To the Jumento Cays

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sun 19 Feb 2017 19:26
Flamingo & Water Cay – Jumento Cays   22:52.19N, 075:52.19W
The opportunity presented itself for us to visit the Jumentos and Ragged Islands, a chain of small islands almost totally uninhabited except for Ragged Island itself which has a small community of hardy souls. Most of the regular visitors go for the hunting. The numerous coral reefs provide an excellent opportunity to bag a lobster or two. There’s plenty of fish life as well and of course an abundance of the big grey fish with the fins. It’s not the sort of area for night swimming. Especially if the local fishermen have just processed their daily catch and dumped all the unwanted parts back into the water in the anchorage you happen to be in.
From Long Island there is a shallow channel running for some 18 miles across the shallow banks which opens out onto a vast area of the Great Bahama Bank. A sharp turn to port and a southerly heading takes you down to the first of the Jumento Cays – Water Cay, some 45 miles from where you started at Thompson Bay.  For most, the northern Jumentos tend to be an overnight staging post before striking out for the Raggeds some 40 miles further south. These islands would be crawling with cruising boats except for one or two major concerns. The first is the lack of abundant shelter from any cold fronts with a serious amount of wind with a westerly component. There are some places but as the popularity grows competition for the space available becomes an issue. Another reason is the lack of provisioning. Whatever you need to take has to go with you from your last provisioning stop except of course any fish or lobster you may catch. If you need parts for the boat then again they should be with you already, otherwise it’s back to George Town you go.
We made Flamingo Cay on the first day some 56 miles from where we had set out.  It was a pretty choppy trip much of the way due to a residual short swell coming in from the ocean. The favoured anchorage at Flamingo is Two Palms Beach, although there’s only one palm there now. There was a fishing boat cleaning it’s catch so we went next door to an anchorage where the holding wasn’t so good not helped by the numerous deep coral heads in the vicinity. It was blowing a bit and in the early hours the anchor alarm sounded which coincided with a squall hitting the island. We were up like a shot looking around but whilst we had changed orientation we didn’t seem to have actually dragged so it was back to bed.
Next day we moved into Two Palms as the fishing boat had left to go fishing again. We whizzed around in the dinghy, looked at the wreck of a local merchant vessel which long ago had washed up in the next bay and caught a fish ourselves by trolling the lures around the bay for a few minutes. It was small so used it for bait to try and snag something larger. The water clarity was stunning and we easily spotted the largish barracuda that was stalking the small reefs close-by.
m_013 m_015m_017
Two Palms Bay anchorage on Flamingo Cay.                                    ‘Skip’ walking past a rusting 6 cylinder engine block                        and then exploring the undergrowth! 
m_008 m_006
The remains of the ‘John T Davis’
From total splendid isolation throughout the day we were suddenly ‘invaded’ by a small armada of sailing boats that arrived and dropped anchor all around us. Dinghies were launched and exploration commenced with great enthusiasm. By nightfall all were back at their boats and the evening was quiet. The next thing that arrived in the anchorage during the night was a swell which was on our beam, meaning that the boat rocked violently most of the night and that was another night’s sleep gone west.
 m_021 m_022
The remains of Tom, Dick & Harry
The forecast the next day hinted at a strong cold front arriving later in the week. We made the decision not to press further south into the Raggeds this time, choosing instead to head back to Long Island via Water Cay which we had passed on our way to Flamingo the previous day. That was also the destination of the small surrounding armada currently sharing our anchorage so we set off before everyone else to secure a good if not secluded spot.
m_20170208_173541 m_20170208_180430 m_20170208_174837
Water Cay with the fishing boats returned from their fishing trips and a rare sight (for us anyway) a Frigate Bird soaring high above the anchorage
Water Cay is known to be used by many of the local fishermen. During the day small fast boats with two or three onboard head out to the reefs (usually their own secret locations) and spend all day diving for lobsters, conch etc. They leave a larger boat which is their shelter and nourishment boat anchored in Water Cay. Around 1700hrs if you cast a glance towards the horizon you can see all the day boats roaring back home for the evening. The catch has then to be processed, with shark, barracuda, rays and any other scavenger species homing in on the area ready to gobble up the bits and pieces none of us or their customers want to eat. It’s fascinating to watch and the camaraderie something to behold amongst these happy locals. They have a tough life and whilst this particular day was calm we certainly don’t envy their work on the days that aren’t so tranquil!
m_20170208_173920 m_20170208_175100 m_20170208_175309
Then we come to the magical sunset. With clear horizons to the west the Jumentos and Raggeds are perfect for catching beautiful sunsets (whilst enjoying a sundowner of course)
After another beautiful sunset (with a green flash thrown in for good measure) we settled down for the night. Unfortunately for the third night running we were awake some of the night as the ocean swell found the anchorage and we rolled around uncomfortably in the wee hours.
We motored back to Thompson Bay, Long Island on flat calm seas the following day, swopping the crystal clear waters of the Jumentos for the milky, murky water of Thompson Bay. But hopefully we’d at least catch up on some sleep!