Monday, January 31, 2011

Nassau - Black Point Settlement

Nassau to Black Point Settlement, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas
24 06.13 N 076 24.07 W

It’s been over 2 weeks since our last blog posting in Nassau. Internet connections are not as frequent or reliable in the Exumas and we’ve also been having such a good time it’s been hard to find the time to update. Here’s a recap of the past 2 weeks: We spent 2 days in Nassau at the Harbor Club Marina. This was a very convenient location to provision groceries, liquor, marine supplies, etc. in a shopping plaza across the street from the marina. We’ve visited Nassau on cruise ships in the past so we did not really do any sightseeing elsewhere in Nassau. 
Stairs cut into coral took us over
 the the north side of Rose Island
We left Nassau on a hot humid Tue. afternoon (1/18/11) and motored about 7 miles, anchoring off of Rose Island (25 05.0 N, 077 12.5 W) with 3 other sailboats. We dinghied to the island walking up steps cut into the coral that took us over the narrow island to the north side.

The Exhuma Iguanas of Allens Cay

Our plan is to spend the next few months here in the Exumas. The Exumas are a chain of islands that extend about 140 miles southeast of Nassau. We arrived at our 1st Exumas island, Allens Cay (24 44.95 N, 76 50.25 W), on Wednesday (19th). Allens Cay is famous for the Exumas Iguanas (even though the lizards actually reside only on the adjoining Leaf Cay & SW Allens Cay)…. These are the only islands that this species of iguanas exists in the world. 
Our anchorage at Allens Cay 
We anchored with about 15 other sailboats in the somewhat protected anchorage between these 3 Cays and spent 5 days here visiting the hundreds of  iguanas, snorkeling a nearby reef, relaxing and partying with our friends on Dream Catcher. High speed tour boats from Nassau take day-tourists to view the iguanas. A front came through on Saturday (22nd) bringing squalls and building westerly winds. By 10PM that evening the winds had increased to 20-25kt gusting to 30kts. The winds coupled with the current that floods/ ebbs through the anchorage produced 3’ swells that held us beam-on to the waves. Everyone was awake on anchor watch as a few boats dragged. The 2 anchors we had deployed held us great but it was a hellacious, uncomfortable night until the current turned same direction as the wind around 3:30AM.

Dream Catcher & Carina
off of Hawksbill Cay
Sunday 1/23 we pulled anchor and motor sailed 20 miles south to Hawksbill Cay, a pristine and uninhabited island within the Exumas Land & Sea Park boundary. We picked up a park mooring ball off the shoreline (24 28.1 N, 76 46.2 W) and dinghied onto a beautiful white sand beach where we then climbed to a coral headland to take in the panorama.

View from the headland
overlooking Hawksbill Cay
We then walked across the island to the ocean on the eastern side. We had intended to stay at Hawksbill on Monday but an unpredicted change in weather and winds over the next few days forced us to change plans. We left Hawksbill Cay in building easterly winds shifting to southeast. We had a boisterous day of motor sailing in 20-25kn apparent winds on our nose in 3’seas on our way to the Staniel Cay area.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club in background
is not like the "yacht clubs" back home
We anchored in nice protected cove outside the Sampson Cay Resort (24 12.54 N, 76 28.53 W). This harbor offered good protection from the strong south easterlies all night and we had a nice restful night at anchor. This was also our 1st (spotty) Internet connection since departing Nassau. We spent 2 days there and on Wed. we motored a few miles past Fowl Cay, between the Big & Little Majors islands to tie up dockside at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Nurse sharks swimming around
the dock at Staniel Cay YC
We decided to splurge on a marina and it did allow us better access to explore this cay. We didn’t have to go far to get a look at the local sea life as there were numerous nurse sharks right under the docks. We toured the island both on foot and with bicycles borrowed from our friends on Dream Catcher. That night we had dinner at the yacht club with Gary & Jane from Dream Catcher and Silvio & Verina from Blues Breaker (who we had last seen in Bimini). The grilled Mahi was excellent.

Swing on beach at Pirates Cove

Jane & Gary of Dream Catcher,
Verina & Silvio of Blues Breaker
and us at dinner at yacht club 

The pigs of Big Majors swimming
out to meet us for food
On Thursday (27th) we traveled a short distance from Staniel Cay past the Thunderball Grotto and around the west side of Big Majors (24 11.32 N, 076 27.45 W) where we anchored amongst at least 30 other boats. This uninhabited cay is known for its population of feral pigs. The pigs swim out to meet approaching dinghies looking for food handouts. They are quite persistent and fussy as to their food preferences. There were not interested in the carrots we brought but seemed to enjoy bread, crackers and chips.

Preparing to snorkel Thunderball Grotto
Friday (28th) morning we snorkeled Thunderball Grotto at slack low tide. This was the location filmed in the James Bond 007 movie Thunderball. The colorful tropical fish swim all around your face and body (again conditioned for food treats that snorkeler’s feed them).

The 3 Little Piggies!
That afternoon we dinghied over to middle beach (far away from “pig beach”) where we joined other boaters for afternoon cocktails. Although the pigs usually stay on the large beach to the south three cute little piglets ventured over to see what was going on and what they might get for a snack. They seemed to enjoy the potato chips. The winds built as the afternoon progressed and shifted to expose the anchorage to the incoming waves. Needless to say it was a rough & bumpy evening and overnight. 
Cruisers party on the beach

Conditions calmed on Saturday which allowed for an evening potluck party on the beach of Big Majors with fellow cruisers. We returned to Carina after enjoying the beach party which included great food, great company and even a bonfire. The night was calm and clear with a magnificent sky full of stars.

Sunday 1/30 we left Big Majors and traveled 8 miles to Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay along with Blues Breaker & Dream Catcher. Black Point has a population of 300 and is the 2nd largest settlement in the Exumas after Georgetown. It has almost every amenity a cruiser could hope for… internet access, groceries (supply boat comes on Tuesday), trash disposal (very important).We did a little exploring on Sunday afternoon. We will probably stay here for a few more days to see what the weather brings before continuing on to Georgetown for next week to meet Mark’s sister and brother in law who will be visiting with us for a week.   

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