17 April - 2 May 2015... The Ragged Islands

A short daysail took us from the Jumentos to the Raggeds -- an island chain closer to Cuba than any major island in the Bahamas. Stopped at Racoon Cay, a long island with high hills. The vegetation on this island was impenetrable, so hiking was only along the beach. We kayaked a bit to scope out the snorkeling, but the days we were there it was too rough. In four days we only saw two boats headed north. Nobody stopped here. We were really on our own. We did hear goats on the island, but never spotted any. Saw new shotgun shells on the sand. Hmmm. Decided to move on...

After a recon run by dinghy, pulled around the corner to the prettiest little islet -- Johnson Cay -- our own private island. We staked out the middle of the cove and plunked down the anchor. Gorgeous place -- beautiful sand beach, rugged rocks, lots of green. Where does the fresh water come from to support all this green? It hadn't rained since the last cold front -- a month? Soon got the rhythm of the place, active in the morning, running for shade in the hot afternoons. The other inhabitants here, the goats, go out in late afternoon to munch shrubs. Seen at least 5... and 2 skeletons.

Lots of snorkeling -- could just swim from the boat. Figured out the tides so we could get up close to the corals. Barracuda here, also a turtle and some rays. But the real beauty is in the smaller fish and the backdrop of the sea rods, elkhorn, and brain corals. Took a short dinghy ride to the elkhorn coral rocks south of Johnson. Beautiful fan gardens, magnificent parrotfish, elkhorn stands.

All good things must end. Bad weather coming, so we moved to get north wind and swell protection. Once the wind moves north of west, the anchorage at Johnson gets really rolly. Took a spot a mile north between Racoon and Nairn Cays. Started our exploration -- there were coral heads everywhere, so we got into the water. Promptly got out three separate times -- chased out by a shark. Well, not literally, but when we saw the shark, we headed to the dinghy before he got interested in us. We kept trying, moving to different places, but he followed. Fourth time out, next day, he cruised by again. This time John got his portrait. Used all the books to identify him and could only come up with lemon shark, based on size (about 4-5 feet) and dorsal fins (same size). But the color was gray. Anyone have any other ideas about who was following us?

Racoon Cay, west side: 22d21.383'N 75d48.816'W
Johnson Cay: 22d20.245'N 75d46.806'W
Racoon Cay, south side: 22d20.986'N 75d47.887'W

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