Home Up Abacos Eleuthera Nassau Exumas Epilogue






The weather forecast said the winds were going to be strong and seas a little high as another Front was coming.  Yesterday would have been the nice comfortable day to go but we wanted our friends Joe and Fran to see the best of Nassau before we headed off.  In hind sight, we should’ve have left yesterday because the weather and oncoming front just threw our schedule off.  We chatted with Michelle, off DiveAdx, on their 40 foot Nordhavn, docked nearby, who has been to the Exumas a few times already and she said the trip will be a “piece of cake”.  I think it turned out more like a piece of “hard tack”. 

As we went out the channel, between Paradise Island and Providence Island of Nassau, we said “goodbye” to Nassau.  We were surprised as we passed some amazing estates.  The water was a bit choppy as we left and we were watching the depths.  It’s always a little nerve wracking when you have new guests on the boat because you are talking and not paying as much attention as you normally would and in these shallows waters you don’t want to be careless. 

The farther we got away from the Nassau, the more the seas picked up; in fact they became pretty nasty.  Our guests were not deterred though and positively said it was a pleasant ride even though the bulbulous bow was banging into the head seas with an enormous crash ever so often.   In fact, it was not a pleasant ride at all.   We were experiencing head winds from the upcoming front that was approaching and instead of following seas and winds it was all in our face.  All that precious cleaning was gone to hell and the wayside, or whatever the saying is, as the sea spray flew up on our nice clean boat.  Oh well, we looked good when our friends arrived and that’s what matters.  It would all be a downhill slide from here and would all get dirty before you know it.




I’m unfortunately and unbelievably feeling a cold coming on.  How can this happen when our friends have arrived?  Why couldn’t that happen after they leave?  They are here for such a short visit and I hate for that to happen.  I’m not feeling too good but put on a happy face and hope that it will fade away.



It’s about a 4 hour or more ride today if I remember right.  We had some lunch on the boat and still everyone is doing fine even though the seas are rough.  Joe has positioned himself on the lounge chair in the salon and seems happy.  That’s the flattest ride on the boat so he was smart to pick that place out.  Fran has stayed pretty much in the pilot house with Ziggy cuddled by her side.  She says she is doing fine but once Larry turned the A/C off I noticed that Fran went outside to the cockpit and is getting fresh air there.  I hate to have the seas get rough when friends come aboard as that’s no fun at all.   You want everything to be perfect and for them to have a wonderful experience.  Fran and Joe are not complaining though and insist that all is fine so I think they are good sailors.  I look for Ziggy and he’s no where to be found and then I finally find him out on the cockpit sitting on Fran’s lap.  She is stroking his head, comforting him in his partially groggy state.  Yes, we gave him a ¼ pill today as we knew the seas would be rough.  Guess he’s found a mate. 

Well, we were nearing Highborne Cay.  I had gone below after lunch to take a short nap secretly hoping to get rid of this oncoming cold.  I could feel the boat slowing down so came up.  It was time to make our approach to Highborne.  The entrance is interesting and well marked seems to be well marked which is a change around the Bahamas.   We see the post marking the cut between the low lying rocky ledges of land and follow the range markers on the hill straight a head.  Once in the cut and with the marina entrance on our beam, we make a sharp 45 degree turn and head in. It’s a surprisingly nice protected marina in the middle of no where.  We make a nice docking and get settled. 

We weren’t settled long before I noticed that Joe and Frank had already taken a swim in the water off the boat.  Guess they couldn’t wait to dip into those lovely clear turquoise waters.  We encourage them to go explore and see what’s here while Larry and I hose down the boat and get the salt off.  The salt water is pretty much everywhere.  The water now is 50 cents a gallon so we do a quick job.  Wow, that’s even more expensive than at the Atlantis but you have to remember that they make all their water here so it’s very precious.  We almost feel guilty using it to clean the boat off but it’s a necessary chore today as every where we walked or brushed up against the boat we got a thick crust of salt on our clothes and feet.  We didn’t want to let that set in nor bring it into the boat.



Highborn Cay is what I’d call a small cay and you can easily walk it in an hour or less.  It’s a short hike over the low lying hill, on the road that is cut through solid limestone to the beach side on the Atlantic.  The marina is very solid and protected by a man made breakwater, probably made from the limestone blasted from the making of the roads on the island.  There is one dock shack which is the local message center for what ever.  There is one store, very nice and new, with a small amount of supplies and food.  At the end of the docks near the entrance to the marina is a fish cutting table under a small roof.   On the other side of the docks, near the store, and facing the ocean cut is a small beach.  On the other side of the marina is a path past the inner harbor which is really not a harbor but a very shallow lagoon which leads on to the end of the cay and by trails you can hike over to a private protected beach.  That’s about it.  There are nice diving spots nearby, including some wrecks to explore, and Allen’s Cay, famous for their wild iguanas, which is a long dinghy ride away.   

J&F take a walk along the beach on the Atlantic side and I get some preparations going for dinner.  There is no restaurant here but if you wanted to you could make reservations for a catered dinner of BBQ’d chicken and ribs on the beach by the store for $35 per person.  We had lobster for dinner tonight and the winds were blowing too much to make a picnic on the beach sound enticing.  Tonight we’re going to eat those lobsters that we purchased earlier on the trip in the Abacos.  We had been saving them in the freezer for J&F’s arrival and tonight was the night.  I was going to steam them a’la Brendal from Green Turtle Dive excursion.  I frankly don’t remember what else was on the menu on Knotty Dog that night but do remember those lobsters made Brendal’s way were delicious.  We set up a nice table on the back of the boat and just enjoyed our friends being with us.



The winds were picking up a little and the big Hatteras next to us called Bartram, who we will see at another stop along the way in the Exumas, was adjusting his lines getting ready for the Front.  We had our lines secured as we are getting well seasoned at these Fronts though I never want to take any for granted.

The front came in quickly as we saw the typical big black mass of clouds heading this way.  It was fun for J&F to see it coming.  Although it looked ferocious it was a very mild front with only a few moments of sprinkles.  Though small the winds hung around that night and the next day and all the boats in the marina decided to stay put the next day as it would be pretty darn rough out there.  It becomes obvious to Larry and I that this was the mistake we made by not leaving Nassau the day before.  Now we had to stay in Highborne Cay, another unplanned day, and when you are on a schedule, unexpected extended stays like this start to bite into the short amount of time our guests had. 



I was concerned that there wasn’t much to do here and looking at the few days we had left said it might be better if we get further south more quickly than we had originally planned.  Their plans were to fly out of Staniel Cay so that would have to be our final destination.  The Exumas are a string of cays, approximately 100 miles long, and have been described looking much like a string of pearls above the waters as they stretch south.  Staniel Cay is about half way down.  One highlight of the cays is the Marine Park which is about midway from where we are today and where they will leave from.  It’s a protected area and is supposed to be filled with fish and wonderful snorkeling.



We begin to put our heads together to plan the rest of the changing itinerary to decide where we need to go to get the most out of this short trip.  The thing we have learned most about cruising the Bahamas, at least in the winter, is that it’s next to impossible to keep to a schedule because of the fronts, well unless you just want to bang the hell out of yourself.  Sometimes you have to stay put even before a front has arrived and after the front has have left because of the strong winds and seas that accompany them, sometimes days ahead and behind it. You move when there are no Fronts and tie up to a secure place when they come.  F&J are easy and say anything is fine with them.  They are the perfect guests, that’s for sure. 

We decide our next stop should be Sampson Cay, a nice protected marina, and then we’ll see if we have time to back track to the Marine Park with them or head on to their final destination, Staniel Cay, which still in that area, has lots of interesting things to see.  The problem with the Marine Park is that you have to make a reservation to get a mooring and they are booked most of the time so we’ll have to take our chances for good weather, good timing, and hopefully an opening.  So, things are getting a little more complicated but it’s a doable plan.  No matter what we have planned, we are here for another day, waiting for this Front to leave.



The next morning, I notice right away the sound of birds singing.  What a cheerful sound and a welcome thing after the sounds of Nassau.  It will be a good day, they are telling us so.  We have breakfast and decide take a nice walk around the cay on some of the trails to see what there is.    We head out along the shallow lagoon at the back end of the marina.  Much of the water near shore on the lagoon side was very shallow and the water was almost crystal white due to the white sand below.  Ziggy swam in the shallow clear warm water looking for mischief, we found lots of shells and an amazing amount of empty conch shells in heaps along the waters edge.    We passed the lagoon and found a path through the scrub brush to a secluded protected beach.  There were no waves as this crescent shaped beach was well protected by the higher ridge of land.  It kept the swells from the Atlantic at bay and from intruding into this beautiful place that we now had to ourselves.  Amazingly, on this patch of beach, we were just protected enough from the strong westerly winds that it was like a secret hideaway, calm and pleasant.  We all could not resist wading into the perfect water, including Ziggy.  It was warm and refreshing as not more than waist deep several yards out. 

It was a nice walk back to the boat on an amazingly nice paved rode for this small stretch of a cay and land in the middle of nowhere.  For only a couple houses and one store it was a lot of road.  Maybe they have plans for building more homes.  The big draw here is the marina which is the first stop from Nassau, well except for the nearby anchorage at Allen’s Cay where iguanas are numerous and roam free.  Ziggy is not allowed there.  It was close enough for us to explore by dinghy, but the seas were too rough today. 

We came back to the boat and decided to make a nice spinach salad with some of the leftover lobster we had from the night before.  Fran and I decided to mix in some fresh mango, oranges, and hearts of palm and it turned out to be a pretty delicious salad.



We soon found that this little cay, with not much here, had a lot here.   We decided we’d check out the beach on the Atlantic side as it should be calm and protected from the winds today but we were soon distracted by some activity going on at the dock.  We noticed a small boat had come in with two black fishermen on it.  They were selling freshly caught lobsters, fish and conch. 

We walked over to take a look as several other boaters did.  The fishermen threw a couple big lobsters up on the dock and they were so fresh they were still wiggling.  Wow, they were large and fat.  He had a pile of fresh conch in the hull plus some trigger fish and other kinds of fish that I didn’t recognize.  The one fisherman, the salesman, proudly plopped the rest of the big plump lobsters on the dock and offered them to the captain off a big yacht for $100.  “Too many!” the captain says back to him.  “We can’t eat all of those!”  It looked like about 10 to me and seemed like a good deal.  Soon the price came down to $60 and somehow the final price that I never heard was agreed upon.  He was also selling conch.  Joe was interested in getting some but I wasn’t sure if I felt up to trying to de-shell or “crack them” and then clean them too.  It’s a messy job and would be my first. 



We walked back to the dock shack.  One old local that hangs out there and I’m sure he had some loyalist lineage in him, as he had that strange slang and way of talking.  It was that unfamiliar cross between old Elizabethan and Bahamian all mixed together.  I asked a few questions about the conch the guys were selling on the dock.  I didn’t get much of a friendly response but persisted.  Finally, when I told them I was interested in making conch salad, the old bugger opened up and soon they were telling us a good recipe and that the fishermen will “crack the conch” and get it cleaned for us.  We got the whole vividly described recipe on how to make a delicious conch salad and we soon realized we would need to find some necessary fresh limes, peppers, tomatoes.  They said they had all that stuff in the small store. 


So, Joe was excited, that’s what we needed, the info and someone to clean the things.  We were going to have fresh conch salad tonight and Joe volunteered to make it. Joe quickly went back down the dock to negotiate a purchase of conch and Fran and I got some of the necessary fresh ingredients from the store. 






We walked to the end of the dock to watch the fisherman cleaning the conch and other fish on the cutting table.  It was fascinating watching the Bahamian cracking and cutting these nauscious looking muscles with such skill.  I glanced down at the choppy waters below us just off the docks.  The winds were blowing and the seas were choppy but I could see several dark looking images below the surface of the water swimming around.  They were huge fish but I wasn’t sure what they were because the water was pretty choppy.  The fisherman said they are sharks.  Wooo…. we quickly stepped back.  There was nothing there on the dock to prevent us from mistakenly taking a wrong step and falling into the water with them.  Wow, in the states you’d have a railing there, but not here.  That made it even more exciting to watch I guess.  The fisherman said Joe could throw some of the scraps to the sharks.  Joe picked up some of the gory looking conch entrails and dropped some over the side.  There was a violent flurry of action in the water as they all fought for a bite.  Wow, that was exciting!  After an amazing few minutes of watching and feeding these monsters, I wondered if Joe and Fran were thinking about their quick swim in the marina just after docking the day before.   We weren’t too far away from the feeding frenzy here.



The docks were interesting in themselves.  There were a couple of Boston Whalers that had huge blow up snakes perched on the bows.  I asked the old loyalist about it and he said that’s to keep the birds off the boat.  I asked if there were snakes on the island and he said no.  Guess the birds know to stay away from a snake even if it is plastic and there are none native to the island? Plastic snakes as opposed to the real fleshy ones are OK with me. 

There was a beautiful old wooden boat at the dock.  We all admired its perfect condition.  There’s always something truly wonderful about seeing an old wooden boat so perfectly preserved and to see it here in the Exumas was even better as it’s obvious she’s still a sea going vessel making the rounds as she has for 100 years.  That’s great! 





We were also amazed to see a little boat that we had seen in Nassau, called HART’S DESIRE.  It was a small 30 foot trawler, really not a boat to be out on these seas, “more like a lake boat” as I heard someone say about it in Yacht Haven.  Obviously others were wondering about it and its occupants besides us.  The most amazing thing about it was the couple that was on it.  They were an older couple and the man, must have been in his eighties and could barely walk.   He wasn’t slow by other means though, seemed very alert, just had trouble physically getting around and on a boat like that in seas like these, well to me that is a necessary requirement.  In fact, when they came back form getting groceries in Nassau, they had to bring him back in the dock cart. 

I never dreamed we’d seem them here in the Exumas.  That means they must have left in the same seas we did to arrive here at the same time.  I said “hello” to the woman and asked how their ride was.  She said it was very rough and then she began to pour out her story to us.  They were anchored at Allan’s Cay and noticed that they had taken on a lot of water from their crossing.  Now remember, we had a front yesterday and today so the seas must have been very rough for them in that little boat.  She said their anchorage was very choppy but she saw a place on the beach between the rocks that she thought she could beach the boat before it took on anymore water so she headed the boat straight onto the beach and managed to miss the rocks.  They then managed to get themselves off the boat and onto the beach.  She said she managed to get some of their things on the beach also.  I’m not sure who called Highborne Cay for help whether it was her or another boater but someone came out and brought a pump.  They managed to pump most of the water out of the boat and then when the tide got high enough they got back in the boat and managed to get out of there and brought her to Highborne Cay marina.  As she was speaking the pump was going nonstop inside to keep them afloat.  Wow! I just couldn’t believe the old couple had managed to survive all that and more importantly to be able to do all that.  I asked her what they were going to do now.  She said they’ll head back to Nassau when the weather lets up.  I said what about the leak?  She said “We’ll keep the pump running and hope we make it.  Nassau is the only place we can get the boat fixed.”  I’ll never stop being amazed.



Well, we got our ingredients for conch and put everything in the refrigerator and got back on track to take a walk over to the beautiful beach on the Atlantic side.  The waters were amazing colors of turquoise which we never seem to tire of.  The sand was white, soft and powdery and seemed like an endless stretch of beauty.  It was paradise.

That night Fran and Joe worked like chefs on that conch, chopping the conch into mini pieces, throwing in chopped red peppers, onions, lime juice, salt and pepper and a final a’la Joe touch of a bit of minced jalapenos!  My oh my was that delicious!








Well, this stop, Highborne Cay, though we thought it would be uneventful was very memorable.  The morning before we left, I got up early before every one and took Ziggy for a quick walk along the small beach facing the cut to the Atlantic.  It was the most beautiful little shore and water and an amazing sight to see the Atlantic, rough and strong pounding against this small stretch of land and inside on the other side of the cut were the calm amazing waters of the Sound waiting for our journey today heading further south down the chain of Exuma Cays.


On to Sampson Cay