Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Exumas, Bahamas

The Bahamas are great.  The Exuma island chain in the Bahamas is amazing.  On the west side of this chain of islands is shallow water, varying shades of pale blue.   On the east side of the islands is more varying shades of blue, but mostly darker, deeper.  It's all very clear water.

Some of these islands are inhabited, nothing more than large rocks.  We had the opportunity to anchor for a couple weeks in an area known as Ship's Channel, just north of Allen's Cay where everyone anchors to see the iguanas.  To get into this little skinny channel between a couple islands, we had to go single file and anchor in a row.  There were 3 or 4 boats in our group at that time.

We were there in the winter and we kept getting cold fronts with lots of wind, so we stayed there since it was nicely protected.  The guys went out fishing every day and we always had fresh fish.  The local fishermen had a building on the top of a hill that they let us use for cookouts.   The fishermen would come in a couple days a week with a load of conch and they would string them together and put them in shallow water to keep them alive until they went to Nassau with them.  Since they were tied together, there was no way for them to coordinate an escape.  The island people sometimes have the simplest fix for problems.

When we left there, we visited the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park, a preserve full of those friendly little birds that fly right into your boat looking for sugar.  Bananaquits are so friendly, they'll sit right on your hand while they eat. 

The anchorage has the beautiful Bahamian water, multiple shades of blue, and so clear.  We hiked up to a hill where other cruisers and visitors had left signs of their boat name or their names and what year they were there.  The pile of driftwood signs was high, but only the latest ones, the ones on top, were still colorful.  Sunlight had faded the ones underneath.

We anchored overnight at Little Farmer's Cay, a sparsely populated island where the locals use the VHF radio, familiar to all boaters, as their phones.  We walked around the little settlement and went into their grocery store.  They obviously did not have much tourist trade - they had boxes of Corn Flakes that were faded from the sun coming in the windows.  Guess the locals don't eat Corn Flakes.  As in most of the Bahamas, the islands that don't see much tourist trade are very friendly.  It's not every day someone comes into their harbor to visit. 

We bypassed a few of the islands and ended up in Georgetown on Great Exuma, the largest island in the chain.  Cruising sailboats (and a few power boats) gather here for the winter months, most of them returning home to the states or Canada for the summer.  There were 500 boats anchored in the various anchorages in the area.  Cruising sailors are very social and there were volleyball games, pot lucks, fishing expeditions, hikes and other activities going on all the time. 

We stayed there a few weeks and then went on to other islands, going east and south as we hopped from one little island to the next.  These are the out islands, and very few people visit them and some are uninhabited.  We enjoyed them all and marveled at the different shades of blue that the waters produced, all depending on depth.  We went on down to the Caribbean islands and cruised there for years.  We found only one place that was a little similar to the Bahamian waters -  the Tobago Cays.  That was one of my favorite places in the Caribbean.  Not much can top the beauty of the Bahamian waters.

Betty Karl


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