Williams Cay - Exumas

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 18 Jan 2017 00:00
Williams Cay  23:45.60N, 076:05.32W
Finally after almost two weeks we escaped the hustle and bustle of George Town life. But probably not for too long as there was another whopping great cold front due the next week with 50-60 knot winds expected in thunderstorms - according to the people in the know. But for now we had three days of utterly benign weather to drop the anchor in some secluded spot. A secluded spot being one that doesn’t have one hundred and fifty or so other boats within a mile of your anchoring location as George Town has.
There wasn’t much in the way of wind to sail by so we motored out of Conch Cay Cut heading northwest twenty or so miles up the Exuma chain. Two of the three days proved to be ‘bottle it’ days. Just perfect with the Exuma Banks reflecting back that beautiful emerald blue colour they are known for throughout the world. But back to the twenty five mile motoring trip which provided some wonderful fishing drama just off Bird Cay.
A lot of people have been successfully hauling in Mahi Mahi in Exuma Sound just north from George Town. We had three lines out hoping for a change in our luck. After an hour or so we were rewarded with the remarkable spectacle of all three lines suddenly becoming bar taught followed immediately by three fish erupting from the water in their individual attempts to avoid capture.  Mahi Mahi are well known for doing this which is why it’s such a great sustainable sporting fish. Regrettably for us in the act of flying out of the water all three lines became entangled and amazingly all three fish escaped off their various hooks. We took the engines into neutral to sort out the mess of fishing lines only to witness the sight of a whole school of young Mahi Mahi just stationary in the crystal-clear water at the stern of the boat. There were hundreds of the beautiful things. A spear gun would have been a more efficient means of capture than a fishing lure. But alas not allowed under Bahamian law.  ‘Skip’ tried to entice them to take one of the lures he had untangled but they were having none of it. So we threw two of the lures back in and rammed the engines into gear and sped off. Now with some reasonable movement in the lures the school must have set off in pursuit and within a minute our starboard line went taught and we finally pulled in a modest 5lb Mahi Mahi for dinner. Incredibly, as we hauled it towards the boat another Mahi from the school was actively chasing the captured one.  Having landed the fish we popped him (her actually) into a black bin liner which other folks have suggested keeps the fish quiet. Actually it’s to cover the eyes which stops them going berserk when they see some ugly guy about to give them a good seeing to. Did it work? Well, yes and no. Yes, initially but then the fish’s tail and fins broke through the thin plastic and we gave up on it. Maybe a simple magicians blindfold might work better.
The rest of the trip passed without further drama. Having had four fish on the lines we had just one to show for it. This was ‘dealt with’ before entering the banks leaving four meals in the fridge and the remainder of the carcass being recycled several hundred feet down in Exuma Sound.
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First fishy of the season to be landed – 5lb Mahi Mahi. Just about squeezed four meals from this one! Why the black bin liner?
We anchored off Williams Cay which is close-by the now defunct Caribbean Research Centre at Lee Stocking Island. This area is very pretty with miles of shallow flats providing idyllic places to anchor. Lee Stocking itself boasts the highest point in the Exumas with some lovely beaches. In the flat calm water we took a dinghy trip for a couple of miles around the anchorage where the research HQ had been. The following day we dinghied out to the ‘Tug and Barge’ rocks with barely a ripple on the water for the mile long trip. So named when viewed from a distance they look exactly as that – a tug towing a barge. There were quite a few fish to be seen amongst some pretty coral outcrops just off the bottom. ‘Skip’ took his spear (not gun – sling) and did a good job of scaring the living daylights out of fish not usually confronted with such an object in their secluded environment. At least the ‘Admiral’ missed having to remove the spear from her posterior in the process of his hunt!
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Williams Cay from the banks side, nice beach to walk and fine views from the top of the hill looking westwards
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Williams Cay the ocean side – well, Exuma Sound really. Rare to see the flat water with the reefs clearly visible
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Craggy rock face                                                                                                                                                       Craggy face
Some friends arrived in the anchorage in their catamarans and in fact, as a sign of modern sailing trends by the end of that day there were six catamarans and no monohulls in the Williams Cay anchorage. All from different manufacturers. One sailed from South Africa and ours from the UK. Typically ours was by far the oldest of the fleet. At the end of the afternoon most of us were standing or sitting in knee-deep water just off the beach drinking cocktails and munching on coconut or popcorn out of a large circular bowl that floated between everyone when given a slight shove to send it to it’s next port of call. Such events and the day itself are magic moments in the cruising lifestyle and are the complete opposite of sitting onboard for days on end with strong winds testing the anchor, chain and captive crew to their limits.
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The afternoon gathering. Why were we not on the beach? The pesky sand flies and no-see-ums, that’s why! The floating popcorn bowl was popular until too many wet hands had delved in
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These are the beautiful days
All good things come to an end. (And so do most bad things thank goodness). It was time to leave the area and head for protection ready for that next strong cold front due to arrive just after the weekend.