Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Exumas—a Chain of Jewels

Nassau to Black Point, Exumas
January 28 ‒ February 25

The Exumas, a 120-mile-long chain of jewel-like islands, has been called the perfect progression of cays. Here the waters are clearer, the colors brighter. The east side of the islands borders the deep sapphire waters of Exuma Sound and, to the west, the shallower Exuma Bank sparkles aquamarine, jade, and every possible shade of blue-green. My thumb mishap altered our plans somewhat but didn’t spoil our enjoyment of this setting filled with such incredible natural beauty.
Aerial view of islands in the Exumas (photo by Keith)
We arrived in the Exumas after a brief stop in Nassau, where we stocked up at the last big-city market we’d see for a very long time (or so we thought). Our only nods to sightseeing were a walk through the faded section of East Bay Street to the glitzy shops on West Bay Street near the cruise ship terminal and a short walk to Potter’s Cay, under the bridge to Paradise Island, to buy made-while-you-watch conch salad at Skinny’s (a local said it was the place to go, and she was right).
Lighthouse marking the entry to Nassau harbor
Waiting for conch salad at Skinny's, Potter's Cay, and watching a game of dominoes

On January 30, we traded the hustle-bustle of Nassau for the peaceful, exquisite Exumas. Here are a few highlights from the island chain.

The iguanas at Allans Cay—no need to coax them out of hiding, these iguanas, conditioned to look for food, stream down the beach to greet anyone who lands there. They can be aggressive in their search for treats, but Keith was comfortable relaxing right among them. When they waddled my way, I was more comfortable backing into the water to prevent my toes from being nibbled.
This species is found only on three islands in the Exumas

Keith making friends with iguanas at Allans Cay
The streams at Shroud Cay—only at high tide can you navigate the streams that crisscross the interior of Shroud Cay between mangrove roots and sand bars. We dinghied across the island with Bob and Ilona, and after an unplanned side trip, found Camp Driftwood (where the US DEA spied on Carlos Lehder’s drug smuggling operation on neighboring Normans Cay) and the gorgeous Driftwood Beach. If the Exumas are jewels, this one is a perfect gem.

A stream on Shroud Cay

The view toward Driftwood Beach from Camp Driftwood (photo by Eden)
The park at Warderick Wells—our boat spent over a week at the Exuma Land and Sea Park headquarters, but for four of those days we were in Nassau. Our forays around the island were limited to a dinghy ride to Hog Cay on the southeast side (with Ihana and Rag Doll) and a quick hike to the top of Boo Boo Hill to place the traditional driftwood plaque with our boat name.
Pelican waiting at Warderick Wells
Dinghy ride to Hog Cay (photo by Eden)

The view of the harbor from Boo Boo Hill (Pelican front and center)
Placing the plaque on Boo Boo Hill
The party at a private island—when we flew back to Pelican after our emergency trip to Nassau, we met a couple whose mom owns a private island down here in the Exumas. They invited us to drop in if we came close with our boat, so we did. How often will we be invited to a private island, after all?
Several celebrities own islands here (Johnny Depp, Matthew Perry, David Copperfield, the Aga Khan), but this owner is a “regular lady,” very sweet and welcoming and humble. We had a cool beverage on the deck of her house and looked out over an incomparable view of crescent beach and uninhabited rocky islets.  Before we left, we invited the couple, their three daughters, and three of their friends (all there on vacation) to drop out to the boat. Then as we were leaving the island, we chatted with the caretaker and he invited us back to the island for a pig roast the next evening in celebration of his birthday.

The girls and dad came to the boat the next day, and after their tour, the girls, one by one, held onto a halyard coming from the top of the mast, swung out from the bow, and dropped into the water. Then we hoisted two of the bravest to the top of the mast in a bosun’s chair. They had fun, and so did we!

That night at the pig roast we had such fun talking with a group of thirty interesting people who mostly live down here. We felt like we were invited into another world for the evening. And, proving that it really is a small world, we learned that the son who invited us to the island in the first place is a very good friend of two authors we worked with in our last jobs. It was such a serendipitous weekend...and it wouldn't have happened except for my injury. How kind of God to provide all these little blessings!

The people (and laundromat) at Black Point—the second largest settlement in the Exumas, Black Point is a typical Bahamian town unspoiled by tourism. You’d be hard pressed to find a friendlier and more helpful group of people anywhere, and the several restaurants made the fill-in cook very happy. We’d been looking forward to Lorraine’s Café and her mom’s coconut bread. Another magnet for cruisers is the town’s laundromat, the best within a hundred miles. You wouldn't believe how exciting that is! For all of these reasons, Black Point is a must on most boaters’ itineraries.
The roomy anchorage at Black Point
The town comes to meet the mail boat in Black Point
Our buddy-boating with Bob and Ilona (Ihana) and Chris and Eden (Rag Doll) ended in Black Point. We'd traveled with them most of the time since arriving in the Bahamas on January 21. Bob and Ilona are in Nassau and soon heading back to the US. Since they’re from Roseville, Minnesota, we’ll reconnect with them at home this summer. Chris and Eden, who are from Canmore  and Toronto, Canada, are now farther south in the Exumas. They were all a very special part of our trip so far, and we'll miss them!
Bob and Ilona (photo by Eden)

Chris and Eden (photo by Ilona)

Goodbye dinner at Scorpio's

The cast removal in Nassau—the highlights list wouldn’t be complete without this! Dr. Neil was happy with progress so far, but the healing has a ways to go. I’m wearing a much more subtle splint that complements my boating style much better. Even though I can do a lot more, it still can’t get wet, so Keith continues as executive chef in the galley. I’m handling some sous chef duties here and there. We’re both holding up well.
Leaving the Exumas with my new, becoming thumb splint
When we needed to take it easy for a while, thank God that we could soak in the warmth and picturesque views of these “crown jewels of the Bahamas.” We look forward to seeing more facets of the Exumas on our next trip.


  1. I hope you don't mind my many comments, but I can't help myself! :-)

    I could not handle being close to the iguanas. I was surprised to see how big they were.

    One more thing—I'm happy you now have a smaller cast on your thumb. God is Good.

  2. Love the comments! I stay away from the iguanas, too, but Keith even picked one up on another trip to Allans Cay. On that same trip, his dad was bitten by one when he tried to hand him a little morsel!