) we had enough of our anchorage so moved around back to the north side of Black Point again to be near town, and take different walks ashore. We went to a cruiser's happy hour at Scorpio's bar & grill and had a good time meeting with Jerry & Donna of s/v BlueJacket.
By Saturday the 14th things were settling down enough to make a move, so we took several short hops down the coast of Great Guana Cay, anchoring in spots by ourselves near limestone cliffs with dramatic overhangs at low tide and shallow caves and comfortable protection from the steady trade winds. By Monday (16th) we were anchored off of Little Farmers Cay with the intention of going to Ty's sunset grill once again, this time via dinghy from the beach there. But once we went ashore we found the place closed due to an island wide electrical problem, oh well. By Tuesday the 17th we still had the strong trade winds, but now at a manageable 17-22 kts so we continued south through some tricky narrow cuts through sand bars to get to an anchorage off Rudder Cut Cay. We were careful to do this on a rising tide, but encountered no problem depths on the way in. Another 7 sailboats had the same idea of a good spot, but there was plenty of room, even though the tidal current swept through here at a good clip. We anchored just off more cliffs with large dramatic but shallow caves at the waterline which we explored by dinghy. This island is privately owned and had large well maintained 'No Trespassing' signs on the palm lined beaches, an airstrip and some roads but no other visible development or buildings, which seemed odd. A few hundred yards south of our spot was a place where an underwater stone and metal sculpture had been placed in the sand in a depth of 12 ft. It was a grand piano with a mermaid lounging at the keyboard, and happened to have a beautiful French Angelfish hovering over the strings under the propped up lid. I attempted to get a photo of the scene but kept getting swept past it with the current as I tried to get to a good depth with just my snorkel and no weights.
By Wednesday the 18th we were ready to make the move back into the Exuma Sound side of the island chain and start back towards Georgetown. We exited Rudder Cut on the flood tide so as to avoid the rough conditions that happen when the tidal ebb flows against the trade winds. With 2 knots of current and the persistent trade winds against us in the cut, we were glad to have plenty of engine power to get through it. Once in the deep Exuma Sound we headed SE towards Georgetown and Great Exuma Island. We decided to stop over at Emerald Bay Marina where we first entered the Bahamas back on Nov 12. This was a good place to top up the diesel tanks for the first time since we left here. On the way into the marina we had heard on the radio then saw for ourselves the wreck of a sailboat that had attempted to come into the marina the day before just after dark. The story has it that they lost engine power and were quickly swept onto the reef a few hundred feet from the entrance channel. They were able to swim ashore, fortunately to a forgiving sandy beach, but the boat is a total loss, with keel, rudder & mast torn from her and riding upside down in the surf. I cannot imagine going through such an ordeal, but fortunately the couple made it to safety uninjured.
We had not planned on staying at the marina for more than one overnight, but as we left the next morning, the chart plotter at the helm station decided to malfunction. Since we were still in the marina basin we turned around and went back into a slip to get the thing sorted out. At this point we were experiencing a rare calm period that was to last for several days, after which a very strong cold front was forecast to move through. We took the opportunity to do some different activities while here since the marina offered a very good rate to stay for 3+ days. Friday (the 20th) we went diving with the operation here at the Sandals resort and had perfect calm conditions for it. They had a dive boat that had to be a sister ship to the dive boats we were so used to at the Brac Reef Resort in the Caymans, so we felt right at home. The operation ran very well organized and professional dives, although not quite up to the "valet" diving of the Brac. The waters were nice and clear and we saw plenty of fish and a few new ones for us, along with some black tip reef sharks and large barracuda. Jan 21st we rented a car for a couple of days and toured the islands of Great and Little Exuma from north to south and did a major reprovisioning in the process.
As I write, on Monday the 23rd, we are awaiting the next big cold front that is supposed to hit here by late afternoon followed by gale force west winds for a day or so. Unlike when we were first here in November, the place is nearly full with boats also seeking shelter for the time being. We enjoyed a well-attended pot luck dinner at the marina building and watched some NFL playoff football for a change. By Tuesday or Wednesday we plan to be underway again and be heading for new islands to explore.