Brigantine Cays and
We use the Explorer charts to navigate. Note the shallowness of the waters around the cays
The Brigantine Cays are a small chain of cays a few miles West of the Exuma chain. Rarely visited by anyone they are surrounded by shallow turquoise seas. Check out the video below as we sailed along the lee side in April 2011.
The Brigantines are the perfect adventure destination. Below is an idea of how this pans out:
The morning begins with breakfast followed by loading our 31 foot catamaran “Saffron’s Dream” with guests personal equipment. This will include spare clothing, sun cream, towels, etc etc. We aim to travel light so this should not amount to much gear. All provisions, tents and camp equipment will already be loaded on so we will be ready to go quite soon. After a quick navigational briefing, waypoints loaded into our GPS, handheld VHF radio checked, sunscreen etc applied we load the Hobies with the days necessities. (Each Hobie will carry a safety box containing flares, first aid kit, powerbar and a horn, plus 2 gallons of drinking water, a GPS, waterproof explorer chart, handheld waterproof VHF radio, an anchor and spare line) Windsurfers carry a small pack with flares, waterproof chart, VHF and 2 litres of water. Windsurfers can always come aboard Saffron’s Dream for a break if they wish.
The Hobiecats sails are raised and we launch! Our adventure usually will begin as an off the wind sail and we will pass the various cays as we approach the Northern tip of Great Exuma (Pudding Point). Despite the very shallow draft of the Hobies we may still need to follow the natural channels that show the deep water. Depth of water is easy to read by colour and if you do catch your rudders most of the seabed is sand so no damage will be done.
From Pudding Point we turn Westwards around the tip of Great Exuma and sail towards the Brigantine Cays visible some 2 miles distant. Using GPS we can identify which cay is which and follow the deep channel between the cays. We ask guests to try and keep their vessels close to one another (less than a mile apart) for safety. So the faster sailors may be asked by VHF radio to put in a tack to regroup.
Once on the lee side of the cays the water takes on an amazing turquoise hue. 5 feet deep at most and perfectly flat we glide along the coastline where no other sail craft can venture. Here even the Hobies need to watch their rudders! Saffron’s Dream with her 2 foot (60 cm) draft follows a channel just deep enough! Our destination is a few cays along and is easily identified by the numerous coconut palms lining the beach.
As we arrive dependant on tide we may need to walk the Hobies up the last remaining metres on to the beach. The brilliant white of the beach makes you glad to have sunnys and the natural beauty is shore to put a smile on your face!
Normans Pond Cay Adventure
On this idyllic beach we make camp. Our big cat arrives and we can begin to unload our equipment. Tents are set up and our mobile kitchen organised. From here we can now explore the area around. Snorkel equipment on Saffron’s Dream can be borrowed to explore the amazing underwater life all around the cays. A walk ashore can be rewarded with sights of many seabirds, mangrove swamps and an excursion to the windward side along the “iron shore.”
As evening approaches we begin our preparations for dinner. Chairs and tables are set up and we cook on our highly efficient wood gas stoves. From the coolers we open a bottle or two of chilled white wine or perhaps a little rum to engage in the island spring. Evening then is spent around the campfire and as night draws in we turn in to our comfy tents.
Morning begins with a breakfast of fresh fruit, muesli or perhaps some bacon and eggs. All washed down with tea, coffee or juice. After breakfast our sailing adventure can continue. The Hobiecats are rigged and we may decide to sail down the coast a mile or so and land on another empty beach. The fun of the adventure is having the islands to ourselves and choosing what we wish to do. We may return to our palm lined beach for lunch or take a picnic lunch with us. The choice is yours. After lunch we sail down to New Cay and enter New Cay Bight, a beautiful, but very shallow bay. Here we can prepare our next camp for the following day. As the afternoon wears on we return to our palm beach and relax however we wish. Evening brings us all together again for a meal and another camp fire
After breakfast we prepare to break camp. Equipment is loaded on the big cat and when all is done we lift our sails and sail the 2 miles or so down to New Cay. Having scouted the bay out the previous day we sail slowly in through the very shallow entrance and begin the process of setting up camp. Some may decide to explore further along for the day, past Gold Ring Cay and over to Cooks Cay. In this area the natural beauty is incredible both above and below the water. Some may want to try spear fishing or perhaps be content to just snorkel peacefully and wonder at this other world below us. And of course some may just want to enjoy a day of sailing, circumnavigating islands either cruising or for a light hearted race.
After breakfast we break camp and prepare to sail over to the main chain of cays. Our destination is Normans Pond Cay 3 miles from New Quay. This will involve some careful navigation as we need to find the channel around Cooks Cay and then watch for dry sand halfway as we cross a very shallow sand bar. At Normans Pond Cay we make camp and then sail up to the blue hole located at the Northern end of this 3 mile long island. Perhaps from there we will sail East 2 miles and pay a visit to Lee Stocking Island and the Caribbean Marine Research Institute where a member of staff will give us a guided tour. By sailing South from Lee Stocking Island we can return around the Southern point of Normans Pond Cay to our camp.
Depending on the wind we may have to leave Normans Pond earlier or later, but generally Friday we can pack up leaving no trace of our stay and then have a morning sail. From Normans Pond Cay back to Silver beach is about 10 miles as the crow flies but we will take a detour for a lunch stop and blue hole swim at the Boysie Cays. As well as the blue hole there are also blowholes here and even by Exumas standards this is a particularly stunning location. Afternoon sees us returning the last 4 miles from Boysies to Rolleville to arrive back at the beach for a cool drink and the chance to unwind. Evening time we eat at Shoreline Beach Bar before retiring to guesthouse accommodation.
If you're here for the 2 weeks then the weekend gives you time to refresh before we set off Monday morning for our Farmers Cay adventure.