Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update: Nassau to the Exuma Cays

We spent 3 nights in Nassau charging our boat batteries and human batteries so to speak. We really enjoyed our stay. Everyone we met was extremely nice and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Not what we had expected from some reports.

While we were there we visited Paradise Island and downtown Nassau. If you like to gamble, then the casino at Atlantis on Paradise Island is the place for you. We walked the beautiful grounds of Atlantis and the surrounding shops and restaurants. We rode the bus from downtown back to the Marina and again all the locals on the bus were very nice. We bought some provisions at the local grocery store which was very well stocked and very clean.

We met a local named Jackie who turned us onto fishermen coming in with fresh caught lobster, grouper and snapper. We bought 2 large lobster for $30 – each tail weighed about 2 to 2.5 lbs. Needless to say we ate lobster that night and had one tail left over.

We can’t say enough about the Poop Deck restaurant at Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. Great food and service. These folks want your business and it shows. Hats off to the chef and wait staff.

We left Nassau on Saturday and headed out for Alan’s Cay located at the north end of the Exuma Island chain. The route from Nassau to Alan’s crosses the “Yellow Banks” a shallow bank with scattered coral heads you have to steer around. With our buddy boats we decided to run a course south of the rhumb line and stay in deeper water 10-15’ and avoid the keel busting coral heads. Reading the water with the sun high in the sky is pretty easy although there are times when crossing patches of dark grass that the pucker factor goes up. The coral heads seem to be lone circular patches surrounded by white sand which makes them stand out pretty well in good light.

A good pair of polarized sun glasses are a must when navigating here. A seasoned captain told us never travel at night in the Exuma chain due to uncharted coral heads. He did say the Garmin Blue Charts have a lot of the coral charted and seemed to be the best charts because they are based on the Explorer Charts. 

He did not recommend the Raymarine Charts for this area.

We picked our way across the 30 nm of the banks to Alan’s Cay. 

We pulled a mahi lure across the bank and did’t have a hit until we were almost to Alan’s Cay. I had gone below to look at the charts and wouldn’t you know bam we got a strike. Well by the time I made back to set the hook the fish spit it out. Oh well, it wasn’t a good time anyway as we needed to anchor and get settled. We followed our friends on “Goose Bumps” into the narrow anchorage between Allan’s Cay and Leaf Cay. What a gorgeous place, but with 5 other boats anchored there we decided to exit and anchor on the west is of Alan’s where we would have plenty swing room. We dropped the hook in about 15 ft of water and settled in for a beautiful starlit night. We cooked a couple of thick pork chops on the grill and had a wonderful time sitting out on the aft deck. After dinner I decided to setup a bottom rig using a piece of pork fat as bait. I dropped the line in the water and within 2 minutes the reel was screaming as the fish ripped line off the real. I grabbed the rod and gave a heavy yank to set to hook.

Ginny grabbed a flashlight and started to light up the water as I reeled the fish in. What a fight the guy put up. After getting him close to the boat I gaffed him and brought him on deck. Wow. What an adrenalin rush. A 10 lb fish that I don’t have a clue as to what it is. Ginny pulled out the gin and gave the poor guy a couple shots while I put him out of his misery. I cut two large and 2 small fillets off the fish and tossed the carcass overboard. We pulled out our trusty fish Id book and found we had caught a Horse Eyed Jack. It didn’t say too much about the food quality of the Horse Eyed Jack however it did say some of the 38 species of Jack have been tied to ciguatera poisoning. A sports fisherman told us the locals did not eat the Horse Eyed Jack because of the taste and ciguatera poisoning.  Crap! All that work, plus killing a fish and we can’t eat it. Oh well over the side with the fillets, some sea born creature will eat it. Thought about using it for bait but it’s too much trouble to keep and we will soon be in the Park where fishing is prohibited.

Sunday we weighed anchor and moved to Highbourne Cay. We anchored off the beach on the west side of the Island. Highbourne Cay has a great marina and store but no restaurant or bar. The wind was kicking pretty good so we planned on staying a couple days until things calm down a bit. One afternoon we had beach cocktails with “Goose Bumps”, “TSamaya”, “Ko Olina” , “Stradimarius” and “Isla”.  It’s great meeting and talking with other cruisers over a cold beer or beverage. Tall tales fly around like F-18 Hornets and seem to get bigger and bigger like fishing tales.

Tuesday we weighed anchor and set out for the Shroud Cay mooring field. Shroud Cay is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park and is a no take area. This is a place we will return to explore but have to leave due to a cold front coming in on Wednesday. We had a good day and evening on the boat and called the Warderick Wells Park to arrange for a mooring for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

With the front approaching quicker than forecast we took off from Shroud Cay around 9:30 after hearing our Warderick Wells mooring assignment. The wind and seas started to kickup and we were glad to be pulling into the Emerald Rock mooring field around 1:30 pm. As it turned out it was low tide and the water a little thin. We bumped bottom once or twice coming in but got to our mooring and settled in. Now this is mother nature’s beauty at it’s best. Would love to spend a month here just hanging out. The Exuma Land and Sea Park covers an area of 176 square miles (22 miles x 8 miles) and is home to some of the most beautiful waters, reefs and beaches in the world.  

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