Sailing Through the Exuma Cays

This crossing to Nassau from the Berry Islands was our smoothest ever, a bit bumpy for a short while, but most of the sail was smooth and easy. Several other boats headed south with us, some leaving from the Berry Islands, others continuing their banks crossing straight south to Providence Island. We decided to cut our day’s run short anchoring in downtown Nassau once again. Our last stay on the hook in the middle of the big city was very interesting with all the mailboat traffic, cruise ships coming and going, and constant small boat activity. On our last trip we decided to never pass up a refueling spot without topping our tanks, so I used our new dinghy to zip over to one of the fuel stations; I had forgotten to fill the jugs at Chub, so we topped up the main tank and filled all the jugs as well. Dinghy docks are scarce in downtown Nassau, and I had to politely ask if I could tie up here and there to use my own water taxi rather than spending a lot of money on the local cabs. No one refused me, and I was able to make short work of running a few errands before we headed south after a two day stay in the big city.

Crossing to Nassau
Crossing to Nassau

We made Shroud Cay our first stop, planning to spend a second day cruising around the island, up into the mangroves, and having a great day in our dinghy, but Joy twitched her back somehow and she spent the second day lying in her bunk in pain. A very strong cold front was forecast to arrive a day later, so I sailed south to Sampson Cay while Joy spent yet another day in the bunk gritting with the pain of back spasms. Fortunately, it was a smooth sail on the banks, and I dropped anchor by myself while she snoozed. Nearly all the boats at Sampson had anchored in the open waters of the approach channel to the cay, but knowing what kinds of wind were expected, I snuggled up as close to the coral island as I dared with only two other boats near me. When Joy woke up and poked her face out the hatch, she was shocked to see how close we were to the coral wall, about 100 feet ahead of our bow. “Aren’t you worried about the wind switching around on us and blowing us into the island?” she asked. Nope, I answered. 
Anchored at Sampson
Anchored at Sampson

As the sky lightened next morning the northeast wind began to whistle in the rigging. No sun, plenty of rain, and before long, the wind howled at 25 to 35 knots while we swayed gently tucked in close to the wall. Those behind us didn’t fare as well. Boats were pitching, rolling, bobbing, and several were dragging. One boat dragged for nearly a mile, and he seemed to pay no attention. Perhaps he began to wonder why all our boats were moving out of sight. 
Blustery Day at Anchor
Blustery Day at Anchor

We spent the day relaxing, reading, snoozing, and waiting for the wind to blow itself out, which, of course, it eventually did. Since we missed a day of exploring around Shroud Cay, we decided to make up for it and explore all the little passages between the many cays in this area. The dinghy would get its first real workout.
The next day dawned crisp and clear. Before we headed out on our dinghy trip, I made a quick run to the fuel dock at Sampson Cay where I again filled the fuel jugs, and picked up a few things at the convenience store including a surprise gift for Joy, a Sampson Cay polo shirt which pleased her no end.
Neighbors at Sampson
Neighbors at Sampson

As I was down below getting ready for the dinghy ride I heard a voice calling “Ocean Angel, Ocean Angel” . I jumped into the cockpit to discover one of the former owners of our boat hailing us. Gary Pauly, from Michigan, was on a chartered catamaran, and was just entering the marina.  What a small world! Smiling, off we went on our dinghy adventure.

Head for the Out Islands