We awoke bright and early to check out of the marina and fill up with diesel before sailing from Nassau to Allens Cay (pronounced “key”) in the northern Exumas. At 9:00 we finished fueling and I radioed Nassau Harbor Control for permission to exit the Eastern Channel. A whole fleet of boats left around the same time for various Exuma islands. At least two others chose Allens Cay. This made sense, since Allens Cay offers some protection from westerly winds and the forecast called for 30 knot winds from the west!
About 2 ½ hours after leaving Nassau, we arrived at the Yellow Bank. The Yellow Bank is a region of coral heads that may be as shallow as 3 feet. The cruising charts warn boaters not to use autopilot and hand steer at a reduced to speed to wind your way through the coral heads. We gladly obliged and Dave slowed to 4 knots while mom and I stood on the bow directing Dave around sharp dark patches in the water – which is how the corals look from the boat. This lasted for 3 miles, then it was easy cruising again. We motored from Nassau and hoped to put the sails up after we passed the Yellow Bank, but there just wasn’t enough wind and we motored all the way to Allens Cay, approximately 35 miles.
More boats than expected sought refuge at Allens Cay and we struggled to find a place to drop anchor. We ended up being nearest the entrance and would be the most affected by the wind and surge. However, we can ride it out much more comfortably than a monohull – just as long as our anchor holds!
Once securely anchored, we lowered the dinghy and took a tour of the anchorage, investigating the bottom material (soft vs. hard, coral vs. sea grass), the water depth, and the iguanas on the beach. Allens Cay, a collection of small islands that form a circle around the anchorage, is known for all the iguanas on the islands. We did not see any iguanas when we came into the anchorage, but soon noticed 20-30 of the fattest (and perhaps ugliest) iguanas we have ever seen on the small sandy beach. I mean these guys are fat! We wondered what they found to eat on the island to make them so obese, but Dave read in a guide that tourist boats come in and feed them as an attraction. The iguanas are protected by law and you are not supposed to feed, touch, or harass them in anyway – but you know people.
Well, we will go ashore and take a closer look at them tomorrow (weather permitting) or the next day. We are going to be here at least two nights. But for now, we are going back to the boat to cook up some wahoo a marina neighbor gave me for helping them move their boat and uncork a bottle of wine to celebrate the true beginning of our cruising days. We both feel that everything up to this point has been preparation for this.