Home Up Sampson Cay Staniel Compass






It was an easy day from Highbourne Cay to Sampson.  The weather was not an issue.  I slept most of the trip, fighting an oncoming cold.  Joe drove the boat most of the way.  As we made our approach to Sampson, the waters got very skinny or shallow.  We were heading in on low tide.  Fran was watching the depth sounder and Joe was outside getting the lines and fenders ready.  As we approached, the waters got as low 6”.  We headed in very slowly.  There was a huge yacht on the outer dock.  It was the same yacht that was at our last stop at Highbourne Cay.  He left after us and arrived before us.  We passed him slowly as we got directions for our docking on the radio.  Once past the outer dock you must come around through a manmade cut in the land, held in place by wooden planked walls.  It’s a narrow space and the current was flowing through at a good clip.  We passed some familiar boats that we had seen in past ports like, Nassau and Harbor Island.  Off to our port were exposed sandy shoals.  The sight of those made it perfectly clear how little room you had to manuever, so you concentrated quickly on getting in that slip.  We made our turn into the marina and pulled up beside the dock as Joe and Fran helped snug her up tight at the dock.




We all remarked at the shallow waters just a few feet outside the marina in the protected lagoon that the marina sets in.  The water was the color of milky turquoise perhaps from all the boats churning up the nearby sandy shoals as they come and go.  It was surreal this field of sand near us.  During our stay the lagoon would be exposed sand at low tide and innocently hidden by water at high.  It was a beautiful changing landscape. 

The marina considering its remote location is very upscale and pristine.  They have done a nice job creating a lush landscaped marina and the store is clean and modern with limited supplies and a few nice shirts and hats to take home as a momento.  They have a small restaurant and bar, that serves typical Bahamian fare.  There are palm tree lined paths that lead to the outer docks and to a couple of nice rental cottages that are lit at night. Again, like Highborne Cay, it’s nothing more than a small patch of land serving the cruisers by providing a nice protected place to dock, minimal provisioning and a restaurant serving the typical fare.



We decided to get the dinghy down and go explore as some boaters in the marina office said if we left now, at high tide, we could head out the back cut.  It would save us considerable time and we could go all the way to Big Majors anchorage.  We heard there were some pigs on the shore of that cay and they will swim out to your dinghy looking for food.  Just around the corner is Thunderball Grotto and Cave where they filmed the James Bond movie Thunderball



We all piled in to the dinghy and slowly headed out the back cut trying to watch out for shallow areas, none of us really having a good grasp on reading the depths from the colors of the water.  We still have not picked up a knack or talent for that unfortunately so we took our hand held depth sounder with us and occasionally we’d stop and check the depth to see.  We made our way out of Sampson Cay past the open cut to the Atlantic.  The cut was a bit windy and a little choppy in the dinghy.   Once across the opening that leads out to the Atlantic we headed through a narrow cut between two cays.  There was a nice building sitting on the cut and a small dock.  This place was called Fowl Cay and was a nice looking small resort with what looked like a few cottages.  We had heard they had a fantastic restaurant which required collared shirts and reservations days ahead which is kind of an annomolly around here.



Once through the cut we found ourselves immediately immersed into a large anchorage area called Big Major’s Spot.  Obviously it’s a popular spot.  It provides boaters a good protected anchorage except from the Westerly winds.  There’s a nice beach along the shore and that’s where we actually could see the pigs. 

We came in a little closer and sure enough there were about 4 or 5 big pigs, pink as a baby’s bottom, strolling the shore on the nicest whitest beach.  One was scatching his back lazily on a nearby wooden post.  The others were milling around on shore and in the shallow water visiting with some people on their dinghy, or more likely looking to see what they brought them to eat.  Someone had warned us to be careful because some of the pigs just climb right on the dinghy if they think you have something especially good to eat.  We decided we’d come back another day without Ziggy and feed them.  Ziggy by now was getting a little exited about seeing actual pigs on the shore now and we decided it would be better to visit them without him.  I’m not sure if Ziggy ever saw a pig before but he was quite interested.

I had to laugh to myself about the pigs and think of our friends the Fipps from La Jolla who always use the expression, “Yea, sure, that’ll get done, when pigs fly!”  Well, I wonder if it could apply when pigs swim.



We swung by Thunderball Grotto which was just a short ride around the cay.  Thunderball Grotto from the outside looks like nothing more than a mound of land with scrub brush but if you look close you can see a slight crack just above the water line in the rocky ledges and there is an opening to snorkel into which once inside opens up into a cave.  This spot was used in the filming of Thunderball.  As we came by to check it out it was high tide and the current was running a good clip.  It was obvious that it would be dangerous to try to see it now and you’d have to dive down under the rocks.  We decided we’d come back later when we’re docked at nearby Staniel Cay and explore it safely during low slack tide.

We headed back towards Sampson’s Cay from a different route.  We decided to head back around the other side of Big Major.  We continued on going past the entrance to Sampson Cay and decided to head north on up to Pipe’s Creek



We found a nice protected beach and brought the dinghy in to the shore.  Larry and Joe put a long line out from the dinghy and weighted it down with several rocks to secure it.  Fran and I explored the shore looking for shells.  Ziggy was having a ball running up and down the beach and swimming.  Joe donned his fins and goggles and found a few conch shells and a good sized starfish that he proudly showed us.  After we admired it, Joe put it back as it obviously was still alive and we had no need to kill it. 





Fran was off on her own looking for shells on the beach.  All of a sudden we heard her scream and throw something up in the air.  We ran over to see what she found.  I guess she had picked up an especially interesting little shell and as she was turning it over to see all sides taking a closer examination, an appendage with a nail claw suddenly reached out of its hiding place, inside the shell, and took a big swipe at her.  She laughed and said it scared the heck out of her. She said her immediate reaction was to throw the shell up in the air.  We all laughed too and peered closer at the crack in the shell wondering at the little creature inside.  It was a miniature conch shell.

After awhile we piled back in the dinghy again and headed further up Pipe Creek and thought we’d head on up to Compass Cay.  To reach Compass Cay we had to cross another cut to the Atlantic and the swells were looking and feeling a bit dangerous.  The waves were beginning to gather momentum so we decided to turn back.  We thought the waves could build even higher before we came back as the winds were building and thought they might be too big to get back safely.    



We made a nice run back past a large new private house and dock which later the staff at our restaurant and marina said Johnny Depp owned.  Not sure if that is true because since then we’ve heard several different places are Johnny Depps.  It’s like a myth and mystery where his house actually is.

It was a nice day exploring.  We headed back to our nice marina and relaxed the rest of the short afternoon on the boat.  We decided to try the marina’s restaurant for dinner that night and had a lovely evening.  Everyone ordered fresh grouped and we had the typical Bahamian sides of rice and peas. 







Ziggy and Joe took and nice ride on the kayak around the lagoon and then Larry and Joe worked on making another conch horn which they then began to blow waking up the sleepy afternoon at the marina.  Conch horns are very handy to announce coctail hour.

That evening Joe and Fran prepared another delicious conch salad and we feasted on stone crab claws that we bought from Woody at Spanish Wells.  We had been saving those until J&F arrived.  Fran mixed up a delicious mustard dipping sauce for us to dip them into.  What a lovely ending to the day. 








Leaving Sampson Cay

In the morning, a couple boats left.  The current runs a good clip in the marina between the tides and the water in some posts becomes much like a boil in the marina.  We heard the two that left early had a bit of a difficult time manuevering through the cut between the two bulkheads.  We left a little later, more at slack tide and had no problem.  We had a nice ride to Staniel Cay, only a short one hour trip as we had to detour out to the banks to get the water depth we needed.

Back to TOP

On to Staniel Cay