Following Flight Risk - Exumas

This page covers our travel in the Exumas from Nassau (12/25/2019) heading south to the George Town area until 1/2/2020.   

Each entry below will be in reverse chronological order (most recent first).  Scroll down to see all past postings.   To see posts after 1/2/2020, click on the Next button to see a new page.  

Gradually, these will all be split into separate entries and updated.  

D63: Little Farmers to George Town (1/2/2020)

To time the tides as we entered Conch Cay Cut in Elizabeth Harbor, we got an early start from Little Farmers Cay.  Departing at 0645, we had to rely on our track coming in to avoid the shallows, rocks and reefs in Little Farmers Cut.  We took turns on the bow, but we could only see directly under the boat.  Not much warning if something we in the way.    Again with a rising tide, the currents were against us going out.  

After clearing the cut with no problems, we turned south toward Conch Cay Cut with blue skies dotted with some white clouds.  We had a light east wind.  We hoped to get to Conch Cay Cut close to slack high tide, so we motor sailed to keep up our speed.  For most of the trip, the winds were 14 knots apparent and the boat made 7.5-8 knots over the ground.  Once we passed the Little Sisters (rocks), the wind shifted onto the nose and we had to take down all sails.  

We passed many beautiful cays that we might want to explore some other time.  So some photos below.  

We entered Conch Cay Cut at 1215 and used the waypoint from the Explorer charts to wind through the shoals and reefs.  The wind was blowing hard out of the east as we approached Stocking Island, so we decided to anchor here rather than on the west side of the harbor near George Town.  That turned out to be a good decision.  We have had nothing but strong NE - SE winds ever since.  

Once in George Town area, the first order of business was to either fix or replace our outboard motor.  Cathy saw an 8 horse power Mercury in Nassau and wanted to buy it.  I resisted but now I really regret not getting it when it was right in front of us.  

The problem is that the outboard works, but will not run at higher speeds.  It will not accelerate.  I assumed I had a gummed up carburetor.  Before leaving Norfolk, I had the outboard serviced with many parts replaced, so I am rather disappointed to be having these problems.  

Anyway, I hopped on a water taxi (Elvis Water Taxi with driver Travis) over to George Town.  I went into Minn's Water Sport, which is supposed to be the place to go for outboards.  They only carried one brand and size:  Yamaha 15 hp that weighed about 86 pounds.  That was too heavy  for us.  He also would not touch an Evinrude.  They only service Yamahas.  He did give me the name of a local engine expert named Jay Rolle.  

Back at the boat, I called Jay and he said he could pick it up in George Town the next day.  He did not live in George Town but one of the neighboring towns to the north.  I started planning for how to transport the outboard over to George Town.  It was too far to row.  

Not able to do anything else today, we finally relaxed and celebrated our arrival in Elizabeth Harbor.  

D62: Staniel Cay to Little Farmers (1/1/2020)

We would have enjoyed staying in Staniel Cay a few more days, but we had a two-day weather window to make it to George Town.  I decided to stop in Little Farmers Cay, which was a short hop because it offered good protection from multiple wind directions.  Some of the other cuts and anchorages would have been closer to George Town, but not as well protected. 

At 0800, we pulled up anchor and headed out between the two islands and out the cut at Staniel. The current was against us with a rising tide, but Flight Risk had no problem fighting the current. We had to slip by a few reefs, but with Cathy on the bow and Navionics showing the locations, we made it through without any problems.  

We pulled into Little Farmers Cay around 1100 and put out an anchor near the yacht club mooring field.  We could not raise anyone at the yacht club and were not sure the moorings were maintained, so we decided to anchor.  After anchoring, I checked the set with the glass bottom bucket.  The anchor had dug in, but again hit a rock so it did not look like a really get set.  

I went over to the nearest mooring and checked out their condition.  The closest seemed to be in good shape and had some new chain.  I decided to risk using the mooring especially when I noticed that our anchor chain was rubbing some newly growing coral.  

I pulled up the anchor and grabbed the mooring.  I rowed into the yacht club (because the motor was not reliable) and walk all over the property.  It looked like it was under renovation, but I could not find a single person.  I was hoping to pay for our stay on the mooring, but could not figure out how.  I assumed someone would eventually come by to collect, but that did not happen either.  Anyway, thanks to the Little Farmers Cay Yacht Club.  The mooring held fine all night.  

The water in Little Farmers was incredibly clear and full of fish.  We used the opportunity to make water again.  We could sit on the boat and watch fish on the bottom.  No snorkeling required.  

Click on the photos below to view larger images.  

Little Farmers Cay

D61: Staniel Cay on New Years Eve (12/31/2019)

In addition to being New Year's Eve, today was mailboat day.  That is when the supplies and groceries come to the island and the grocery stores restock.  Cathy and I went over to town in the morning and started checking out the stores.  Even though the supply boat had arrived, it takes a while for the shelves to be restocked.  So, we headed back to the harbor and had lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  It was packed.  

We went back for groceries again after lunch but the shelves were still empty, so we went back to the boat.  Later in the afternoon, I went back on my own and hit the Pink Grocery.  I hit the jackpot and grabbed lots of fresh vegetables.  Unfortunately, I arrived about 5 minutes after two crew members from a mega-yacht started provisioning for 18 guests.  They grabbed full boxes of fruit, vegetables, and snacks.  I waited about 45 minutes in the check-out line before I got through.  Oh well.  I was successful.

The dinghy motor has really been a problem.  It worked find in No Name Harbor, but started failing in Warderick Wells.  It starts easily and runs find a low speed.  If you try to increase throttle it just bogs down.  So, I can go slowly, but this will be a problem for long trips.  Hope to get this fixed in George Town.  

We celebrated New Years Eve with a nice dinner on the boat after opening a nice bottle of Champagne.  We did not last for the fireworks, but I did get up when I heard them.  They have a surprisingly nice display.  All the boats started blasting their horns at midnight including the mega-yachts, which was quite impressive.  

D60: Warderick to Staniel (12/30/2019)

We released the mooring at 0830 on Monday morning to head toward Staniel Cay. High tide was at 0950 with low tide around 1620.  I wanted to get into Staniel before low tide, so we had to get moving.  Staniel was about 26 nm away, so the trip should take about 3-4 hours.  We were able to sail out the channel to the banks, but once we turned south, the wind was on the nose.  It was not a fun sail.  We pounded in the waves and arrived in Staniel around 12 noon.  

As we navigate, we compare Explorer to Navionics.  Everyone warned us not to trust Navionics in the Bahamas, but so far, it has been accurate when related to rocks and coral.  It is not accurate when showing sandy shallows.  We have heard stories about people sinking when hitting reefs that Navionics did not show, so I am still playing it cautiously using both.  

The entrance to Staniel Cay looked pretty shallow on Navionics, but we did not have any problems entering.  It took me a while to figure out how to get to the primary anchorage.  We had to swing around some rocky cays and go between them.  Once in the anchorage, we had a little trouble setting the hook.  In the first spot, I felt that the anchor was hooked well, but I used our glass bottom bucket to view the anchor.  Instead of digging in, we were just hooked on a rock.  

So I pulled up the chain and anchor and we looked for a sandy spot.  This time we were good and rode out two nights comfortably and securely.  Our dinghy motor was really not working properly now, but we limped into town and explored.  We found the grocery stores and paid to drop off some trash bags.  

Staniel Cay is a very busy place and it seems to be attracting a lot of the mega-yachts now.  Apparently that is a new phenomenon.  The water here was amazingly clear.  It is a nice location.  Staniel Cay is also the location of the Thunderball Grotto, which was shown in the 007 moving Thunderball.  It is a popular attraction and tour boats seem to clog up the access now.  You have to wait for low slack tide to go in, so it limits the access even more.  I will try to get in next time.  With our hobbled dinghy, I decided not to fight my way in.  

Click on the photos below to see a larger image and captions.


  • Staniel Cay Harbor

    We were anchored on the other side of a sandbar which is in the foreground. The catamarans fit there.

  • Thunderball Grotto

    The Thunderball Grotto was located on the left side of the cay (island) you see in this photo. This view is from Flight Risk at anchor.

  • Anchorage entrance

    We entered the anchorage between the rocky cays shown in this photo.

  • Mega-Yachts at Anchor

    Many of the super yachts anchor well outside of the harbor and use their large tenders to come ashore.

D57-60: Exuma Land and Sea Park

We stayed at the Warderick Wells North mooring field for 3 more days and left on 12/30/2019.  Cathy and I took some hikes around the islands and I did some snorkeling at nearby reefs.  The reefs were pretty, but you had to really time the current, because the tidal flows were very strong.  

We loved our stay in Warderick Wells.  It was a beautiful and serene location.  On Saturday afternoon, we joined other boaters and the park staff for a beach gathering and potluck.  We met some very nice cruisers, but have not run into any of them again.  I assume we will eventually.  

I have included a collection of photos from all days below.  Click on the photos to see larger images.  

D56: Normans Cay to Warderick Wells (12/26/2019)

Having not slept well, we got up early but did not need to leave right away .  Next time I will follow the advice of the Explorer Charts and take the documented route to the safer anchorage. We took time to have coffee and oatmeal and then I ran the water maker for about an hour.  We wanted to wait until the sun was a bit higher when crossing the Banks.  Visibility is important.  

I had communicated ahead of time with the Exuma Park HQ about getting on the waiting list for a mooring in the North mooring field. Not only is the site supposed to be pretty, but it offers good protection from all sides. Another front was coming in.  

About halfway there, I finally got a response via email that they had a mooring for us.  The winds and weather were very nice and we sailed from Normans Stake (shoal) to Lightning Cay.  We averaged 6-8 knots under full sail.  

We had to motor into the wind as we turned into the channel towards Warderick Wells.  I stood watch on the bow for part of this leg of the trip, because the Explorer Charts conflicted with the Navionics charts.  When it comes to coral and rocks, Navionics has been on the money, but for shallow sand, it seems to indicate worse than the Explorer Charts.  So, in those cases, I play it safe and do visual piloting and assume the worst case.  

We made it into the mooring field, but we let one other boat go ahead of us per request of the park manager.  We followed them in but they had run aground.  When I figured it out, we were already too close and we hit bottom (sand).  I got off easily and we made our way around to our mooring, which was beautiful.  

After checking in, we discovered that we had not cell service in the mooring field.  None.   To get any cell service, we had to climb a hill or go up to the rangers stations and stand on the porch.  The Explorer Charts stated that the park offered a paid WiFi service, but apparently they quite doing that.  It was too hard to manage.  So, "Oh my God!!", no Internet.  How will we live?

We stayed here 4 days.  

Click on photos to see larger image.


D55: Nassau to Normans Cay (12/25/2019)

On Christmas Day (12/25/2019), we leave Nassau Harbor Club at 0800.  As I prepared the boat for departure, Cathy was standing in line to check out.  Apparently, everyone else (all the French Canadians) had the same idea.  But Cathy was one of the first in line, so we were the first boat to leave the harbor.  

We were trying time the light and the tides so we had good visibility into the water as we crossed the dreaded Yellow Banks.  Unfortunately, we crossed into the banks when the tide was still relatively low at about 1045, but we made it through by 1120.  I stood on the bow and we had to dodge about 3-4 black objects that I believe were coral heads.  They were definitely close to the surface, but Cathy steered the boat around them.  The headsets we use have been indispensable.  We would not leave without them.  

We were able to sail the entire trip except when crossing the Yellow Banks and we made good time, arriving at Normans Cay around 1400.  I decided to take a short cut to one of the anchorages, but ran aground on a sand bar.  (Cathy was on the bow saying " Don't go there", but I thought I could sneak across.).  I listen to her now (most of the time).  

We ended up anchoring in a reasonable spot.  That evening we broke out the Champagne with cheese and crackers to celebrate Christmas Day and to toast our arrival in the Exumas.  I grilled two ribeye steaks we bought in Nassua along with baked potatoes and grilled peppers and okra.  The potatoes were on the grill also, but in aluminum foil.  

Unfortunately, the waves from the prior storms were still rolling in from the north even though the wind was from the northeast to east.  We tried to sleep through the evening with significant roll in the anchorage.  I did not sleep well.  

Click on photos below to see larger image.

Normans Cay

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