Transiting from the Exuma Sound to the Exuma Bank

Trip Start Dec 09, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bahamas  , New Providence,
Monday, May 9, 2011

We departed Black Cay the next morning, May 6th, reluctantly cutting our stay short due to this being the last day of wind we would have for awhile. We wanted to move north further and shift from the Sound over to the shallow Exuma Bank side.  We expected we would have to continue moving via motoring on the following days in what were forecast to be extremely light winds.  Motoring on the Bank is easier as the water is flatter, especially in light winds. 

Before cutting over to the Bank we had a nice and fast sail under full main and Code 0 heading for Conch Cut and Fowl Cay (not to be confused with Fowl Cay Resort - on a different island).  On the way, just north of Dothan Cut, we hooked a good size mahi mahi.  Maybe finally our poor luck had changed!  Dave reeled the fish over half way back to the boat, watching it jump multiple times, but it got off before we could get it in.  Damn.  No other fishing action after that…. 

We passed through Conch Cut onto the Exuma Bank without problems and arrived in the shallow anchorage at Fowl Cay around 3:30 pm.  This allowed us time for a nice snorkel swim to some nearby coral heads before dinner.  The snorkeling here, at this location just outside the Exuma Land and Sea Park perimeter, was outstanding with perhaps the widest diversity of healthy coral specimens we had seen to date—definitely a spot to return to.  Again, we were the only boat in this gorgeous anchorage.

As forecast, the next several days were slick flat calm.  The Exuma Bank was like a mirror.  On May 7th we departed Fowl Cay for Highborne Cay, "flying" over gin clear waters 10 to 20 feet deep.  If you have to motor, this is the way to do it.  Standing on the bows looking down into the glassy water gives the sensation of flying over a beach 20 feet below.  But it was hot and humid.  Boat speed, 6.5 kts.  Apparent wind speed, 6.5 kts from dead ahead.  

We had not visited Highborne Cay during our prior season in the Bahamas, but the island offered some reefs that Donna thought might offer some snorkeling opportunities during these “dead wind” days that wouldn't be accessible during more typical weather because of their wide-open exposure to both the Sound and the Bank.  

We arrived at Highborne Cay and anchored in the open on the Bank side.  We got a good anchor set in clear sand on the second try.  Dave didn't have to dive on the anchor to check it as the boat drifted right over it in the calm conditions and we could plainly see through the shallow crystal clear water that it was well set.

The only disruptions to the calm conditions were boat wakes from power boats.  (Ah, spring time in the northern Exumas!)  Power boats everywhere going fast.  At Highborne we no longer had an anchorage to ourselves as it is a popular destination for boats arriving from the US coast.  But we stayed at Highborne a few days waiting for the calm conditions to end so we could sail onward. 

We took this opportunity to snorkel an expansive nearby reef on the Bank side as well as circumnavigate the island in the dinghy to explore the eastern shore (Sound side), also lined with reefs.  We did not find significant snorkeling to catch our attention on the Sound side, but we loved snorkeling the reefs on the Bank side where we found lush and healthy coral and a fabulous diversity of fish.  This is a huge barrier-style reef that extends over miles which means moving with your dinghy from spot to spot, but the effort was well worth it—so much so that Donna recorded the GPS coordinates for the great locations we found so that we could return some day!
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