On the way to Exumas, if the weather
gives you a chance, stop in Hogsty Reef - one of the three true atolls in Western hemisphere.
Also recommend Aklins Bight mainly for exploring their Blue holes - near the middle of Croocked Island in 4' of water
you get these holes that go all the way under the island to the ocean on the other side. Spectacular snorkeling, spearfishing, and lobstering (think lobster condominiums where you can take your pick of the best ones
). These holes are listed on Explorer charts
, though slightly off with coordinates. Though it a bit of a sail from the cut, so that's a 2-3 day stop.
Some fav stops of ours in Exumas:
Lee Stocking Island - Ocean Research
Institute. Neat program for saving coral
on display and the like. Nice hike on the island with many photo ops of yourself in front of Bahamian waters with the boat
Guana Key cut - there is a rock in the middle of the cut (and a dinghy
tie up close by). This rock has a hole just under the water. If you snorkel there during outgoing tide, hold on tightly to the rock and peak outside - there'll be an aquarium of big game
fish waiting for small fishes to be sucked through the hole. During incoming tide this hole becomes a rollercoaster - you swim up, current
picks you up, tumbles a few times, and deposits a few meters back. Lots of fun.
From the same anchorage also worth exploring Cave Key - there's a giant cave on the south side with good slipper lobster (the flat ones) fishing
around. Careful with the cut north of Musha Key - we nearly got sucked out of the cut by the tide.
Staniel Key - anchor near the Thunderball cave (cave with lots of fish - protected env). Staniel Key Yacht Club is definitely worth a visit, and so is Thunderball club (if it's still open). Gorgeous sunsets from the latter. Fish in the cave and pigs on the pig beach (Big Majors) expect treats from you. For fish bring crackers/bread, for pigs - bagels/bread. Careful in the cut - usually sharks hunting. Note that Staniel Key has good air connections to both Nassau and Fort Lauderdale
. South of Staniel Key is another anchorage where not many boats anchor because of the draft
. There is a small sandy island nearby and very good snorkeling in the cut to the anchorage. And, of course, there are hikes on the island that take you to the ocean side that's just gorgeous.
Can't remember the name for sure, but I think it's Pipe Key - there's an old military base on western side of the island. Would not suggest docking
there because of rats and derbis in the water, but it was fun to explore.
Sampson Key - nice resort with a nice bar, fun memories of bonfire on eastern side of the island, you can dock
there or anchor just around the northern corner before the rocks - other cruisers don't anchor there because Explorer charts show 3' (go Navionics!). Good spearfishing in the series of rocks further west.
Key - the key itself was not something we liked, mostly because we felt we were being skinned for money
(you either must buy something at the shop/bar, in which case you can stay only on the dock
or you pay a fee for walking on the island). However, south of Compass
going into the cut (protected by sand bores) our fav anchoring
spot mostly because there are schools of eagle rays that gather there at full tide. We would hang on the boat
ladder or a line and watch them - incredible!
Exumas Land and Sea Park - that's where fishing is strictly prohibited (and there are partol and cruiser boats enforcing it), so snorkeling is outstanding, similar to Thunderball. Suggest anchoring
south of Cambridge Key (but out of the cut) and going to Rocky Dundas for their giant cave. Otherwise pretty much anywhere else in the park is also awesome.
Norman's Key - we don't know why people anchor in Norman's Key Cut. It's rolly, not much snorkeling that we could find (except for the plane), and too many boats that drag with wind and current
. There's a pretty bar on the airfield, but that's about everything that we could find there that we liked (except for the sunken plane). Instead we choose to anchor (with an eye for the weather) on the eastern side of the island close to entrance to Norman's pond. There's a giant white sandy beach there just to ourselves and in entrance there are a lot of conch and lobsters in the rocks.
Allen's Key - usually the first stop in/out of Nassau. If you manage to navigate in between Leaf and Allen, there're good depths there, nice current to hang from the ladder on, and some snorkeling. Fishing wasn't successful as there's usually a big old smart barracuda hanging around.
We usually use Navionics
Platinum (very good coverage in middle/north Exumas and arial photos help as well) comparing to Explorer charts all the time. Works well enough that we usually manage to anchor in interesting spots where we are by ourselves and find awesome secluded beaches.
Enjoy! It's gorgeous out there!!
P.S. Aaahh... best memories of all cruising. Had a lot of fun writing up this post.