Mojo Sailing Adventures #7: Cruising The Lower Exumas With Friends
Updated: May 19, 2022
One of the big pleasures Kim and I get on this trip is when friends come and share part of our trip on our boat. As much as we enjoy sharing these experiences with one another, it sometimes feels lonely for us. So when two separate friends decided to join us, both on the same week, we were ecstatic. We hadn’t had any visitors or crew since Phil got off in Nassau other than cruisers we’ve met along the way. Once again we would have a full boat with all three cabins in use for our new crew.
The weather was looking good for most of the next week, so we would be able to visit several keys before we would need to return to George Town. The long-range forecast did look iffy for the end of the week so I built in contingencies in case we needed to return to George Town early.
Originally, I planned to try to get as far north as Warderick Wells Cay about 75 miles north of George Town to experience a bit of the Land and Sea Park, with stops along the way since that would be too long of a sail if we tried to do it in one shot. There are many cays along the way with reportedly good snorkeling, so I wasn’t too worried if Warderick Wells was too far, and ultimately it was. Rudder Cut Cay at 36 miles from George Town was a must stop in my mind and a good point to assess how much further north we should go. Cambridge, Compass and Staniel Cays were good prospects to the north of Rudder Cut Cay. There were several to the south that were also interesting stops including Norman’s Pond and Lee Stocking. The possibilities are almost endless in the Exumas.
Kim and I decided a stop at Leaf Cay would be a good first stop at 28 miles. It would take about four hours, just about the max time I wanted to sail. After all, this was a vacation for both Greg and Linda, so sailing full time would get old fast. Plus, our general rule for Kim and I was about the same. The guidebook said Leaf Cay was a good shelling spot and known for a significant population of butterflies. It also mentioned we might see a few iguanas on Iguana Beach. This would be an excellent starting stop.
Greg and Linda would be arriving within a day of each other on Monday and Tuesday which made logistics very easy. We were able to arrange taxi sharing with other cruisers with arriving guests on the daily George Town Sailing Networks. They both planned to leave the following Tuesday, so we needed to be back in George Town so they could get their COVID tests on Monday.
A very pleasant surprise
So, after another great meal at EYC Restaurant (aka Choppy Waters Bar & Grill) and a good night’s sleep, boat, crew and friends were off to Leaf Cay on a bright sunny morning with 10 knots from the northeast. Hopefully it would pick up and clock more to the east. If not we were motorsailing the whole way. It did both and after leaving Elizabeth Harbour we were able to shut down our engines and enjoy the four hour ride to Adderly Cut and Leaf Cay.
This was our first test of Kim’s handiwork of her rebuilding our destroyed jib (see our previous blog for that fiasco and brilliant recovery…thanks Kim!). I’d like to report there was no problem and the jib is still holding together after many more miles of abuse and use.
When we got to Leaf, which is in a cluster of cays, the largest being Lee Stocking to the southeast and Norman’s Pond to the south, we were pleasantly greeted by only one boat in the anchorage. We slowly motored to a beach at the southwestern end of the island to scout out the possibilities for exploration once we dropped the hook. Much to our surprise there was a ton of activity in that little cove at Iguana Beach. There was a small tour boat there with six people. But there were all kinds of very large and small iguanas there to greet them. This was going to be interesting.
Once we were safely and securely anchored, we dropped Little Mo, packed a cooler full of Kaliks, put on our bathing suits and headed to the beach. By this time the tour boat had left, so we had the beach to ourselves…and the iguanas.
We didn’t find the butterflies and the shelling wasn’t the best, but the iguanas! There were far more iguanas then you can imagine. Some were very large, all were curious and none were aggressive. As we found out, this is a very popular spot for the tour boats so like the pigs on Pig Beach (there are several pig beaches scattered around the Bahamas), they are always looking for handouts and are comfortable around people.
The Rudder Cut caper
Our next stop was Rudder Cut Cay, about 12 miles to the northwest of Leaf. Because our catamaran only draw 1 meter, we decided to take the Brigantine Bank route on the Great Bahama Bank side instead of the Exuma Sound ocean route. Navigable depths on the bank side route are sometimes as low as four feet, plenty of water for us, but not for most cruising sailboats.
There is a lot of beautiful scenery and water along this route and it wasn’t that much further than the Exuma Sound route. It was certainly smoother with calm seas and 12 to 15 knots of wind on our starboard beam. It was a delightful sail.
When we got to Rudder Cut there were only a few sailboats anchored, and we decided to anchor in the cove on the western corner of the anchorage. It doesn’t have a name so we named it Turtle Cove because we saw many turtles in here this and the last time we were here. This is another skinny water place with a little more than a meter at low tide.
Once we were anchored we once again dropped Mini Mo into the water, packed our snorkeling gear and a cooler of Kalics and headed for the cave on the other side of the cove and then to the sunken piano.
David Copperfield owns this and the island just west of here. Some years ago he commissioned a sculpture of a mermaid and a piano and sunk it off the eastern end of the Rudder Cut anchorage. It is a very cool and unique dive site I highly recommend. There aren’t a lot of fish, but how many times do you get to dive a sunken sculpture?
We anchored over The Piano, donned our gear and went over the side. The sculpture is in about 10-15 feet of crystal clear water so it isn’t a hard dive to make. As we descended I noticed something amiss. Someone had decided to “enhance” the beauty of the sculpture by leaning 42” stainless steel steering wheels to each side of the piano! It looked more like an organ grinder now. I was appalled that someone would deposit their trash on someone else’s art. So I grabbed one and Greg grabbed one and we brought them to the surface.
Now what to do with them? I don’t need a new wheel, even though these two were in fine shape, including the leather wrapping. We brought them to mojo and lashed them to the rail on the foredeck with the paddle boards. I know….the George Town Cruisers-net and sailing networks to the rescue. I would advertise them on the net. Someone might want one or both, and if that wasn’t successful I would put them in the trash there. Either way, we weren’t going to leave them there.
After we were done diving The Piano, we went back to Turtle Cove to dive there and around the cave and rocks that bordered it. We also did some paddle boarding. We had fun with the three or four turtles that were there that day and saw a good number of colorful fish around the rocks.
After sundowners, another fantastic dinner prepared by Kim, and conversation late into the night we called it a day.
Fiasco in the cut
I had been watching the weather, and it was clear it was going the wrong way. The forecast had been deteriorating all week and now it was clear we needed to head back to George Town today, which was Friday. The winds would be out of the east building to 25 knots and the seas, which were already at four feet would be building to six to eight overnight. That was not a good combination for a comfortable cruise, especially since we had no choice but to travel on the ocean side, In Exuma Sound.
We set off for the four hour journey back to George Town mid-morning.
Like most other cuts in the Bahamas, Rudder Cut could be dicey in the right conditions. We knew the Sound was at about four foot swells and building, and the wind out of the east at 17-20 knots would be a close hauled reach at best, but most likely on the nose. We weren’t leaving at the best time as the tide was going out. In most of the cuts, an outgoing tide against winds over 15 knots would be choppy, with steep seas.
We started out ok, but suddenly Mini Mo started taking seas that lifted her and she began swinging violently in her Davits against the stabilizing lines we always rig to prevent that from occurring. Throughout our trip we stored our folding bikes in their waterproof bags in Mini Mo while underway. We never tied them down. One was now in the water a good distance away and the other was stuck between mojo and Mini Mo, about to also jump ship. Luckily Greg was able to hold on and wrestle the bike back aboard, but it was too dangerous to try to retrieve our other bike, so we watched it float away. That hurt. Kim was sad with loosing her bike, but was in distress over the loss of her purple bell. Once we got everything back in order we made our way to George Town.
Chat ‘n Chill, center of the George Town social scene
Once we got to George Town, the Stocking Island side of Elizabeth Harbour was preferred to weather strong easterlies, so we anchored in front of the Chat ‘n Chill beach.
Not too far was our old friend and solo sailor Cally D (aka She’s the Skipper) on her boat Tala. We hadn’t seen Cally since West Palm Beach, but have always been in contact. We both started our trips south from East Greenwich RI at the sa
me time and have stopped at the same places many times during our trip south. This would prove to be our final meeting place for this trip as she is continuing south to Granada while we are heading back to the States.
We spent the last two days of Greg’s and Linda’s relaxing on the beach and enjoying the sun. And of course enjoying Kim’s culinary expertise every night. It was bittersweet when Greg and Linda finally had to say goodbye. We had a great time and Kim and I were sad to see them go. At the same time we were anxious to continue our explorations of the Bahamas. We look forward to sailing with each of them in the near future.
Steering wheels? Oh, THAT mojo!
We still had several days before the weather forecast would be favorable for us to leave George Town and continue our adventure. In the meantime we still had a pair of boat steering wheels to deal with. The Cruisers-net and George Town Cruisers Facebook page was abuzz with the story about our found steering wheels. People recognized us as the boat with the wheels. There was a lively debate on FB about the wheels, trash and the right and wrong of placing the wheels on someone else’s art and of our decision to remove them. We found overwhelming support for our decision, but not everyone agreed.
We did find new homes for the wheels. One went to a couple looking for a smaller wheel than what they already had, and the other went to the children’s’ playground on the Chat ‘n Chill beach. It all worked out.
From George Town we decided to continue south to the Far Bahamas. Our next stop was Long Island.
More on that phase in my next blog. Until then, fair winds!