The Exumas: Part 1

Forty miles south of Paradise Island is the Exumas. There are enough islands and cays in this 130 mile stretch of the Bahamas that you could visit one every day of the year if so inclined. If only there was no such thing as hurricane season then we could really take our time. Every couple of days or so we move Pepper further south down the chain. Most islands are uninhabited, some are privately owned, so I have yet to find wifi. I wrote a little about each island as the anchor dropped.

On Valentine’s Day we were hooked on Allans Cay, home of the famous Bahamian Iguanas. Romantic! After a full day of about 40 miles of sailing (yes, it took all day) the water surrounding Pepper was clear as glass. This is what we’ve been seeking! With the moon reflecting off the water and white sand it looked like a well-lit swimming pool. I’m not even kidding. There wasn’t even a ripple on the surface. As we peered over the edge of Pepper we could see our own shadows on the sand below. Furthermore, this recipe made for a really restful sleep and those are extremely hard to come by.

The next morning Etienne (pronounced H.N.) picked us up for coffee on La Luna with Last Tango and we watched from their cockpit as the tour boats started pulling onto the beach from Nassau to see the iguanas. The critters showed up within a matter of minutes and were ready to snack on fruit kabobs. Itching to get a closer look we arranged our own tour to the beach. I’ll never forget the lady who decided it was a bright idea to hand feed the iguanas. Tourists are entertaining. We stared as a rather large lizard tried to devour her fingers by biting and shaking his head. Ouch!

We learned that these power boat trips run $250 per person and that only bought them 15 minutes on Allans Cay with the Bahamian Iguanas. And some people didn’t even get off the boat! Here we were amongst them somehow, able to explore the entire island, and partake in 4 feedings. We were completely fascinated with the iguanas. The tourists, however, didn’t seem too impressed which I took note of because it struck me pretty hard. It’s an accomplishment, for us, to sail our tiny floating house here. Sailing here, making your own electricity, water and everything, makes us really appreciate the fact that we’re in the Bahamas. God is good.

February 15
We had two anchorages on the West side of Highbourne Cay because we’re always relocating due to weather. The wind has been cool and quite strong. I’ll be glad when spring gets here because we’ve spent a number of days in the Bahamas inside the boat, just poking our heads out, wishing for warmer, less windy days. That being said, when we see a good day coming we pack it all in and totally wear ourselves out. The one day it cleared up enough to play around felt like a much needed vacation. I get crazy just sitting around and end up cleaning like a mad woman or organizing. Trent installed a new alternator on one of those bad days. It’s always something. Anyways, we followed Etienne on foot into the ticket of the island where he discovered some deep caves, which appear to have been lived in, and even an old well. We must have spent several hours snorkeling too. The eel was the highlight!

February 20
At Shroud Cay we explored The Exuma Land and Sea Park. Leaving early in the morning during high tide, again with our buddy boaters, we took another dinghy tour through the creek-like waterways. It reminded me of a river trip that I would have done back at home, minus the alcohol, add crystal clear water. We weaved in and out of mangrove cuts and finally pulled the dinghy up on the opposite side of the island where the creek fed out into the ocean, causing the currents to collide, creating a stunning seascape. We did quite a bit of hiking too and found Camp Driftwood a Robinson Crusoe type of place. I swam against the current for exercise and snorkeled around but before long we noticed the current had gone down by several feet and our little boats were way up onto the sand. Too much fun! Our trip back was memorable. Trent and I pulled the boat on foot, used the oars, pushed off of rocks and trees with our feet and arms, raised the engine to run it on the surface when we could and utilized what was left of the current to pull us to our side of the island. Now this reminded me of home!

February 22
The best snorkeling so far is definitely at Staniel Cay. James Bond’s Thurderball was filmed in the grottos which were absolutely bursting with colors and life. It was the first time either of us had been in the water with a nurse shark; I admit to being frightened. A shark’s a shark! We saw many firsts on this trip, including a sea turtle, extra large barracuda and a gigantic crab. Fishing here was forbidden, which explains the diversity. I don’t think the Bahamians have much sense of conservation. It seems as though you can basically take whatever you want. A fishing permit came with our entry fee but we haven’t had much luck. The other quite unique thing about the island is the barnyard animals on the beach. Pigs and chickens try to raid you and your dinghy for food upon getting to the beach. They aren’t shy about it either because they even tried to snatch up my camera. Some of them were jumping on  dinghies with people in them! We hear the pigs are “wild.” Anyways, we almost always find a sandy beach to watch the sunset and have a sundowner with our friends and well….these sundowner gatherings sure are different. You have to keep from getting stepped on by pigs.

February 26
Our 8 mile mini-voyage to Great Guana Cay was probably the easiest sailing we’ve ever done. With only the head sail out Pepper was getting 6 knots and we only tacked her once. That a girl! Since we pulled into our anchorage before 10 a.m. I had time to make bread before heading into Black Point.

Grocery stores, if you can even call them that, have been pretty piss poor in the Bahamas. They’re more like convenience stores. You know how they have a small basket of fruit on the checkout counter that’s been sitting there for ages? Yea, that’s what the selections have been like. Regardless, we go find all the grocery stores on every island and hope to pick up a few fresh things. We usually end up buying a couple tomatoes, bananas and cabbage. We’ve actually fared pretty well due to our friends back at Turner Marine telling us to provision the hell out of Pepper. (Read how we provisioned here.) All that food cluttered up the boat a tad and every cupboard was stuffed full but gosh was it worth it. Not only are the grocery stores pathetic but they’re outrageously expensive. For example, my favorite grapefruit juice is about $3 in Florida and $8 Nassau, which is the last place I saw it on the shelf. A nothing fancy loaf of bread will cost you at least $5 so we make as much homemade as possible and it’s fun too. Never would I ever have had time to make bread  back at home. Let me tell ya, nothing beats a slice of hot bread and butter after a full day on the water. Not to mention, I get brownie points from Trent when it’s bread day too. He just loves it. Growing sprouts has been a real blessing. I grow a 6 part mix. The super healthy and delicious sprouts go on just about everything. Now I can’t seem to get my yogurt recipe just right but it’s a working process and it hasn’t killed us yet.

Now back to Black Point. This place, for once in the Exumas, seems as though they’re really trying to cater to sailors. Last night we found the first happy hour since Florida! Beers or rum punch were only $3.50 so we shared a fantastic happy hour with the crew of La Luna, some new neighbors and old friends. I’m picking up an excellent wifi signal on anchorage right now with our Wirie (internet booster). Those things are worth their weight in gold let me tell ya. I’m excited to get into town today because we found a laundromat! Our sheets and towels need it pretty bad I admit. Not only can you do laundry there, but the place has free wifi, you can buy eggs, bread and cake, get a haircut or even take an 8 minute hot shower. Oh and we also found a FREE water well by the dinghy beach. If you don’t have a watermaker in the Bahamas, be prepared to chase down fresh water like it’s your only mission in life. I’m not kidding. We have some friends that anchored out next to a marina for 3 days waiting for water. It’s not cheap either. ll that being said, I think the big difference here is that local people actually live on the island and they’re trying to make a living by driving tourism. This is the first place in the Bahamas we’ve seen kids, a school and housing. It’s a nice change of pace and I think Great Guana Cay is going to catch on quick amongst the cruising community.

Our last stop in the Exumas will probably be Georgetown. It’s supposedly a big cruising hub and has around 500 boats on anchor. I hear it’s a great place to reprovision and has lots of activities. We’ll do a couple more small islands before then though so look for a part 2 of the Exumas.

Buddy boaters: Gigi, Etienne, Kim, John, Denise, Jasmine the dog & Mike
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