For many sailors, the Exuma island chain in the central Bahamas holds a special place in their cruising memories. I know it does for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit these islands several times, beginning in 2003 and most recently in 2017. Each occasion is a blend of discovery and homecoming — the excitement of anchoring somewhere new, or the comfort of revisiting an old favorite. The Exumas, which include some 365 cays and islands spread over 130 nautical miles, offer plenty of opportunities for either.
New for 2018, both The Moorings and Dream Yacht Charter offer bareboat and crewed charters from bases in Nassau, which is about a 30-mile sail to the northern end of the Exumas chain. If you’re planning a cruise of the Bahamas, here are a few of my favorite stops in the northern and central Exumas that are within reach of a weeklong charter. ALLAN’S CAY AND HIGHBOURNE CAY Near the top of the Exumas, Allan’s Cay is a popular first stop on a cruise of the islands. After a day traversing the Yellow Banks from Nassau, I am always more than ready to jump in the water for a swim or take a walk on a beach. Allan’s and its neighbor Leaf Cay have another draw besides their location — their reptile residents. If you land your dinghy on the beach, iguanas will come out of the brush to greet you, which makes for an entertaining walk along the shore.
Next down the line is Highbourne Cay, which makes my list due to the great snorkeling in the area, both near the anchorage and at reefs a dinghy ride away, and the facilities at the Highbourne Cay Marina. If you’re in need of a few provisions, water or fuel, the marina offers one of the few fuel docks in the Exumas, and the store is well-stocked (albeit on the pricey side).
The waters off Shroud Cay, which is part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, are the perfect place for a quiet paddle to enjoy the sunset.