We left Cambridge Cay with Hemisphere and headed just over 20 miles south to Blackpoint where we stayed for 2 nights. Blackpoint is a friendly village that offers some hard to find amenities to cruisers. For example the laundromat and disposing of 2 weeks worth of trash were our first two stops. Laundromats are very rare in the Exumas (I can think of 2 self serve places) so while Meghan and I waited for the washers and dryers do their thing Kent, Bob and the kids explored a bit.
Turns out they found that the small grocery store down the road had a decent selection of fresh produce. Finding fresh broccoli was a nice surprise because the two times we stopped in last year the produce shelves and canned/dry goods shelves were completely bare.
The following day we dodged rain showers most of the day, tried one (ok, it was really two) of Scorpio’s rum punches and then had dinner with Hemisphere at Lorraines restaurant. Fresh mahi accompanied the standard Bahamian rice and peas at a reasonable price. It was a delicious dinner and a nice change from cooking on the boat.
Next stop for us was a new one and instantly a favorite. Just 6 miles south from Blackpoint is Whitepoint. When we left Blackpoint there were ~20 boats in the anchorage. At Whitepoint it was just us and Hemisphere for the first night and then then Beyond Karen (Joe & Karen) joined us the second night. We had last seen Beyond Karen on the west coast of Florida so it was fun to catch up. Finding an anchorage with just a few boats is rare and to top it off this spot happened to have a beautiful beach for walking and great water for swimming/paddleboarding.
With one eye on the weather for the week we started to make our way north. We spent one night at Staniel Cay, had fish sandwiches at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and snorkeled Thunderbolt Grotto which is an underwater cave. The grotto got its name from the James Bond spy film "Thunderball," which was shot there. Staniel Cay is where the famous swimming pigs are. We had seen them twice last year and so did not go to the effort to see them again this time around.
We peeked at the small grocery store and picked up some spinach ($8/bag – everything in the Bahamas is 2x what you would see in the US) and limes. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with our timing at the stores for fresh produce as it can very much be hit or miss.
Our next stop was 40 miles north at Normand’s Cay where we stayed for 2 nights. Normand’s Cay served as the headquarters for Carlos Lehder's drug-smuggling operation from 1978 – 1982. The island was a strategic point for Colombian drug flights to refuel and rest before heading to the United States. Today there is still an airport with a short runway but very little development.
Normand's was a new stop for us and entering the anchorage is a bit tricky. We slowly snaked our way into “the pond” around several sandbanks. It is a place we can only enter at high tide and even then we often saw just 2 ft under our keel. Once inside the pond it was like being in a big lake and very protected. Due to the challenging entry/exit there were only 5 other boats anchored with us. A nice change from Staniel Cay which can feel like a crowded spot.
This was a great stop with plenty to do. A long beach with firm sand for walking was a 5 min dingy ride away, there was a trail that lead to a dirt road for running and clear (shark free) waters for swimming/paddle boarding or just floating.
Again with one eye still on the weather we knew we needed to seek some shelter for a few days. We had made reservations in advance at Highborne Marina because there there are only a few places to hide out in the westerly winds when at the north end of the Exuma chain. We pulled into Highborne with Hemisphere, which is where we met them for the first time last year.
Highborne Marina is THE nicest marina we have stayed at in our entire trip, both in and outside of the US. It comes with a hefty price tag but you have access to several nice private beaches, a very good restaurant, friendly staff and a clean well cared for property/island. Highborne is a stop for many large yachts and they cater to that standard.
While at Highborne we celebrated Meghan’s birthday, watched the Superbowl, reunited with Scaliwag (Parker & Leslie), enjoyed a final visit with Beyond Karen (Joe & Karen) and enjoyed what the property had to offer.
Our future intentions are to head back south to the area that makes up the Exuma Land & Sea Park and explore some specific areas we had missed last year and when we first crossed over from Bimini. Internet will be spotty but we will post again when we can.