11 March 2019 Stocking Island to Ray Cay, Exumas
The weather forecast was for lighter winds tomorrow, so we took the opportunity to sail downwind to the cays to the north of Georgetown with the plan of motoring back tomorrow in the calmer conditions. We had a pleasant 4 hour broad reach to Leaf Cay where we anchored at 23°47.06N 076°07.75W in 3.5 metres, good holding.
After lunch, we took Craig and Kristen to the beach on Leaf Cay. We hadn’t told them about the Pink Iguanas, so they were thrilled to see and feed them with pieces of fruit. After 15 minutes of staring at iguanas, we went snorkelling near to the yellow navigation pole, which again was very good with crystal clear water. We were lucky enough to spot a lovely small Green Turtle who wasn’t too bothered by us.
Back on the boat, we decided that the anchorage would be a little too bouncy, so we motored out of the pass and along the coast to Rat Cay, where we anchored at the same place as before - 23°43.89N 076°02.94W in 3.5 metres of water. Surprisingly, there’s no one else here and we’re very happy to be alone in this beautiful anchorage.
12 March 2019 Rat Cay to Elizabeth Island, Exumas
There was hardly any wind and the sea was flat calm, so Craig and I went hunting lobster. We had a look by the small rocky islands to the north of the anchorage, but there was a strong current ripping through the channels. We headed down the windward side of Rat Cay, stopping to have a look at the reef, which is mostly flat rock at 5-10 metres depth.
We eventually stopped at a place where there were some promising looking small overhangs. On my second dive, I spotted a Spanish Lobster, which is an ugly looking thing – like a large underwater woodlouse. After a couple of dives, I managed to snare it and also another one that was in the same little cave.
I had a look at another ledge and found a large Spiny Lobster lurking in a cave. It was deep inside its dead-end cave, but after a couple of attempts and by stretching my arm at full length, I managed to snare its tentacle and pull it out. With three lobsters in the bag, we gave up hunting and went for a snorkel just south of the pass into Rat Cay. The seabed on the wind ward side is flat rock, but we found good snorkelling on the leeward side.
After lunch, we left Rat Cay and motored south in calm seas back to Elizabeth Island, where we anchored at 23°30.25N 075°43.66W in 7 metres. It took us two attempts because the first one was on rubble. The anchorage was flat calm with about 8 boats at anchor.
13 March 2019 Elizabeth Island, Exumas
Morning brought us light north-east winds and a peasant day. Glenys and I went snorkelling with Craig, leaving Kristen to chill-out reading a book. We dropped our anchor at the side of a shallow reef to the south of the boat channel, which was pleasant with nice coral heads and loads of soft coral. In the afternoon, the clouds built up and the wind increased to 15 knots, so we stayed on the boat.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a little software project, which I’ve decided to write in Java, which is a new language for me. Craig’s a professional Java programmer, so I persuaded him to spend all afternoon sitting below, while I asked loads of questions and he handed out welcome advice on my coding.
The wind continued to increase and it was blowing a hooley after sunset, so we sat down below having a super Indian curry and then played cards until late.
Having guests always puts a strain on our toilets. We’ve been using the front heads for No.2’s because it has a holding tank, which we like to empty after dark – it’s not pleasant seeing sewage drifting around in a crowded anchorage. Unfortunately, we’ve developed a blockage in the system and we weren’t able to empty the tank this evening. We’ll have to just use the aft toilet and I’ll sort out the problem when Craig and Kristen have left in a few days’ time
14 March 2019 Elizabeth Island, Exumas
It was a very bouncy night with 25 knot winds. I just HAD to get up at 04:00 to check that we were still anchored in the same place - I don’t think that any of us slept very well.
By morning, the wind had abated a little, but it was still overcast, so we went for a walk on the south end of Stocking Island. We found a path that took us along the windward shore; then cut across to Sand-dollar beach; and finally led us back to where we’d left the dinghy – it was a nice 90 minute walk.
The occluded front that has been giving us the windy weather finally passed over in the early afternoon, leaving us with nice, blue skies. The wind is forecast to drop further overnight, but we moved in towards the shore to give us a little more protection from the 15-20 knot winds.
We all went for a snorkel on the coral heads close to the shore, just to the south of a lime coloured house, which was surprisingly good. Craig found a Yellow Stingray and I found a Giant Hermit Crab in a Queen Conch shell. The wind dropped enough in the evening for us to have dinner in the cockpit.
15 March 2019 Elizabeth Island to Georgetown, Exumas
After breakfast, we motored over to anchor off Georgetown. It was scarily shallow and, at one point, we touched the bottom causing me to quickly reverse off. We gave up trying to get close to the shore and anchored at 23 30.59N 075 45.59W in 3 metres depth on fabulous white sand. We’re about ½ mile from town, but that’s much closer than anchoring at Stocking Island.
We took the dinghy ashore and went for a walk around Georgetown, basically circling around the lagoon. After visiting the tourist souvenir market, we went to Peace & Plenty hotel for lunch. It was expensive at $25US per head for sandwiches and a soft drink, but the food was very good and we were in a lovely location looking out across the emerald water towards Stocking Island.
The afternoon was spent chilling out and packing suitcases. Craig brought an extra bag, so we filled that and another cargo bag with stuff that we no longer need on the boat. He’ll be storing it in his loft alongside the 15 boxes that we already store there.
At 17:00, I took Craig and Kristen ashore in the blustery conditions to catch a taxi. We managed to stay dry for most of the way, but unfortunately, as we approached the channel into the lagoon, a big wave caught us from behind, tipped us nose down, causing our heavily loaded dinghy to plunge into a wave, which sloshed over the front of the dinghy. We’d put the luggage into bin liners, but some of their bags were a bit wet.
Back at the boat, Glenys and I remained in the exposed anchorage overnight, which was okay.
16 March 2019 Georgetown to Monument Beach, Exumas
Having guests for a week had severely depleted our provisions, so we went ashore to do some shopping and dropped off a big bag of laundry, which I was able to pick up a few hours later. Later in the afternoon, we motored over to Stocking Island and anchored at 23°31.54N 075°45.90W off Monument Beach amongst 50 other boats. It’s a well-protected anchorage, but we’re not used to being in the middle of so many boats.
17 March 2019 Monument Beach to Elizabeth Island, Exumas
We had a very quiet night, but the anchorage is far too crowded for us, so we upped anchor and moved down to Elizabeth Island again. The anchorage is a little more exposed and a bit bouncy, but there are only two other boats here.
Time is marching on and we want to head off to the East Coast of the USA soon, but the weather isn’t playing ball. There’s a front coming through on the 20th, which will send the wind around the clock with at least 24 hours of westerly winds. We don’t want to be in any of the anchorages further north because they are totally unprotected from that direction, so it looks like we’ll be stuck here until Thursday, 21st and even then, we might be motoring into north winds to get moving.
We sent most of the morning looking at alternative routes to get to Florida. Our original intention was to sail to Cape Canaveral, but it looks like the canal leading to the Intracoastal Waterway has shoaled to less than 5 feet and we won’t be able to get through. Another option is West Palm Beach, which is one of the closer ports and has a customs office in the port, but we’d be a lot further south and have an extra 2-3 days of motoring up the boring Intracoastal Waterway.
After a lot of debate, we’ve decided to make our landfall at the Ponce de Leon Inlet. It’s not a big ship port, but the channel looks to be fairly well marked and isn’t too shallow. Customs and Immigration are at Daytona Beach airport, which is about 12 miles away, so we’ll have to sort out the logistics of getting there to clear in. We have a friend, Tony Uragello, who lives in the area, so we might be able to impose on him.
So, our plan is to leave here in a few days’ time, stopping at three anchorages along the Exumas. We’ll leave the Exumas at Highbourne Cay and have a 32 mile passage across the shallow White Bank, for which we need good weather and good light. Once we get into the Tongue of the Ocean, we can either stop for the night at the west end of New Providence Island or carry on a further 320 miles to Ponce de Leon Inlet, which will be two nights at sea. Hopefully, we’ll be in Florida by the end of March.