Compass Cay, Exumas

Compass Cay Marina at low tide.

Our weekend stay at Compass Cay Marina has been a highlight so far on our travels. After getting a little beat up with upwind sailing and rolly anchorages, it was a VERY welcomed rest. Navigating into the marina was a bit of a process, but we went in at high tide, and the series of channels from the Exuma Bank was surprisingly well marked (this is unusual in the Exumas).

The route one must take to Compass Cay Marina from the Exuma Bank.

There is a group of what appears to be four gentlemen that maintain the marina, and we received excellent assistance in getting Serenity docked. Hooking up to shore power is a daily flat fee (which is not cheap), so we elected not to as we make adequate power with our solar and battery bank. The island is powered by a diesel generator. The marina is well protected and quiet, although the amenities are a bit sparse. There are cottages throughout the island that can be rented and toilet facilities, but no showers, laundry, or fuel. RO water can be purchased at $0.50 per gallon, but there is no pump out or fuel here.

The marina appeared to have (or maybe still is) constructed a small restaurant, but we found it boarded up despite looking like fairly new construction. Perhaps it’s temporary because of the pandemic, or perhaps it was damaged in an earlier hurricane. Regardless, the crew offers a hamburger or hotdog lunch everyday at noon which can be eaten at the marina patio. The marina also has a small store with a small selection of drinks both alcoholic and non, a few snacks, and some t-shirts and other gift shop type tchotchkes. Ed and I purchased their lunch on the first day we were here. It was spendy but delicious.

The best part about the marina, and a must-see in my opinion, is the marina’s pet nurse sharks. Nurse sharks are native to tropical and subtropical shallows, are generally nocturnal, and are docile bottom feeders. Despite their laid back nature, the species has the fourth highest rate of shark bites of all shark species. This is largely due to humans being able to interact with them much easier than most other shark species. As long as you don’t provoke them, and mind your fingers and toes (they can look like a tasty snack) they are really fantastic to interact with.

I must say it is pretty amazing to have clear water that you can swim in with a bunch of marine creatures at a marina. We also saw lots of bonefish, grouper, rays, and a few other fish species I was not able to identify. At one point, while swimming with the sharks, my Burts Bees chapstick fell out of my pocket and a bonefish started nipping at it! For you fisherman out there, apparently a bright yellow chapstick tube makes good bait for a bonefish.

We also took some time to hike around the island’s many trails. We did not see all of them, but we saw some amazing sights at the locations we made it to. As we walked up the hill from the marina, I saw my first wild orchids. Having come from a colder climate, I had only seen these as house plants.

We first headed over to the east side to view the beach there. It was a windy day, and these were the biggest waves I’d seen (even though they really weren’t that big) since I last saw the Pacific Ocean.

We also saw an abandoned building on the nearby bluff and went to check it out. We later found out that it was Hester’s house, one of the original inhabitants of the island. A regular visitor also repurposed what was left of the house into a gym a few years back, but weather and likely hurricanes have left it in shambles.

We’ve seen a number of buildings in the islands that serve to remind us that Mother Nature eventually takes back what is rightfully hers.

We also hiked to the south end of the island and found the former Low Tide Airport, which we happened to catch at low tide. The flat is now littered with various bits of ocean debris, but if it were cleared could actually make a suitable runway for a bush plane. That said, it’s not a very useful airport as one would have to land, drop of or pick up payload or passengers, and get back into the air before the water returns. The pilot also only gets one daylight low tide window.

Compass Cay also makes a great staging location to go explore Pipe Creek by dinghy. At low tide the area’s many sand bars present themselves for a nice stroll. The scenery is quite breathtaking, the water is beautiful clear blue, and my camera does not do it justice.

It would have been nice to be able to explore the area some more; perhaps we will stop in again at a later date.

Our weekend at Compass Cay ended with the fuel barge docking at the marina to refill the generator tanks. It was quite a sight to see a large boat maneuvering in very close quarters.

Tropical Breeze turning in an area barely large enough. Its pilot dinghy is off to the left.

We headed out shortly after they docked having thoroughly enjoyed our stay!

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