25 February 2019   Rat Cay to Leaf Cay, Exumas
Our mission is to explore some anchorages where we can take our son, Craig when he arrives in two weeks’ time, so we headed a bit further north to Lee Stocking Island.  There are recommended routes on leeward side of the Exumas, but most have sections that are too shallow for my nerves.  We retraced our route out to the seaward side of Rat Cay and motored along the islands with very little wind.

It looks like the morning is the time when everyone moves because our AIS showed dozens of American and Canadian cruisers sailing along the island chain – Exuma Rush Hour.  It only took us an hour to get to Adderley Cay, where we negotiated the pass and weaved our way through sand bars to Leaf Cay

Pink Iguanas, Leaf Cay

The anchorage is shallow at 2.5 – 4 metres and the sea bed is sand and grass, so it was difficult to see the shallows, so I motored around a bit to check out and area greater than 3.5 metres (kind of like a cat circles before it lies down).  I ended up with a circular track on our chart platter, showing me an area that was deep enough for us and dropped my anchor in the middle.  We ended up at 23°47.06N 076°07.75W in 3.5 metres, good holding.

After lunch, we went to the beach on the west side of Leaf Cay, which is a popular tourist attraction.  There’s a constant stream of powerboats taking tourists up and down the islands, mostly heading for Big Major Cay, where the famous Swimming Pigs live.  Leaf Cay is a stop for them because there are large “pink” Iguanas who live on the island.  The hordes of tourists bring little snacks for the iguanas, so there are dozens of them sunning on the hot sand and rocks.

Glenys had brought some pieces of pear, so she fed them while I took some pictures.  As with all beaches in the Bahamas, the sand is beautifully white and the water colours are stunning.  After 15 minutes, I’d reached my threshold of Iguana-staring, so we returned to Alba and picked up our snorkelling gear.  

We first went to shallow bay on the north-east of Norman’s Pond Cay (about 23°47.18N 076 08.10W).  It was only a couple of metres deep, but there were some pretty coral heads and I found a very photogenic Flamingo Tongue crawling across a rock.  They’re normally found on sea fans, which are constantly swirling around, so it’s hard to photograph them.  This one was slowly inching its way along the rock, so I spent a happy 10 minutes taking macro pictures.

Flamingo Tongue

We then went to a reef just south of a yellow navigation marker at about 23°47.38N 076°08.33W.  It was a nice bit of reef with hard and soft corals and plenty of fish.  The water was crystal clear, but there was a fairly strong current.  I’m pleasantly surprised about how good the snorkelling is in this area.

A strong current runs through the anchorage and later in the evening, the wind picked up to 15 knots from the south-east.  By ten o’clock, the tide was ebbing and flowing out towards the south-east creating a bit of a chop.  Alba was pointing into the current, so we had wind-waves slapping underneath our sugar scoop stern.  It was noisy in the back cabin with an unsettling, jerky motion – were we dragging?  It was hard to fall asleep.

26 February 2019   Leaf Cay to Rat Cay, Exumas
The tide turned at 01:30 and the change in the motion woke me up.  I wearily climbed out of bed and found that we were pointing into the 15 knot wind and the waves, which was much more pleasant.  It was a pitch black night with no reference lights on shore, so I had a quick look at our tablet to confirm that we were still anchored in the same place. I slept soundly for the rest of the night - I wouldn’t like to be here in very strong winds.

We waited for the sun to get higher in the sky and then motored east towards Lee Stocking Island.  It looks to be a great anchorage, but it’s too shallow for our 2 metre draft.  There’s supposed to be an anchorage “behind a shallow sandbar” (at 23°46.11N 076°06.96W), but there were 2 foot wind waves even in the 15-20 knot wind.  

The water gradually shallows on the sand bar, so we dropped the anchor in 4 metres depth to give us time to decide what to do next.  This was a mistake, because there was a very strong current which pushed our chain against the hull making a horrible grinding noise, so we only stayed 5 minutes.  

Rat Cay

Looking at the charts, we couldn’t see anywhere nearby where we could comfortably anchor.  There’s one anchorage about 10 miles north, but it looks open to the south-east and is probably affected by string currents.  We decided to head back to Rat Cay, which had been lovely the previous day.

It was a hard bash, motoring almost directly into the 2 metre waves and 15-20 knot wind, but 90 minutes later, we were in the relatively calm waters behind the islands.   We anchored in approximately the same place as before and the wind was coming directly from the shore, so it should have been a good anchorage.  Unfortunately, there was an irritating surge caused by the waves hooking around the corner.  This made us rock and roll a little, which was disappointing.  I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Exumas aren’t a great place to be in strong winds… 

We had quiet afternoon and evening.

27 February 2019   Rat Cay, Exumas
The surge gradually became worse during the morning and by mid-day, we had a two foot swell hooking into the anchorage.  The wind had veered to southeast and was blowing 20 knots making the anchorage into a cauldron.  It was a horrible afternoon rolling around.  We know that the wind will drop tomorrow, but we had to endure today.  

We just pottered about, not able to concentrate on anything much.  However, it’s a pretty place and there’s good internet access via the Batelco tower a few miles away.