Top Exuma Anchorages to Drop the Hook

Fowl Cay anchorage

One thing that I love about the sailing in the Exumas? It never feels crowded when we visit.

Why?

There are over 365 cays, and you can anchor in solitude at many of them. No need to rub elbows with your neighbors in crowded mooring fields. Take the paddleboard out, go spearfishing, and enjoy the peace and quiet of a Bahamian sunset.

Here’s my guide to our favorite Exuma anchorages. I’ll start in the north and work my way south.

Northern Exuma anchorages

Sail Rocks North anchorage

North Sail Rocks anchorage

Hands down, this might be my favorite Exuma anchorage. I love it because of how remote it feels (shh! don’t tell anyone). 

It’s definitely off the beaten path and usually avoided by most yacht charter trips. Best accessed from the Exuma Sound, consult Active Captain community for details on the approach.

I like North Sail Rocks as a good option as a first or last night before a return to the charter base in Nassau.

You can anchor in ~10 feet and are very well protected from easterly trades.

What to do at North Sail Rocks

When we last visited, we had one of our best days of fishing on the drop just a couple hundred feet offshore. This included landing my first wahoo of the Bahamas.

The whole area is interesting to explore by dinghy or stand-up paddleboard.

Spearfishing is also excellent on the reef that runs through the middle of the anchorage. Swim to it directly from your yacht.

Ship Channel Cay anchorage
Nearby coral heads offer good opportunities for spearfishing
Bali 5.4 helm station view
Having some fun riding the dinghy around the anchorage

Ship Channel Cay anchorage

Ship Channel Cay is the first large cay in the chain, and one of the first you’ll see as you finish crossing the Yellow Bank. It’s nearly 3 miles in length.

There are many spots you can choose to anchor in the lee of Ship Channel. Make sure you give the many coral heads enough room. This one is best in settled conditions and easterly wind. Anything with more of a northerly component might get rolly. Definitely avoid if there is a frontal passage coming through.

We chose a spot towards the bottom third, about a half mile north from popular Powerboat Adventure’s Ship Channel Cay – they run day tours from Nassau.

What to do at Ship Channel Cay

This location is another good chance to explore by dinghy – you’ll likely be the only ones here.

Spearfishing is also a great bet – we brought in several invasive lionfish on the coral heads next to our yacht. The lionfish ceviche we made was delicious!

If you venture ashore, there are some ruins along the western side worth exploring.

Allan’s Cay anchorage

Allan’s Cay is a bit more popular, so don’t expect to be the only ones here. There are several options for anchoring – one or two boats will fit at SW Allan’s Cay. Most everyone else anchors in the sandy shallows between Allan’s Cay and Leaf Cay.

Be careful if there is weather afoot – expect this anchorage to get quite rolly.

What to do at Allan’s Cay

The main attraction here is the protected rock iguana species. You can’t miss them as you approach shore – despite signs, many visitors still feed them and they are eager for a snack.

Check the local guides for advice on several excellent snorkeling locations here. One I recommend is Stephen Pavlidis’ The Exuma Guide.

Shroud cay anchorage and the mangrove river
Shroud Cay North anchorage with a view of the mangrove river

Shroud Cay anchorage

Shroud Cay is a must stop to enjoy the mangrove river dinghy ride, waterslide, and exploring of Camp Driftwood.

We like to anchor near the river entrance so it’s just a quick dinghy ride (Shroud Cay North on Active Captain).

There’s plenty of room to spread out here – be careful of your yacht’s draft as some areas can get shallow.

You can also drop the hook at Fresh Well Bay just a bit further to the south.

What to do at Shroud Cay

As I mentioned, an absolute must is a dinghy ride to the Exuma Sound side. This is always a highlight of an Exumas yacht charter trip. It takes some planning though – you want to do this on a rising tide, about an hour before slack tide.

I talk about our recent experience on my Exumas trip report here.

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Halls Pond Cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Halls Pond Cay anchorage near Warderick Wells in the Exumas

Halls Pond Cay anchorage

While the popular mooring fields at Warderick Wells get most of the attention in the southern part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Halls Pond Cay flies under the radar.

You can get here from either side – Halls Pond Cut or from the Banks. If you anchor far enough in, the tide change will have minimal effect on your swing.

There are a couple private moorings here that should be avoided

What to do at Halls Pond Cay

It’s a lovely, peacful spot and also a private island, so your exploring ashore is limited to the beach. The snorkeling is great here, especially around the point to the south. 

I also like to grab the snorkel gear and take the dinghy over to the rocks at the north end of the cay. This is best done at slack tide!

Otherwise, just chill out and enjoy having this place all to yourself!

It’s also worth pointing out that Johnny Depp’s island is nearby – Little Halls Pond Cay.

Fowl Cay anchorage Exuma Bahamas
The beautiful bight at Fowl Cay

Fowl Cay anchorage

Get Fowl Cay on your itinerary as a lunch stop! More about why I love it in a sec.

This anchorage is exposed to the easterly trades, so it doesn’t make the best overnight stop. It can be done however.

The navigation looks a bit tricky on charts, so be extra careful about coral heads on your way in and out.

What to do at Fowl Cay

Here’s why I like it.

  • Absolutely beautiful spot, and you’ll probably have it all to yourself
  • Just outside the park boundary, so you can do some spearfishing nearby (we have caught several fish here)
  • It’s a short dinghy ride to the popular Rocky Dudas attraction

Fowl Cay is a private resort, and I’ve heard they aren’t friendly. It’s worth a dinghy ride near the beach to check out the abandoned plane.

Compass Cay shark
Nurse shark visitor at Compass Cay

Compass Cay anchorage

There are several anchorages at Compass Cay. I like the channel near the marina between Compass and Pipe Cay.

Expect to experience some swing here on the tide, but there is plenty of room. Being a short dinghy ride from the Marina to explore Compass Cay is a plus!

What to do at Compass Cay

It’s worth a trip ashore for the small docking fee you’ll pay at the marina.

There are plenty of nurse sharks to swim with in the marina and you can also access the trails around the island.

The fantastic beach on the sound side is appropriately named Crescent Beach. I like enjoying the afternoon here with a cooler full of cold beverages. The beach has a couple covered structures for your use.

If you’re lucky, you might also get some nurse shark visitors at your yacht.

Sandbar at Sandy Cay on a Exuma yacht charter

Sandy Cay anchorage

Sandy Cay is another excellent choice for a lunch pit stop. You might also anchor here in settled conditions overnight. It’s within quick reach of the hub at Staniel Cay.

Watch out for coral heads and anchor in 15 feet on the west side of the Cay.

What to do at Sandy Cay

The main attraction here is the sand bar – it’s one of the best in the Exumas. Bring a picnic ashore and enjoy relaxing in this lovely spot.

Staniel Cay Anchorage
West of Thunderball anchorage at Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay anchorage near Thunderball Grotto
The approach between the cays

Staniel Cay anchorage

OK, you’re right. Staniel Cay can be busy and is a quite well-known Exuma anchorage. But, we always make a pit stop here since it’s often our turnaround point to head back to Nassau.

That means we are enjoying a bite ashore and re-stocking provisions.

There are plenty of options to anchor in the area. Pig Beach is nearby at Big Major Cay, but we try and avoid it now that we’ve checked that box.

I like the West of Thunderball anchorage. The area surrounding can be shallow, so I like the approach between the two cays to the NE.

What to do at Staniel Cay

Dump your trash, re-stock on provisions, and get yourself a peanut colada at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The food is also excellent.

You of course have the pigs nearby. Sometimes it’s fun to do a dinghy drive by and check out the big yachts that like to anchor over there.

And don’t miss snorkeling Thunderball grotto. Plan for this as it’s best done at slack tide (do it after low tide unless you are ok diving underwater to get into the grotto).

Thanks for reading my post about our favorite Exuma anchorages and making it all the way to the end! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about our last trip sailing in the Exumas.

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BVI Redlined: What Areas are Off-Limits?

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands

If you are planning a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands, you’ll want to make sure to familiarize yourself with what is off-limits. These BVI areas are so-called redlined on charts.

Take note that each charter company has different rules. Just because White Bay is redlined by one, does not mean it is off-limits with the Moorings (I believe you can go there with them).

So, make sure to check with them for the latest information during your chart briefing.

Regardless, it’s a great idea to understand each of these areas well and to exercise extra caution if you are allowed to go there. There is a reason some charter companies have made certain areas off-limits…

And as always, do not use any of this information for navigational purposes – it’s informative, but leave it at that. Stick to your charts and local knowledge provided by the charter company.

Here are the BVI redlined areas I am going to cover (there are more, but these are the big ones).

  1. Channel between Little Camanoe and Beef Island near the airport

  2. Channel into North Sound between Virgin Gorda and Mosquito Island

  3. Eustatia Sound

  4. Anegada (other than the main anchorage)

  5. Brewers Bay

  6. White Bay

Off-limits passage between Little Camanoe and Beef Island
The redlined passage between Little Camanoe and Beef Island | Source: Navionics

Channel between Little Camanoe and Beef Island near the airport

Please, 100% make sure you know where this one is on charts. It has probably claimed more charter boats and VISAR responses than anywhere else in the BVIs.

Here are two examples.

Reports were that they ventured too far west trying to avoid traffic
Aftermath of this Lagoon 450 that struck the reef in 2021

Why is it redlined?

On charts, it looks somewhat innocent, but there is actually a large reef/rocks right in the middle of the channel.

It is marked by a buoy(s), but at times these can be missing. If you aren’t paying attention to your charts and are in the middle, you are very likely going to hit the reef.

If you are passing through this area, the correct passage is the channel between Little and Great Camanoe.

Off limits passage between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda
The redlined passage between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda | Source: Navionics

Channel into North Sound between Virgin Gorda

This one is tempting for shallow draft vessels, especially at high tide. Leverick Bay is right there on the other side! You’d be tied off to a mooring ball with a beverage in no time.

Patience. Spend the extra 15 minutes to motor (or sail) through the well marked channel on the north side of the sound.

Why is it redlined?

Easy – it’s shallow and unmarked. Some charter vessels also don’t have the draft to get through this one.

You may even see yachts use this channel. Don’t be tempted unless you have local knowledge, shallow draft, and are not violating your charter company’s off-limits areas.

Eustatia Sound Anchorage in BVI
Overview of the Eustatia Sound area | Source: Eustatia Island

Eustatia Sound

This one is somewhat of a head scratcher for me since I really like this anchorage. I’ve even stayed on the hook overnight (no it was not redlined at the time).

There’s a lot to like about this area – white sandy beaches at Prickly Pear, snorkeling at the reef, good holding, and solitude. I write more about what to do here in my post about BVI anchorages.

If not off-limits, give it a shot in settled conditions. You can also dinghy over here easily from North Sound mooring balls.

Eustatia Sound Anchorage
Our catamaran lying at anchor on a trip to the BVIs several years ago

Why is it a BVI redlined area?

I think there are 2 explanations:

  1. It’s exposed to northerly swells, which can catch ill-advised skippers off guard if one shows up in the middle of the night. Read more about northerly swells and other marine conditions to be aware of in my post on BVI weather

  2. The approach from inside North Sound past Saba Rock requires careful navigation (there is an easier approach from the north)

Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada on a BVI yacht charter
Squally sunset shot looking west on a recent trip

Anegada (other than the main anchorage)

Most, if not all charter companies, now allow charter boats to sail to Anegada. You should not miss out! It was my favorite British Virgin Islands destination – north shore beach exploring, great snorkeling, and fresh spiny lobster are reasons we go.

The channel is (usually) well marked, and the approach straightforward. Although, you do want to take extra care in your navigation.

If you go, most companies ask you to limit your visit to the main anchorage.

Looking for coral heads on the way to Anegada
Bow watch set as we approach the shallows around Anegada

Why are other areas of Anegada redlined?

Uncharted reefs and shallow areas that require local knowledge – that simple. This includes Pomato Point which is an anchorage next door to Setting Point.

Brewers Bay chart
You'll have an undersea cable and reefs to negotiate if you go to Brewers Bay | Source: Navionics

Brewers Bay

Some companies may allow you to go to Brewers Bay for a day stop, but I believe it’s off limits for overnighting by all.

Brewers Bay is located next door to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola and remains one of those somewhat undiscovered bays (since it’s mostly off-limits!).

If it’s not off-limits and you visit, enjoy the view, solitude, and spectacular snorkeling.

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands, a top BVI beach
The beach at Brewers Bay is quite appealing!

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Why is it a BVI redlined area?

  1. It’s exposed to northerly ground swells in the winter months (see my weather link above)

  2. There are lots of reefs, including one right in the middle that juts out from shore

  3. There is an underwater cable that you need to make sure not to foul

Looking at it on charts it just appears, well, crowded with obstructions.

white bay east side jost van dyke

White Bay: a rather notorious BVI redlined area

Ah, White Bay. One of the pearls of the British Virgin Islands. A perfect, white sandy bay lined with beach bars and palm trees.

It also plays host to a lot of boating incidents! I talk all about it here and why I may not anchor here overnight anymore. I also give suggestions on where else you can go in the area to still enjoy White Bay.

A 50 foot Moorings cat that barreled straight over the reef and grounded hard

Why is it redlined?

  1. It’s a tight anchorage and it gets very crowded in peak season, especially on the west side. Some charter companies have learned the hard way.

  2. If there are thunderstorms forecasted, it’s best to avoid. Boats have been thrown up on the beach or the reef when an unsuspecting squall rolls through. By the time one is upon you, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to get the boat in gear and take action.

Thanks for reading my post about BVI redlined areas and making it all the way to the end! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about a catamaran that was set adrift from it’s Cooper Island mooring.