Off of Wax Cay (very near to Norma’s Cay), there is a sunken plane.
This is an old plane that used to smuggle drugs from Columbia to Miami in the late 70s. Now, it has transformed into a beautiful reef that we went snorkling around.
I would have been able to enjoy more had I not been attacked by vicious fish.
Okay, maybe not vicious, but very curious little guys. I kept trying to swim away but they would follow me just barely an inch from my face. There were plenty of other swimmers around but they only had eyes for me. Stephen was of no help, and actually told me to stop being a baby and making a scene. I would like to see if it were him in my fins.
We made it a quick stop as the current was ripping through and it was exausting to try to stay in the same place. But it was well worth the stop!
Ok so first off, its not really called Narcos Cay, but in my honest opinion it probably should be. I will get to that in a minute.
We came here to seek protection from some very rough weather headed our way (yes, again). The advantage of this place is that it is basically a lake, with one little small opening to allow boats to come and go. The dissadvantage is that said entrance is charted around 2 feet at low tide. Not exactly a keel friendly place. Because of this, we hadn’t really considered this as an option for us until our (much more experienced) friends aboard Valkyrie said that we could make it in. They had just anchored in themselves (in a cat) but sounded the way for us then guided us in with their dingy. Thanks to them, we made it through with all our bottom paint, and added another consecutive day to the “haven’t touhed the bottom” score.
We were definitely rewarded for the tight entrance with all around protection and some great fishing before battening down the hatches for the wind storm. And here we stayed for a bit over a week. The island had some pretty beaches to offer, though the wind was a bit too strong and the beach was a sand blast zone.
Some of the great adventures we had were walking around the island and snorkeling around, which brings me back to the Narcos reference. This island was a main route of drug runners back in the 80s. They would take cocaine from Columbia, land here, then transfer to smaller planes that could enter the US more easily. There is still an operational runway (you can catch a plane, but no cell phone signal), but any other reminders of that era have gone to decay.
As we walked around the island we came across the abandoned homes used by Carlos and his men. Apparently after they were arrested they just abandoned it all behind, and have been good for some squatters since then.
While the pig beach did, in fact, deserve a post of their own, there is still a lot to be said of Staniel Cay, the little town that neighbors the pigs.
This was the first town that we came to that actually looked like a picturesque caribbean village. This is probably due to the fact that hardly anyone lives here and its mostly tourists. Even so, the little businesses and houses/hotels were adorable!
At the epicenter of the town is Staniel Cay Yacht Club – a cruisers’ mandatory stop. They have a laid back bar and restaurant, and nearby are grocery stores (kinda) and a laundromat. We stayed about 3 days anchored here and got to enjoy what the town has to offer.
The food stores were the “pink” house and the “blue” house. As we were not around for a mail boat delivery, the selection was very poor and I couldn’t even find eggs. To be fair, I did find a dozen eggs for $11, but I refused to buy those on principle (and they were past their best by date). On the bright side, you can do your laundry while watching HGTV (!!!!!) and sipping on a cocktail.
At the marina, they have a fish cleaning station that the fishing boats frequently use. Lazy sharks have picked up on this habit, and hang around the beach waiting for their scraps. In fact, the whole area was filled with nurse sharks and we saw several by our boat. Needless to say, I kept all my limbs in the boat at all times.
To finish our lovely time in Staniel, we had sunset drinks with some of our new cruiser friends. I can see why people stay here a long time – but for us it was time to continue south.
Well, we did it! I guess we can go home now. We made it to the famous Pig Beach, and it was just as great as all the pictures and videos I have seen (other than the fleas).
There were pigs of all sizes, massive mamas and cute little ones that were likely less than a pound! We brought a carrot (yes, only one as I am greedy and want all the veggies for myself) and hand fed the little ones while tossing food far away to make the big ones swim for it.
We were able to sneak in early morning, so we had the piggys all to ourselves. Throughout the day several speed boats bring tourists in to feed and play with them. I can’t imagine how much they eat a day (insert terrible joke about pigging out pigs!). Pictures speak for themselves, so I will keep the writing very short.
As the saying goes, every good rule has an exception. This is no different in the Exumas park. Typically it is a “take only pictures, leave only footprints (or bubbles)”, but at Boo-Boo hill you are welcome to leave an offering to the spirits for good weather and safe passage.
The story goes that on a wild, stormy day many years ago an unlucky schooner sunk off the coast of Warderick Wells. Sadly, no one survived the disaster and no bodies were ever found. Local people say that if you climb to the top of the highest hill on a full moon, you can hear the voices of the lost souls. Boo-Boo hill is named for the sounds of the ghosts.
Today, cruisers that pass through here leave behind driftwood with the name of their boat. Full disclosure, and all those who know me know this already: I have next to zilch in artistic talent. To make matters more difficult we also have no “art” supplies onboard. We decided to burn “Carpe Ventum” onto the wood.
I did the best I could, okay? The end is a little frumpy as we ran out of lighter fluid. Oh well, final product looked like this.
So we hiked, and hiked and hiked, and finally made it. My sign was really put to shame as I looked at the neighboring ones.
We added to the pile, took in some fresh air, and more importantly scrammed for a little wave of 3g signal to call mom and dad. I am guessing due to the elevation the cell phone magically worked long enough to send news home that all was well (after 10 days of being digitally isolated).
Our first stop in the Exumas was Allen Cay, an infamous stop for the iguana beach.
The little creatures have taken over 2 different islands, and are a unique type of iguana named the Exuma Iguana. They are an endangered species and protected by the country, which does not allow “hurting, holding or harassing” them. They are extremely used to humans, and hurry to welcome any boat that they are trained to know will bring them food – but do not be fooled, they are not docile creatures.
What surprised me the most was that they were absolutely not scared at all of humans. In the morning we went to the beach to feed them some bread, and the iguanas would swarm you, and get super close wanting more! I had to run away to the water to escape the fate of our fellow cruisers, who were bitten. In fact, later that day we were sitting on the beach cleaning up some fish, and the little guys kept coming up to steal our food! I would shoo, clap loudly, yell and stomp but they were very persistent.
They definitely steal the beach to make it un-usable to humans. I would not want to sit there for longer than 5 minutes, but luckily in the bahamas there are no shortage of sandy stretches so there is plenty to share.
We had a great view of them from our anchorage, and also were able to watch the tour boats come through. We felt a little extra pleased to have these guys to ourselves on the beach and not have to share with the power boats.
Stephen’s new found hobby is fishing (or as he calls it, hunt).
I am basically of no help in this process other than to keep him company and to be on shark watch duty (don’t worry mom, I haven’t seen any yet). Our friends from Valkyrie swear that most of the sharks are harmless and that if you see one, it will most likely leave you alone. Their strategy for scaring them off is to poke them, or to just yell really loud. I’m still not sure I want to get close enough to test either theory. The one time Stephen did go out without me, he did see a little reef shark, about 7 feet long. I guess I will be his good luck charm to keep them away.
So what’s on the menu?
Lobster, not the prettiest creatures but one of the most delicious in my opinion. These are some of the biggest ones we have gotten so far!
Conch, the bahamian specialty! The pretties shells, the ugliest creature. I will spare you the pictures of the cleaning process, but its a slimy mess. Google at your own risk if you are really curious 🙂 The meat itself is pretty good. It doesn’t have a very strong flavor, but is a bit tough to the bite. Bahamians enjoy these fried and in a salad, kind of like ceviche. I gave the second attempt a try.
And fish. Our favorites have been grouper, snapper and jack fish with were all delicious. The true prize was when Stephen and Mike went casting, and came back 1.5 hours later with 23 fish. Nuts, I say.
We aren’t the only ones that get to enjoy the feast, there are always fish around looking for scraps. For days we have had these funny fish under our boat, Remoras.
Remoras are “shark suckers”, meaning they attach themselves to sharks and eat scraps. To do so, they have a very funny looking suction cup on top of thier heads. Everytime we threw some scrap food overboard they would quickly swim out and eat it up. Their favorites were moldy bread (we had a bit of a humidy problem), and fish bones. They were not super fond of lime rind.
I refuse to jump in the water with them around, so hopefully they abandon us soon.
We have completed our first month in the Bahamas. While the weather hasn’t been as good as we expected, we have had a great time exploring the islands, talking to other cruisers, and learning about the bahamian culture.
Eleuthra was not on our initial cruise plan, but I am so glad we made that last minute change. But, now its time to set towards our original destination, the Exumas. This group of over 365 islands and cays are the favorites of many cruisers we have met and read about, and we are excited to learn why.
For the next month we will be working our way south through these islands, including the famous pig island and the Exumas national park which supposedly has some of the most gorgeous corals around. From there we will make a jump through Long Island or Mayaguana to Turks and Caicos.
The sail directly west was smooth cruising, we left entirely on sail and only turned on the engine coming in through the cut and looking for an anchorage. We already got a little taste of some of the tight anchorages and coral head negotiating that are notorious to the Exumas, but thankfully our passage and anchoring was a success.
Every Friday night, Governor’s Harbor turns into a party with a DJ on the street, rum flowing freely (though not free), and tourists from all over the island turning up to the fish fry.
This is a little shack on the beach, that only opens on Friday nights (only) and serves fried fish, or grilled pork. We opted for the rum punch and fried fish, of course.
I will say, the night was more worthwhile for the company than for the actual food/drinks. We ran into Shannon, our hitchhiking picker-upper-friend and chatted with her a bit more. She promised (and delivered) a new cilantro plant for me since mine was on the verge of death. I will remember her every day I make ceviche and thank her for that.
We also met some fellow cruisers, in a very similar plan to ours. We had been following each other on Instagram and were able to meet up. Shari and Brian, on SV Jabawoki (I may have butchered spelling) were lots of fun and we hung out for about a week from the fish fry through 2 other anchorages. We hope to meet them again through the Exumas.
The next morning the sugary rum and fried food had the full effect on me. Hard to get away from any fried food in the Bahamas, but might have to stick with a beer next time around.
We have been in Governor’s Harbor for a week. With the exception of summer in Brazil, we have not been in one place this long since starting this trip. We had also never intended to stay this long in one place, but between the dreadful weather we have had and the amount of things to do here, time just flew by. And we knew we needed to stay at least until there was one good day of weather to check out French Leave beach.
And oh was it SO worth it!
This beach atually faces the atlantic side, which if you have seen the post about the Glass Bridge might seem a little frightening. But it is well protected by some coral offshore, and makes it a tranquil, beautiful beach. Along the shore there used to be a resort, the Club Med, but a hurricane several years ago brought too much destruction and they abandoned the hotel.
The sand on this beach is actually a very light shade of pink, and you can see closely that it is a mix of regular sand and very pink grains. The water was everything you would want from the Bahamas, warm, shallow and with small waves. In my honest opinion, there is very little that could ever possibly be improved in this beauty – it’s just that close to perfect. And we had this little piece of paradise nearly to ourselves.
Because we did not have umbrellas, we had to sneak out by mid afternoon as the sun was really strong. We were able to hitch a ride back to town with a very nice couple. Everyone on this island is so friendly and helpful, both locals and tourists alike and are making us feel right at home.