Bahamas - Exumas to Abacos
A great sailing day on the banks along the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas
We had been waiting for the arrival of some spare parts for our Mastervolt generator to be flown in to Staniel Cay in the Exuma Island group of the Bahamas. The package came in at last, Paul did the necessary maintenance, and we were ready to depart. But it was Independence Day for the Bahamas so we decided to stay to celebrate. We'd been in Staniel Cay for Canada Day on July 1st, American Independence Day on July 4th and it seemed only fitting that we celebrate Bahamas Independence Day on July 10th before sailing on.
Anchored off Thunderball Cave at Staniel Cay
Junkanoo parade and free lunch and dinner on Bahamas Independence Day, Staniel Cay
It was a beautiful day that started with a church service and then a local Junkanoo parade with local youth playing homemade drums and cow bells. Then it was a day of “Beach Eats”. The Bahamas government sponsors free lunch and dinner on this day. We showed up for lunch – BBQ hamburgers and hot dogs and pasta salad – and enjoyed speaking with the local revellers as well as meeting up with cruising friends we'd partied with down-island. The dinner was even more elaborate we heard – BBQ steak, fish, and lots of salads and vegetables – everyone welcome! The evening ended with fireworks which we enjoyed watching from the cockpit of Distant Shores II, a fitting end to our visit to Staniel Cay.
We set sail the following day with fresh breezes carrying us north through the Exuma Cays along the banks to Sandy Cay off Hall's Pond where we've heard that actor Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean fame has a home and classic boat. No sign of him though or anyone else for that matter. We had the island all to ourselves.
Next day we had similar conditions and island-hopped our way up to Allen's Cay, a protected anchorage and always an interesting stop since it is home of the Allen's Cay Iguanas (Cyclura cychlura inornata). These are Bahamian Rock Iguanas which are protected by the Bahamas National Trust and come out on the beach to greet you. Actually they're looking for handouts - fresh vegetables are best. Unfortunately their eyesight isn't good and on a past visit Paul got his fingers nipped when he tried to feed one a carrot. This time we just said hello.
Allen's Cay was our last stop in the Exuma Cays before jumping off across the banks to Eleuthera.
Beacon Cay is at the north end of the Exumas and is the last land you see for a few hours as you head for Eleuthera.
The banks are shallow, about 12 feet deep for many miles, with a white sand bottom. We could see the shadow of the sails clearly standing out against the white sand in the turquoise water as we sailed along.
There are also areas of coral reef patches on the banks which you have to keep an eye out for but they stand out darkly against the white sand so are easy to see.
Coral reef patches stand on the banks
We arrived in the Eleuthera island group in the late afternoon and sailed through narrow Current Cut at Current Island, anchoring for the night on the other side with another cruising boat and one of the local fishing boats. Following the example of the fishers we anchored about 1/4 of a mile offshore so the mosquitos and no-see-ums (sand fleas) that come out at dusk wouldn't bother us.
We spent quite a bit of time in the Eleuthera archipelago on a previous visit which we documented in episodes of Distant Shores season 6 which is available on DVD and also download. This time it was a quick visit since our goal was to reach the Abacos, another 60 miles to the northwest.
Unfortunately we had light winds so spent the day motoring across deep seas on this leg of our passage. It was quite a change to see big cargo ships and freighters after sailing in the shallow water surrounding the Exuma Cays for so many weeks.
We arrived late afternoon at Tilloo Cay in the Abacos with storm clouds brewing and anchored there for the night. It was good to get off the boat for a nice beach walk here.
Public dock at New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
Next day we made our final jump, 35 nm to Green Turtle Cay, anchoring off New Plymouth and today we lifted the boat at Abaco Yacht Services for annual maintenance.
The sky started to look rather exciting as the excellent crew at AYS were blocking the boat but got finished before the rain came in and the winds picked up.
Scary looking sky as we haul out the boat
Distant Shores II with her 10-foot keel partially retracted
Distant Shores II with her keel retracted completely. She is designed to take the ground.
We'll be storing the boat here at Abaco Yacht Services for a few weeks while we're home in Canada completing post-production on new episodes for season 10 of the Distant Shores sailing TV series as well as the first in a new how-to series we're producing - “Let's Go Cruising!: Anchoring”.
But stay tuned! We’ll be posting lots of articles on cruising topics to help you plan your escape while we're home in the studio. We’ll be back to the boat and more cruising adventures in just a few weeks.