Swing Set

Jun 12, 201307:05 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Allen's Cay To Staniel Cay

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By mid-morning, we were anchored securely near Compass Cay in the clearest water we've seen yet. In eight to 10 feet of water, you could count the grains of sand on the bottom. At one point, I saw a pretty green fish swimming toward the boat before I realized it was nothing but the stern of the boat drifting over a Heineken bottle.

We did some much-needed waxing on the boat after doing a short rinse and wipe with our own onboard water. Afterward, we went for a dinghy ride to check out the nearby Compass Cay Marina, a place designed for people with more money than sense. Compass Cay Marina charges folks $10 per head just to step foot on the property, and I'm here to tell you that it's not that special. The docks are old and sandwiched into a little harbor that really isn't a harbor at all but an offshoot of a channel where the current runs swift four times per day. We did see some sharks in there, and little kids were swimming unconcerned nearby. I need to get some of their nerve.

We went back to our very affordable anchorage, meaning FREE, and had a great dinner of grilled chicken, macaroni and spinach. Then, we sat in the cockpit and watched the sun go down before retiring.

One thing we've been surprised at during this voyage is the amount of current that we have to deal with. The Abaco Cays are large and spaced far enough apart where there's plenty of space for the water to reach the ocean from the Sea of Abaco, for the most part.

Now, Eleuthera is one big island. The water goes up and down, but hardly no current because the exchange from one side of the island doesn't go through cuts.

Here in the Exumas, lots and lots of little cays are separated by big and little cuts both, and the waters in the Banks and the Sound do battle with each other, moving from one side to the other, and the current going through the cuts is downright treacherous. Taking a dip off the stern better be done with caution, or an unwary swimmer may find themselves drifting quickly away from the boat. The area we were about to transit was no exception.

We left this morning to head for Staniel Cay. Another consideration for traveling through these islands, is the fact that one needs to be able to read the water, and this means sunlight overhead. I'm used to reading water based on the ripples it makes as the current takes the water around the bends and shallows. Reading the bottom by actually seeing it, on the Mississippi anyway, is a lesson in futility.

So, we need to see the bottom, which means waiting until after 10 a.m. But when the high tide, the best time to travel shallow areas like this, happens at 10:30, one has to compromise.

We left at 8 a.m., so we could be on a rising tide to travel what is known as "The Pipes," a narrow, twisty and shallow route where VPR, or Visual Piloting Rules, apply. Meaning, don't trust the chart, trust your eyes. Always a good practice in any water.

Within a couple of hours, we were anchored along with several other vessels off of Big Major Spot, near Staniel Cay, where the feral pigs swim out to your dinghy looking for a handout.

They like frozen peas and carrots we're told. So what? We do, too. There's more of a chance of us eating one of these pigs than of us feeding one of them. Where is Steve Huebner when you need him? (Steve is a friend from up north who knows his way around slaughtering a hog.) Just kidding, pig lovers. We'll avoid the pigs for the most part. They not only bite, but Holly would be a snack for one of the 500-pounders. Apparently, they swim like fish and will try to climb into the dinghy with you. Stay away from us you soggy pork rinds!

We have adequate Internet service here, and we have some business to attend to in Staniel Cay. We need to get our credit cards sent to us here, for one thing. Another thing is to get rid of two big bags of trash. Really, the only items in the trash are empty beer cans and potty pads for Holly. I'd like to see an archeologist's take on that sometime in the future.

There are also three grocery stores in Staniel Cay that we'll visit. There's fuel here, too, but we'll probably wait until we get to Georgetown in the southern Exumas. The fuel is cheaper there at the Marina at Emerald Bay, and they don't have a surcharge when you use a card to purchase fuel.

Meanwhile, as I write this, the megayachts are filing in. This anchorage is one of the busiest in the Exumas. It's supposed to be the place to meet everyone, and if we want solitude, this isn't the place to find it.

If I post any pictures in the coming days of us eating big ole racks of spare ribs, let's just keep it a secret between us, OK?

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