We parted company with our friends on Allure (Ken and Deanna) and Frizzante (Suzanne and Michel) and followed La Toison D’or out of the Big Major Spot anchorage. We raised our main sail before pulling up the hook, and pulled out the genoa as soon as we were out of the anchorage. It was a clear, sunny day but we did not expect much wind. To our delight we caught a breeze, turned off the engine and streaked past La Toison D’or at just over 7 knots. It was as if T’ai Chi had been feeling cooped up in the anchorage during the storm and was chomping at the bit to let loose.  We had a great sail up the chain of cays for a couple of hours, and so were ahead of La Toison D’or as we came towards our planned anchorage on the North West corner of Bell Island.

Explorer Chart of Area

Explorer Chart of Area

Ugly development on Bell Island

Ugly development on Bell Island

We dropped anchor in 8 feet off a beach on this private island. Although it is inside the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, it is a privately owned island currently undergoing some very ugly development. “They may look nice when finished”, Steve said unconvincingly. It’s a shame that, despite the Bahamian government’s foresight in creating the Park, they still succumb to the lure of cash/investment and do not place more restrictions and regulations on development on the many private islands within the park. Enough of my rant.

...but nice quiet anchorage off a beach

…but nice quiet anchorage off a beach

There were signs of ongoing construction (i.e. labourers and supply boats) but no signs of guests or owners, so once La Toison D’or anchored we had the peaceful cove to ourselves. A large ray swam under us in the clear water as we anchored. We lowered our dinghy and went over to enjoy sundowners and home-made pizza with Claude and Marie on La Toison D’or. The wind was due to die down completely the next day so we planned an early start to explore and snorkel the nearby Sea Aquarium at low slack tide the next morning.

Exploring by dinghy

Exploring by dinghy

The sun was as brilliant as our mood as we set out around Bell Island by dinghy the next day, rounding Pasture Cay and passed actor Johnny Deppe’s private Little Halls Pond Cay. There was one boat in the Little Halls Pond anchorage (where our friends on Destiny and Song of Pogo received a bouquet of flowers and bottle of champagne at Christmas from Johnny Deppe’s organization) and one on the O’Brien’s Cay park mooring. We tied up to the dinghy mooring next to a rocky outcropping off the end of O’Brien’s Cay which marked the Exuma Cays Park’s “Sea Aquarium”.

Sea Aquarium

Sea Aquarium

Donning snorkeling gear we jumped into the clear calm water, to find ourselves immediately in a magical underwater world of abundant reef fish and coral, sunlight streaming through to provide clear visibility. Words cannot adequately describe the amazing spectrum of colours  – fish, sponges and coral (wall and free-standing and a few pillars).  Stripey sergeant majors, tangs, angelfish, neons, parrotfish, grunts and others surrounded us. Definitely the best snorkeling we have experienced in the Bahamas and at least as good as the BVI’s.  It was fun to share with a good friends and traveling companions of the last few months, Claude and Marie too. Here is a taste of what this was like for us:

We climbed back into the dinghy and went over to snorkel a downed single-engine piper aircraft nearby.  There was not a lot to see there but some nice coral clumps nearby and Steve got some good shots of a small ray and a barracuda.

See the rest of our photo journal for our best-ever snorkelling day!

Ray near downed aircraft

Ray near downed aircraft

Afterwards we explored the local area by dinghy, checking out the Cambridge Cay mooring area which is managed by the park and looks like a good place to stay – close to nice beaches and great snorkeling. We stopped to walk on a low-tide sandbar and Steve got a great shot of a smallish nurse shark which was also exploring the bar. We then went over to Rocky Dundas, the grottos on which are rumoured to be as good as Thunderball, but by the time we got there, we had lost the advantage of slack tide, and with the exposure to the sea, the waves were slapping hard against the low entrance, so we chose not to snorkel it. Instead we meandered back to our anchorage at Bell Island.   We had enjoyed a magnificent morning, and decided to weigh anchor and make for Shroud Cay, which we did.

We stopped for a walk on a sand bay near Cambridge Cay

We stopped for a walk on a sand bay near Cambridge Cay

In fact we were able to sail once again most of the way, amazed that we had just topped our “perfect” sail the day before. We dropped anchor just south of the Parks mooring field on Shroud Cay, where there were about 7 other boats anchored and a few on the moorings. There was lost of space and good depth and holding. We rounded out the day sharing sundowners and fish tacos with Claude and Marie on Tai Chi using up the left-over Mahi Mahi from “Off the Grid” (and On-the-Rocks).

Rocky Dundas

Rocky Dundas

Map:

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