We started the vacation at mid afternoon on another typical Bahamian sunny day. Of course a typical day is just stunning. We anchored our sailboat in a shallow spot with not a lot of boats around us, dropped the dinghy and headed into the marina, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The harbor is home to several interesting destinations. The marina is home to a bunch of tame nurse sharks who hang and allow people to get in the water to touch and feed them without eating the people, which would bring bad press to this place. It also is home to a cavern called The Grotto who’s claim is to fame being a filming spot for the James Bond film Thunderball.
The harbor is just south of Big Major, home to the famous swimming pigs at Pig Beach. These areas were crowded to say the least. Not to say we did not visit these places because we did! We took a long dinghy hike around these and other cays close by. We found a couple away from all the commercialism and had a great picnic and went shelling.
We had dinner at the marina. It was better than we expected, including the seats we had at the end of the deck overlooking the harbor, sailboats and a lot of activities. Delightful sailing vacation!
Back to another paradise island
After our two days in sensory overload, we continue our holiday cruise south about twenty miles to Big Farmers Cay. This was more of what we were looking for; a secluded cay with a large beach and only one other boat there. Near perfect!
We had decided to pass on Little Farmers Cay, billed as a very typical Bahamian settlement, which also had a marina and many sailboats anchored in the harbor. As we passed I could see many boats in the harbor and heard many VHF transmissions talking about meeting there. Because we had just been to Staniel, we were looking forward to a bit emptier anchorage. So, we sailed another five miles south to Big Farmers Cay.
Big Farmers was just what we needed. There was one boat in the anchorage when we got there, and I am happy to report we did not see anyone around the entire time we were there. Kim and I strolled and watched the sunset from the beach. We followed a large bird’s tracks along the beach that we later identified as flamingo tracks. We still have not seen any actual flamingos, but we are still looking. After another culinary masterpiece by Chef Kim, we went back to the beach for a campfire and to watch the moon rise. What a magical place.
Turtles and the underwater piano
Late the next morning we moved south again, about six miles to Rudder Cut Cay. The route we took was for shallow draft boats only. At some points we only had 6 feet of water under our keel. This is an area of shifting sand banks, not coral so I was not that concerned. I was prepared for the chance we did go aground. I had my bottom brush and scrapper handy just in case. I am glad we were able to take this route because the scenery as we passed was quite beautiful. And we did nott go aground.
Rudder Cut is one of at least two islands owned by David Copperfield. He also owns the cay north of Rudder Cut, Musha Cay. You can rent a villa on Musha for the affordable price of forty thousand a week. Such a deal for your next vacation!
Rudder Cut Cay is another beautiful place for boating enthusiasts. Mr. Copperfield commissioned a sculpture and sank it there. It is a piano and mermaid, a very fun snorkeling site. There is also a shallow (for most boats) cove where we anchored and hung with a bunch of turtles who go there to munch on the grassy bottom. It was a fun place to go and we named it Turtle Cove.
Our next destination for this sailing vacation was George Town, another 40 miles south as we had to meet some guests who would be arriving in a few days. Once we left Rudder Cut Cay, we needed to exit the relative protection of the Exuma Bank on the west side of the Exumas to the Exuma Sound on the north. This is all open ocean and because the prevailing winds throughout our trip was from the east, it would prove to be a bit rougher than what we were enjoying on the western side of the islands.
Welcome to Exuma Sound
It started in a hurry. We left Rudder Cut Cay through Rudder Cut. Like many of the cuts along the islands, there is a huge influence by tides and wind direction. If they are opposite, things will be dicey, and they were. We left in a moderate wind, about 15 knots from the east, an ebbing tide and seas less than a foot. This was just the combination you donâ€™t want because the cut itself was raging with four foot seas at a very short interval. The winds were also stronger on the Sound side, about 18 knots.
As we left the cut, we took waves over the bow and the motion was pretty uncomfortable. But once through it, the seas remained at four feet, but with a much easier interval of about six seconds. So we hoisted sail and made our way to George Town.
It was a delightful sail, with the easterly winds at about 60Â° off the port bow. We were making good time averaging about seven knots on our way to Conch Cay Cut and into Elizabeth Harbour. Suddenly, about an hour south of Rudder Cut we experienced a catastrophic sail failure. Our headsail ripped from leach to luff about 1/3 from the bottom, and not along a seam. This was bad.
We rolled it up as best we could and wrapped a line around as much of the flapping sail as we could. Luckily there wouldnâ€™t be any more damage from the next four hours of our passage.
I had lots of time to think while we motored the rest of the way to George Town. How or where I was going to get this thing repaired? Could it be repaired? What if we did not have a headsail while we had guests who were coming to sail? What if we did not have a sail for the rest of our trip? This was the second sail I have blown up in the past six months having trashed my spinnaker twice during my Maine cruise this past summer. None of these thoughts were pleasant.
But I was confident we would be ok one way or the other.