Oven Rock and Little Farmers Cay

Close but far away.

Some days ago we sailed a few hours south to Little Farmers Cay, a small island with minimal services that has not yet been fully corrupted by tourists and comfort-seeking cruisers. I hesitated to make the trip because this can be a tricky area to approach in a deep-draft boat. In the end I decided to anchor Andante far away and dinghy in to avoid the shallows and strong currents. We found a nice spot in the lee of Great Guana Cay about 1.5 miles north of Little Farmers and just north of Oven Rock.

Oven Rock is a big chunk sitting by itself on the beach of Great Guana Cay. The rock has an almost rectangular hollow in the western face that does make it sort of resemble an oven. Our reason for visiting wasn’t the rock but a very pleasant hike across the island with a stop in a cool cave in the middle. There is a freshwater pool in the cave that is supposed to be swimmable and diveable. I did neither but did enjoy the cool air and the intricate rock formations. The view of Exuma Sound was pretty spectacular from the rocky windward beach.

Then I took dinghy another mile or so south to Little Farmers Cay. First stop was the Farmers Cay Yacht club to look around and take a long walk. The only connection to town from the yacht club requires walking the length of the 3000 ft runway — but the runway is open on three sides to beautiful blue water so it was a very enjoyable walk to nowhere. At the southern end I turned around and walked back, then used dinghy to go a little further south to the cute and quiet government dock that was swarming with sea turtles. No throngs of tourists or visiting cruisers here — yet — which makes the whole place feel more remote than it really is. Which is just fine with me.

Dinghy at Oven Rock, Great Guana Cay, Exumas. The “oven” is on the opposite face of the rock so nothing to see here. Move along.
View from the top of the hill on the hike across Great Guana. Exuma Sound is on the right. There is a small, shallow lagoon with a nice white sand beach fed by breaking waves from the sound.
Inside the spooky cave. The water is fresh and very clear and the ceiling and floor are covered with interesting formations. I didn’t see any bats.
The Farmers Cay Yacht Club is a tiny laid-back place with one of the nicest dinghy docks I’ve run across.
Dinghy at Farmers Cay Yacht Club.
Walking the runway. It is long, straight, mostly flat, and not at all smooth. I didn’t see anyone land during our visit — and I was definitely looking over my shoulder — but understand the runway is used regularly by private planes and charters.
Little Harbor on Little Farmers Cay inshore of the government dock. Much evidence of fishing and conching activity. At lunchtime there were locals sleeping in hammocks tied to pilings on the docks. Very peaceful.

Here and There and Back Again

Lots of random movement. And lots of sunshine.

For the past week or so I’ve been moving almost daily from island to island in the central Exumas. The weather has been nice with consistent easterly trade winds that allow easy north and south sailing. All of this movement has been within a day’s sail of Staniel Cay and Big Majors Spot and I’m starting to think of this area as home. The anchorage is roomy and protected and its easy to get fuel, water and food — so I keep coming back after spending a few days away in quieter, more secluded spots.

The Black Point settlement on Great Guana Cay (just a few miles south of Staniel Cay) has a great natural harbor and some nice facilities for cruisers including a couple of restaurants, a small grocery store and possibly the most scenic laundromat anywhere. This is the government dock and dinghy landing.
Clearly conching is a local industry. There were hundreds of shells on the beach near the government dock.
Black Point is known for their boat builders and sailors. This one is called “Smashie.”
Just opposite the harbor there are some dramatic rock formations in Exuma Sound. This is the windward side of the island and the surf was pretty intense.
Cool blowhole I understand the spray is much taller at high tide.
One of several green turtles that hung out around Andante while anchored in Black Point.
A bit further south is White Point. No settlement here but a huge and gorgeous beach that was great for walking.
At the end of the white sand beach the rock was particularly jagged and sharp.
Back at Bitter Guana Cay in a small cove a little south of Iguana Beach. One of my favorite anchorages so far. Will be back soon.
Andante in a small cove on Bitter Guana Cay. I like the contrast between the shallow Exuma Bank and the deep Exuma Sound.
No sharks. But cool ripples on a windy day.
Today we sailed north to a nice snorkeling spot near Soldier’s and O’Briens Cays in the Exumas Land and Sea Park. Probably the clearest water yet. And some giant sea turtles.
Fishy fishy fishy fish.
Beware discount airlines.

Bitter Guana Cay

I’m not sure what the ‘guanas are bitter about. This place is gorgeous.

The island is a protected habitat for endangered iguanas. Most are 2-3 feet long. They generally move around pretty slowly but I’ve been surprised at how fast they can scamper when something exciting is happening.
The island has some pretty tall (and seemingly fragile) limestone cliffs. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, both on the protected (west) side facing the bank and on the windward side facing Exuma Sound.
This guy was pretty curious about the camera. I learned yesterday (via a friend with first-hand experience) that they will bite if you try to feed them by hand.
We are less than 3 miles from the settlement at Staniel Cay (top of the photo) but the little anchorage feels very isolated. Exactly what I was looking for.

Not sure how long I will stay here. For the first time in a while the weather is not pushing me in any particular direction. I may just stay put for a while and enjoy the environment for a while. I’ve found a few little patch reefs that I’d like to explore this afternoon. Will take the camera with me and try to share what I find underwater.

Shroud Cay to Staniel Cay

Wifi is a first-world problem. But its still a problem.

It has been tough to find a solid internet connection for the past several days. I’m not really complaining but have felt guilty about not posting anything for a while. Sometimes WordPress works over a weak cell connection and sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, its been blowing like stink for almost a week and today is the first chance I’ve had to get ashore to an establishment with a fair internet connection. I’ll keep it short and let the photos speak for themselves.

After leaving Highbourne Cay we spend a couple of days in the lee of Shroud Cay, one of several islands within the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. The island is riddled with mangrove-lined creeks and little passages that lead to shallow internal basins and some beautiful sandy beaches. Dinghy and I did some exploring and saw lots of fish and rays and a few sharks. Very few birds.
There is a big contrast between the flour-sand beaches and the razor sharp coral rock. Next time I’ll remember my shoes. Andante is the distant white blotch in the center of the picture. You can tell from the clouds in these pictures that some weather was coming. We didn’t stay long as there was no protection here from the north or west.
Shroud Cay, like Highbourne, is readily accessible from Nassau by large fast motoryachts. So even with weather closing in there was no shortage of big boats full of loud people.
We had a fantastic six-hour sail south to Staniel Cay. We are actually anchored just west of Staniel near Big Majors Spot, famous for its beach of swimming pigs. The anchorage (known and charted as “Bay of Pigs”) has a good-holding sand bottom and is reasonably protected from most directions. The water is crystal clear and every now and then a shark or a ray will swim by. We chose to ride out the storm here — and we did fine.
Although it was still blowing 30+ at Andante’s anchorage, Dinghy and I were able to find some small sheltered beaches to explore. We also went ashore on Staniel Cay and walked around the small town and filled our fuel and water jugs and bought some local bread and vegetables.
Yes there are really pigs on the beach. I didn’t see any swimming but then I didn’t bring any food to taunt them with.
Over
Under
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a gorgeous spot that is welcoming to cruisers of all styles. They provide a nice beach to land on, have fuel and water for sale and will take your trash for a few dollars per bag. And wonderful fast free wifi — I’m writing this while sitting at their bar.
Finally and just in case you think its all fun and games… The diaphragm in Andante’s fresh water pressure pump decided to retire without notice. I didn’t have an exact spare but was able to fabricate a temporary replacement from some scrap rubber. It works OK for now but probably won’t last long.

Its hard to guess when I’ll have good wifi again so this may be the last post for a while. The plan for the next week or so is to head from Staniel Cay / Big Majors towards the settlement at Black Point a few hours south. Along the way I’m hoping to find some secluded anchorages and do a little snorkeling while the weather is nice.

New Providence

So where is the old Providence? Let’s ask The Google:

“The name New Providence Island is derived from a 16th‐century governor who gave thanks to Divine Providence for his survival after a shipwreck. The “New” was added later to distinguish it from Providencia in Western Caribbean (now Colombia) used by pirates.” Thanks Google.

Almost 75% of the Bahamian population lives on this one island — and there are hundreds of islands and thousands of small cays (always pronounced “keys” hereabouts) in the country. Temporarily add one person (and one boat): Andante and I arrived in West Bay, New Providence this afternoon after a nice sail from the Berry Islands.

Very-long-range view of the hotels and casinos and whatnot in Nassau Harbor and Paradise Island. We are on the opposite end of the island.

West Bay is surrounded by a park, a golf course and the exclusive community of Lyford Cay. And a noisy and smelly power plant. But its still a pretty nice spot to spend a day or two and wait for northerly winds to head further south to the Exumas. Some folks have written about excessive surge and uncomfortable rolling at anchor here but with a 15 kt southeast wind we’re barely moving at all.

Andante in West Bay, New Providence.
Same, but from a lower viewpoint. The water is clear enough that you can see the anchor chain on the bottom. But it is a bit greener than in the Berrys. I don’t know exactly why but imagine nutrient-rich runoff from the surrounding manicured community and golf course may contribute.

The first thing I did after anchoring was jump overboard. The water temperature was finally above 70 (yay) and I’d read accounts of poor holding (uh oh). So I dove in and gave the anchor a check to make sure it was set well.

The anchor. You can see that it did drag a bit before setting. I placed two sand dollars just behind it as a reference and will check in the morning to see if it moved any further. Between the 55 lb anchor and the boat are 125 feet of 3/8″ chain (about 175 lbs). All this chain generally prevents the anchor from being pulled upwards and dislodged. The trip line is connected to a surface float to mark the anchor position and so I can extract the anchor backwards should it get wedged under a rock.

While I was in the water I gave Andante an all-over bottom inspection. She looked good except that the prop zinc (the bit that I inspected in very cold water due to a mysterious vibration way back in Fisher Island, NY) was completely consumed. It didn’t fall off but rather completely corroded off. In less than 60 days. Hmm. Not sure why yet but went ahead and replaced it while I was wet. Will watch it carefully over the next few weeks. Hoping it has to do with the dockside 120V electrical system in Beaufort and not the 12V system onboard.

The prop is a little discolored but had no growth on it. I replaced the missing anode (grey lump on aft end of the hub) with a new one.
Just in case you wondered what a 2 m boat looks like in 3 m of water. This was taken at close to 1/2 tide so we may be another 20-30 cm closer to the seabed at low tide. The bottom is mostly sand with some grass. Actually more (and greener) grass than portions of my yard.
I do not have giant starfish in my yard. But otherwise the ground looks similar. This fellow was about 8″ across and directly under the keel.

It rained last night in the Berrys – at 0230. I know this because my porthole was open and I got splashed in the face. This evening just before sunset it was obvious that a squall was coming our way so I closed everything up tight in advance.

Squall at sunset.

The rain was hard and lasted more than an hour. But no complaints: Andante was covered in salt from today’s sail and always enjoys a good shower. I just wish it would rain soap briefly before the rinse cycle.

When I have a chance (and can find some fabric) I’d like to make some rain flys for at least one or two of Andante’s hatches so they can remain open in all weather. It gets a bit stuffy below with all the hatches and ports closed.

Anyway, the plan for now is to hang out here tomorrow and do boat jobs. Perhaps I’ll do a little more swimming and give Andante’s waterline a good scrub. Then on Thursday we’ll ride the north wind down to Highbourne Cay in the northern Exumas.

Bonus Content!

I didn’t have the bandwidth until today to upload these recent videos. Enjoy.

The other day as we were leaving Bimini a group of dolphins led me out of the harbor. One of them played on the bow for several minutes. Good fun.

And while dockside in Bimini I watched some fisherman throw scraps to a big group of nurse sharks. Pretty spectacular. I was actually more afraid of the greedy pelicans.