OK, we’re not really in the Caribbean here. We’re in the Atlantic Ocean. But, culturally, the Bahamas are West Indian in many ways, like the islands further south. Where Afro-Caribbean culture meets European ancestry and North American influences.
The footprints of historical and modern-day pirates are everywhere here. And, of course, the fictional or self-styled pirates. Jimmy Buffett’s tracks can be found everywhere from the Gulf Coast to the Bahamas to deep down island in the Caribbean.
On the donor honor board at Exuma Park, where tales of Jimmy Buffett’s generosity are legion.
To a lesser extent, “Captain Jack Sparrow” has a presence here. As I wrote this post from Cambridge Cay in Exuma Park, Johnny Depp’s private island wa in sight. And the very few bars and restaurants in the area have the obligatory “Johnny Was Here” photos on their walls.
At Compass Cay Marina.
It’s not too surprising that modern day pirates – in the form of millionaires and billionaires – look for seclusion in the Exumas. There are over 350 islands in this subset of the Bahamas, and many of them have been purchased. Even as we were in Warderick Wells, and in Cambridge Cay, both of which are in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, we watch megayachts ply the waters, and float planes and helicopters deliver owners and guests far more quickly than mere mortals like us can move between the cays and the “mainland”.
In between our current stay at Cambridge Cay and our prior stay at Warderick Wells, Calypso left the park to hang out at some of the other islands. My principal focus was to get somewhere that I could have someone other than me make a meal. And, for this neck of the woods, that meant Compass Cay.
We couldn’t get there at first. Rough weather made navigating the narrow channels amidst sand bores daunting. So we found a snug spot between Pipe Cay and some rocks to take shelter – and in which Rick could do the inevitable engine troubleshooting….
Not a bad spot for a pit stop. While poor Rick dove into the bowels of the engine, I kayaked to the inevitable beaches. But it turned out to be a miserable, rolly, swelly spot to try to sleep and live – as beautiful as it was, and as happily as our anchor had dug into the sand. When the chart says “SURGE,” they’re not kidding.
So, the next day, we decided to take our chances with those narrow channels to get closer to Compass Cay, choosing a narrow spot between Pipe Cay’s northern shore and the sand bank. Again, a gorgeous spot to anchor. From here, we took the dinghy over to Compass Cay Marina and – hallelujah! – had a burger grilled by Tucker Rolle (the proprietor of the marina and the island) himself. While waiting for the burgers, we hung out with the handful of people around the marina, and the pet sharks.
That’s me, with my feet on the sharks’ backs. They are pretty tame, though you’re warned not to pull their tails or put your hands in/near their mouths.
It wasn’t just the burger. Rick and I both felt the friendly, welcoming vibe of Compass Cay, and decided we wanted more time here. With a strong cold front forecast and a need to find shelter, we reserved a marina night or two. (People complain about Compass Cay’s high prices, but considering that they have to make their own electricity and water, and that the staff and other guests are so friendly, I have no issue. Plus, it’s cheaper than our marina at home, so….)
It’s not just the marina here. The island is very pretty as well. A short walk from the marina is a beautiful crescent beach on Exuma Sound (which feels like the ocean, since the nearest land to the east is 30 miles distant and the water is deep).
On a calm day, the swimming here is delicious, with almost effervescing waves.
When the weather turned ugly, we were safe in a slip. But that didn’t stop us from some foul weather exploration. Even if you don’t want to swim in it, the drama of an angry sea is a sight to behold. The North Cliff trail we followed might have been a better scramble for a goat, but the views were stunning.
Where people mix in the Exuma cays, there seems to be an equalizing effect, and we’ve loved meeting people here. There’s a whole range, from the most modest to the grandest, as well as the pirates. And you might never find out which is which. The woman with the self-inflicted haircut giving herself a shark pedicure might just be a law firm partner. The barefoot guy drinking a Kalik can just as easily own a megayacht or an island, or he might be here on a small sailboat which constitutes all of his worldly goods.
One thing in common that I have discovered is that everyone loves to leave their mark here, be it a footprint or some other artifact. Rick is constantly building, or adding on to cairns. And driftwood and other beach flotsam inspires all sorts of artwork, including our own.
Compass Cay is covered with souvenirs and artifacts, many updated from year-to-year. We added our own; I only wish I’d brought art supplies with me!
I guess we’re probably all pirates at heart. It’s just that no a single one of us is looking for (or hiding) the same kind of treasure.