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|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - Apr 12 2012 : 18:30:18
I put some notes together after this past month-long trip to the Exumas. Many of it is based on personal preferences, as well as the feedback of many guests we ve had aboard over the past few years. I jotted these along on my phone during the trip so there are probably some typos...
Biminis, Berrys & Exumas notes
Bimini: there are now 2 large buoys to mark the entrance. Beyond the buoys, read the water to stay off the sandbar on the green side, aim from the Bimini Sand entrance on So Bimin then curve along the beach into No Bimini, for about 9' MLW. Do not cut the corner!
If stopping just to clear in, I like Sea Crest marina ($1/ ft) otherwise the newly re opened Big Game club is a good choice if staying for a few days ($2.5 / ft) Personally I find Bimini Bay resort too modern and too impersonal, it's also too far from town. Last time I was there was in 2010 and you had to go all the way to the resort front desk to check in/out and every person on the boat has to get tagged like a farm animal with a wrist band...
The liquor store across Sea Crest has excellent prices. Customs and immigration are close to Sea Crest and Big Game but a taxi ride from Bimini bay
I ve heard good things about Bimini Sands in South Bimini but have never been there
Anchorages: somewhat limited around Bimini when the weather picks up. There is very little room in the harbor and while on calm days the NW shore is nice, it is usually open to swells coming around the island
Things to do: nice beach behind Alice Town, just across from the marinas. Even better beach north of Bimini Bay around the north point wrapping around the NE coast. Worth the dinghy ride, on the way stop and snorkel the rocks off Bimini Bay, good snorkeling and a nice little tunnel under one of them.
About 3 miles south, the wreck of the Sapona is a must do. The old concrete ship sticks out of the water for great snorkeling. A long dinghy ride so anchoring near the wreck in 15' is a better option. When getting on the bank heading east towards the Berrys, it s an easy stop after coming in between Turtle and Triangle rocks. Once done snorkeling, proceed SSW to the east of cat Cay then turn east towards Chub
Honeymoon harbor: a picture perfect but tight anchorage at the northern end of Gun Cay famous for its friendly stingrays. 10' MLW coming in between the rocks on the west side. On the downside it can be a bit crowded and open to surge, also exposed to current resulting in interesting swing patterns. Good holding, over 6' even pretty close to the beach
When Honeymoon is too crowded or rolly, you can around in the cut on the south side of Gun and anchor in 10' MLW or more on the east side of Gun and honeymoon. Good holding, no surge and little current but exposed to easterly chop from the bank.
Cat Cay: marina is open to public but rest of island is private. Not worth a stop except possibly to clear customs and save a 5 miles detour to Bimini when eastbound to the Berrys
Some nice sandbars to explore on the east side, accessible by dinghy from Gun Cay
The bank crossing is rarely an issue weather wise, it s all pretty deep (12 to 15' or more) although there is a short stretch with some 8' MLW humps about 4 to 5nm east of Cat Cay. The Northwest channel before Chub can be rough sometimes making the final 15 nm seem longer...
Chub cay: nice modern marina although $3 a ft and not much else to offer. I prefer to anchor out between the channel and the beach on the west side. Good holding in 9' MLW, unless getting close to the beach. Surge can come in around the corner making it a big rolly. Great sunsets!
A better alternative is on the east side of Chub, between Bird cay and Frazer Hog cay. 10 to 12' MLW and better surge protection. Much better beaches and sandbar along Bird, around Cat cay as well as further north between Cockroach cay and Fish cay The old lighthouse and beach at the west end of Whale Cay is also worth a dinghy trip. If you didn't know the Bahamas were all about wildlife, with names like Hog, Bird, Whale, Cockroach and Cat... Well now you know!
All of these are also accessible from the Berry Island Club a small facility on the east shore of Frazer Hog cay. Over the years it has been open on and off but as off April 2012 it was open with a deep channel and deep T head (9' or more) as well as smaller slips inside. Building was freshly painted and landscaped and manager friendly (Harry, 504 655 8464)
The next few cays north of bird and whale are mostly private. Little harbor cay is often mentioned in guides but not worth a stop in my opinion. Too shallow to get in the inner harbor, not much outside except surge.
The next cut however (Devils cay) leads to a nice scenic anchorage behind White cay. Easy to enter and deep, good holding at the tip of Hoffmans. There are a few nice beaches around as we as a trail leading to the large blue hole near the south end of Hoffmans. Trail starts near the south end of the second beach on Hoffmans.
Another possible stop is on the west side of Market Fish and Soldier Cay north of Hoffman.
Next and northermost stop in the Berrys is Great Harbor Cay. In settled weather, the large bay on the east side, between Petit and Hawksnest, is a great anchorage with a spectacular beach and nearby cays. Obviously, don't stop there with NE winds and swells!
With strong NE winds the ride around the north end of Great Harbor can be a rough one past the cruise ships moorings off Great Stirup. Once around the Stirups, it's a smooth ride into the long 8' to 9' MLW channel to Great harbor cay marina , a nice and well protected harbor
You can can anchor outside Bullocks harbor north of the channel but Great Harbor Cay marina is a better option. It's a bit rustic but friendly people and great protection in a true hurricane home. No less than 8' MLW coming in
Renting a golf cart is a good idea to explore the miles of beach on the east side, especially if you couldn't stop there due to weather. The beach is VERY nice! There are also some nice caves up the road heading north along the east shore. Worth the side trip
Nassau: personally I consider Nassau to be just a pit stop. Overall it s dirty and crime is an issue. Either Nassau Yacht Heaven or Nassau Harbor Club east of the bridges on the New Providence side are good marinas, much cheaper than Paradise Island (hurricane Hole or Atlantis) especially water as they charge a flat fee (around $10 a day) instead of 0.40 per gallon! Yacht Heaven has a popular restaurant (the Poop Deck) with nice views of the harbor, Harbor Club has fuel and is directly across a shopping center with Starbucks, liquor store, radio shack and more. Note than as of April 2012 the supermarket has just closed down. Nearest grocery store is a small but nice, clean and modern deli/market just west of the shopping center where you will find quality products. For serious provisioning Super Value is a 5 minute cab away
As mentioned hurricane Hole and Atlantis on Paradise Island are more expensive ($4 to $5 a ft) but appealing to some people. Atlantis is like Disney World although their aquariums are spectacular.
Anchorages: Nassau harbor has limited room and strong current. I prefer anchoring out on the west side, off Athol island (along the south shore) with good protection from NE winds. With southerlies, anchoring off the beach at the NW end of Rose island is a better option. To get there I avoid the Narrows, the shallow and narrow cut between Paradise and Athol and prefer the east side of Athol between Athol and Porgee rocks
If stuck in Nassau for a few days, a tender ride or day trip to Rose Island (NE of Nassau harbor) is nice. The north shore is littered with beaches and worth exploring all the way to the wreck at the very end. There are a number of abandoned bungalows on the cliff overlooking both sides. Just north of Rose, Sandy cay offers a small beach and some great snorkeling on its west side. Scenic palm trees cover most of the island.
With hundreds of cays, beaches and sandbars the Exumas rank among the best cruising grounds in the word. Most of it is reasonably sheltered from the ocean with only short runs on the bank from one anchorage to the next. It s just about 40nm or so from Nassau to the Exumas but the Yellow bank lies on the straight route with coral head. I prefer heading south after clearing the shoals along the east shores of New Providence for about 15 nm or so before turning SE towards Normans after passing the Yellow bank. This dogleg only adds a couple of miles.
While there are a number of nice places north of Normans cay, we usually head straight to Normans. For instance Allen's Cay is pretty but not necessarily worth the detour. Highborne Cay marina is also a popular spot with good protection but the private island just doesn't have enough to offer compared to what lays further south, starting with...
Normans Cay: with a colorful history from the drug war days of the early 80s, Norman s has a lot to offer and worth a 2 night stop. The main anchorage in the channel between Normans and Wax is deep, easy to navigate and offers good holding. Personally I prefer the east side where it s wider and deeper (off the small beach) although surge comes in sometimes. If that s the case I anchor further west in the cut although there is less swinging room as it shoals quickly if you draw over 4 to 5'
Things to do: snorkel the DC3 on the edge of the channel, take a dinghy ride to explore all the sandbars and beach along the east shore, explore the Pond (nice caves along the shore). If you draw under 5', the pond offers great protection but check the entrance first and come in and out with the tide. Coming in Normans, you will notice a small sandy island with a single palm tree... Very scenic spot to watch the sunset. You can also dinghy around the west shore (or anchor there) and go to the beach club for drinks or food. Finally, some may find exploring the ruins of the old hotel and looking for bullet holes in the walls interesting...
Warderick Wells: home of the Exumas land and Sea park, Warderick Wells is the second must stop heading south along the exumas. Anchoring is restricted in many areas so moorings are the best options. I prefer either the main mooring field in the very scenic line of deeper water on the north side, or the Emerald mooring field in the south side. I avoid the two larger outer moorings in the north field which can be uncomfortable due to surge. Moorings are first come first served with a wait list opened 24 hrs before arrival.
With many beaches and trails around the island, Warderick deserves a 2 night stay. Don't miss a tender ride to the Hog cay beach at the south side and walk the trail to the pirate's lair.
The main attraction though is the short hike to BooBoo hill offering great views. It s customary to bring a piece of drift wood marked with your name and boat name to add to the pile left by other cruisers. On the way down don't miss the blow holes on the sound side
Staniel Cay: of all the places I have visited from the Grenadines to New England, Staniel Cay yacht club is my favorite. Don't let the name fool you by the way, it's a casual, easy going spot!
It s hard to pinpoint why SCYC is so special. The scenery is nice but there are other places with great scenery... The bar is great but there are other great bars... The dockmaster and staff are friendly but so are other places. But then when you put it all together, SCYC is a very special place which you just can't miss! Start by having a conch burger and a cold Kalik at the bar when you get there...
The docks are nice and in good shape with clean pedestals; David and his staff know their business and are very helpful accommodating as many boats as possible from 30 sailboats to 150' megas. It s all pretty deep although there is an 7 1/2 MLW hump in the chanel aboutb 1/2 mile before the marina. Also watch the current and a reef just before the docks, give them a wide berth when the current is coming in. Water and power is metered but dockage is reasonable at $2 a ft. Gas and diesel is available at the new fuel dock just east of the marina.
If you prefer to anchor (or if they don't have room) Big majors is your vest option if you draw over 5', otherwise you can anchor near across the channel behind Thunderball
There is plenty of dinghy landing space around SCYC including behind a dinghy breakwater.
Things to do... Where do we start?
Thunderball grotto is without a doubt the main attraction, just across the channel from SCYC. Named after the 60s Bond flick which was filmed there it was also used in Splash and other movies. While it s easier to get in at low tide, you can easily swim under and in at high tide. Current flows thru both entrance so weak swimmers may come in on one side and exit the other. Holes in the tall ceiling provides light and relief from claustrophobia... There is an alternate entrance and exit just at the north tip of the island which is more narrow but worth checking out. Also great snorkeling outside on the east side and around the north tip
The swimming pigs of Big Majors may not be as well know as her Majesty's best secret service agent but they are quickly catching up! Again, a short tender ride from the dock, their hang out is near the south end of the southernmost beach on Big Majors but you won't have to look for them... They will spot your dinghy and swim over as far as 200 feet! Make sure those carrots are ready otherwise they will try to climb in the dinghy! While pretty friendly, they can get a little desperate if you land with food in a bag and don't drop the contents on the beach quickly enough!
Sandbar maze behind Samson cay. Again, within dinghying distance after leaving the pigs and passing thru the narrow rock cut by Fowl cay resort, the lagoon is home to numerous pristine sandbar easy to navigate at mid to high tide. Note that there is some good snorkeling over the short hump on the east side.
Iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay: with a good tense it's a 3nm rude south to Bitter Guana Cay and its colony of large iguanas. The beach features some tall (for the exumas) cliffs and a large cave. It s also a nice and protected anchorage if you want a change of scenery and escape the "crowds" at Big Major. While you re there explore the shoreline to the south where some nice rock formations can be found along with a nice beach and cave on the NW shore of Gaulin Cay. Finally, keep going another mile or so into the shallow lagoon at the north end of Great Guana Cay. There is a wreck there, although nothing much left beyond a few ribs and spars
On the way back, explore the creek along the runway which opens up into the south side of Staniel, inside Lumber Cay. Again many sandbars and some nice exploring, take a moment to snorkel the wreck of a twin engined Piper Aztec, it's marked by a small buoy in 6' of water in the edge of the channel leading to the creek.
Sandy Cay: a pretty and small cay just west of Big Major, it features a beautiful comma shape sandbar about 200 yards long. Worth the 3 mile dinghy ride
Sampson Cay marina: just north of Staniel and Big major, it offers very nice clean docks and excellent protection especially from westerlies which can make SCYC a bit rough. Nice landscaping and great views off the sandbar mazes. Personnaly i find it a little cold compared to Staniel but it comes down to personal preference
Finally, i ve heard some good things about Compass Cay but have never stopped there mostly because of timing and depth issues in the narrow channel (the boat I run draws over 6')
Off the beaten path the southern Exumas are just as beautiful as the northern section . Overall the islands are a little higher providing different scenery. On the downside the bank is very shallow south of Great Guana and most boats need to head out in the sound which can be a little rough depending on the weather.
That said here is a short list of my favorite spots:
Galliot cut, between Big Farmers and Galliot is as far south as most boats can run on the bank side. Just a couple of miles south, you can come back in at Rudder cut and anchor along the west shore in 9' or so and good protection. Like most of these cuts, strong easterlies against an outgoing tide will cause steep tall nasty waves in the cut... Play the tides! Rudder Cay is private but has some nice caves and rocks. The beaches are nice and lines with palm trees. If you draw under 5' you can run north past Rudder and behind Musha cay, also private and owned by magician David Copperfield.
South of Rudder, a few miles in the sound will take you to Bock and Alderly Cuts. You can anchor behind Normans Pond Cay which has has nice beaches but is pretty flat. I prefer the east side of Lee Stocking which is one if the tallest cays in the Exumas offering more of a Caribbean like scenery. There many places where you can anchor behind Lee Stocking including near the marine research center near the north end but my favorite is a mile south in the bay where the island is the narrowest. The 100' or so hills provide a different scenery and You will often have the anchorage to yourself. To get there you have read the water carefully but by using the tide you will find 8' of water or so, within 9 to 10 in the anchorage. Well worth the effort!
Further south, you can also find 8' with the tides and process to Childrens Bay Cay and onto Rat Cay which despite the name is a nice area to explore with a few possible anchor spots like the open bay on its west side or in the channel along the south side. Good exploring along Boysie cay to the south east.
Smaller boats (4' draft or so) can find their way around Pigeon Cay and across to the settlement of Barraterre. There is a pier there, for small boats and dinghies, and a very small grocery store. Note... I did say very small!
Barraterre is a good spot to pick up guests flying in and out of Georgetown, saving a 30nm ride in the sometimes tough sound.
Georgetown is the capital of the Exumas, with an international airport providing good service to south Florida. It's also a reasonably good place to re provision...
North of Georgetown is the Emerals Bay resort and marina (currently owned by Sandals). I have never stopped there...
There is only one marina in Georgetown which has recently changed ownership and will hopefully see some improvement. Most cruisers anchor out in the fairly protected waters of Elizabeth Harbor. There are a number of places to drop the hook along the shores of Stocking Island including, draft permitting, in the protected lagoons directly across from Georgetown
|12 L A T E S T R E P L I E S (Newest First)
||Posted - Apr 20 2012 : 07:38:29
Had the link, thanks. I'll email you.
||Posted - Apr 20 2012 : 07:21:21
My silence was due to a full day charter yesterday...
Here is the link to the form and fee schedule
This is beyond the topic of this thread or even this forum which is mostly for private boats, I can't pm you but if you want email me to pascal sandbarhopper c o m
||Posted - Apr 19 2012 : 22:15:13
I'm I to take it by your lack of response that you like a lot of boats don't bother getting a BCL when you run charters over there?
I ask because I may be dealing with this issue soon and was wondering what you did or had heard about it one way or another.
||Posted - Apr 18 2012 : 22:45:08
How are you dealing with the Bahamian Charter License issue? Are they making you get one for each charter you run over there? Or are they just issuing you one and it's covering you for a year?
||Posted - Apr 18 2012 : 21:42:38
It s getting bigger.
The garbage pile, that is.
||Posted - Apr 18 2012 : 18:55:03
What, if anything, is being done at the Compleat Angler site?
||Posted - Apr 14 2012 : 12:26:40
We are leaving Baltimore on Memorial weekend to go to Myrtle Beach, then we will head to FL two weeks later and cross over on June 13th. The kids dont get out of school until June 12th so we cant go sooner. How long and where are you going?
Hopefully you will have more favorable winds this year!
||Posted - Apr 13 2012 : 20:49:31
When are you heading over? We trailer to FL in 2 weeks for the cross.
||Posted - Apr 13 2012 : 10:42:20
Thanks for providing this type of information!
||Posted - Apr 12 2012 : 22:20:02
Lots of great info Pascal. I think Staniel Cay Yacht Club is so nice because it has some of the clearest water anywhere, but in a marina. You can spend hours in 100 to 150 ft visibility water in the marina hanging out with the sharks and rays under you boat. At night the boats look like they are floating on air. Much to do a short dinghy ride away.
The other thing I would add to your comments is that the fishing, if one is so inclined, off Cat Cay and Chub is world class as is the diving and snorkling off Bimini and in the Exumas.
I have been working feverishly getting ready to head south, first a few weeks in the Abacos, then a few weeks in the Exumas. I am finishing up our new 11.5 ft Achilles 30 hp rib and added removeable double-rigged outriggers so we can troll 6 lines.
Cant wait for warm clear water!
||Posted - Apr 12 2012 : 21:04:18
Originally posted by mixman
Very nice, Pascal. Thank you for all that information. I am going to re-read and print out for usage in the next few weeks.
||Posted - Apr 12 2012 : 21:00:59
Very nice, Pascal. Thank you for all that information. I am going to re-read and print out for usage in the next few weeks.
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