Exploring the Exuma Cays and National Park

Caption: Looking out to sea after entering the Exuma banks via Dotham Cut between Bitter Guana and Great Guana.

Considering there are fewer boats in the Bahamas due to COVID this season, we decided to spend more time exploring the northern Exuma islands and the Land and Sea park. We occasionally found it challenging to find safe anchorages to hide from pesky cold fronts coming off the US east coast. Life is good, we all need a challenge now and then. It keeps life interesting.

Sailing on these shallow banks is easy and fun with our 3.5 foot draft trimaran

A popular stop for cruisers, tourists and even locals is to visit the once wild pigs at Big Majors. Sailors of old dropped off breading pairs of pigs to fend for themselves on several Bahamian islands. These sailors planned to return for fresh meat as needed. They did the same with goats as we’ve witnessed in the Ragged Islands and perhaps with roosters and chickens as we hear them everywhere!

Pigs on the beach at Big Majors

In current times, the pigs are well cared for by locals. Fed and watered twice a day and ample shade provided.

Funny way to guard the piglets
Shady spot for the pigs to rest
Yes, pigs can swim!
Big Major’s anchorage
From pig beach on Big Majors

From Big Majors we went 13 miles south to Black Point for protection from south winds. Good opportunity to drop off the garbage and grab a few groceries. Early the next morning we headed around the corner to Little Harbor to get protection from north winds. We didn’t leave quite early enough. Left in fog, dropped the anchor while it was raining. No problem, the rain is warm. At least we had a quiet anchorage last night. Boats that anchored here yesterday had a bouncy night in waves. We spent 4 nights here. Met up with a group of 7 other boats from Georgetown and enjoyed a potluck and bocce ball game on the beach when the weather finally cleared.

Bocce ball on the beach at Little Harbor, Great Guana

Wild Iris pulled in to the anchorage. After Cat Island they and UJAM’n had gone further south to Rudder Cut in the Exuma’s. UJAM’n leaped ahead of us to join cruising friends in the Land and Sea Park.

Blow hole at low tide is not impressive

The next day we enjoyed a long walk to the blow hole and through the town at Black Point. Fresh cinnamon bread from the bakery! So good to stretch our legs.

Singing at sunset

So much fun to sing and make music while the sun goes down. Mark learned a couple new songs at Tom’s suggestion: Bimini and Sail Away from the Kingston Trio. We spent the next week sailing in company with Wild Iris. Next up we sailed north to Big Majors. This time we anchored on the southeast side closer to Thunderball Grotto.

Thunderball Grotto, zoom in to see boats

Tom went snorkeling in the grotto and cave with Mark and Lisa. Anita did laundry and read. She does not have a wetsuit yet, it’s on the list of things to purchase.

Roof of Thunderball cave

Next day we sailed to the west side of Pipe/Fowl Cay. Two things we want to see here: Rachel’s Bubble Bath at high tide, and some underwater caves at low tide. Mark and Lisa joined us on Lone Star and we motored 1.6 miles up to Compass Cay and immediately went to Rachel’s bath. We were a little past high tide so the bubbles weren’t very frothy, but we saw the leftover froth on the approach. Must be very impressive with an east wind and astronomical high tide. We had lunch together then went snorkeling at the caves.

A variety of fish seen in the aquarium in Exuma park

Next we sailed together to the Bahamas Land and Sea Park. We chose to anchor up a sandy river near Compass Cay. There are a couple neat things to see here. A crashed airplane in shallow water and an underwater aquarium. That same day we walked on a nice beach and up a bit of a hill to glimpse the ocean.

Beach walk and snorkeling with friends

One day Anita invited Mark and Lisa over for a baking afternoon. Our oven is very good and will heat well over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They made pizza, dinner rolls, and a cinnamon roll. We baked corn muffins and brownies.

Baking with friends on Lone Star

We rejoined UJAM’n at Highborne Cay. Stayed in Fishing Bay on the northwest coast. East winds were predicted. A cold front came through with a one two punch 12 hours apart. We had no idea the first one would result in northwest winds immediately, it was rather bouncy after the strong thunderstorms blew through in the late evening. It was a sleepless night for our cruising friends as they were anchored near two mega yachts. One dragged in the high winds and fouled their own propellor with their tenders very long tow line. We all moved around the corner the next day for more protection.

Beach games with friends, our boats in the background

Added bonus: nice beach to play games on!

Anchored together

This cruising lifestyle is a lot of fun when we cruise in company and get to know other people. We all sailed north together. More about that in the next blog.

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