I think everyone should experience at least one Bahamas Yacht Charters in the Exumas and 97′ HOOTER PATROL IV is an excellent choice! I know because I was fortunate enough to spend 5 days (Wednesday – Monday) on the yacht cruising the Exumas from Nassau to Staniel Cay as part of a 5 yacht “Bahamas Flotilla”!
Your Bahamas yacht charter can be as relaxing as you like or, like our charter, Captain Adam and crew will keep you busy virtually every minute! We started our charter at Noon on Wednesday at the Atlantis Resort Marina in Nassau which also gives you access to all of the facilities at the Atlantis Resort including the Casino and Water Park!
Making a new friend at the Atlantis Resort
The Casino wins much more often than I do so I opted for the Water Park. This is great fun for adults and kids as there is something for everyone. You can do the water slides “The Abyss” or the “Leap of Faith” (also known to some people I know as “the scary slide”)! Or just take the “lazy river” around the park in a tube. (It’s not too lazy though as there are some areas of “white water rapids” so it is actually quite a bit of fun and can take up to an hour to complete). Or experience some or all of the other water slides offered.
Or you can just lay on the “beach” around many of the various swimming pools. That evening back at the marina we had a “yacht hop” for cocktails with the 5 other yachts in the Flotilla plus two other charter yachts that were participating in this evenings “hop”. Then off to dinner and (eventually) bed!
Our own “Lazy River” at the Mangrove Creek on Shroud Cay
Thursday (after another morning spent at the water park) we left Atlantis Marina and headed down to Shroud Cay where we anchored, had a wonderful dinner and relaxing evening under the stars (and you can see LOTS of stars in the Exumas)!
Friday , after another filling breakfast, we boarded the smaller tender (a nice 16′ Aqua Scan jet boat – good for getting in close in shallow water) and went ashore to experience the “mangrove creeks” of Shroud Cay. The tide was going out so we hiked up the creek a bit and then swam into the deeper section to ride the outgoing tidal flow back to the beach. Kind of nature’s own version of the Atlantis Lazy River!
Exploring the Mangrove Creek at Shroud Cay
Next we boarded jetskis and rode up the creek through the mangroves, very peaceful (yes, even on a jetski)! Of course you can also do this on kayaks. Then it was back to HOOTER PATROL IV for a light lunch (had to keep up our strength you know) and then back to the beach for jetskiing, kayaking, and just plain old lounging in the warm clear water of the Bahamas. And then ending the day with another peaceful evening of cocktails and dinner under the stars.
Oh, sorry. Did I get you wet? Shroud Cay
Saturday morning Captain Adam had arranged for he and first mate Trevor to take us on a fishing trip so come 7am we were off in the 37′ Midnight Express tender. (Of course Chef Mark made sure we all had some hot breakfast sandwiches to take along – which I dubbed “Egg McMarkins”. If only McDonalds’ could make a breakfast sandwich this good)! It really did turn out to be a “fishing trip” and not a “catching trip”, although I did catch a small Baracuda, but the weather was great (as usual) so we all had a great time anyway.
Life’s a “Beach” isn’t it? Shroud Cay
Regarding this tender, it has triple (yes, that’s 3) 275hp outboard engines! The boat easily cruises at 40 knots so you can really cover some terrain in this baby! It used to be that a “tender” was maybe a 13 – 16′ inflatable that was used almost exclusively to take the guests to and from the yacht and dock. With these new, large center console tenders it at least doubles the area and activities the guests can cover during their charter. (More on that later). (The tender is called HOOTERS CALENDAR by the way – the name comes from their calendar which is supposed to be the #1 best seller and if you’ve ever been in a Hooters Restaurant I think you will know why)
HOOTERS CALENDAR, Tender to HOOTER PATROL IV
After returning from our morning outing and some cool drinks served by Stewardess Iris, it was decided that the “Mothership” would head on straight to Staniel Cay. Meanwhile First Mate Trevor would take us all on a “tour” of the islands along the way in the Midnight Express, meeting up with HOOTER PATROL IV at the Staniel Cay Marina. One of the stops along the way was at Compass Cay. They have a very nice but also very small marina plus some cute rental cabins here and a very nice beach on the opposite side of the island. If you are just visiting there is an $8.00 charge per person but it’s well worth it as this is also where you can swim with the Nurse sharks!
Nurse Sharks, Shroud Cay
Yes under the dock in the marina are probably 10 or so 6 foot Nurse sharks! During high tide a small portion of the dock is actually slightly underwater and the nurse sharks will come up and rest on the dock itself! I expect the idea of swimming with sharks is not high on your list of things to do, but you REALLY do need to do it! They are very docile and besides, it makes a great photo opportunity! (And a good story you can tell your friends back home)!
Staniel Cay Yacht Club
After our island tour and stop at Compass Cay it was on to Staniel to meet up with HOOTER PATROL IV. Staniel Cay is basically the “hub” of activity in this area of the Exumas. In addition to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club which is a very cool “island” bar/restaurant, there are a couple of small (and I mean, really small) grocery stores, another bar that is open only occasionally and a few small restaurants. The island also has a small airport and you can get regular flights to/from Ft. Lauderdale on Watermakers Air in case you want to start or end your charter here. There are several rentals on the island including some nice cottages right on the water at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. These also offer some small center console runabouts which you can use to explore the local islands. And you will want to explore as there is a lot to do close by.
Chef Mark and Stew Iris from HOOTER PATROL IV
After an island tour by golf cart (this takes maybe 20 minutes) we find out that our “Flotilla” of 5 yachts is putting on a “beach party” near Fowl Cay. So off we go in the Midnight Express for an afternoon of food, drinks and fun with old friends and new. One of the organizers of the Flotilla had also arranged for us to tour the Fowl Cay Resort. This is a 50 acre resort just a tender ride away from Staniel Cay and within site of the beach we were on for the beach party. They have 6 cottages that range in pricing from about $6,000/week to $17,000/ week so these are quite nice! However for we “yachters” they also have a very nice restaurant.
Fowl Cay Resort, Restaurant is on the knoll on the far left.
They only have one seating each evening so you definitely need to radio ahead to see if they have any openings for dinner as the guests staying at the resort get priority. However the resort’s manager tells me they usually can seat at least 6 non – guest diners each evening (and sometimes more depending on the time of year). The rate at the time I was there was $100 per person but also includes cocktails starting at 6:30 with dinner around 9pm. When you radio for reservations they will ask at that time if you want beef, chicken, fish or they can also do vegetarian. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the neighborhood!
Coming back “home” after a tough day in the Exumas!
After the beach party/lunch we stopped at “Thunderball Grotto” to snorkel. It is located just west of Staniel Cay and you can see the island it’s on from the Marina so it’s very close by. It has been featured in several Hollywood films, such as Ron Howard’s ‘Splash’, two James Bond movies, ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’ and also in ‘Into the Blue’, which starred Jessica Alba.
At the entrance to the cave you will find lots of fish and the cave itself is not dark as there are several holes in the “ceiling” which allows light in. We happened to be there during an out going tide which is good and bad. It makes it hard to kick against the tide to get into the cave but once you are in it’s fine. But then you can exit out the other side and “ride” the tide around the outside of the small island and snorkel the reef.
Feeding the pigs at Big Major Cay
After freshening up from our day outings we are off to cockails that evening at the Yacht Club. This is definitely THE place to be on Staniel Cay in the evenings. They even had live music! Then it was off to our assigned “flotilla” yacht for “pre-dinner” cocktails and then a late dinner before retiring back on HOOTER PATROL IV for the evening. We needed our rest because the next day was going to be jam-packed with activities also.
We start out our Sunday with a delicious (as usual) breakfast prepared by Chef Mark. Then we all took a “break” from vacation to catch up on our emails (the Yacht Club has wireless internet). It was then decided that Captain Adam would take HOOTER PATROL IV back to Nassau and we would follow in the Midnight Express. This is where this tender really comes in handy!
Swimming with some of the “friendly” Reef Sharks at Danger Reef
Staniel Cay to Nassau is about a 7 hours trip in HOOTER PATROL IV but in the Midnight Express tender at 40 knots it’s a LOT faster. What this means is that we had time to do lots of “stuff” and still meet up with the “Mothership” prior to it’s arrival back in Nassau. (Note: any of these tender trips were optional, anyone who wanted could have just “chilled” out on HOOTER PATROL IV but it turned out we all wanted to go/see/do everything we could. Other groups may have some who just want to “relax” so don’t worry, they have something for everyone)!
On our return trip in the tender we fed the swimming pigs on Great Major Cay. If you don’t see the pigs when you get to the beach, just yell “Soooooeeeeeeee!” and they come running! (You may want to have “tryouts” before beach arrival so you know who can do the best pig call! Ha)!
Reef Shark at Danger Reef
Then we went swimming with the black tip reef sharks at Danger Reef. (Very cool – but I suggest you do the Compass Cay swim with the Nurse sharks first! These reef sharks look just like the “nasty” sharks you see on TV so a bit of mental preparation is recommended)! I had 3 sharks swimming around me so close I could have touched them – but I restrained myself! Plus, to maybe take your mind off the sharks (good luck with that), you will see there are lots of other fish in the area like grouper which to me was somewhat comforting.
At Wardrick Wells, Home of the Exumas Land And See Park
I’m thinking with all these tasty fish around those sharks can’t be TOO hungry right? Then after we were all back in the tender First Mate Trevor threw some food scraps into the water so we could see the sharks feeding. What surprised me most was that the Grouper seemed much more vicious when feeding than the sharks! Sheesh, I don’t want to be anywhere near a bunch of feeding grouper!
Then after swimming with the sharks there is a very nice reef very close by (with no sharks for those of you that prefer a “no shark” experience) that is a great snorkel experience. The coral is very nice and lots of fish. After Danger Reef we had one more stop, Wardwick Wells.
Snorkeling near Danger Reef – no sharks in this area!
This is where the home office of the Exumas Land and Sea Park is located and it also is a great sheltered anchorage and great snorkel spot. Stop in and say “Hi” to the park rangers, get a photo with the Whale skeleton (the whale died from swallowing a plastic bag – no littering the ocean please), or lounge on the beach. Very nice place to spend a few hours (or a few days)! There were lots of other stops we could have made (snorkel the “drug plane”, etc.) but time was running short and we needed to catch up with HOOTER PATROL IV so off we went.
I believe top speed for the HOOTERS CALENDAR is somewhere over 50 knots but thankfully Trevor kept it down to “only” 40 knots and we still caught up with HOOTER PATROL IV quite quickly! As usual Chef Mark had a tasty lunch waiting for us and we finished shortly before our arrival back at New Providence Island. However, rather than ending back in Nassau, we were spending the night at a new resort/marina called Albany.
Captain Adam on HOOTER PATROL IV
The Albany is an exclusive development that has investors and home owners like golfers Ernie Els and Tiger Woods. The resort entertained us with cocktails and appetizers at one of their open air bars near one of the two gorgeous swimming pools. It is really set up as a private residence community (not really a tourist type resort) but some of those residences can be rented when the owners are not using them. They have a very nice golf course with at least 10 famous golf pros that own homes here (including Tiger Woods and Ernie Els). Most of these pros had just left for the Masters after preparing for the tournament all week at this golf course. They also have a fitness center and spa and big plans for some major further development. It will be interesting to see it in 5 years as if all goes according to plan, it is going to be fabulous. This is a VERY nice place but figure on paying “daily” rates that are close to the “weekly” rates I quoted above for Fowl Cay! And as they say, if you have to ask how much the real estate is you can’t afford it! Ha! After arriving back to the marina, via the resorts provided golf carts, and boarding HOOTER PATROL IV (maybe a bit “too” late from cocktail hour) it’s off to bed so we can get up the next morning to prepare for our flight home.
Monday morning arrives and we don’t want to leave! We decide that before we leave the crew has to come to breakfast with us at the restaurant at the Albany resort. (I’m sure Chef Mark is happy to get a break from cooking)! The restaurant is open air and the floors are beach sand! Very nice atmosphere. After a delicious breakfast it’s off to the airport (and we find that the Bahamas has a brand new terminal which is great). And for US residents it’s a very easy trip home as airport experiences go nowadays! You actually pass through US Customs in the new Bahamas terminal before you board your flight out so you don’t have the long lines on entry when you arrive back to the US! It’s a great idea and we breezed through with no problems. The US Customs officer actually even had time for a short chat! And he had a smile on his face! Of course who wouldn’t, he was living in the Bahamas and Uncle Sam is paying for it! Good “gig” if you can get it!
So, I think the US Customs Official would agree, it really is “Better in the Bahamas”! And especially if you are on a yacht like HOOTER PATROL IV!
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