Rae's Visit to the Exuma Islands,  Bahamas 

9th - 30th March 2006

Chris and Vivian kindly volunteered to borrow their friends' vehicle to take us to Georgetown International Airport to meet Phil's sister, Rae, who was coming to stay for three weeks aboard Anju.   Rae's luxury cruise began in style when the only vehicle available was a pick up truck with only two seats.   Our new cabin girl rode in comfort up front with Chris, while Vivian, Christine, Phil and another cruiser needing a lift piled into the back of the truck, with its luxury seating of water jerries, tool boxes and assorted luggage.

For the next leg of her trip to reach Anju, anchored as close to the town as possible but due to the lack of depth still about a mile out, Rae definitely did not ride in comfort.   Fortunately we'd had the foresight to bring along a huge black plastic bag to protect her belongings, as her introduction to our cruising lifestyle began with a  baptism in seawater, during our wettest dinghy ride ever, all three of us ending up soaked to the skin in seawater.   

Rae aboard Anju's dinghy, hoping to stay dry this time!

All that remained before she passed out from jet lag was to show Rae her luxury stateroom aboard, the port side top bunk in the forepeak, where we'd tried to make room for her amongst all our assorted clutter!

After a quiet day provisioning around Georgetown, it was time to party and our Irish friends, Dan and Carmel, came aboard for one of Phil's famous curries.

We spent one more day in Georgetown waiting for the wind to decrease before we set sail, which gave us time to take in the Cruiser Regatta's last night variety show and also sample some traditional Bahamian fare.

Sailing to Rat Cay

Debating what to do about the jammed furler

Next morning we were off on our Exuma sailing adventure, heading to Rat Cay at the north of Great Exuma Island.   Rae's first day of sailing was a typical day of sailing, the sea was still uncomfortable after all the high wind we'd been having.   As we approached the Rat Cay Cut, worrying about the effect of the sea state on the narrow channel between the rocks, our roller furler jammed, leaving us unable to reef in the foresail.   So, we found ourselves screaming through the cut with the genoa filled with the 20 knot wind from astern.   Fortunately Rat Cay Cut is one of the best in the area, so our worries about waves were unnecessary but even in the lee of the island, the stubborn roller furler refused to budge, so off we went to anchor with the sail flogging around the anchorman.  

Children's Bay Cay


Once anchored, we attended to the roller furler, where the jammed reefing line, which had locked over itself, was freed with some ingenuity, teamwork and pliers!   We realised the anchoring spot we'd selected was pretty uncomfortable with the ocean swell coming around the island but Chris and Vivian called by on their way back from a conching trip and directed us to a more comfortable spot.  Having visited the Barraterre area of the island for many years, they were very familiar with its shallow waters.


The following day the wind changed direction again and after we'd had tea aboard Second Chance with their guest Barbara, Chris sounded out a far prettier anchorage off the private island of Children's Bay Cay.   From the chart the anchorage seemed far too shallow for Anju but after exploring in his shallower draft power boat, Chris directed us to a sheltered spot with plenty of water.   This was an ideal spot for Rae's first snorkeling lesson.   We were keen for her to enjoy the snorkeling at Thunderball Cave later in the week and wanted her to learn the basics before we arrived there.    After the first part of the lesson, snorkeling from the sandy shallows off the beach, we quickly moved to a beautiful nearby coral patch where Rae was able to put her new skills to use, enjoying the brightly coloured reef fishes.   We were very impressed how quickly she got the hang of it and as Christine had found when learning how to snorkel, having something interesting to look at certainly is a good incentive.

Our next trip was to see the 'big city lights' of Black Point on Great Guana Island.   We were glad to find that the sea had finally calmed down but now the lack of wind left us motor-sailing.    Black Point was a great stop, giving Rae a taste of life in a typical quiet Bahamian town.   The brand shiny new laundry in the town was also a welcome stop and we managed to buy some delicious fresh home-made coconut bread from Lorraine's cafe.  By the time we returned to Anju, Second Chance were on their way in after an unsuccessful fishing trip and we all got together for dinner and a card game.

Next day the two boats re-anchored at Big Major's (Piggy Beach) and we set off to snorkel the Thunderball Cave at slack low water.   Low water was always the best time to visit as you didn't need to duck your head under the water to enter the cave.   So, on her second snorkeling trip, Rae found herself challenged by snorkeling into a cave!   Luckily on this occasion the grouper didn't seem to be biting!   

Once we'd spent a while snorkeling amongst the assorted friendly fish in the cave, which is lit by sunlight through a hole in its roof, Phil and Christine snorkeled around the outside of the island to take a look at the beautiful coral formations growing around the rocks.    Unbeknownst to Christine, whilst snorkeling Phil happened upon a seemingly unoccupied flame helmet shell, which was truly stunning.    The shell was stowed inside his wetsuit for safety and proudly presented back aboard Anju.   It really was a lovely shell.   A short time later it began to walk away!   It seemed the shell was not as unoccupied as it first appeared and was in fact the abode of a fairly large hermit crab.   Luckily it appeared that the hermit crabs weren't biting either!   

Thus began a dilemma, the shell was really beautiful and we were keen to add it to our ever growing shell collection but didn't want the poor squatter living inside to perish.   It was decided to place the shell in a container of sea water with a couple of other large shells for company, add a small snack for the hermit crab, to sustain it overnight and then return it to the spot where we'd found it the following day.    So, Hermione, as the crab had been christened, was tucked up for the night aboard Anju.    

The following morning we went to check on Hermione and discovered to our surprise, that during the night she'd decided a larger shell we'd added to decorate the container would make her a better home.   She'd moved out of the flame helmet and into a Carolina Whelk shell!    We were delighted as now Hermione could be safely returned in a new improved and larger home to the spot where we'd found her and we got to keep the flame helmet shell with clear consciences!   We dropped her back home when we were on our way to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club where Barbara treated us to lunch.   However, the saga of Hermione the Hermit Crab was not yet over....


The next day, softies that they were, Phil and Christine decided to snorkel again, to check if they could spot their old friend Hermione and see how her new Carolina shell was going down in the neighbourhood.    The large shell was quickly spotted and Phil dived down to take a closer look.    There was no sign of life from inside, it seemed that Hermione may have upgraded again.    That being the case, Phil saw no reason not to retrieve the Carolina Lightning Whelk shell for our collection and slipped it back inside his wet suit.    Of course it was only we arrived back aboard Anju, that Hermione decided to show herself!    So, after four trips in the dinghy, two inside Phil's wet suit, Hermione, the well-travelled crab was finally returned to her home in her stylish new shell from North Carolina, probably telling tales of alien abduction!

Hermione's Residences Old and New

Chris, Rae, Phil and Barbara take in the sights of Staniel Cay whilst walking off lunch

Chris, Vivian, Shelley, Zappa and Barbara dressed in style for St. Patrick's Day

Our visit to Staniel Cay was extended by a day when we realised that it was St. Patrick's Day.   Chris being Irish needed to celebrate and the rest of us will party for any team, so we tucked into more Bahamian fare at the fund-raiser barbecue on the beach.    Unfortunately sleeping off lunch caused us to miss the green beer happy hour at the yacht club, which was probably for the best.

Anju and Second Chance at Warderick Wells

Next stop on our Exuma tour was the Warderick Wells Land and Sea Park.   Moorings were available on a first-come-first-served basis and on calling up that morning we found we were out of luck, so headed to the west side of the island to the anchorage at Emerald Rock.    However on dinghying ashore to the office, it turned out that two moorings had become available at the south anchorage, so we agreed to meet Second Chance, who were off on another fishing expedition, there later.   In fact by the time we'd motored all the way back around the island from the north west corner to the south east corner to our mooring, they were right behind us but bearing no fish for supper.   Of course we then found out about the happy hour being held at the north west corner of the island and had to head all the way back, which was much quicker in Chris' jet boat!

On our return to Second Chance later that evening, there was great excitement.   Zappa, Vivian's spatially challenged Portuguese Water Dog (aptly named as it turned out) leapt up in glee on hearing the jet boat return, promptly falling off Second Chance and being swept out to sea on the tidal current.   A hurried rescue mission was required to retrieve the haplass hound!   It was only his second unexpected dip in two days!  Zappa was lucky not to have a close encounter with Anju's new pet, Barrie the 4 foot barracuda, who hung around at her stern waiting for tasty snacks.

Anyone fancy a snorkel with Barrie?

We spent four wonderful days exploring Warderick Wells by foot and snorkeling (not too close to Barrie though!).   We chose to snorkel the coral reefs on the west of the island, unlike team Second Chance who ventured to the south of the island and cut their snorkeling adventure short after attracting interest from a passing shark!   We hiked the mangrove swamps and climbed up to Booboo hill to view the offerings left by previous visitors and enjoyed the tranquility of the secluded southern anchorage. 

Second Chance headed further north to Shroud Cay with Barbara but the wind was quite strong and the only protected anchorage was too shallow for Anju, so we stayed put until the wind dropped off before starting on our way southwards towards Georgetown again.   However, Second Chance kindly made some water for us with their new water maker before they left, so the three of us wouldn't have to all wash in the same bowl of water any more!


Phil and Rae on the way to Booboo Hill

As we headed south we debated whether to make a stop near Lee Stocking Island, home of the Caribbean Research Centre.   Suddenly there was an announcement on the VHF radio that a tour of the facility would be given the next morning and our decision was made.    We crept into the shallow anchorage and found a spot deep enough for Anju.    The tour was well attended and informative and our guide explained the projects he was working on to investigate diseases in coral reefs, we certainly learnt a lot interesting information about corals.

After our tour we headed back to Georgetown, still having no luck with fishing on the way.   Rae was disappointed not to enjoy any freshly caught fish during her visit but luckily we'd had an earlier catch stowed away in our freezer.    Back in Georgetown we attended to our chores, Rae was assigned laundry watch, making sure our newly laundered clothes didn't blow off the boat.   Meanwhile Phil and Christine ferried water back to Anju from town, so we could all finally enjoy a much needed shower.   

Once things smelled sweeter aboard Anju we anchored at Sand Dollar beach and took Rae hunting for the sand dollars from which it gets it's name.    We had some luck, finding several washed up on the beach.   We also did a spot of conch spotting.   Phil spotted a huge one in the grassy shallows and we did our best to hide it further from the shore but it was unlikely to escape the fate of becoming conch salad or cracked conch for very long it if didn't get smarter.    The poor conch didn't really stand a chance, they tasted good, had beautiful shells, lived in very shallow water and moved very slowly - not exactly tricky to hunt!

A conch off for a stroll - not too hard to spot!

Crabzilla's lair.

As we explored the southern end of Sand Dollar beach and the scrub land in the centre of Stocking Island, we began to come across warning signs.   'Caution, you are approaching the lair of Crabzilla'.  Finally we tracked him down, it turned out he was a very large and somewhat deceased land crab but he was still pretty scary.

Of course no visit to the Bahamas would be complete without a spot of beach-combing and so we moved Anju up to our favourite shelling spot at Monument beach and spent the last few days of Rae's visit walking the Atlantic beaches and walking the nature trails around the monument.

Heading up to the Monument and enjoying the view from the top.

Rae resting after an arduous beach-combing trip

We managed to fit in a spot more partying before Rae had to head home.   We found ourselves anchored in front of a large catamaran and on checking with the Captain that we weren't too close for his comfort, we discovered that the Captain was Bill and the first mate Vivian, friends we'd met in Grenada several years earlier, when they were cruising aboard their boat Aloysius.    Needless to say there was much to catch up on at happy hour when we were given the tour of the impressive boat on which they were crewing.

Rae's visit was rounded off nicely with dinner and card games aboard Sequel, with our Ocean Cruising Club friends Julie and George.

The three weeks just flew by and we were impressed how well Rae adjusted to life aboard Anju.   It was a shame we weren't able to catch up with Second Chance again before Rae had to fly back to the UK but strong winds and big seas left them stuck in Barraterre.

Return to homepage     Return to index 2006