White Pepper has long wished to visit the Jumentoes also known as the Ragged Island Chain. The Jumentoes are a chain of small windswept limestone out croppings that mark the southeastern edge of the Great Bahama Bank. The last island is Ragged Island where Duncan Town stands on a low ridge only 60 miles from Cuba. Cuba is actually closer to Duncan Town than George Town which is the next nearest habitation.
White Pepper visited the northern two islands, Water Cay and Flamingo Cay, in 2014 before turning back due to electrical and refrigeration problems.
The Jumentoes are uninhabited except for 60 souls hanging on at Duncan Town. There are no services, no water, no fresh groceries, no booze, no fuel, and no rescue. There are few places to ride out a frontal weather passage and no harbors with 360 degree protection. When the wind blows hard from the East the 8 mile wide Nurse Channel is impassable. White Pepper's plan for dealing with these difficulties was to wait until late Spring to visit when the weather is better. Finally we got a long spell of forecasted settled weather in early May.
This year we dropped anchor first at Water Cay after a long motor sail from George Town around Sandy Cay and through the Comer Channel at near high tide.
The white bluffs at Water Cay
The next day dawned clear and calm—perfect conditions to transit the difficult Man of War Channel and Nurse Channel. During most of the day there were not even ripples on the water and the bottom was clearly visible. It was like motoring in our own private aquarium.
Sailing on top of our own aquarium
After motoring about 40 miles and crossing the Nurse Channel the first stop was Buenavista Cay. Only one person, Ed Lockhart, lives on Buenavista Cay and we anchored just in front of his house. The house has been under construction for years. Ed was born and raised on the site. After many years he has returned to homestead and reclaim his family's heritage.
Ron and Ed Lockhart on Buenavista Cay
Buenavista Cay has the longest beach in the Jumentoes. We were able to walk most of it in one morning. However, by noon it was up anchor and on to our ultimate destination, Hog Cay, near Duncan Town. Our friends, Ron and Linda, on Escape from Reality were waiting for us at the Hog Cay Yacht Club, which is really just a nice halapa on the beach. Ed told us that he build the structure.
The Hog Cay Yacht Club
Hog Cay hosts a regular contingent of cruiser's for most of the winter. As in George Town the cruisers have hacked out trails. We followed on of these through a pond and on to a perfect small beach on the Atlantic. After Hog Cay White Pepper headed north to the next cay, Raccoon Cay. Raccoon Cay turned out to be out favorite with beautiful beaches, great shelling and fantastic snorkeling off the beach.
At Raccoon Cay with friends, note boats in the background
The Atlantic side of Hog Cay. There was very little plastic on the beach probably due to the efforts of the winter cruisers.
We made another stop at Buenavista Cay and were able to meet Ed and his son. The next day had favorable tide and weather to recross the Nurse Channel although we had to leave at dawn. By leaving early we were able to anchor at Flamingo Cay at noon. During this leg White Pepper was challenged to an informal race by new friends, Yens and Sandra, on Kobald.
Racing Kobald in Man of War Channel
Flamingo Cay is known for spectacular snorkeling and its “dingy drive in” cave. We were fortunate to be able to spend two and half delightful days there in mild conditions.
The dingy cave
Inside the dingy cave near low tide
Jens and Sandra at Flamingo Cay in front of a pond. The red color is due to a biological process.
For the trip back to the Exumas White Pepper went up the back side or sout' side which will be the subject of another post.
Treasures of the Beach