The Bahamas Far Out Islands

As much as we love the Exuma Cays, our path this year would take us much farther south and east, and we needed to continue our fast track. From Sampson, we sailed a fast reach in 20 knots of northeast wind arriving at Cave Cay by early afternoon. We’ve noticed that many boats sailing either to or from Georgetown enter or exit the banks at Galliot Cut, but we much prefer Cave Cay Cut, just a couple of miles to the south. Using Cave Cay Cut requires a little jogging around a couple of shoals and reefs, but the cut is much deeper and more manageable in adverse conditions than Galliot Cut. As we rounded the corner at Galliot Cay and I looked east towards Exuma Sound, I saw wall after wall of standing waves coursing through the cut and wondered how many boats might have met grief entering here. Galliot Cut is 12 feet deep, plenty you might think, but with a northeast wind of 15 knots or more, waves stand like walls here. Having lived and sailed on the northeast Massachusetts coast crossing a shallow 10 foot bar in offshore winds, I can tell you that those kinds of waves can be the death of your boat, maybe even you. Not for me.

Anchored at Cave Cay and Gazing at Musha Resort
Anchored at Cave Cay and Gazing at Musha Resort

We spent a quiet night anchored at Cave Cay, then exited Cave Cay Cut the next morning heading south to Georgetown. It seemed we barely had time to take a breath at Georgetown. We ferried the laundry ashore, walked downtown to the Peace and Plenty for lunch on the water, filled our fuel jugs, picked up a few things at the market, and before we knew it, we had a weather window that looked like it might take us all the way to the Turks and Caicos. We left Georgetown, “Chicken Harbor” as it is often called, along with seven other boats heading east to Rum Cay on a light northeast wind. On the way we passed another vessel, “Anchor Management” with Steve Schlosser single- handing his way south. Steve would become a cruising buddy all the way to the Caribbean, though our paths differed most of the way. We entered Rum Cay with plenty of light to see the reefs and an easy wind coming over the island that made anchoring simple. But such a light wind, combined with a surge from the southeast made the anchorage very rolly and uncomfortable, even though we had tucked in almost up against the island. Since the forecast was still very favorable, I told Joy I might rise in the night and head south for Mayaguana. 
Rum Cay and Anchor Management in the Distance
Rum Cay and Anchor Management in the Distance

Most of the cruising guides tell you not to enter or leave these reef strewn cays at night, but, following Van Sant’s advice, I rose at midnight and eased out, carefully following my GPS breadcrumb track while watching the rear flashing range lights guide me. Soon in open water, Ocean Angel tracked effortlessly southeast at 7 plus knots. Just before noon as we were sailing south of Semana Cay I told Joy I wanted to test-fire a couple of expired flares to see if they ignited. The first one I chose was 12 years past its expiration, but it fired right off to leeward, a bright orange smoke flare filling the sky. Noticing another boat passing us to the north and heading towards Semana Cay, I hailed them on the VHF to let them know all was well. We exchanged boat names, theirs being “Sierra Hotel”. It couldn’t be, could it? I asked if their boat was a 47 foot catamaran – it was. I asked if they had recently purchased their vessel from Jim and Janice Fauske, good friends from home – they had. What an amazing encounter; twice in less than two weeks crossing paths with another boat with a history tied to our own. A few hours later we anchored at Betsy Bay on the west coast of Mayguana, all by ourselves on a lonely, wind swept, reef strewn coast at around 1700 hours. 
Off Betsy Bay, Mayaguana
Off Betsy Bay, Mayaguana

We were alone for an hour or so until a small boat anchored less than 100 feet away. Betsy Bay is several miles long, and this guy anchored so close he hailed us and asked how we were doing. I felt like saying ” Fine until you arrived”, but I was polite and simply said “Great”, and went below.
 The next morning, our new cruising buddy Steve Schlosser on his double ended cutter attempted to anchor about a mile to our south. After bending one anchor on a coral head he motored north to join us and asked if we minded him trying to anchor not too far to our north! What a difference. 
He was gone before we rose at 0400.
He was gone before we rose at 0400.

Wanting to get a better angle on the wind for our next long leg and hoping to find a quieter, smoother anchorage, we sailed south that morning shortly after talking with Steve. We entered Abraham Bay through the west entrance, carefully working our way in through the coral heads to a spot close to the reef that forms the bay’s southern wall. Conventional wisdom garnered from our cruising guides told us to snug in close to the southern reef, but with the wind still fo
recast to stay in the northeast, I decided to stay a ways in towards the island. As it turned out, the NE wind increased to about 20 knots, and we were glad not to have our stern too close to that big bad reef. Just behind us, after off-loading its cargo, one of the big mailboats dropped its big hook and anchored for the night.

On to the Turks and Caicos