Harbor View Vacation Rental in Exuma

Planning A Day Boating In Elizabeth Harbour-part-two

In the last story I suggested how to spend a morning on a Minns rental boat exploring Elizabeth Harbour.  I left you feeling hungry and on the south side of Stocking Island.  Well, we are spoilt for dining choice !  

chat N chill

We can go to Chat and Chill, anchor off their soft sand beach, and visit our host KB and wife Kwanza, at the bar and enjoy a drink and meal, or stroll along the beach to the Conch Shack.  Here we have a conch salad, a Bahamian speciality, which we can enjoy while we watch the family of Sting Rays that live offshore and are waiting for your conch scraps.

stingrays

Alternatively we can sit down in the restaurant and experience a wider selection of fare at St Francis Resort.  Run and owned by George and Jillian

Recently the Peace & Plenty Hotel in George Town set up a beach bar. Again we anchor just off their soft powder sand beach, listen to some Bahamian music and down a Kalik, the local and highly rated beer,  while waiting for a wholesome burger from their BBQ.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

If we are in the mood for something a little more fancy,  with a touch of luxury, then we would go into the Eastern hurricane hole and tie up at the dock of Kahari Resort Restaurant.  Your not limited here to just burgers, their cuisine is more exotic, and delicious.

Before closing the book on eating on Stocking Island. Let me remind you that you don’t have to rent a boat to dine there. You can get the water taxi from Town to take you to any of these welcoming spots.

So we have quenched our thirst, downed some food and we are ready to continue exploring the Harbour.  Next stop is about a mile west where we find a dock. Now for some exercise. Those of us who are fit and able start the path that climbs through twists and turns, and is steep.  Eventually you come out at the monument on the highest point on Stocking Island (maybe the highest in all Exuma  !).  Stop. Catch your breath and admire the 360 degree view. 

Salt Monuments

The monument was build centuries ago as an indication to passing ships that salt was available.   Return to the dock and energy permitting, walk along the beautiful beach to a deserted building which marks the start of the footpath that takes you over to the Ocean. Tide permitting,  you may be able to walk and explore some of the rock pools and search for some attractive shells.

All aboard !   After a leisurely swim in the 80+ water we will head across the Harbour, traveling southwest and skim past the February Point development and on towards Flamingo Bay where we can pass under the “Bridge to Nowhere”.  This elaborate structure, built in the Italian style, was originally planned to provide access from Great Exuma to the planned development of Crab Cay.  I related in a previous story how Crab Cay was bought by the Murphy Family, the largest pig farmers in the US.  Their plan was to build an Italian style village with restaurants and top end health facilities and then multi-million dollar villas, plus a marina capable of docking some of the Worlds dream yachts. After a couple of years of expense the construction came to a holt.  All we have left to record the sad story is the Bridge to Nowhere.

Crab Cay Exuma

Want to see more?  or do you want to just sit on one of the many beautiful and deserted beaches and relax in the blue tropical waters?  

Time is marching on and I suggest we head back.  Skipper the boat through Kidd Cove, so named after the famous pirate Captain Kidd, who was reputed to have spent some time in Exuma (he did not stay at Harbour View although a few of his doubloons would have been appreciated). Slow down as we approach the low bridge we have to pass under to get into Lake Victoria.  Don’t slow down too much or the strong current will take over and steer you off course. So engine up, under the bridge and back to Minns dock where their efficient staff will refuel the boat while you complete the paperwork in the office.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how little fuel you have used.  So an eventful day, hope you  enjoyed it. 

Minns Water Sports Exuma
Minns Water Sports Exuma

Planning A Day Boating in Elizabeth Harbour

Elizabeth Harbour

Over the years we have helped rental guests at Harbour View plan a days boat rental in Elizabeth Harbour.  So if you are planning to enjoy a day on the water exploring the delights of Elizabeth Harbour you may find the following story helpful in getting the most out of your trip.

Minns Water Sports have a fleet of boats ranging in size from 15ft to 22ft.  Most of the smaller boats are Boston Whalers. A catamaran hull with a 50 horse outboard. They are based in George Town and after a briefing, which includes anchoring, limits of travel and safety equipment, you self drive from the pond into the main Harbour. Each boat has a hand held radio, an anchor and safety vests and a map.

boat rental

One thing you need to know before you set off is the times of low tide and high tide.  Knowing the time of low tide enables you to decide in which order you visit the many attractions the Harbour has to offer.  Let’s assume that low tide is around 9am. In that case we recommend you head East down the Harbour, passing between the colored buoys ( red right returning) that mark the gap in the coral reef halfway down the Harbour. Keep going for about half an hour till you reach the sandbar on the West side of Man O War Cay.  Anchor the boat in the shallows on the eastern side of the sandbar and explore  this pristine sandy stretch for about half a mile.

If you find starfish on the sand put them back in the water.

sandbar

Taken enough photos?  Let’s up anchor, circle round the southern end of the sand bar. Always remember that the paler the color of the water, the shallower the depth. Now with a quick check to the map, head for Fowl Cay.  This Cay is the Eastern most of the Cays that surround Elizabeth Harbour, and its also the best snorkeling area.  Upon arrival attach your bow line to one of the mooring buoys. Do NOT anchor. If you anchor your anchor will almost certainly damage the coral.  Plus it may get stuck and you could have trouble retrieving it. So snorkel to your hearts content in the gap between Fowl Cay and Guana Cay.  The area is sometimes subject to a swell from the Ocean so if your snorkel skills are limited you could wait to the next stop.

snorkeling in Exuma
snorkeling in Exuma

Untie from the mooring buoy and head West staying several hundred yards offshore. always watch out for dark patches which are probably coral heads. The grey patches you also see are usually turtle grass or just shadows of clouds. You get acclimatized to read the water after a few trips. After Guana Cay the next island is Elizabeth Cay.  As you motor, look over to your left and find those red and green buoys you passed between earlier. This time motor over there slowly and anchor in sand. Not in the channel. Now you are in about 4 to 7 ft of calm water easy for snorkeling to see the many brightly colored fish of all shapes and sizes.

Sand dollar
Sand dollar

Back over towards Elizabeth Cay. At the western end is another shallow patch with ankle deep water that is worth exploring and hunt for sand dollars.  These circular creatures live in and on the sand. The live ones are grey. Leave them alone. Find the white ones, they are dead and make a nice decoration. Problem is they are fragile (paint them with clear Elmers Glue to preserve them). 

Deans Blue Hole Bahamas
Deans Blue Hole Bahamas

Up anchor and head West to the hurricane holes.  These are on the South side of Stocking Island, and as the name implies, this is where boats would anchor when a hurricane was forecast.  Two areas of water surrounded with hill and just a narrow entrance.  Motor into the western hole and you will be faced with about 30 offshore cruising boats that owners have parked while they fly home for some reason. Check the map to locate a “Blue Hole”.  This is a vertical cave which extends out to the Ocean. It’s not safe to dive as there is a strong current.Blue Holes are always swarming with fish in clear water.

Exuma Sound

It is worth noting that a large part of Elizabeth Harbour is part of the Moriah Harbour Cay National Park.

Ready for lunch?  You have several options.  There are four options on Stocking Island.

But let’s leave that for another story. Along with ideas of how to spend your boating afternoon.

Sailboats in Exuma

Exuma Sound

Every year from November onwards cruising yachts start arriving in Elizabeth Harbour in Exuma. Then over the next two months we get a daily intake, weather permitting, of more yachts until we have a fleet of around 400 cruising yachts in Exuma.

cruising yachts in Exuma

The boats arrivals coincides with the end of hurricane season and on a calm day you will see a line of sails on the horizon approaching the entrance to the harbour.

Each yacht will fly a flag at the stern of their boat,  the flag of their country of registry. So you will see mainly US Stars and Stripes, Union Jacks, and Canadian maple leafs.  Amongst that fleet will also be boats from many Europian countries and probably some Australian. As they arrive they will fly a yellow flag from the spreaders which indicates that the yacht has yet to check in with customs and immigration.

Some yachts are live-aboard cruisers, whose boat is their home, many of them will live on board for several years and some have children aboard. Some are snowbirds, heading south to escape the winter weather others will be cruising the Caribbean islands.

The boats vary in size and design, from 30 foot monohulls and catamarans, to 100+ foot mega yachts.  With 400 boats  that equates to over a thousand persons, which obviously plays a significant part to the local economy. The social life of the boaters is pretty hectic with daily volley ball matches, mass organized dinghy trips to various beaches and restaurants and culminating with  week long festivities at the cruising regatta. Events will include competitions in: The round-the island-yacht-race, talent shows, treasure hunts and sand sculptures.

boats at dock

Each morning the boats will listen to their vhf radios for weather forecasts and if there is a threat of strong winds in the future days then they often move their vessel to a more sheltered location, which is easily done in a large harbour that encloses many smaller islands.

The season starts in November and runs through to Easter, when many either start heading North to their summer home, or head  South to continue their Caribbean or even their circumnavigation.

This coming winter is expected to be busier than ever due to the devastation in the Northern Bahamas caused by hurricane Dorian. This monster storm ravaged The Abacos and Grand Bahama islands. Two of the islands that many cruisers visit. So where will they go this year?  Only time will tell, but many are expected to head on down to Great Exuma thus increasing the boat count for 2019-2020, and some years to come.