On to the Exumas

I realize we’ve been out of touch for several days, but that’s what “remote” and “rugged” mean, two words that describe very well the island chain we are now exploring. Other words that might describe the Exumas are “unpredictable” and “lumpy.” We were looking for a bit more of a challenge and it seems we have found one—it is a challenge to get a good night’s sleep here, between planning for wind shifts, currents and waves that wrap themselves around islands to hit you just as the sun sets and you can’t see where they’re coming from. It feels as if the elements are conspiring against us. It started with the trip over, when we had sees as high as our cabin top at times (10 feet from trough to crest), and our first night, when we had similar motion in the lee of an island. We like to find our own place to anchor and tend to avoid crowded anchorages, but here even the boats in the designated anchorages seem to be experiencing similar, or worse, discomfort. We have not been here long enough to ascertain whether this is normal for winter in the Bahamas or just a fluke. We’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a run down of what we’ve been up to for the last week or so:

December 17 In transit to Little Harbor. Stopped to investigate conditions at Sandy Cay (third time’s a charm), where we snorkeled in the “Coral Gardens,” part of the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park. It was spectacular, if a bit chilly. In the afternoon, upon arrival at Little Harbour, we toured the foundry where Pete Johnston does beautiful lost wax sculptures in bronze, enjoyed the fare (again) at Pete’s Pub and had a great time talking with locals and fellow cruisers.
December 18  Rainy day, Little Harbor. Perfect day for movie and popcorn, in this case, the classic George C. Scott version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which we had finished reading aloud the day before.
December 19 Little Harbor.  This is one of the few places we have visited more than once and loved better. We delayed our trip south to the Exumas to wait for a better ride (hoping for a downwind sail to Eleuthera) and spent the day exploring the Bight of Old Robinson. We had been told by a local where to find a blue hole, a deep underwater passageway connected to the ocean and carved prehistorically out of limestone. He also mentioned that there were lionfish (a beautiful, though venomous and invasive species) on a reef insight the bight. We split up, with Mom, Sarah and Aaron taking the kayak to look through the shallows for the blue hole, and Dad, Eli and Sam looking for good snorkeling by dinghy. Found said blue hole—it was bottomless and beautiful, and found said good snorkeling, complete with lionfish.
December 20 Northeast Providence Channel to Royal Island. We left the Abocos at dawn with calm and beautiful weather, wind and waves behind us. Seas large, but not too uncomfortable as they were following most of the day. Anchored in the afternoon and baked pineapple upside-down cake for my birthday.

December 21 Spanish Wells. Anchored outside harbor, explored by dinghy. Went ashore to buy provisions for Christmas dinner. Found quiet and peaceful anchorage near Meeks Patch, and an uninhabited island. Brought picnic dinner ashore and built small fire to roast marshmallows for S’mores. Children ran around with colored lights (thank you, Grandma Mary) and had a great time.
December 22 Current Cut to Bush Cay. Got up early to make Current Cut at near-high tide. They don’t call it that for nothing—we had 3 knots of current sweeping us through to the other side; in some places it looked like river rapids. Anchored, safely, if uncomfortably, at Bush Cay. Made sugar cookies and had a fun, messy time decorating them after dinner.
December 23 Allen’s Cay/Leaf Cay. As soon as the sun was up, we headed to Allen’s Cay and passed through a cut between Allen’s and SW Allen’s Cay to anchor on the lee side of Leaf Cay. The anchorage in the lee of Allen’s was crowded and looked rolly. We were much happier to have a small space of our own, and spent a much more comfortable night. Met some other folks with children at the beach on Leaf Cay. Rested and relaxed.
December 24 Norman’s Cay. Again, found the anchorage in Norman’s Cay crowded and uncomfortable, so we anchored all by ourselves on the west side of the island. A peaceful Christmas Eve.
December 25 Ate cinnamon rolls and read the Christmas story from Luke. Snorkeled in the Octopus’ Garden at Highbourne Cay. Worked on jigsaw puzzle and ate Christmas chocolate. A fun day…

That about sums it up so far. We are missing our friends and family, but obviously enjoying ourselves. This is the best Christmas present we’ve ever given our children. They knew not to expect anything wrapped under the tree (heck, we don’t even have a tree!), but to take the lesson the Grinch learned: Christmas doesn’t come from a store. We wish you all (belated, by now) a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!