We left Rose Island fairly early the next morning; didn’t have all that far to travel, but we wanted to put the miles under our keel before the sun and wind got to really humming. We had already discovered on this trip that by about 10 AM, the wind gets up to its full strength for the day, and thus far, those winds have been in the 20 to 25 knot range many days, this one being no exception. Our destination for the day was Highborne Cay, about 42 miles total, and we headed due south from the island to a point where the White Banks and Middle Ground just about touch each other. With our draft, the warnings about many coral heads having less than 4.5 feet of water over them on the Middle Ground cause us to take the deep draft route between the two banks even though it adds a few miles to the trip. There are coral heads down below for sure, but they are 10 to 15 feet below us and thus present no danger to our keel. Once we reach the intersection of the two banks, we can turn to any destination, and today we angled straight towards Highborne, due southeast, and almost dead into the wind, of course. Still, all in all, a really nice days sail, even if we did have to motorsail for the last 20 miles. We were in the aquamarine blue waters of the Exuma Cays and life could only get more perfect.
Highborne offers several different anchoring possibilities, each presenting protection from winds in just about any direction except right out of the north, so during the passage of a winter front, it would probably be best to take a slip at Highborne Cay Marina, a totally protected basin with reasonable rates and first class service. Fortunately for us, winds were typical southeast, and we were able to lie to the anchor just west of the cay. The Explorer Chartbook makes note that you should expect some surge in typical SE winds, and we found the anchorage to be quite rolly, not uncomfortable, but certainly not serene either. The weather was gorgeous, and we needed a break, so we stayed an extra day just to relax, read, and take in the scenery.
From Highborne we sailed south to Sampson Cay where you can either take a slip at one of the nicest, completely protected marinas in the Exuma Cays, or you can anchor in total protection just outside the entrance to the marina. We chose to anchor, our usual preference, and we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets of the trip, one of many, and on top of all that beauty, we enjoyed a perfectly quiet roll-free night’s sleep, the first since we had left Marathon, FL. What a huge relief. We felt like new people when we awoke. With only a very short distance to travel the next day, and a perfect wind to help us along, we were in no hurry to depart that morning, planning to fuel up at the marina around 10 AM when those best laid plans went awry. The fuel ship arrived, and a call to the fuel dock let us know that fuel would be unavailable for several hours while the big tanks were being filled. Glad we’re carrying plenty of fuel for those kinds of situations.
Once we left Sampson, it was just a short sail south to Cave Cay, one you’ve seen before in other adventures, and just an overnight stay there as the weather forecast was perfect for the hop in the big waters of Exuma Sound south to the Cruising Mecca for many east coast sailors.