Our First Taste of the Exumas: Living Large at Highbourne Cay

While I feel very lucky Phillip and I cruised the Abacos last year when they were still intact, I feel even more lucky that in “blog time” I am now able to share the wonderful islands that still remain.  I don’t mind saying it again—remember: The best way to help the Bahamas rebuild, is to continue to visit the islands that were spared.  And, why would you not?  When this awaits!

This was mine and Phillip’s first introduction to the Exuuuummmaaas: Highbourne Cay!  If you recall our stop into Morgan’s Bluff on the north tip of Andros was an unexpected, but highly-rewarding, detour.  We had been getting our teeth kicked in sailing into some rough winds coming out of the Northwest Providence Channel that were unexpectedly more southeast than south, the exact direction we would have to sail if we wanted to go directly to the Exumas from Bimini (which had been our original plan).  But, go where the weather takes you, right?  And Andros really wowed us, even with just a short overnight stay.  As I mentioned previously, we are definitely planning to spend more time there this coming season and fully explore all that the Andros Barrier Reef has to offer! Our goal this past season, however, was to get to the Exumas.  Phillip and I had not cruised them yet, and we had heard from so many other cruisers how enchanting and unique they are.  So, we said “See you later, Andros!”  It was Exumas or bust. 

And, wouldn’t you know it. Those winds that were bashing us around the day before laid down and shifted more to the south, allowing us to sail … for a bit … until they completely died.  

You know there are only three kinds of wind, don’t you?  What are you gonna do?  We spent a wonderful day motoring across the Tongue of the Ocean, however, with the trolling line out, mind you.  Thinking surely we would catch another nice whopping fish (now, when it was calm and we had nothing else to really do).  But, no, the seas have quite the sense of humor.  I’m starting to think there are only three types of fish, too: 1) the monsters that bite at the worst time; 2) the even bigger catches that would impress all your friends that never bite at all (or take your lure if they do); and 3) the little ones you catch often but they’re too small to keep.  Would you agree?  Phillip and I definitely would have loved to have another guy like this to have bitten when we were crossing the deep blue!

But, fish.  What are you gonna do?  You’re going to eat wine and cheese instead!  That’s what you’re going to do.  

We have plenty of that on-board, and a nice easy passage made for a nice wine, cheese, and book session.  I believe I was reading Where the Crawdads Sing at that time.  Could not put it down.  Any of you read that one?  Or let me know what your other favorite read has been recently.  I absolutely devour books when we’re on passage.  It’s my favorite time to read!  : )

We eased into sunset and around the east tip of Nassau, where we really had to watch the AIS traffic. When we spent those three torturous months in the Pensacola Shipyard with Brandon at Perdido Sailor back in 2016, we installed AIS on the boat.  Man, life on the hard. Those are some hard-earned, well-worth-it memories!

Although we only receive AIS transmissions, we do not transmit, Phillip and I have found it to be a fantastic addition to the boat.  I love (love, love!) that when it’s completely dark out, cloudy, with no moon or stars to light the horizon on a night passage, that at least AIS is looking out and showing me where the boats are.  It is also immensely comforting to have AIS tell me how big the other ships are, which way they are going, and what our CPA (closest point of approach) is.  Phillip and I will never regret the decision to install AIS.  Also, this may sound silly to admit, but it is rather entertaining at night.  Phillip and I hold two-hour shifts on and off and sometimes those two hours can tick by rather slowly.  It’s kind of fun to click on AIS and see who else is out there, what is their ship name, how big is it, and even hale them on the radio if you need to communicate a safe passing.  I was sure glad we had it, too, on my shift that night, as this is what Nassau looked like when we rounded the bend.  A web of ships!

We had set our sights on Highbourne Cay, one of the most northern of the Exumas and a good “dive in” point for the Exumas as they have a little marina there with fuel and a few sparse provisions.  

It would be the last marina we would see in the Exumas for a while, so we planned to drop the hook on the lee side of Highbourne Cay and spend a fun day exploring Highbourne and the surrounding islands. And the Exumas immediately began welcoming us with a glistening, dazzling show! As we started to near Highbourne Cay, the dark, deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean began to shallow and transform into this crystalline blue.  It was absolutely stunning.  Hard to believe our boat was swishing and swaying though such a breathtaking jeweled surface.  

Phillip and I both couldn’t stop staring and taking pictures.  Well, okay I was the one taking the pictures.  It’s tough being the ship’s historian.  Someone’s gotta take all the selfies to prove we were there!  : )

The folks at the Highbourne Cay Marina were super helpful and friendly and got us all topped up for our planned passages further down into the Exumas.  We arrived fairly early in the morning with an open day ahead, which Phillip naturally filled with wonderful plans to dinghy a bit to the north up to South Allan’s Island and Iguana Beach.  That man is the best trip planner; he always picks something fun, interesting, active, and usually delicious.  I am one lucky gal I will tell you that.  

On the way up, we found a beautiful little reef to snorkel and threw out our trusty Mantus dinghy anchor.  That thing is such an asset on the dinghy.  Very well-designed, super functional, and—once dug in—mighty strong. 

The anchorage there at South Allan’s was stunning.  Staying the night on the hook in there would feel like you have the world to yourself. 

Well, you and the lizards!  There were plenty of them on Iguana Beach.  

Are iguanas lizards?  Maybe not.  Hopefully I didn’t offend them in my squeaky “I want a lizard selfie” run to the beach!  : )


There is a lizard back there, I promise. I don’t like to get too close to things that can leap and claw my eyes out.

Dinghying back to our boat is when I took this famous shot of our stern. The water in the Exumas was definitely of another caliber.

For dinner that night we decided to dinghy ashore and eat at the Xuma restaurant the guys at the marina had told us about, which from a quick stroll-by earlier that day, looked fabulous.  So, Phillip and I made the absolute perfect decision to blow our load there that night and splurge on an insanely-indulgent fine-dining dinner at Highbourne Cay.  Besides, we had to celebrate and cheers our first stop in the Exumas.  It took years of planning, hard work, saving, and some rather grueling boat projects to get our boat this far.  It was worth every cent, every calorie.  Some meals just are.  

Next up, we’ll take you to Norman’s Cay with its sunken drug plane and the famous MacDuff’s Restaurant.  Cheers!

The Best Dorian Relief: Go Visit the Spared Bahamian Islands!

I’ve been struggling to write this, or write or post anything actually, here at HaveWind in the tragic aftermath of Dorian.  I can only imagine what it is like right now, boots on the ground, with fresh water and supplies running low, people injured and unable to get medical help, not to mention the heartbreaking decimation of so many beautiful houses, marinas, and restaurants.  Although Plaintiff’s Rest was mercifully spared, how can I post photos of us smiling, out on the boat, saying, look at us: “Just another great day sailing” [happy face] when so many others have lost so much?  I just can’t.  To be honest, other than sharing relief effort links and donating and contributing ourselves, I didn’t know what else to say.  Hence the recent silence and the last photo I posted anywhere:

But, thankfully, this is why I have Phillip.  My idea guy.  This is what he said:

“Tell them the best thing they can do to help the Bahamas recover and rebuild is to continue visiting the islands that were spared.”

Brilliant.  You can see why I love that man.  

I realized how insightful he was and how right.  Phillip was so right.  Many of the Bahamians who lived and worked in the Abacos are going to start migrating down to Andros, Nassau, the Berries, Eleuthera, and the Exumas and surrounding islands in hopes of rebuilding and finding work.  And, the economy in the Bahamas is supported almost entirely by tourism.  If we don’t continue traveling to the Bahamian Islands that were spared and continue to contribute to their tourist economy there, they will likely not be able to survive. While the loss of the beautiful Abacos, which—up until Dorian—Phillip and I had been planning on cruising again this coming season, is a tragedy, there remains so many places south of the Abacos that are equally breathtaking and that need our support.  This was a message we recently received from the Association of Bahamas Marinas:

Immediate relief efforts are imperative now to save lives and get people healthy and safe, and thankfully many people now are sharing various resources to help do that. Although it is exceedingly sad to know there are humans on the earth that prey on people trying to help in a time of tragedy like this, it is simply true, so please research relief organizations before donating.  Also, many try to go straight to the hurricane site right after the storm to bring supplies, but that can put them in a terribly dangerous situation fraught with the potential for injury, disease, and crime. Donations to the organizations that are providing supplies to Bahamians in need or helping them evacuate is crucial right now. But, I agree with Phillip that—long-term—to help save the Bahamian economy, tourism must come back.  If you had ever just fancied the idea to visit the Bahamas, please make it a priority to visit the spared islands in the coming years as they will need our tourist dollars to survive and rebuild.  

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you all some previews of the other wondrous places south of the Abacos that Phillip and I visited the last time we were in the Bahamas, that were thankfully spared from Dorian and that we look forward to sharing in more detail with you in upcoming blog posts (full of fun travel stories) because I feel we have to continue focusing on that, too: the excitement and wonder of travel. Hurricanes are horrible, but they cannot be stopped or controlled.  How we choose to spend our time, despite them, however, is something we are all able to control.  Our collective decision to continue to bring tourism to the Bahamas can help bring the Abacos back. My good friend Pam Wall, whom I will be speaking with at Cruiser’s University at the upcoming Annapolis Boat Show (please sign up if you want to attend our “Old Salts, New Systems” talk and haven’t already! : ) initially inspired Phillip and I to travel to the Abacos back in 2015. Thankfully, we did in 2017-2018 and got to enjoy those wonderful islands before they were decimated.  But, I will now join the chant Pam said so energetically to us to hopefully inspire you all this coming cruising season to: 

GO TO THE BAHAMAS!  

Andros, Nassau, the Berries, Eleuthera, and the Exumas and surrounding islands still have so much to offer and they desperately need your support.  Tourism is their lifeblood.  Keep it pumping!  Here are some of the breathtaking sights, scenes, bites, and drinks that await.  Phillip and I hope to see some of you there!  

Andros

I wrote extensively about Andros last time, showcasing all of the wonderful tucked-away treats that often skipped-over island offered up for us.  I’m so glad it was spared as we have plans to go back and stay in Fresh Water Creek and dive and spear-fish the great Andros Barrier Reef. The cost for cruising there (water and food) is much better as it is a bigger island, able to obtain and preserve more food and supplies.  

Here are some resources for things to do and see in Andros: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/the-bahamas/out-islands/andros

http://www.bahamas-travel.info/islands/andros.html

The Berry Islands

If you recall Phillip and I sailed there previously on our way home from the Abacos and met the wildly-memorable Steve and Pat who inspired my “People with Gusto” article in SAIL Magazine. The Berries offered Phillip and I some of the best spearfishing we have done in the Bahamas, and some of the bluest waters. 

They also have a world-class big fishing tournament.  Learn more about all the wonderful things you can do and see in the Berries here: https://www.bahamas.com/islands/berry-islands

Nassau

Phillip and wandered through the jaw-dropping Atlantis resort the last time we flew through Nassau and, for those of you who love the lavish, indulgent, resort-feel vacation, Nassau is an absolute dream.  Five-star dining, incredible shopping, and all still with the mind-boggling green-blue beaches that you can only find in the Bahamas.  We learned last time from our cab driver that Tiger Woods has his own golf course there, and restaurant that you can eat at.  

Here are some more resources for all of the amazing things you can do in Nassau:

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/travel-guide/a9261279/nassau-bahamas-travel-guide/

https://www.nassauparadiseisland.com

I also really liked what these fellow travel bloggers had to say about Nassau: https://finduslost.com/the-complete-nassau-bahamas-travel-guide/

Eleuthera

Phillip and I stayed for a while in Harbour Island, in Eleuthera, hunkering down as a blow passed through, and we really loved the community, the restaurants, and … for us … the kite-surfing! I wrote a fun blog post previously about our passage through the Devil’s Backbone into Harbour Islandand all of the fun things Harbour Island had to offer, from the pink sand beach on the North (where you can ride horses on the beach!), to the snorkeling, shelling, eat at Sip-Sip on the Atlantic Coast, and so much more!

Here are some more resources for Eleuthera.  Phillip and I barely scraped the surface exploring Harbour Island.  Next time we plan to rent a car and drive around to experience the entire island: 

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/travel-dining/a14754507/just-back-from-eleuthera-bahamas/

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/the-bahamas/out-islands/eleuthera

Cat Island

Phillip and I have not personally been so I don’t have any personal photos to share, but I will tell you one of the reasons I knew I wanted to travel the Exumas and surrounding islands the next time we came to the Bahamas was because of a photo I saw that a friend posted of Cat Island! 

Here are some resources for things to do at Cat Island: 

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g147427-Cat_Island_Out_Islands_Bahamas-Vacations.html

https://www.bahamas.com/islands/cat-island

A fellow travel blogger also put together this nice travel guide for Cat Island: https://www.outislandlifebahamas.com/2018/08/a-mini-travel-guide-to-cat-island/

The Exumas

Thankfully, Phillip were able to make a quick jaunt over, from Andros, to the Exumas the last time we were there.  While we did not get to spend too much time exploring the Exumas (our plan is to do more this coming season), from what we saw we were spellbound.  They really are telling you the truth when they say you’ve never seen beauty like the Exumas.  We cannot wait to share more about these places we traveled to in the Exumas:

Higbourne Cay

With its picturesque marina, fun, fascinating snorkeling, and wonderfully-decadent Xuma’s Restaurant:

Here is more information on what Highbourne Cay has to offer: https://highbournecaybahamas.com

They even offer a snorkeling and diving guide for the island: https://highbournecaybahamas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WTD_Highbourne.pdf

Norman’s Cay

With its famous MacDuff’s Restaurantand sunken plane!

More info on Norman’s Cay:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman%27s_Cay

http://bahamascruisersguide.com/Exumas/Exumas/NormansC.html

Warderick Wells Cay

This was mine and Phillip’s favorite destination out of our entire trip to the Bahamas this last spring. Warderick Wells is a protected land and sea park so there is no fishing on the reefs, which means they are exquisite and so well-preserved!  There’s also a friendly neighborhood nurse shark that visits every new boat that comes into the anchorage, as well as a fabulous walking trail with blow holes and a signing tree.  I cannot wait to tell you more about this fabulous island, and the hilarious docking (or I guess you could call it balling … yeah you can make a comment about that ; ) balling debacle we had there!  Good stories lie ahead my friends!

Here is some more information about the beauty and preserved sites Warderick Wells has to offer: 

http://www.bahamascruisersguide.com/page75/page19/page19.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147432-i7577-k605722-Warderick_Wells-Staniel_Cay_Out_Islands_Bahamas.html

And, these are only three of the dozens of islands that make up the Exumas, each with something unique and magical to share.  And, everyone who lives on those islands is hoping and praying for tourists just like you to come visit and keep bringing your support and important cruising dollars to their struggling economy.  Why hesitate?  So much beauty and awe awaits!  We hope his can help encourage some followers to set their sights on the amazing islands that still remain.  Our thoughts are with those in the Abacos working hard now to get safe, healthy, and out of there if need be.  Dorian was such a devastating monster.  But, the Bahamas will and can rebuild.  With our help.  Andros, Nassau, the Berries, Eleuthera, and the exquisite Exumas still await.  Our message to offer the best Dorian relief is:

GO VISIT THE SPARED BAHAMAS!