Georgetown, Conception & Lee Stocking
07 March 2019 | Black Point Return
On Tuesday (Feb 12) we made a short trip south on the west side of Great Guana Cay to a feature aptly called "Oven Rock" just north of Little Farmers Cay. There we went ashore to find the cave with the pool which was a bit easier this time since we found it after some wandering on our last visit here in December 2016. For anyone interested, the coordinates for the cave entrance are: 23 59.01 N, 076 19.65 W. I swam in the crystal clear seawater with snorkel gear and dive lights to see the underwater stalactites and such, and got a good sense of the extensive and deep chambers that others have explored with SCUBA gear--which goes beyond my comfort level. The next day (Feb 13) we took the winding route on the banks about 12 nm to the south past Cave Cay, Musha Cay and on to Rudder Cut Cay. This is a pretty spot with cave alcoves at the water's edge, a nearby beach with palms, and the unique feature of an underwater bronze of a mermaid at a piano in about 15 ft depth, which was best seen at slack tide. Thursday (Feb 14) we exited to Exuma Sound through Rudder Cut at low slack tide then made our way sailing to the southeast and Georgetown.
By this point, the Georgetown Cruiser's Regatta was underway and the harbor had reportedly 280 boats anchored about in the various spots to enjoy the festivities. We anchored near town and the entrance to Lake Victoria for reprovisioning and easy town access. Saturday was the day for the "Variety Show" part of the Regatta and was a fun event with various boat people showing off their talents and pleasing the crowd on the beach at the "Chat & Chill". On Sunday we decided to move down Elizabeth Harbour for some snorkeling which was good near Elizabeth Island. Once we returned in the dinghy to our boat we swam some more and were surprised and delighted to be joined by first one large dolphin, then a pair of smaller ones that played about and around us for 15-20 minutes. They would come right up to us and seemingly look us in the eye, or sneak up behind us maybe to see how long it took us to notice their presence. They also dug their snouts into the sand together as if they were looking for clams or something. That was the first time we had such an encounter and was really memorable.
On Monday the 18th we made our way up the harbor and found a good spot to anchor with the fleet near Monument beach, not far from much of the Regatta activities. For the next nearly two weeks we stayed put to enjoy the festivities and participated in one of the sail races...the in-harbor race on Sunday (Feb 24). We did well in the race with just the two of us aboard--a good workout, and won first place in our division by one second--but turned out that four of the six other boats in our group dropped out that day leaving only two of us to compete. The most challenging part of it for us was to be sailing over areas that were charted to have only 4 ft depths, but since the race was held at high tide we never touched bottom and in fact never saw less than 8 ft with a tidal range of 2.5 to 3 ft. Going aground at high tide is not a good thing, but luckily the charted depths seemed to be on the conservative side. In any event, it was fun sailing through the anchored fleet wing on wing on a near perfect sailing day with about 12-14 kts of wind. For the next few days we enjoyed water aerobics off the beach at Monument, met with folks that also raced on Sunday for sunset that were anchored nearby, first on their boat, next night on ours. We also made plans to visit Conception Island for a few days later in the week.
So Thursday (Feb 28) we picked up anchor relatively early and headed out the southeast end of Georgetown Harbour then NE to Conception Island. It was a beautiful beam reach sail for the 44 nm to the small bay at the NE corner of Conception, a small low island without inhabitants. The place and surrounding reefs are another area protected by the Bahamas National Trust and has amazing clear waters and a pristine long beach at the anchorage. We made the trip so as to have favorable weather and tide for a long dinghy expedition up the shallow winding inlet. We made the trip on a rising tide in the mid-afternoon and saw rays streaking along the bottom under us in a few feet of clear water, then turtles further up--many of them, and younger, smaller ones. They seem to enjoy the calmer and warmer waters that weave their way through mangroves and sand bars. On the return trip along the west coast we stopped for some snorkeling, probably the best we've encountered. I made note of the coordinates since it was such a nice spot with elkhorn coral formations and plentiful with fish: 23o 50.46' N, 075o 07.51'W is the location. The next morning we went for another shorter snorkeling expedition to the north around the corner which had many tall coral heads on a sandy bottom, but few fish. Then we also tried one of the deeper reefs near the middle of the bay, also not as many fish, but some unusual ones and a few big nurse shark. By noon we had raised anchor and headed out across the open water towards Cape Santa Maria and a short way down the west side of Long Island to Calabash Bay. There we anchored a way off the long beach and later headed into the Cape Santa Maria resort for a very fine dinner.
Sunday (Mar 3) morning early we headed out to the west into Exuma Sound on a course for Lee Stocking Island. The wind was dead astern, but with enough speed to sail wing on wing with the jib pole deployed, making speeds of 6.5 to 8 kts. It was a great day of sailing, but no luck at fishing once again. About three quarters of the way through the 45 nm trip we saw what I first thought was a large dolphin, but soon realized it was much bigger. A small whale (15 ft or so?), probably a Minke whale, swam just along side of us for quite a few minutes, dropped astern then swam along on our port. It seemed like 15 minutes or so it kept pace with us then finally swam off. This was a first for us having never seen a whale in the Bahamas prior to this. Later on we made Adderly Cut onto the banks and rounded south to the anchorage at Lee Stocking Island just as a heavy downpour approached from the south. We anchored amidst six or so others during the downpour, a refreshing rinse off. We stayed at that spot until Tuesday, enjoying the short hike up to Perry's Peak from a beach the south of the anchorage. This had great views of the island chain. Later we walked briefly around the grounds of the abandoned Marine Research Station there and noticed that some clean up of the fallen trees and debris had been done since our last visit in 2016. Also, there seemed to be at least one well kept residence with a generator to allow for a caretaker to stay, so there seems to be an effort to maintain the place to some extent, or at least limit further decay. See for example: https://www.cruisingworld.com/exumas-ghost-town
We got underway and exited Adderly Cut on Tuesday (Mar 5) and motor sailed our way northwest along the Exuma chain to renter the banks at Galliot Cut. From there we rounded the west side of Big and Little Farmers Cays and on along the western shore of Great Guana Cay to a favorite spot at Little Bay. A front was approaching from the north with strong northerly component winds for a day or two. This anchorage affords good protection from NNW to SE winds with a beautiful beach. The next day, during the high winds, we made our way to the beach and took the sandy roads north to the settlement at Black Point, about a 2 mile distance. Just last month (Feb 9) we were here in the same spot, for the same reasons while on our way south to Georgetown. The following day (Mar 7) we picked up and rounded the corner to head into the bay next to the settlement of Black Point--another opportunity for scenic laundry! The wind was still strong but was gradually veering more easterly, making dinghy trips to town more easily done without getting soaked in the process. From here we will continue our trip north along the Exumas to make our way to the Abacos within the next week or two.