Jumentos Cays & Ragged Islands

March 8-22, 2019


We departed Long Island bound for the remote destination of Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands.

Once again, we stumbled across the Ancient Maritime Equation we first saw last month:

This time:

Seems to only occur when the wind speed equals 14.1 knots… hmmmm.   May require further studies…

There were repeated warnings not to undertake a journey to this area without first being entirely self-sufficient.  

A combination of bad weather, bad luck, or bad decisions out here could prove unforgiving.

We had a full tank of diesel (enough to motor twelve hundred miles, or 10 days straight, if needed), two months normal supply of petrol for the outboard, enough propane to last at least four months, a potentially endless supply of fresh water (thanks to our new Spectra watermaker) as well as more than fifty lockers packed with provisions, beverages, tools, equipment, spares and things we still couldn’t identify… seemed to us like the fucking definition of the word self-sufficient.

We were not in the middle of nowhere… but we continually got the feeling that the the middle of nowhere was just around corner from us at any given moment.

Isolated.  Exposed.

For the most part uninhabited, we were more likely to come across goats on the islands than people.

No Bahamas Defense Force.  No Coast Guard. No marinas.  No services. 

Currently, we found we were one of maybe ten or so sailboats in the entire area.  I can imagine that, not too many years ago, the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands didn’t have more than a half dozen or so sailboats visit during an entire year.

Buena Vista Cay has a population of one.  Duncan Town on Ragged Island, at the very end of the chain, with a population of less than one hundred, represents the only settlement between Exuma and Cuba… and it is closer to Cuba (only sixty miles away) than George Town (it’s own country’s nearest significant population).  Everything else… unpopulated.

Our arrival at Water Cay was rewarded immediately with what appeared to be an inquisitive bull shark swimming under us just after we had set the anchor.

A challenging climb in flip-flops up the steep, scrubby hill just beyond the beach provided a perfect view of the anchorage in a bay all to ourselves… nice.

Three days later, we picked up anchor and moved to Flamingo Cay fourteen miles, or about three hours, away.

We experienced a classic moment as we approached Flamingo Cay.  We could see a boat already at anchor in the distance and a catamaran making straight for the anchorage from the opposite direction.

The race was on.  There was no fucking way we were going to let this cat slip in just ahead of us and lay claim to the prime location we inevitably would want to anchor at.  It was hard to tell with the opposing angles but it looked like we would arrive just barely ahead… yes!

Our pirate intentions gave way to laughter as we eventually realized that the cat was actually S/V Avighna.  Tami and Jay had arrived at the same moment we had!

For us, Flamingo Cay holds the distinction of being the first anchorage requiring five tries to get a good anchor set.  Four different locations.  Even the patches of sand were not more than six inches deep over marl and rock that the anchor just scraped across the top of.

Eventually, we got an anchor set we were happy with, as did Tami and Jay, although they ended up two bays over before finally locating a spot their anchor would dig in. 

We spent five nights at anchor at Flamingo Cay.  

A dinghy excursion to a nearby cave.

Explorations ashore to the beach. 

Though flamingos are one thing you will no longer find on Flamingo Cay, tiny red shrimp, once both a food source as well as the source of the resident flamingos’ pink coloration, are still to be found in some of the inland pools.

And finally… healthy coral and an abundance of fish to be found!  The best we have seen in the Bahamas since scuba diving in the Abacos last year… which meant lobsters to be had just weeks before lobster season ends here in the Bahamas on March 30… yipee!  

And sharks, sharks, sharks… woohoo!

Sadly, we had to bid fair winds and following seas to Tami and Jay for now, as S/V Avighna returned to Long Island… but the upside of sad farewells is the fact that they come at the end of happy reunions.

More than a week since arriving in the Jumentos and still yet to see our first permanent structure, much less an inhabited island.  Nurse Cay… with a tiny little bay.  Just enough room for us to tuck into a get out of the surge as long as the wind doesn’t shift, putting us way too close to the rocky shoreline on either side.  

The only other souls to be seen are aboard a small fishing boat sitting at anchor a few thousand feet further outside the bay.  They waved at us as we passed by earlier.

Twenty four hours later we would learn that the fishing boat was from Long Island and had been in the Jumentos for over a month.  Manny, captain of the fishing boat, had motored over in a skiff to inquire if we had any tobacco.  He had run out and his deck hand was growing quite surly as the incoming mail boat which would drop off a new supply was not due to arrive for another day. 

Wanting to provide assistance to a fellow mariner, it saddened me to break the news that, alas, I had no cigarettes or cigars aboard our boat to offer.  All I had was an unopened pack of rolling papers…

Immediately, Manny’s eyes lit up.  

He asked if I would be willing to make a trade.

Considering I was speaking to a fisherman who had been here for a month… naturally, I expected fish to be at the top of the list of available trade commodities he would have to offer… instead, he pulled out a big bag of weed.

Immediately, Steve’s eyes lit up.

On a beach in Bali… in the countryside of Thailand… at a campsite in Australia… on the streets of Mexico… on the North Atlantic Ocean in uninhabited Jumentos, Bahamas… a weed magnet.

During a search for better protection from potential shifting winds (something we seem to continually be trying to out-guess here as our sources for weather forecasting this year have been mixed, at best), we passed right on by Buena Vista Cay, missing our opportunity to meet the one resident there, and only resident of the Jumentos Cays/Ragged Islands not living in Duncan Town.  

We ended up at Double Breasted Cay, which had been highly recommended to us. 

Nice… except the winds never really shifted; and we had to deal with a pack of buddy-boaters who had traveled together into the wilderness from George Town, invaded anchorages as a horde, and utilized the VHF as a preferred substitute for social media and text messaging.  

However, the radio only required that you push a button when afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth instead of actually typing your thoughts, allowing you to have an even more random spewing of irrelevant thoughts…

We made a strategic move less than three miles away to what turned out to be one of the most peaceful and picturesque anchorages we have stumbled across to date.  

Johnson Cay already had three boats anchored in its nearly completely enclosed horseshoe bay when we first passed by a few days prior… way too tight for our liking.   But now they all picked up and moved seeking more protection from the predicted wind shifts. 

When those winds never shifted, it left a perfect anchorage completely empty right next door to us… score for Exit.  Which left us with a couple of days to ourselves in an epic and completely secluded anchorage.

Even better snorkeling here than at Flamingo Cay.  The sharks were not one bit shy… 

But, after a couple of days, the wind eventually did shift with some sporadic squalls.  Which left us with an ultimately drama-free though bouncy evening of experiencing just how quickly, with a bit of wind, two to three foot waves can stack up into an anchorage exposed to the open ocean.

Though the breezes tapered off the following morning, we opted to avoid a potential revisiting of the previously bouncy night with a thirty minute move to the much less picturesque though much more north-protected anchorage of Man-O-War Cay.  

Turned out unnecessary.  The wind never picked up again so we didn’t need the northerly protection.  We traded out our sharks to snorkel with for a small herd of goats on the beach… ouch!

Hog Cay.  Quite nondescript with the exception of a very large and strange looking marine creature that we happened across which appeared stranded in the shallow waves of the beach.  Eventually we concluded two things:  1) it must be some kind of nudibranch…  2) it must not be so rare as we saw two more shortly thereafter.

At least we had a huge space all to ourselves… well, for a while.

Then a sailboat anchored in the bay next to ours.  The nerve of some people… and only one bay away.  Then our favorite armada of buddy-boats came and plopped down next to the boat in the other bay… had to feel sorry for that guy!!!

But to end on a more positive note… a riddle: 

What do you call it when the depth gauge and wind speed indicator read the same?  A Bahamas Phenomenon…
or a Baha-menon-dat-dahhh-dat-dada…Baha-menon-dat-dahhh-dat-da…”  
Am I the only one with the Muppets in my head right now…? 
Hey… fuck you!  Comedy is not pretty!

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