In this issue, our Bahamas series is going to explore the 60 mile long chain of small islands, rocks, and reefs called the Jumentos Cays (northern part) and the Ragged Islands (southern part). They extend south from George Town in the Exumas and since there is only one settlement and no services in the whole chain the farther south you go the fewer other cruisers you will see.
At the north end you will find Water Cay. Here you can find some nice beaches and limestone cliffs, but the most interesting thing is the three ocean holes a mile or so from the island. These sit in about 20 feet of water and are circular in shape. A rim has built up around the edge and there is a dramatic drop off in the center, where the holes are over 100 feet deep. You will love motoring over them and snorkeling inside the rim.
Our next island is Flamingo Cay, due to the resident birds, and you can find the shrimp flamingos get their pink color from in some of the watering holes. Of the three nice beaches, the one on the north coast has a small airplane wreckage 10 feet from shore. Make sure you check out the awesome cave where you can drive your dinghy inside and beach it. You will also find the John T Davis wrecked against the shore. If you hike along the trails you might find curly tail lizards among the ruggedly beautiful landscapes and climbing the light tower gives you great views of the island.
Eight miles south along the chain you will find Jamaica Cay, home to a small, abandoned resort, which you can now poke around and check out the ruined remains. I must admit I found the welcome sign with the no trespassing next to it ironic. You may also see rabbits on the islands. The local fishermen like to catch them and take them home to their kids as pets.
Our next stop has a mile and a half long, half moon shaped, sandy beach and is Buena Vista Cay. This is a wonderful place to walk along the sandy shore or just relax the day away on a beach.
While snorkeling over at Raccoon Cay you will find some wonderful and shallow reefs. But the thing I enjoyed the most in these islands was following a small canal and discovering the remains of a salt plantation. I have seen salt pans before, but not with such an abundance of pure salt. This gives you an idea of how it dries and how pure it can be once you get the water to evaporate.
Our final stop is at the only settlement, Duncan Town. In order to get to the town you must anchor out near a small island with a memorial to victims of a hurricane. From here you dinghy down a long channel in order to arrive at the small settlement of around 75 people. Once here make sure you check out the Eagle Nest restaurant, which is built with an old airliner in it.
Just think at this point you are closer to Cuba than to George Town in the Exumas, which tells you how remote The Jumentos and Ragged Islands are. Next month we will jump offshore from here and check out the Acklins island group.
Visit www.svGuidingLight.com to read more from Captain Shane about the Bahamas, Caribbean, life aboard, world traveling, and more. You might also want to check out his travel video series.