Saturday, December 5, 2020

Exuma Islands, Staniel Cay and Sampson Cay

Sampson Cay. Submitted photos

Sampson Cay. Submitted photos

By Frances Diebler

Exuma is an area of the Bahamas consisting of 360 islands also known as cays. This area is one of the best cruising grounds easily accessible from Florida. This chain is located southeast of Nassau. The islands are on a direct path to and from the Caribbean. Unlike some areas in southern Florida, the islands are blessed with beautiful blue green deep water to accommodate deep draft boats. However, there are many areas which are shallow and are navigable only by shoal draft vessels.

Once you leave the hustle and bustle of Nassau and meander southward through the Exuma Chain, you are in another world. The Exuma Islands are each different from each other, and they offer some of the best cruising grounds and harbors. Each land has its own charm, people, beauty, friendliness, and harbors. It is hard for me to pick out a favorite one. You judge each island for its own merits.

Another adventure you may have is to fly into Staniel Cay by plane. Not only do you get there a lot faster than by sailboat, you get breath taking views of the Islands from the air. However, if you can’t do that, you can still charter a small sightseeing plane with a pilot to see the Bahamas from the air. When we were there last there were no moorings. However, they are now installed. If you need more up to date info, try e-mailing, Dock Master @ Staniel Cay. I, for one, can say that when we were there, it was one of the friendliest stops anywhere in the Bahamas.

Near Staniel Cay is a favorite anchorage of sailors returning to the States: “The Big Majors”. It is made up of steep hills and valleys which are unusual in the Bahamas. However, it makes for a great anchorage in the right conditions. Big Majors Spot is not recommended in a strong Westerly wind. As an added attraction, as you enter along the Western shore, you will see a sign that says, “Please Don’t Feed the Pig”. There were two pigs left ashore here by folks from Staniel Cay. They were still there when we were there which was a while ago. As soon as were anchored, “Emily the Pig” swam out to our dinghy as I was throwing her corn husks which I saved from last night’s dinner. Heed the warning! She swam to our dinghy and literally tried to climb into it. I have pictures of the bruise on my thigh that she left trying to get into the dinghy.

Staniel Cay is a great island for several reasons. Almost every cruiser I know always used Stanial Cay as a stop, either going southward to Georgetown or returning northward home. I do know that since we were there last, that there have been some improvements. “Stanial Cay Yacht Club” has been a fixture there for a long time. However, we almost

Bahamas.

Bahamas.

always anchored out. I honestly can not address the facilities related to docking. When talking to someone recently about Staniel Cay, I heard that there are now mooring balls available. However, I do know first hand that the Stanial Yacht Club, (which is not affiliated with any other yacht club), is a great “hangout” for cruising folks. Mr. Rolle is a great man and most friendly to the cruising population. By the way, “Rolle” goes way back to the Rolles who settled in the Bahamas from England. Check with the latest guide books to see what facilities are presently there. Perhaps their most famous attraction is, “Thunderball Cave” which featured Sean Connery in the James Bond movie, “Thunderball.” All of you diehard snorkelers or divers, might find this an exciting place to visit.

Every one is so friendly in these islands. Yachtsmen and tourists alike either sail in or fly in to enjoy the laidback way of life. The closest airport that I know of that flies from here to Bahamas is Fort Lauderdale Airport.

These islands are not just for boaters. There are cottages for rent, lovely hotels, transportation all over the islands as needed. Restaurants of different kinds are located the islands. Some are more basic with local dishes served. Others are grander and offer Continental fare. Make sure that you try some native dishes wherever you go.

These two “sister islands” have beautiful scenery and beaches as well as lovely, friendly people who are pleased that you chose to visit their islands. Sampson Cay is only 240 nautical miles from Ft. Lauderdale. You can fly to Staniel Cay. Then take a fifteen minute ferry ride back to Sampson Cay. If you take your own boat the trip is only240 miles from Ft. Lauderdale to Sampson Cay.

Before leaving the US, you might want to check with a travel agent as to what papers you may need. I’m sure most of you do know that you need your USA passport to enter the Bahamas. The last time we entered the Bahamas we entered at West End and had our two cats aboard, “Barnes” and “Noble” which had to be checked in at immigration. Cat Cay, Nassau Harbor, and Chubb Cay are also three of the check in facilities. If you are traveling with pets i.e. dog or cat, you need to get clearance for them before you leave the States. We had to send copies of their papers to Bahamian Immigration and they mailed back papers for the cats to enter. You do not have to physically bring your pet to check in. My cats feel so superior to other cats because they have their own “passport papers.” I drew the line with them when they wanted to attach travel stickers on their litter boxes.

Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.

 

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