We had a delivery to make on Little Farmer’s Cay, so there was no question that we would be stopping here for a visit as we made our way back north through the Exumas. After leaving Emerald Bay, we motored through a gentle Exuma Sound, reaching Galliot Cut by lunchtime. The long frequency between swells minimized their impact on the open water, but coming through the cut, we were reminded that the power of the current through the cut with wind and waves opposing is not something to be taken lightly. The rough water at the entrance to the cut, mild in comparison to rage conditions, was still an unexpected contrast to the rest of the trip to Little Farmer’s.
Our next stop was a new port for us. We anchored off Big Major’s Spot, an island whose only inhabitants are a herd of wild pigs that are not above begging for handouts from the boaters who venture nearby in their dinghies. The bolder ones swim out to meet you in hopes of scarfing up the best of the goodies. We got to meet 2 of these cuties shortly after dropping anchor and taking a ride over.
We arrived at Emerald Rock on the western side of Warderick Wells (home of the headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park) in the early afternoon, after finally getting in a pleasant sail north from Big Major’s. We anchored just outside the mooring field for the calm weather forecast overnight. This also placed us pretty close to the reefs on the west side of the small island that gives the anchorage its name. We headed over to explore. The water was a little chilly, but otherwise the conditions were good for us to swim over the reef, with the dinghy on a mooring ball nearby. There were some large fish, obviously enjoying the protection that the Land and Sea Park affords, even though the reefs themselves were small.
The next morning we picked up a mooring ball, so we could ride out the next front without worries about someone (or us) dragging anchor. Other than a quick dinghy ride in to pay, we spent the day on the boat, checking the internet via a fragile connection and visiting with Pat, Fred and Julie. Dave did get a chance to talk to Tenacity, whom we had met in Deltaville. They were working their way back to the states and planned to leave the boat in Florida before returning home to England in May.
When we returned, the water was like glass, and the sun warm as it set over the Exuma Bank. Looking down into the clear water, we could see the bottom through 11 feet as if we were looking through no more than a blue filter. This was all going to change, as a strong front was making its way toward us. It arrived in the middle of the night (as they all seem to do) with downpours and thunder and lightning. Initially, we had some protection from shore until the winds moved to the west and then northwest, where they howled and blew up an enormous sea, making sleep or anything else impossible for the next 18 hours. Orion and Marianna were tossed around like corks, and things below were flying around worse than our toughest offshore passage. We stowed things, scooped up debris and then started an unofficial watch system as we wanted someone in the cockpit to make sure that the rocky shore behind us didn’t start getting closer and our bridle remained secure.
Our overall travel plan had been to move from the Exumas to Eleuthera, positioning ourselves in the lee of its northern islands in order to wait for a window to cross the Northeast Providence Channel (aka the ocean) to the Abacos, arriving in Marsh Harbor by mid-March. So, our destination upon leaving Shroud Cay was the east side of Current Island, a long, thin island that reaches out to the southwest from Eleuthera’s western-most point. We would anchor for one night and then this would position us for a short run to Spanish Wells the next morning, allowing us to time our passage through the short but infamous Current Cut, just north of our anchorage, on a favorable current.
In planning a route north, Dave and Fred explored options that took us through one of a number of cuts between the Exuma islands, out into Exuma Sound and across to the Eleuthera banks. However, it turned out the most direct route would take us straight up the remaining island in the northern Exumas, into Eleuthera without entering the deeper waters of the Exuma Sound. So, we headed northeast, paralleling the island chain until we reached Beacon Cay, where we bid the Exumas goodbye. About 5 miles north of this landmark, we entered a 5-mile stretch of coral heads, some of which were reported to be less than 6 feet deep. With near-perfect conditions, they were easy to spot and avoid any that might be a concern. Once through them, we made another course change off Finley Cay and were setting anchor just before sunset.
One irony of this amazingly calm day was its contrast to the 36 hours that preceded it. While on the mooring, we had to secure everything and hold on for dear life. While underway, nothing moved at all. We even took showers, something we didn’t even consider in the pitching and rolling we had left the day before. It’s amazing what a difference a day makes.
Waiting for a Window
We arrived in Spanish Wells with little drama, but will be here until we can see a window to head north to the Abacos. We enjoyed our stay here last year, so we expect this visit will give us more time to explore further – and, of course, wait out the fronts.