North of Great Exuma Cay lies a series of smaller cays stretching up towards Nassau. Some of these are privately owned (Musha Cay, for example, by illusionist David Copperfield and which can be rented for $350,000 per week) but most are uninhabited and share the same features of pristine white beaches and turquoise seas. On one side of the chain is the Exuma Sound (effectively an extension of the Atlantic) at over 1500m deep. On the other side the Exuma Bank, only 4m deep. The sailing experience is incredibly different depending on which side you sail, both in terms of the sea state but, more importantly, the necessity to monitor instruments all the time to avoid running aground.
Yesterday we cut into the Exuma Bank and headed north to the Staniel Cay area, home of the Thunderball grotto (think James Bond) and swimming pigs! These feral pigs inhabit a small island called Big Major Spot and swim out to visiting boats for food .... up to 100 metres off-shore. We saved up lettuce, cabbage and bread crusts to go and feed them from the dinghy. This morning we headed towards the beach where they hang out and they spotted us from quite a distance and started swimming out to us. I tried throwing a cabbage leaf into the sea but that was no good: They wanted feeding straight into their mouths. Cucumber chunks proved very popular with the dinghy nudged for more. One of the pigs was really big - and could swim very well, although not as well as his smaller, pinker "cousin". All in all, a unique experience!
Just after we anchored yesterday, I saw what I thought was a manta ray in the water, swimming towards us. It turns out it was a nurse shark, and quite a big one at that, that swam under the stern of Jay Jay and slowly mosied away towards the nearby reef. No swimming for me ... but Paul plans on going shark-hunting later.
Having bought a tiller extension for the dinghy, we have taken to travelling around standing up. Not for the feint hearted in choppy waters, but at least it means we get to our destination with dry clothes .... always a bonus. And excellent for the balance although I'm sure one of us will go overboard before long!