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Feature: Navigating & Exploring the Exumas

Discussion in 'Marinas & Waypoints' started by YachtForums, Feb 2, 2022.

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  1. Navigating & Exploring the Exumas

    by Capt. Pascal Gademer

    While only 200 nautical miles from Florida's yachting centers, the Exumas are one of the world’s best boating destinations. This string of islands stretch over 130 nautical miles with hundreds of cays and islands, along with thousands of beaches and sandbars that are accessible from more anchorages you can visit in a day or spend a month. Facilities are limited with only 5 marinas making planning and provisioning important. While the Exumas have become a popular destination for motoryachts and sailboats of all sizes, it is still much less crowded than the BVIs, Leeward Islands or the Med. Interested? Read on...

  2. Bimini Islands

    Bimini has been thru hard times over the last 20 years with the fatal Chalk Airline seaplane crash of 2005 and the resulting demise of its main link to South Florida. The tragedy was followed by Hemingway’s old haunt, the Compleat Angler, the island’s most popular bar going up in smoke. While the development of Resort World Bimini Bay hotel and marina could be seen as a huge boom for the island it also has destroyed acres of mangrove and miles of beaches. Still for many boaters, Bimini remains a favorite destination and a sampler of what the Bahamas have to offer. It is also a convenient port of entry.

    Bimini Sands on south Bimini - Channel was reportedly dredged in 2021, Bimini Sands offers floating docks, restaurant and excellent protection.

    Big Game Club - One of the oldest marinas and resort in Bimini, it has been updated over the years and offers fixed docks, pool and restaurant.

    Resort World Bimini Bay - Located at the end of a long man made channel, this modern resort offers two floating dock marinas, multiple pools and restaurants, casino and beach club. For a more local flavors, visit Browns, Sea Quest or Bluewater marinas located right in Alice Town. They offer inexpensive dockage.

    Navigation into North Bimini - Old timers will remember the range at the south end of the beach on south Bimini and the trek along the beach into Bimini. This has been replaced with a dredged channel closer to North Bimini. Note that the sandbar on the green side tends to encroach on the channel and that channel markers are often missing. Read the water, avoid with westerly wind or at night.

    Anchorages - Very limited around Bimini. In settled weather anchoring off Radio Beach or at the north end of the island is the best option along with Nixon’s Harbor on the south side of South Bimini.

    Point of interest: wreck of the WWI concrete ship Sapona, south of Bimini. Great snorkeling of the wreck in 15’ of water.

    Cat Cay - Gun Cay - Cat Cay Club and Marina is a private island just a few miles south of Bimini. Since spring 2020, non members are no longer allowed to dock or clear customs.

    Anchorages - On the east side of Gun Cay or Cat Cay, good holding although exposed to easterly breeze and chop Honeymoon Harbor: small cove at the north end of Gun cay with limited room for larger boats. Beautiful beach with friendly sting rays

    Last edited: Feb 2, 2022
  3. The Berrys

    The Berry islands is an archipelago located about 70nm from the Biminis and stretching along a 30nm arc. Mostly undeveloped, it offers a taste of what awaits boaters in the Exumas. The run across the Great Bahama Bank from the Biminis is usually pretty smooth, without any hidden dangers like coral heads, rocks or sandbars. There is a somewhat shallow area about 4 miles east of Cat Cay with about 6’ MLW. Deeper draft boats may need to wait for tide or round the north end of North Bimini instead.

    Leaving the bank approaching the southern Berrys will bring you in the Northwest Channel / north end of the Tongue of the Ocean. The Northwest Channel light has been extinguished for years now but shows up nicely on radar. The waters just east of the unlit light can be rough when easterly wind opposes outgoing tide off the bank.

    Chub Cay - Most boaters heading to Nassau and the Exumas usually prefer stopping at Chub Cay, a recently rebuilt resort and marina at the south end of the Berrys. Chub Cay is a port of entry featuring a nice clubhouse, bar and restaurant. Customs and immigration are located at the airport, a 5 minute golf cart ride away. Approach and entrance channel are deep with 8 to 9’ MLW. As of 2021/2022 the best dockage rates can be found by booking online on the marina website.

    Great Harbor Cay - Located at the north end of the Berrys, port of entry Harbor Cay Marina is inside one of the best hurricane hole in the Bahamas. Entrance is a little intricate but well marked with about 7’ MLW. The marina, while not as modern as Chub Cay, is well maintained by a friendly staff. The island has a lot to offer with beautiful beaches a short golf cart ride away.

    Berry Islands anchorages - Great Harbor East side. Protected anchorage can be found just east of the entrance to Great Harbor Cay Marina. Good spot to wait for daylight to come in. Great Harbor West Side, Petit Cay. Beautiful beach in a U-shape bay but only usable in settled weather with no swell.

    White Cay - A picturesque anchorage with good protection. Anchor right behind White Cay or further in, south of Hoffman to avoid surge. Dinghy ride to Hoffman’s Blue Hole Little Harbor Cay. Flo’s Conch Bar is the main attraction but call ahead to make it is open The harbor is very shallow so anchor outside by Cabbage Cay with minimal protection Bird Cay. Good protection from N thru E, can be rolly with SE to S wind. Main attraction is the abandoned Francis Francis estate on the NW corner of the island. Time is taking its toll but it still has quite a bit of 50s and 60s vintage furniture. For more exploring, dinghy over to Whale Cay with its lighthouse and ruins.
  4. New Providence

    The Northwest Channel can get pretty rough with a combination of winds and wave froms wherever the wind is blowing, along with some NE swells from the Atlantic. Add to that some current from the Tongue of the Ocean and it can be a miserable 40nm. If bypassing Nassau and going straight to the Exumas, two options are available. From the NW channel “unlit” light, proceed SSW off the west end of New Providence coming on the Exuma. Bank either north or south of Southwest Reef. From there, continue south of Conch Spit and White Bank. This works well when going to the northern Exumas like Highborne, Normans’s, etc.

    If heading to or from the southern Exumas (Warderick Wells and south) from just south on Conch Spit, you can proceed straight to a point at 24N 25’ , 76W 58’ and straight to anywhere between Warderick and Staniel Cay. This route is plenty deep with no obstruction along the way. An alternate route bypassing Nassau is to go toward the harbor entrance but continue east along the north shore of Paradise Island and come into Hanover Sound along the south side of Salt Cay before turning toward Porgee Rocks at the end of Athol island. Nassau has a number of marinas catering pretty much to every budget and preference. It is pretty much the last stop for quality provisioning before the Exumas as well as the cheapest fuel along the way.

    Marinas:

    Atlantis Marina - Modern and very well managed, it is a great destination for a taste of civilization... and mass tourism. Their aquariums are spectacular and kids will enjoy the water park.

    Hurricane Hole marina - Next to Atlantis, is closed as of this writing and being completely rebuilt. Likely to open for the 2022/2023 winter season.

    Bay Street Marina - Another modern and well run facility, across the Harbor from Atlantis. Can accommodate large yachts, fuel available next door at Harbor Central Marina. Restaurants on site.

    Nassau Yacht Haven - An older marina with lower rates and the excellent Poop Deck restaurant.

    Nassau Harbor Club - Another older marina but well maintained and well managed by its long time dockmaster, it features a pool and restaurant. Fuel is available. Reasonable rate and good security. Great location across a large shopping center featuring, among other things, a liquor store and one of Nassau’s best supermarket.

    Albany Marina - Located on the south west corner of New Providence, this modern marina caters to mega yachts. It can be a convenient fuel stop where returning from the Exumas.

    Palm Cay Marina - Also on the south shore but near the east end, this welcoming marina caters to boats up to 100’.

    Anchorages:

    Anchoring in Nassau Harbor can be challenging because of current and poor holding. When needing to anchor for a night or two before docking, the south side of Athol Island just outside the east harbor entrance is a good option with great protection form NW thru E. Exposed to anything south, it can be rocky with wakes from vessels coming in and out of the harbor.

    Rose Island, a little further east, has a few anchorages on both side. The south side, near West Bottom Harbor, has good protection from anything northerly. The anchorage on the NW tip is more exposed but is very scenic in settled weather. Just to the north, Sandy Cay is worth a visit by tender. Good snorkeling off the west tip. Further east, there are a couple more anchorages off Rose Island with various depths.

    Leaving Nassau via the east end, proceed past Porgee Rocks before gradually turning SE to avoid the well charted shallows off the east end of New Providence. While most charts show direct routes from Porgee Rocks to Highborne and Norman’s, I prefer doing a dogleg to pass safely between the White and Yellow Banks. This route is safe day or night using a waypoint at 24N52’ 77W08’.
  5. Northern Exumas

    Allens Cay - A scenic group of three small cays, one of which is home to a colony of iguanas (SW Allen’s cay). Anchor off the west side of Allen’s, between Allen’s and Leaf, or draft permitting on the outer edge of the SW Allens cove.

    Highborne Cay Marina - A popular stop with charter yachts out of Nassau, this well managed marina offers excellent protection, fuel, a small market and an excellent restaurant. Many beaches close by along with courtesy bikes. While looking tight on the charts the entrance is well marked with two ranges and plenty deep accommodating yachts well over 100’.

    Norman’s Cay - Once the kingdom of drug dealer Carlos Ledher, Normans Cay is undergoing some significant development. The runway has been extended to 5000’ to accommodate business jets; a well protected deep marina is being built, part of which is already open. The project will eventually see the construction of a boutique hotel. Good anchorages can be found all along the west side of the island. Near the south end, MacDuffs offers bungalows as well as a restaurant.

    Another popular anchorage is in the cut between the bank and the sound along the south side. This is where the wreck of a drug running DC3 can be snorkeled. Holding is pretty good in the cut but the current reverses every 6 hours. The area offers a lot to explore by tender including the beaches and sandbars on Boot Cay and the lagoon at the north end of the island.

    About Exuma Park - Extending from just south of Normans to north of Compass, Exuma Park is a protected national park. Fishing is prohibited and strictly enforced by park wardens. Taking shells, coral, or anything from the waters of the park or from land is also illegal. Anchoring in park waters as well as usage of mooring balls is subject to fees based on vessel size. There are no cellular towers in the park and service is spotty at best.

    Shroud Cay - One of the most scenic cay in the Exumas, Shroud Cay is actually made of a group of small cays and mangrove areas separated by creeks. All but the northern most creek are no motor zone and can only be navigated by kayaks or paddle boards. The northern creek can be navigated by small boats and tenders but PWCs are not allowed. A few shallow spots make it best explored at mid tide or higher. The crystal water is home to sea turtles and meander across the island opening up on a spectacular area of beaches and sandbars on the sound side. Named Camp Driftwood, a quick stroll up the hill offers a good view of the island. The main anchorage is on the west side with deep waters (10’ MLW) all the way to the rocky shoreline. A number of mooring balls are available. An alternate anchorage can be found just north of the rocky point and just south of the north creek with 6’ MLW on approach and 7’ in the anchorage.

    Hawksbill Cay - Two anchorages are available with moorings as well. The main anchorage is off the beach near the center of the island with 7’ MLW. The second anchorage and mooring field is near the south end of the island with about 8’ MLW. Hawksbill has a number of beautiful beaches and a series of sandbars at both the southern and northern ends.

    Warderick Wells - Home of the park headquarter, Warderick offers many trails including one to the top of Boo Boo Hill where it is customary for visitors to leave a memento like a piece of engraved driftwood. No man made material like plastic allowed. There are more beaches on the island than mooring balls so you are sure to find your own! The Park headquarter has a gift shop with proceeds supporting the park. The island has three mooring field with the most popular being the comma shaped deeper water with some mooring capable of handling boats up to 85/90’. There are also two outer mooring for larger yachts but more exposed and open to surge. The Emerald Rock mooring field is on the south side of the headquarters with depths of 7’ to 8’ MLW. Excellent protection from the prevailing easterlies. The final morning field is on the west side of the island, accessible from Exuma Sound and protected by Hog Cay. Moorings cannot be reserved until the day before arrival by calling Exuma Park on ch 9. Vessels are allowed to anchor outside the Emerald Rock mooring field.

    O’Briens Cay - Home to the “Aquarium”, a very nice reef featuring a variety of fishes, O’Briens has a few spots to anchor near Little Halls pond Cay and Pasture Cay. There is also a sunken Cessna in 20’ of water just north of Pasture Cay.

    Cambridge Cay - Protected mooring field capable of accommodating larger boats, surrounded by beaches and sandbars. Preferred entrance is from the sound if drawing over 5 to 6’ as the southern entrance has a narrow and shallow spot. The Bell Rock on the Sound side of Cambridge is worth the short hike. South of Cambridge, an easy dinghy ride away, are the Rocky Dundas with two caves which can be snorkeled into, one of them shaped like a theater. The Rocky Dundas are the southernmost cays in Exuma Park.
  6. Compass Cay - Considered by most to be one of the must visit island in the Exumas, this private cay is home to the well protected and very scenic Compass Cay Marina. While the entrance is pretty intricate, it is routinely visited by yachts well over 100’. The channel has a minimum of 7 to 8’ MLW. The island has a number of trails and Sound side beaches. Its main attraction are the pet nurse sharks which mingle with swimmers and love resting on your hydraulic swim platform at night. The west side of the island has a number of beautiful beaches and anchorages. At the very north end of Compass Cay is Rachel’s Bubble Bath, a natural rocky pool filled by crashing waves. From the marina, a creek meanders north, great for kayaking and paddle boarding.

    Pipe Cay - Home to the abandoned, and according to some, haunted Royal Navy Decca station, Pipe Cay features some amazing sandbars on the east side. Anchorage is a little tight between Pipe Cay and Little Pipe Cay but usable in settled weather. The west side has a protected anchorage with a couple of nice beaches. It is possible to tie up to the abandoned Navy dock although most of the mooring bits have now rusted away. With northerly wind, some protection can be found just outside the marina entrance off the tip of Pipe Cay Samson Cay. The marina has closed and turned private a few years ago but the cove to the west of the entrance offers protection from northerly winds. It is within dinghy distance of a number of small cays and beaches. The sandbars inside the lagoon next to the marina are among the best on the Exumas. On the east side of the sandbar maze, a short trail crosses to the Sound side of South Samson leading to a nice beach with some good snorkeling
  7. Staniel Cay Yacht Club - One of the oldest marinas in the Bahamas, family run Staniel Cay Yacht Club offers dockage for large yachts up to 150/170’ with deep water on its face dock. Approach can be made from the bank side with about 6’ MLW. Boats needing more depth can come from the Sound at Big Rock Cut. The entrance is easier than it look on charts but beware of the partially submerged Crown of Thorn rock. Current can be strong near the rock. When coming in the marina, beware of the shallow rocky bar opposite the marina face dock especially when coming in with an incoming tide. The marina installed moorings southwest of the dock and along the edge of the channel. Fuel is available at the fuel dock located just NE of the main docks.

    Note that the docks are exposed to westerly winds during a cold front passage and the staff will occasionally ask vessels to leave if conditions are expected to be rough. The bar and restaurant is often voted one the best in the Bahamas and Caribbean, advance reservations are required for dinner. SCYC has a number of bungalows, available with a package that includes a small skiff to enjoy the area.

    The cay has a 3000’ runway with daily flights to Nassau and Fort Lauderdale with stop at Andros as no customs or immigration are available on the island. A small dock in the shallow creek right by the airport shack allows the way transfer of guests to the boat. Groceries are available at three small stores with a reasonably good supply of produce arriving once a week on the Mailboat from Nassau.
  8. Northern Exumas continued

    Anchorages:

    Big Majors - Located just north of the Yacht Club, this popular anchorage offers excellent protection form prevailing winds, very good holding and deep water for larger yachts. Like many Exumas anchorage it is exposed to the west and can be rough during a frontal passage in winter. It is also home to the famous swimming pigs which unfortunately attract many boats... and wakes.. on the south side of the anchorage.

    Between the Majors - On the back side of Big Major, this smaller anchorage offers good protection from west to north winds during a cold front. Anchorage can be a little rolly with surge in prevailing easterly wind. Thunderball. Located just north of the marina, this anchorage has good protection and holding in a pocket of deeper water (8 to 9’ MLW) accessed from the east by passing between the three small cays just off the fuel dock. This anchorage is popular with sailboats and often full.

    Points of Interest:

    The Staniel Cay area has a lot to offer and, time permitting, is worth staying a few days either at the dock or anchored at nearby Big Majors
    Thunderball Grotto. Located in the northernmost of the three small cays opposite the docks, this was natural wonder was made famous by the James Bond movie Thunderball. It was also used in the Tom Hanks movie Splash. Easier to swim in at slack current for less experienced snorkelers

    Sandy Cay - A small cay home to a nice long sand bar, Sandy Cay is located about 2 miles west of Staniel and Big Majors. Super yachts often anchor behind it with crew setting up beach clubs. The sandbar is exposed at low tide and changes shape with time, sometimes curvy, sometimes straight as an arrow.

    Samson Cay sandbars - Mentioned earlier but an easy tender ride from Staniel.

    Fowl Cay Resort - This boutique hotel features luxurious bungalows as well as an excellent restaurant. Dinner reservations are required
    sometimes a few days in advance.

    Iguanas at Bitter Guana Cay - Just 3 miles from SCYC this Bitter Guana is home to a colony of endangered Iguanas. The beach is one of the nicest in the Exumas and has cliffs on the south end Airport lagoon. A quick tender right around the south end of Staniel will take you into the Sandy lagoon by the airport. There is also the wreck of a Piper Aztec which crashed near the lagoon entrance some years ago in 6’ of water. And for course the swimming pigs. While their origin is often the subject of wild speculation, the swimming pigs of Staniel Cay (well... of Big Majors) have enjoyed increased popularity and viral social media star status. Years ago, when only occasional cruisers would visit them, they would actually swim to greet dinghies approaching their beach begging for scraps. Now, in typical 21st century fashion, they have become entitled and just sit on the beach waiting to be fed or posed with for yet another selfie. Ironically, none of the social media selfie stars realize that pigs do on this beach what pigs do best and laying on that sand isn’t the best idea.
  9. Southern Exumas

    Most boaters end their southward trek thru the Exumas at Staniel Cay especially when on a week long round trip out of Nassau. Once past Staniel the vast majority of vessels are long term cruisers on sailboats or trawlers. Overall the southern Exumas are different from the northern Exumas with higher elevation and fewer mangrove wetland cays once you have passed around the tip of Harvey Cay leaving Staniel Bitter Guana Cay. As mentioned earlier, Bitter Guana is home to cliffs and wild Iguanas. The anchorage is easy to reach with excellent holding and protection in 10’ of water.

    Blackpoint - This is the largest settlement in the Exumas Cays with an anchorage offering good protection. Home to a few small stores and restaurant it is a favorite stop for cruising sailboats. Blackpoint is at the north end of Great Guana Cay, the second longest island in the Exumas after Great Exuma itself. It has a few nice anchorages along its shoreline.

    Castle beach - Named after an odd castle looking house, this small bay has a two beautiful beaches and good holding in sand and 10’ MLW. To the south, the rocky shoreline remains deep up to shore with a couple of small caves and good snorkeling. About a mile south of castle beach is Jack’s Bay Cove with a scenic small horseshoe beach.

    White Point - The sand dune of White Point can be spotted from miles away. The best anchorage is on the south side of the point with deep water and good holding. Access to the other anchorage on the north side requires a detour around some rocky patches.

    Oven Rock - The final anchorage along Great Guana Cay is named after a round rock with a whole shaped as a pizza oven. The anchorage once again has good holding and protection from the prevailing wind. While the beaches themselves aren’t the best in the Exumas, it is worth a stop because of the cave in middle of the island. The five minute hike starts at the north end of the beach just north of over rock with the trail climbing up to a small hill where you will find the entrance in the bushes. Descend into the cave back down to water level and take a dip in the pool of cool water. If you continue on the main trail you will quickly get to a nice Sound side horseshoe beach.

    Little Farmers Cay - From the Oven Rock anchorage, you can easily dinghy down to the Little Farmers settlement. This small community has a couple of restaurants and is home to Little Farmers Yacht Club whose face dock can accommodate boats up to 100/110 feet. There are also a number of moorings for smaller vessels in the east side of Little Farmers. Anchoring in the channel along the east side is difficult due to poor holding, swift current and limited swinging room.

    The little harbor is home to a group of sea turtles and their “trainer”. Worth a visit. Another place to visit on Little Farmers is Ty’s Sunset grill on the beach at the NW corner of the island along side the runway. A must stop at for good family island cooking and friendly folks. A 150’ dock was built but only has 4’ MLW. You can anchor in the deeper waters of the NW point and dinghy in.
  10. Southern Exumas continued

    Big Farmers Cay - The island is home to a number of beautiful beaches with limited anchorages. The best way to explore its shoreline is to anchor in the deeper water about a mile west or off the SW tip in the deeper water leading to Galliot Cut. Shallow draft boats can anchor in the pocket of deeper water of the southernmost beach with 6’ MLW on approach and 7’ in the anchorage. There is a shallow creek at the end of the southern beach leading into the island. Just south of Big Farmers is one of the safest cut between the bank and the sound side, Galliot Cay. It is also the southernmost cut larger boats can take with about 8 1/2’ MLW on approach to the west before the tip of Big Farmers

    Cave Cay - Cave Cay marina is in a hurricane hole and offers dockage for larger boats although there is a 5 1/2’ MLW hump in the cut coming in the basin . The island has a nice beach and a cave at the north end. Entrance to the marina is from the west, either having come in at Cave Cut Cay or navigated thru the shallow area to the NW (8’ MLW)

    Musha Cay - A private island, Musha doesn’t have anything to offer beyond a protected but tight anchorage. Rudder Cut Cay. Also private, Rudder has a number of nice beaches, with private no trespassing signs although there are no homes except for an abandoned house in the small lagoon. There is good snorkeling along the rocky shore between the beaches and a large cave big enough to poke the bow of a tender in at high tide. More good snorkeling can be found on the east side of the small Guana Cay just inside the cut Rudder is also home the “Mermaid and the Piano”, a life size stainless steel sculpture set in 12’ MLW along the shore of the island south of the cave. Because of the current, it is best snorkeled at slack current.

    Rudder Cut Cay - The cut itself can be used to cross into Exuma Sound but should be avoided with an outgoing tide opposing any easterly breeze. The short tall standing waves can be downright dangerous. Darby Island. Also private, the Darbys are home to a research facility closed to public. There is a nice sandy lagoon between the two islands that’s just a short dinghy ride from the Rudder Cut Cay anchorage. It is also possible to anchor along the beach on the NW shore with good protection from south winds. Past the Darbys is an intricate and shallow route on the bank thru the Pimlico Cays. This is an alternate to running in the sound on a windy day but there are a few shallow spots with as little as 4 1/2’ MLW.

    Lee Stocking - After leaving or passing Rudder in Exuma Sound, the next access to the bank is at Bock Cut and Adderly Cut to access Lee Stocking, one of the best anchorages in the Exumas. Home to the now abandoned Caribbean Marine Research Center, this beautiful island as a number of trails, one of the highest point in the Exumas and, no surprise, beautiful beaches. The island offers excellent protection from easterly winds but approach is a little intricate with only 6’ MLW and about 8’ MLW in the anchorage. The trail to the top of the hill starts at the south end of the small palm tree lined beach roughly in the middle of the island. Further south, by the twin beaches separated by a rocky point, is the start of the Cliff Walk, a scenic trail along the Sound side of the island heading south. The trail goes up and down between rocky cliffs and small beaches and worth the effort. You can leave the anchorage heading south along the shoreline again with about 6’ MLW. This is will bring you past private Children’s Bay Cay to the northern tip of Great Exuma.
  11. Great Exuma

    Great Exuma is, as the name implies, the biggest island in the Exumas and home to Georgetown, its capital. Great Exuma offers the best provisioning south of Nassau, an international airport with multiple daily jet service to the US along with a hardware store, marine store and a small boat yard.

    Barraterre - A small settlement at the northern end of Great Exuma. It has a small public dock withabout 4’ MLW which can be used by tenders. When Exuma Sound is rough, it is a good option to pick up or drop off guests for their flights. The most common approach to Barraterre is from the Sound side entering at either Rat Cay Cut or Square.

    Rock Cut - Both appear narrow with sharp turns but are actually easy and safe cuts, especially Rat. Coming in at Square Rock Cut allows boats to easily approach the north shore of Great Exuma and proceed down to the Barraterre dock. This passage has about 5 1/2 to 6’ MLW. At low tide or with deeper drafts, you can anchor along the shore closer to the northern tip in 7’ MLW or more and dinghy to the dock. From Rat Cay Cut, boats can anchor in the deeper water behind Rat Cay with good holding but current. From the there it is an easy tender run to the dock.

    Pigeon Cay - This small cay has a nice little beach with a small runnel in the rocks. It’s possible to anchor to the NE of Pigeon, in the open area NW of Rat Cay, but this anchorage is open to surge. Behind Pigeon Cay is the only possible passage between the bank and the sound side without having to go back outside to Square Rock. The short passage has 6’ MLW and a sharp 90 degree turn but is actually easier than it seems and well charted by Explorer Charts.

    Boysie Cay - Between Rat Cay Cut and Square Rock Cut is a series of small rocky cays including Boysie Cay. These offer some nice beaches and sandbars along with blow holes. From the northern / central Exumas, an often overlooked route to Great Exuma when the sound is too rough is to pass south of Galliot Bank after Big Farmers and along the south side of the Brigantines to Pudding Cut. This route is deep until about two miles from Pudding Cut shoaling to 6’ MLW. Note that the tides on the bank side of Great Exuma run about 2 hours past Nassau. Once just past Pudding Cut, watch for the small shoal and stay on its west side. Further up, just before Pudding Point lays another small shallow area with deeper water (7’ MLW) close on its east side. Again Explorer Charts has this well charted.

    White Bay Cay - Between Barraterre and Emerald Bay Marina, there is a series of small cays with some anchorages off the shore of Great Exuma. Unfortunately these small cays offer little protection and most of the area is open to surge in anything but the most settled days. The best area is inside Glass Cay Cut behind White Bay Cay. This anchorage features a restaurant on the beach and another set of swimming pigs on White Bay Cay. If you missed the original swimming pigs at Staniel, you can visit their copycat cousins...

    Emerald Bay Marina - Halfway between Barraterre and Georgetown is The Marina At Emerald Bay, a modern floating dock facility able to accommodate large yachts. Note that the marina entrance, while protected by a break water, can be rough in N to E wind and swells. The basin can have some surge inside in rough weather requiring heavy lines and extra fenders. Fuel is available along with laundry and a nice club house / lounge.

    Georgetown - Elizabeth Harbor is a beautiful natural harbor between the mainland of Great Exuma and Stocking Island offering good protection and fairly deep waters. Stocking Island is one of the Bahama's nicest with long ocean side beaches as well as protected beaches and sandbars on the harbor side. Most of the harbor side of Stocking is a long scenic anchorage with good depth and protection from prevailing winds. Note the dogleg required when entering just inside the harbor. Again, follow explorer Charts as Garmin Navionics is missing the 4’ shoals along the north end of Stocking. While mostly undeveloped, the mid section of Stocking features two small resorts (St Francis resort and Kahari resort) as well as a beach bar/restaurant, Chat n Chill. The island has a number of short trails leading to the spectacular ocean side beaches. Just south of Stocking is Elizabeth Island which is private. The area between the two has beautiful sandbars. Georgetown has one marina, Exuma Yacht Club, which sadly has fallen into disrepair over the years. It usually has fuel but shore power is very limited. A number of stores can be found along the road that circles Lake Victoria. Dinghies can get in the lake passing under the narrow and low bridge. Exuma Market, one of three grocery stores has a dinghy dock just inside the bridge.
  12. Great Exuma continued

    Crab Cay - Another failed development, Crab Cay has a couple of coves which offer protection from S to W winds. Red Shanks. The Red Shank anchorages can be accessed from Georgetown, past February Point and under the “Crab Cay Bridge to Nowhere” in small boats and tenders. It has a series of protected coves with limited swinging room and only 5’ MLW on approach form the south side.

    Man O War Cay - The south end of Elizabeth Harbor is part of Moriah Harbor National Park. When winds shift southerly or westerly possibly making anchoring along Stocking Island a bit uncomfortable, good protection can be found along the Great Exuma shoreline just before Man O War Cay. The rocky shoreline has a couple of caves and a large area of sandbars. There are a few coral patches on approach but they are easy to see and well charted all with 8’ MLW. Just north of the anchorage is Brown Marine, a small boat yard with chandlery and liquor store.

    Moriah Harbor - A large bay at the end of Great Exuma, Moriah Harbor has number of beaches and sandbars and good holding in about 9’ MLW. Again, a number of visible and well charted rocks and coral patches need to be navigated but are worth the effort. This anchorage can be rolly with swells and best used as a day anchorage in calm conditions.

    Little Exuma - Separated from its bigger sister by a narrow creek and linked by a bridge, Little Exuma offers a series of beaches and rocky cays just off its shoreline. One of the biggest one, Pigeon Cay, has a large sandbar jutting out and 9’ MLW to anchor in. Like this entire area, it can be subject to surge from swells. Goat Cay, Hog Cay. Hog Cay Cut at the southern tip of Little Exuma is a shallow route to the bank side of Exuma as well as time the Ragged Cays as points south but only has 4’ MLW. There is a nice beach at the very end of Little Exuma with an anchorage best used with southerly wind.

    The end of the line: White Cay - Made famous as a location in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, White Cay sits among an extensive area of pristine sandbars. It is also the last and southernmost cay in the Exumas. Literally, the end of the line.
  13. A note about charts:

    The absolute best charts / cruising guides are the Explorer Charts books. A must have for any trip to the Bahamas they come in three books: Near Bahamas, Exumas & Ragged Islands and Far Bahamas. The electronic version of the charts are available in a number of formats including C-Map and apps like Aquamap available for IOS and Android. Note that Garmin charts stopped using Explorer chart data around 2016/2017 and has incorporated Navionics Bahamas data which contains numerous errors, some possibly dangerous.

    Fuel docks:

    Bimini, Chub Cay, Great Harbor Cay, New Providence, Highborne Cay, Staniel Cay, Emerald Bay. Nassau fuel prices are typically $1 to $1.50 higher than Florida, family island prices are usually $0.50 higher than Nassau. Always call ahead to ensure fuel availability in the family islands and still have enough to reach the next fuel dock just in case.

    Shore power:

    Shore power is expensive in the Exumas averaging $0.50 to $0.65 a KWH. Some marinas charge a flat rate of as much as $200 a day per cord for 3 phase 208v. Power is often spotty with low voltage and easy to trip breakers. It is not unusual for boats to run generators at marinas.
    Internet and cellular Cellular coverage (voice and data) is excellent thruout the Exumas except in Exuma Park between Shroud Cay and Cambridge Cay. Various plans are available from BTC or Aliv and prepaid sims can be purchased at various locations thruout the islands. Most US providers have daily roaming plans as well. A few marinas have wifi service as well.

    Customs:

    As of 2021, Bahamas Customs has implemented an online cruising permit application and payment system which must be used by all vessels entering the country: www.Click2Clear.com. Boaters must still visit customs and immigration in person to complete the process. Also, all departing vessels must now clear on the way out of the country. The outbound clearance form must be completed on line and submitted in person at a customs office. As to health regulations, visit www.travel.gov.bs for the latest including health visa application.
  14. The Exumas Guide was written by YF senior member: Capt. Pascal Gademer who has been plotting courses through the Exumas for 15 years. He currently helms a 116' Lazzara. He can be reached on YF via @Pascal or you can follow his YouTube channel.

    For your traveling convenience, you can download a PDF of the Exumas Guide at the following link...

    https://www.yachtforums.com/threads/exumas-guide-pdf-download.35793/

    ***
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2022
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