Central Exumas: Big Major's, Staniel Cay, Black Point
The Central Exumas are located south of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Fishing, conching, lobstering are now legal, if in season. Vessels traveling on the banks route inside may cruise closer to the western shore of the cays, within a mile or less of the cays, which makes for scenic cruises from cay to cay.
Big Major's Cay
Big Major's Cay is a very popular anchorage, and is a comfortable, protected spot in all but westerly winds. The cay is about a mile long and the whole island is a series of steep hills and valleys. However, the main attraction here is not the beach, not the island, not the pretty water....
When Pigs Fly?....... uh, I mean Swim!
Swim, you say? Yes, that's right.... swimming pigs! The swimming pigs of Big Major's are the major tourist attraction and celebrities of this little cay. The pigs come swimming to greet you upon your arrival at Big Major's as soon as you come close to shore in your dinghy. Don't they look innocent?? All cuddly and sweet???
Not a chance! These "little" piggies are expecting (and demand!) to be fed. Bread and lettuce are their favorites...... If you don't produce the goods soon enough, the largest of the pigs (really, I think they should be called swimming HOGS... because these pigs weigh 400-500 pounds!) will swim up to your dinghy and try to get a hoof-hold (is that a word???) on the dingy tubes and try to get in with you to grab the grub! The pigs really aren't wild, as they were placed on the island years ago by a couple of Staniel Cay residents. There are several adult pigs on the island, as well as some baby piglets. As for us, we came by dinghy, fed the pigs, fended off the pigs, and scurried back to our boat! No shore visits for us!
Nearby Staniel Cay is a stop to many boats traveling in the Exumas. The main attraction on the island is the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The club is like an average small-town bar.
With only 80 full time residents on Staniel Cay, everyone knows everyone. But you never know who you'll meet at the bar... whether they be someone who just pulled in on a multi-million dollar yacht, a sailor who has sailed his yacht halfway around the world, or a sailor who sails the Exumas six months out of the year.... Sailing pennants from all over the world adorn the interior of the bar as a testament to these far-flung sailors. LA and Rene raise a glass and we celebrate making it to the heart of the Central Exumas.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club has an interesting history. Florida businessman Joe Hocher established the Yacht Club in the 1950's. He built up the club with a business partner in the 60's and the 70's, followed by a partner falling-out and legal battle in the 1980's. In 2003, with Joe's son David now involved in the business, Joe got up early one morning and got in his plane. Although Joe was a pilot and it was not uncommon for him to take solo flights, they never heard from him again. David now owns the business and maintains the small island charm.
Each day boats go out to the pristine Caribbean Sea for the day and return at supper time with fantastic catches of snapper, lobster, and grouper. Stingrays and nurse sharks circle the fish cleaning station in anticipation of the fish that provides their daily meal.
There are several grocery stores (the "pink" store, the "blue" store, and Isle Grocery) on the island for provisioning, as well as the bread lady's "yellow store", which is actually her home where she sells freshly baked breads... white, wheat, and to-die-for coconut bread.. $6/loaf.
Staniel Cay has a small airport, and it is a centrally located place in the Exumas for visitors to fly in to vacation aboard visiting yachts. Our friend Martha visited us and flew into Staniel... it was not a quick or inexpensive trip, though. She had to fly to Fort Lauderdale, spend the night, then make an early morning flight the next day to Andros Island for customs check-in, then on to Staniel Cay, arriving at 9:30 a.m. We picked her up at the airport, then toured the island by golf cart. That afternoon, we weighed anchor and took off on an eleven day tour of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. After a wonderful trip, we returned to Staniel Cay so that Martha could catch a flight home the next morning.
Laundry, Laundry.... what do you do about Laundry???
Well, there are several options.... find a laundromat.... find someone that does laundry in their home.... or, or, or..... do it yourself on board. At one time or another, all of these options find their way into your cruising lifestyle. The Exumas Land and Sea Park are very remote... so, I found myself doing the laundry just as I planned to do on board.... with a bucket and a toilet plunger (yes, a plunger that had NEVER been used in a toilet!). So, fill the bucket with some water, add some laundry detergent, and get busy... sometimes, you can even elicit help from a good friend and eager boat guest! Martha had a good time "plunging", but somehow, I think she was glad to see her Magtag when she got home!
Great Guana Cay
After Martha caught her flight in Staniel, LA and I traveled down to Great Guana Cay to the settlement known as Black Point. On the trip to Great Guana Cay, we passed Gaulin Cay. The eastern shore is a series of white cliffs 20 to 50 feet high. There is a small colony of iguanas on the cay... Even though few people have seen them, we did indeed see them. We dinghied down to Gaulin Cay from Black Point, hiked up to the top of the cliffs and the view from the top was spectacular.
Black Point is the largest town in the Northern and Central Exumas. It has a large anchorage and is a good stopping-off place for cruisers. It has a nice grocery store, and has the best laundry in the Exumas... Rockside Laundromat. No bucket and plunger for me here.... I did five loads of laundry at $7 a load, and I was GLAD to pay it! An extra added bonus... Ida cuts hair... so I got a $20 haircut, too. Truly a full-service place!
The main attraction in Black Point is Lorraine's Cafe. It is THE spot for local Bahamian fare (fresh fish and conch), fresh-baked bread, cable TV, and internet access. It is where cruisers congregate to catch up on the latest... cruising stories and destinations... and what's happening in the outside world, and drink a beer.. or two.. or three! Lorraine Rolle, the owner, is an unofficial ambassador of the island and friend to all cruisers.
The residents of Great Guana Cay rely on farming, fishing, and plaiting for their living. The men of Black Point are known for their fishing prowess. As we walked through town, many of the residents were sitting outside plaiting. They send their baskets, hats and other crafts via mail boat to Nassau, where they are sold at the Nassau straw markets.
After visiting Black Point for several days, we headed down to Little Farmer's Cay to drop the hook for the night, and make an outside passage down the island chain to George Town.
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