D95-97: Conception Island (2/3-2/5/2020)

Conception Island is a very remote island to the east of Long Island and north of Rum Cay.  It is a protected National Park under the management of The Bahamas National Trust.  This island is worth a visit, especially if you like nature and unspoiled settings.  

Conception Island

On Monday 2/3/2020, the wind was light at 8-12 knots out of the NE. We left Thompson Bay at 0657 and motored out around Indian Hole Point. Once turning north, we motor sailed because we wanted to go all the way around the northern tip of Long Island and over to Conception without stopping. Once turning around Cape Santa Maria, we tested the swell in the ocean to be sure we would not be pounding into the waves and wind uncomfortably. Everything seemed fine, so we continued.

Waves and swell started at 2-3 feet, but eventually grew to about 5-6 feet. Even motoring into the wind, we still were able to maintain 6.5 - 7 knots SOG. By 1315, we were anchored in West Bay of Conception Island.

Track to Conception Island

Side Story

As I was approaching Conception Island, one of our fellow cruisers who we got to know in Long Island was calling other boats on the radio. He was asking boats to keep an eye out for his dinghy. It was Dragonfly, the sailing vessel who had started out with us the other day when we turned around. He had actually continued on the next day and had stayed at Conception the entire time.

He had decided to anchor in a smaller cove on the west side rather than in the main anchorage of West Bay. Everything had gone fine, but 2 days before our arrival a strong NW wind hit him in the middle of the night. He woke up to find that his boat had dragged and his dinghy was hanging on the painter in the breaking surf. He turned on his motor to get back to safer water and re-anchor, but the wind was extremely strong and he was dragging an anchor and a dinghy that had just flipped over with the motor on it.

As he ran forward to set the anchor, his boat drifted back on the dinghy painter and cut the line. His dinghy and motor disappeared into the night. He spent the next day looking all over the island and nearby islands for the dinghy with no luck. He finally decided to head back to George Town in search of a new dinghy. We searched the area as well, but I think the rocks are so sharp and jagged that the dinghy popped and everything went to the bottom. With all the boulders and rocks along the shore, everything looked like a dinghy. We never found it.

Much later when we returned to George Town, we did learn that he found a used dinghy and motor that would get him through the season. Lots of lessons here, but one thing is true. You don't want to come to the Exumas without a good dinghy and motor. It is your car while you are here. You cannot do much without one.

End of Side Story (for now)

Once we were secured at anchor in West Bay, we explored the island with the dinghy, walked on the beach, Eric snorkeled, we took showers and made water. For dinner we grilled turkey kabobs and okra on the boats outside grill. The anchorage and evening were beautiful. We were all alone at Conception Island except for an occasional cruise ship that passed by in the main shipping channel to the west.

The next day we continued exploring Conception Island. We tried to go up a tidal creek with the dinghy that is supposed to have "frolicking turtles", but our timing was bad. At low tide you really cannot go up the creek, so we had to just admire from afar. We did not see any turtles.

I did some additional snorkeling on my own and then took Cathy on a dinghy drift over a very nice reef using the glass bottom bucket. The conditions were not quite right for Cathy yet to snorkel so she really enjoyed the drift. We did learn that even though we loved being here alone, it did make us a bit more cautious about snorkeling near any current. Next time, we will try to come here with at least one buddy boat so we can assist each other should something happen. Many of the best reefs were really a bit far out into the ocean, so I played it cautious this time. Next time I want to go further out.

I really loved Conception Island. It is incredibly beautiful. If you can ever go there, you should. I hope to return with friends.

We had another beautiful evening and, because of the wind predictions, took off the next day, going all the way back to Georgetown. We had a nice sail back to George Town, entering the cut by North Channel Rocks at 1330. We were anchored back at Monument Beach by 1420 after squeezing our way into a spot among many. We had a few evil looks, but we found a spot that did not bother anyone, even after a full 360 degree swing.

Click on the photos below to see a bigger image and more text.

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