Musha Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Following the festivities of the Long Island Regatta in the Bahamas in early June (see previous newsletter) Paul and I sailed back to George Town, Great Exuma, to wait for the arrival of friend Kuno Kurschner flying in from Vancouver, Canada, to join us for a few days of sailing together before we head north this weekend.
George Town has an international airport so it's a great place to have friends and/or crew fly in to meet you right in the heart of what we consider the world's most beautiful cruising and diving destinations.
Currently (June 2014) there are direct flights from Toronto to George Town via Air Canada on Sundays which for us Torontonians is fantastic but there are also great links from the USA from major hubs and several airlines and small charter companies fly here as well so there are lots of options. Many Europeans find the Exumas a pretty easy to reach too. Click here for more information about flights to George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas.
Right in the main harbour there are several beautiful natural anchorages off Stocking Island, Crab Cay and others but with easy dinghy access to the shops, restaurants, and many services found in George Town.
Within minutes of meeting Kuno at the airport and settling him onto the boat, a friendly dolphin appeared and Kuno started his visit aboard Distant Shores II with a magical half-hour in-water dolphin encounter. Paul has had fun playing with this dolphin and has filmed her playing with people and dogs on previous visits to George Town. (See newsletter.) You'll see the footage in episode #122 of Distant Shores season 10.
Paul and Kuno Kurschner at the helm of Distant Shores II
Kuno and his family cruised in the Caribbean and Bahamas several years ago aboard their sailboat, SV Blue Moon. His wife, Renata, kept a really good blog called “Once on a Blue Moon – Travels Around the World” that you will find interesting if you're planning a similar voyage.
After a day in George Town doing some more snorkeling at the Mystery Cave in Hurricane Hole 3 close to the Chat and Chill Beach Bar, a cruiser's favourite, we had a lovely downwind sail north in the sound up north to Rudder Cut Cay where we entered the banks and later anchored off Cave Cay for the night.
Next day we motor-sailed back south on the banks to Lee Stocking Island on the banks side of the Exumas looking for sand bars where we could dry out the boat to inspect the cutlass bearing which needed adjusting. But with the large moon tides we couldn't find a spot that would dry out sufficiently to beach the boat for a long enough time so anchored at Lee Stocking Island off the abandoned marine research centre.
Sangria sundowners aboard SV Distant Shores II anchored off Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas
The day before Kuno was to fly home we continued south on the shallow banks side of the Exumas to Barreterre (pronounced locally as Barry Tarry) at the north end of Great Exuma where we re-entered the sound for a close-reach back to George Town to see Kuno safely back to the airport for his flight home to Vancouver.
Dive on Angelfish Blue Hole
To conclude our own visit to George Town, Great Exuma, the last one for this season, we organized a scuba diving outing with Dive Exuma, the local dive operator in George Town, to do a dive to 90-feet into the Angelfish Blue Hole. You can snorkel over the entrance in Hurricane Hole #3 between Kevalli House Marina and Cottages and the St. Francis Resort and see the many fish that hang out there but Paul wanted to get down into the caverns to film the experience for an episode of Distant Shores season 10.
An hour to an hour and a half after high tide is the best time to dive here, Dive Exuma manager Tamara McGaw-Robinson told us. The water in the blue hole is flowing out of the hole at this time so when the current picks up you will be forced out, not in, to the tunnels that run under Stocking Island. (The flow of water in the blue holes are different to the surrounding currents due to their configurations.) Also the water from the sound is extremely clear and full of nutrients that attract many fish and often eagle rays so this is the best as well as safest time for diving, filming and seeing the most marine life. At other times of the tide the water is flowing from the sandy banks so the water is slightly murky and not as appealing to marine life plus the currents can be dangerous.
It's less than a 10-minute boat ride out to the dive site for the Angelfish Blue Hole which is in a very flat protected bay. The surrounding water is also quite shallow so is good for snorkeling too making this a great dive for all levels of divers, especially family groups where not everyone might be an advanced diver but everyone can have a fun diving experience together at the same location.
Paul descending into the Angelfish Bluehole, Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas
In fact, a new diver did training at the surface in 10-feet of water for her Open Water Dive Certification with dive instructor, Danielle Scott, while the rest of the group did the advanced bluehole dive right in the same place.
The dive in Angelfish Bluehole was an exhilarating dive with a small friendly group of divers visiting from Alabama. (They limit this dive to 4-6 divers due to the confined space in the bluehole). Paul had free-dived into the entrance at about 15-20 feet but was in heaven exploring the large cavern and tunnels further down using tanks.
There were indeed grey angelfish feeding on the sponges as well as many other fish such as this grouper.
Grouper at the entrance to the Anglefish Bluehole, Exumas, Bahamas
As the current started to build it became a real effort to move around the hole and dive master and boat captain, Jonathon Robinson, finally called an end to the dive which is about 45 minutes in length.
We are now back on board, Distant Shores II, stocking up the boat for our trip north through the Exumas to the Abacos.
Stay tuned for more adventures cruising in the Bahamas!