We were situated comfortably in Great Harbour Cay Marina. We had 10 days until we had to be in Georgetown, Great Exuma Island (for flights back to the U.S.). Our plan was to sail to Nassau on the first day and then on to the Exuma chain of islands the next. That would give us 8 days to explore and enjoy the Exumas. Some of my favorite experiences of our cruising life have occurred in these islands: Kayaking up the northernmost creek on Shroud Cay which opens up to the most breathtaking vista of white sand and blue water I can possibly imagine, mooring and snorkeling in the beautiful waters of Warderick Wells, and snorkeling Cannonball Grotto at Staniel Cay. I would not mind a repeat of each of those. The problem with cruising on a schedule is having to deal with the weather. If we had no deadline to be in Georgetown, we would have relaxed and slowly made our way down the Exumas over the course of a week or two. However, we were on a schedule. And, the weather was not looking so good. Over the next week and a half, steady easterly winds, on some days, over 30 knots were forecast. There was even talk of a tropical low developing east of the Bahamas (It is still hurricane season up until the end of November).
The next two days were forecast to have light winds. So, it was a no-brainer to sail to Nassau on the first day, which we did, and on to the Exumas the next, which we also did. That was on Friday, the 13th. The winds were forecast to pick up to 15-20 knots on Friday evening and remain that way on Saturday. For the foreseeable future, Saturday would be the safest day to make our way through a cut in the Exuma chain and out into the deep water of the Exuma sound. To do so in 25-35 knot winds could be risky in possible “rage” conditions, and the several hour sail on the outside down the Exuma Sound would be uncomfortable. What to do? Take our time and explore the many islands which make up the Exumas and hope that the weather forecast changes for the better? Or, make a beeline to Georgetown where we will be tucked safely and securely inside a marina. This cruising life is a balancing act. Our next adventure is always shaped by our concerns for safety, comfort, and fun. We try not to ever do anything that would put us in a dangerous, unsafe state. We do our best to avoid uncomfortable conditions unless the payoff is great. And, we try our best to have as much fun and enjoy the surroundings when possible.
We decided to go on to Georgetown and not take any chances with bad weather, or even a tropical low/storm. We had after all, already enjoyed most of the Exumas on our last excursion into the Bahamas. Since our goal was to make Georgetown, we went as far as possible on Friday — meaning we sailed on into the dark, anchoring (for the first time ever) in the dark at the Big Majors Spot anchorage by Staniel Cay. This spot marked the southernmost reach of last year’s winter in the Bahamas. The anchorage is huge and was uncrowded at this time of year, but it was still a little eerie and disconcerting approaching in the blackness to drop our anchor around 8:30 pm. Then, on Saturday morning, we weighed anchor at 5 a.m. in order to time the Galliott cut at slack tide, avoiding an ebb tide opposing the 15-20 knot easterly winds (which could cause steep dangerous waves).
Our fifty mile passage from Big Majors Spot to the Marina at Emerald Bay went nearly as expected. We exited the banks out into Exuma Sound through Galliott Cut around 8:30, passing dramatic rock formations and cays as we went. We were greeted in the sound by 2’-5’ waves which would be (along with the wind) about 40° off our port bow the entire trip. That wind angle is a little tough for Beatitude to sail into, so we had to motorsail the entire way so as to not find ourselves on the reefs off to starboard. If the wind would have been an additional 10° off to port, we would have had a lovely sail southward. By 1:30 in the afternoon we had reached the entry channel for the Marina at Emerald Bay, Beatitude’s home for the next month. It was an easy entrance through a narrow channel. After topping off our fuel tanks, we pulled into our slip in the nearly empty marina. Things don’t start happening around here until at least after the hurricane season.