Monday, July 26 we left Orchid Bay Marina on Great Guana Cay at about 8:00am to cruise a few hours south to Tilloo Cay, our last stop in the Abacos before we cross the Providence Channel to Eleuthera. The anchorage is protected and very quiet (we were the only ones here – which was marvelous). We lowered the kayak and rowed over to a nearby beach, snorkeling in shallow, clear water, with not much sea life, but easy swimming on a hot day. We did see several large conch (which we will one day gather to have for dinner), lots of small, clear/white fish, and one ray. After a leisurely stroll on the beach (just us), we kayaked back to the boat. We snacked and then sunned on the upper deck, with music and books. Given the isolated area, there may have been much less clothing and much more sunscreen as we sunned and swam. Life is very good.
On the 28th, we pulled up anchor around 6:30am, knowing the cruise south to Eleuthera Island would be close to 10 hours. Neil tried his hand at fishing again, this time hooking two barracudas (one was about 4 feet long!). As these were not fish we wanted to mess with, he became rather proficient at releasing the hook from inside their mouths (which had very long, very sharp, and many teeth… thank God for the hook remover gizmo he bought…) Kathleen saw a flying fish that was actually flapping its fins like wings and flying far over the water, even able to change direction. Seems like a really cool evolutionary upgrade, right there. We did encounter a few freighters, which always makes you pay more attention when you are cruising across generally wide open spaces. We anchored near Current Cut, which is the inlet we would use the next day to travel across from the north west side of Eleuthera to the south east side.
The waters here are even clearer than in the Abacos, reminding us of swimming pools rather than large oceanic bodies of water. We did some snorkeling to cool off and explore, but there wasn’t a lot around us as far as wildlife. It was also Kathleen’s birthday (and a rather cool way to spend one’s birthday, she did heartily opine….). Our daughter Meghan set up a Skype call with the kids (well, three out of the four made it…) and it was wonderful to spend an hour laughing and catching up. We had some Mahi Mahi in the freezer from Sam’s Club, so we had that, which while not as good as fresh caught, was still wonderful to enjoy with a cocktail and a splendid sunset.
We left about 2:30pm on the 29th, planning to catch (or at least near) slack current through Current Cut, and we were successful. It is a narrow deep passage, with very shallow shoals and reefs on either side. Once through, we cruised to Mutton Fish Point, first passing “the Glass Window” which was probably waay cooler when it was a natural arch. It’s still impressive as a view to the Atlantic and is the only connecting road for the north and south parts of the island. We anchored in a lovely spot, enjoying the views and the water. We realized that we were skipping down Eleuthera, and have every intention of coming back to more fully explore the beauty of this island. For this trip, we are taking advantage of really nice weather, and trying to get to the Exumas before Mother Nature decides we’ve been here long enough. So, for now, it’s quick overnights at gorgeous anchorages, in beautiful waters.
We left Mutton Fish Point on the 30th at about 9:00 for a six hour run down the coast to the Tarpum Bay Settlement (which is very near Kemp Point. We have dear friends, John and Anne Kemp – it seems that their last name is rather prolific as we saw a Kemp’s B&B last summer on St. Michael’s, and now we have Kemp Point. We need to ask John about his family’s nautical past…). In the anchorage, we were the only boat there, and were able to anchor 1/4-1/3 of a mile from shore. Again, stunning, clear waters, fun snorkeling, lots of sunscreen and stargazing.
On the 31st, with good weather in our favor, we left the anchorage at 9:00 and cruised 30 miles across the Exuma Sound. Neil tried his hand at fishing, but we had no luck. It was awesome to see the southern part of Eleuthera, which has a beautiful marina/resort on the point where you cross out into the sound. There were many fishing boats and dive excursions, which means it is probably a place for us to come back to!
We made it to Warderick Wells Cay which is part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park! This has been on our “must see” list from the beginning, and we planned to stay for at least 4 days. After speaking with the park manager over VHF radio for a mooring assignment, we carefully and slowly cruised in to the mooring field. Shaped like an incomplete “U”, there are mooring balls for boats up to 120′. The current was running swiftly, which made our grabbing the mooring ball pendant “tricky” to say the least. Neil did some amazing contortions and was able to grab the loop with an extremely long boat hook while Kathleen did her best to hold the boat as close to still as possible (which, in this current, was not really all that still). Once we were moored and settled, we put on our fins and masks and jumped in. Kathleen was the first in and was immediately shocked that when she came up for air she was 15 feet from the boat. The current was very very swift as it was near high tide, so she swam back to the boat and hung on to the swim ladder. Neil swam for a bit, but we both decided that maybe it would be more enjoyable with less current…. Not long after we got out, a very cute, curious nurse shark came by to check us out. We LIKE nurse sharks to swim with, as they are more like rays than true sharks, and are timid creatures – a friend likened them to sea puppies, and we have to agree.
We launched the dinghy and cruised over to the office, which was closed due to Covid. We paid our mooring fees via a drop box, and walked along the adjacent beach, seeing the skeletal remains of a whale that had died near there about 25 years ago. There are lots of posters and information signs, so in addition to enjoying another exceptional sunset, we learned about the land crab (nice to see it’s a real thing and not just something mutant that we saw on Manjack Cay), the terns (who knew there were so many kinds of terns?), the conch life cycle, the coral reef and its life cycle, and the spiny lobster. There are several hikes starting from this point, and we intended to visit them in the coming days. There were not a lot of boats here on this first day, and we knew how lucky we were for that. The mooring balls are plentiful, and this is a “go to” place, so in season we imagined that it would be a little tougher to grab a ball.
August 1st had us up and enjoying sunrise with our beverages and reading the paper (there is very little wi-fi here, but with our booster, Neil was able to download the WaPo…). We packed up our backpack and dry bags and headed to the dinghy dock after breakfast to hike one of the trails. We picked Causeway Trail (it was the first one we came to). It was a wobbly trail, built largely on limestone (which reminded us of hiking on jagged lava rocks…). The trail ran next to a causeway that would fill up during high tide (we hiked at low tide), detouring off to see barefoot beach, and ended at a beautiful over look of the water. It was a very hot hike, however, and when we got back to the marina office, we did sit for a while, drinking copious amounts of water and enjoying the view. Once back on the boat, we grabbed some lunch, then headed out for some snorkeling at Emerald Rock, a spot not far from our mooring. This entire area (the land and sea park) is known for wondrous snorkeling, and we couldn’t wait to explore.
Emerald Rock did not disappoint, with beautiful coral reefs to explore. After exploring one section of the reef, Neil cruised to another nearby mooring (very nice to have here – easy to tie up and don’t have to worry about your anchor dragging or accidentally hitting coral). Kathleen did some more snorkeling and videoing the vibrant community that was cruising around below the dinghy.
Once back at Granuaile, we realized how truly bone-tired we were – the best kind of tired – like the tired you felt as a kid on vacation when you zoomed all over the place, swimming, running, exploring, daydreaming, until your engine just needed some down time. So we took naps and relaxed and had a nice cod loin dinner before watching the stars.
August 2nd had us up again to watch the sun greet the day, and about 10am we dinghied over to the coral garden, which was only a couple hundred feet from our boat. There is so much to see and so hard to put into words. Entire communities at each cluster of rocks and coral, with fish, large and teeny, all living together. Coral like Staghorn, Brain, and Elkhorn, colors across the spectrum, fans and plants waving in the current, polyps of every color on the corals. The tiniest of fish, bright, neon blue, then what we call the LSU fish – half purple, half orange, angel fish, and Nemo fish, and striped grouper, parrot fish, so much to see. Neil saw three spiny lobsters (which Kathleen somehow missed). Then Neil tapped Kathleen on the head. Our nurse shark was coming to see what we were up to. We called her “she”, but we really have no idea. – flat heads and tails that resemble sting rays more than sharks. She carefully looked us over, then went to hide behind a reef on the sandy shore. We took some pictures and video, but left her alone. First time swimming with a “shark” for both of us!
After we rinsed off from this exceptional swim and had some lunch and downtime, we took a dinghy ride around the moorage to check out the few other boats here. There was a really cool big full rigged two mast wooden sailboat, seemed to be a charter. There were two “super” yachts, and a couple of catamarans. It’s always fun to check out other boats! We then cruised out to a secluded beach, anchoring the dinghy in 3 feet of water – Tababuia Beach. Shallow enough to just play in, deep enough to swim around. Neil took some “meditation” time and we both relaxed and reveled in the quiet and beauty.
It had been overcast all day; this didn’t dissaude any of our excursions, but did limit night sky viewing. So, after a fair attempt, we went inside, and tried to watch a movie – with both of us asleep within 15 minutes! Ah well, tomorrow is another day…
We ran the generator overnight to fully charge the batteries, which meant we ran the aircon all night – HUGE bonus! After a great sleep, we got up on the 3rd, had coffee with the sunrise, and were able to leave a bit earlier as we didn’t have to run the generator in the morning to charge the batteries for the day. We headed over to the dinghy dock to take on Boo Boo Hill trail and beyond. Again, we crossed a lot of limestone rock, and various bits of flat sand (part of the causeway from our previous hike). We got up to the top of the hill, tried first to see blow holes (which would be cool at high tide, but it was low tide), then to Boo Boo Hill crest. This is another spot where boaters have left memorabilia from their time here – mostly carved wood with their names, their boat names, and the year (or in one case, several years) that they visited. From there, we continued to the Pentatek Memorial (for a couple that had done much to preserve this area), then followed the path onward, seeing amazing cliffs and beautiful beaches, including “Pirate’s Lair”, ending when we couldn’t find the path to continue on the Exuma Sound trail. It was another long, beautiful hike, and we needed a break from the heat and the sun by the time we got back to the boat.
It was, however, very near slack tide, and that would be the optimal time to visit the coral gardens again… so after a bit of a rest and snack, we jumped back into the water and swam over. Once again, a phenomenal experience. At one point, Kathleen asked Neil to point out a lobster as she hadn’t seen one the day before. Not more than ten seconds under the water, Neil had found a HUGE spiny lobster for her! It was incredible. After about an hour in the water, we swam back to the boat, this time against the current, for a really good workout. Once we were on the boat and rinsing off, the nurse shark came around again, just seeing what we were up to.
Truly exhausted this time, with lots of boats arriving into the mooring field, we had a bit of lunch, and much needed naps. In the afternoon, Neil suggested a swim, which was perfect as it was hot and muggy, and he wanted to clean some of the bottom of the boat. Kathleen swam around the area as Neil worked. Suddenly we both spied a shark – not a nurse shark – a real shark – turned out to be a black tip reef shark. He was a bit bigger than us, but really was just cruising around and had very little interest in us. As he swam off, Neil continued cleaning the keel. Kathleen noticed that little fish swam around after Neil as the stuff we didn’t want on our boat was food that they loved. Kathleen also noticed the return of the reef shark under the boat – not aggressive, just there. We both decided maybe we should be done for the day, so we got out, rinsed off, had a nice cocktail, and leftovers for dinner.
Next we head to Shroud Cay in the Exumas …