March 9, 2019

The Central and Southern Exuma Cays

After leaving the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, we continued our way south along the Exuma chain of islands. The last few weeks cruising have been in stark contrast to our tranquil days in the undeveloped and uninhabited Exuma park; we've visited well-populated towns to refuel, provision, and satisfy some cravings (pizza and burgers!) and have anchored with anywhere between 50 and 200 boats.

Pipe Creek

We left Cambridge Cay on February 13 and motored south with wind on the nose to uninhabited Pipe Creek, where the water is said to be "gin clear." The first two days there, we were hit with swell from higher winds, but on the third day, the winds calmed and the seas flattened, and sure enough, the water was clear enough for us to see a sand dollar on the bottom of the sea floor in 12 feet of water!

On shore at Pipe Creek is the remains of an old rundown U. S. Navy Decca Station, and a few trails around the island, which are covered with poisonwood (popular on many islands in the Exumas), but thankfully we've gotten good at identifying the trees. On the south side of the island are very shallow waters, and at low tide hundreds of yards of sand flats are exposed and great for beachcombing.

We also enjoyed an excellent day of snorkeling around a grouping of rocks just offshore, where we saw coral, schools of small fish, and the largest starfish we've ever seen! [Sadly, our underwater camera developed a pin-hole leak and after two weeks in rice is still not functional].

While at Pipe, we made the unfortunate mistake of throwing some food scraps overboard, which attracted a great barracuda that circled the boat for the remainder of our stay. This was unfortunate, because the next project on our to-do list was to scrub the growth off the bottom of the hull, and a few times the barracuda got close enough to scare Sara out of the water and up to safety on the boat's transom (see photo below of a barracuda we caught while trolling and their large fang-like teeth, which scare Sara to no end)!

A barracuda we previously caught while trolling; those fangs make Sara deathly afraid of them
While ashore we discovered a nice fire pit on a sandy beach, so on a quiet evening we enjoyed our very first beach bonfire and a beautiful sunset.

Big Major and Staniel Cay

On February 16, we motor-sailed south in very light winds to Big Major, home to the Bahama's most famous swimming pigs. It's a lovely, large and well protected anchorage with several beaches, but the popularity of the pigs as a tourist attraction make it busy, and we were waked from morning until night by go-fast tour boats. We anchored with nearly 50 other boats and several large mega yachts (one of which was Blue Guitar, which is reportedly owned by musician Eric Clapton).

While feeding the pigs is a bucket-list item for many people, our perspective on it has changed after visiting several pig beaches in the Bahamas. During our three day stay at Big Major, we saw boat after boat arrive to shore, chasing around and picking up the piglets and throwing food at the larger hogs as they rushed at visitors holding food and fearful of aggressive behavior.

Pig beach filled with boats and tourists, which was the scene all day, every day

The pigs aren't living in a natural environment, and their health has reportedly been impacted by their dependency on humans (such as consuming alcohol, unhealthy foods and large quantities of sand from eating food off the beach). We hope some sort of balance is found in the future for protecting the pigs' health and for tourists to enjoy a visit.

We visited the pigs, but brought no food. Lettuce and carrots litter the beach
Only a short dingy ride away from Big Major is the bustling little town of Staniel Cay, with two markets, a laundromat/liquor store and a general store, where we stocked up on provisions and refilled our stove's propane tank.

Unfortunately, we missed the weekly mailboat delivery and so fresh provisions at the stores disappeared quickly and were limited to plantains, onions and potatoes, but you can't have it all, even in paradise.

Inside of a typical Bahamian grocery store
One day during our visit, we enjoyed a very nice lunch at the popular Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where Nick was daring enough to mingle with the nurse sharks that congregate near the docks awaiting scraps from the fisherman.

The highlight of the area is the famous Thunderball grotto, site of popular movies such as Splash and James Bonds' Thunderball. At slack tide, you can snorkel into the interior of the cave, which is lit from a domed opening and the sunshine above, and there are lots of corals and schools of small fish to see. Given the non-working state of our underwater camera, we sadly have no underwater pictures to share.

Inside of Thunderball Grotto (Photo courtesy of Gone with the Wynns,

Black Point

On February 21, we weighed anchor and headed toward Great Guana Cay and Black Point settlement.

This island is a popular stop for cruisers, especially because it's home to Rockside Laundry, which is one of the best and most affordable laundries in all of the Bahamas (under $4 per load, where most others are $5-6), and it has 10 washers and dryers so there isn't the usual wait for machines to open! After doing our laundry in a bucket for over a month, it was amazing to have freshly laundered linens and clothes for far less work - and you can't beat the view!

The view out the window of Rockside Laundry
The day we arrived in Black Point, we dropped our anchor and realized just off our starboard was S/V Zingaro (who found and returned our missing dinghy oar); later that day, we saw Dave and Allison ashore and they graciously offered us some of their quickly ripening tomatoes that they bought at their last port. When we stopped by that afternoon they invited us ashore for cocktails along with their other guests Mark and Margie on Tattoo II, and we had a lovely evening getting to know one another and sharing stories.

Another must-do at Black Point is to visit Lorraine's Cafe and her mother, who lives behind the restaurant and bakes fresh cinnamon coconut bread daily. "Lorraine's mom" as she's known by everyone, invites you right into her home and kitchen, which smells heavenly, to chat for a few minutes and pick out a loaf of freshly baked bread for a few dollars.

French toast made with cinnamon coconut bread from Lorraine's mom
We also visited Deshamons one afternoon for homemade pizza after hiking to the northern tip of the island and working up an appetite. We haven't had pizza in many months, since before leaving the states, so we enjoyed a pepperoni pizza, a cold beer, and chatting with a lovely family from Minnesota, who were on vacation to the island.


On February 24, we sailed south to Galliot Cut for the night to stage for a 40 nm jump the following morning to Stocking Island and the town of Georgetown. Along the way we put out our trolling rod, but didn't manage to reel in anything other than two barracuda.

Georgetown is a very popular gathering spot for boaters, it hosts an annual cruisers regatta with races, games, dances and talent shows, which attracts more than 300 boats to the area. We arrived just as the regatta was wrapping up, but the Elizabeth Harbor anchorage was still very crowded with upwards of 200 boats.

Stocking Island  is where many cruisers either turnaround and start the trek back up north to the States or Canada or stage to sail south towards the Caribbean. Several boats from our marina in Maryland spent the whole winter in Georgetown, and the day we arrived we visited with Joanne and John on S/V No Limits, before they left the following morning to begin their slow trek back to Maryland.

Georgetown is fondly called "adult day camp" for its many organized daily activities for cruisers, from yoga and beach volleyball to dominoes and bible study. It has many conveniences too, with several grocery stores, numerous eateries and a very well organized morning cruiser's net with weather, announcements and news.

We enjoyed several days of visits with other cruisers, events ashore and hiking the numerous trails around the island, including to the top of the island to a stone monument, which overlooks the bluff and beach below where many cruisers leave their boat's name written in stones.

On our last evening in Georgetown, we attended a beach bonfire and enjoyed meeting and chatting with the crew of several boats we've seen along the way in the Bahamas.

Next up, we end our time in the Exuma cays and head to Bahamas' Long Island and the out islands.

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