Throwback Thursday: Exuma Land & Sea Park

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Once all the fun of the Family Regatta was finished in George Town, it was already time for us to begin our trek, slowly, back to the US.  We’d come down as far as we had time for, and with an Atlantic crossing still pending this season, we had to set our sights on getting back to Florida.  It wasn’t a race to the finish line though, and our plan was to hit a few islands of the Exumas we had missed the previous year.

Just a short jump up from George Town was Lee Stocking Island.  Known for it’s great reefs full of fish, we were extremely excited to get to an area where we could don our snorkeling gear to actually glimpse a few fish, but the few days we were there had us rained out, and even pinned against a lee shore with 42 knot winds for one afternoon.

Before you can begin to feel too bad for us though, we just had to sneak in one more visit to Staniel Cay and Big Majors.  I mean, how can you pass by attractions like the Thunderball Grotto and swimming pigs and not make a stop there?  We also had the weather on our side once more and spent a beautiful few days there before it was once again time to move ourselves a little further north.

Our final stop in the Exumas was Warderick Wells, one place we had sadly skipped the year before and knew we couldn’t do a second time.

You can find the original post here.

Monday May 5, 2014

Exuma Land & Sea Park

Keeping as true to my Exuma wish list as possible, since we’ve now already skipped the sunken sculptures at Musha Cay, when Matt asked what our next stop was, I told him ‘Warderick Wells!’.  This is one spot I’m actually very sad we missed out on last year, and as soon as we pulled into the anchorage and then brought the dinghy out by the park headquarters, Matt was as well.  This place is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l!  As well it should be, too.  That’s because Warderick Wells is part of the Exuma Land & Sea Park, a 22 mile stretch of sea and cays that are protected under the Bahamas National Trust where they like to promote the saying ‘Take only photos, leave only footprints’.  Meaning you take no fish, plants, flowers, ect, and do not leave any trash behind.  It’s a great concept and the island has definitely benefited from it.

Warderick Wells hosts two big claims to fame among the cays that make up the Land & Sea park.  Not only does it contain the park headquarters (ok, that’s not actually one of them), but it has a stunning horseshoe anchorage filled with mooring balls to preserve the seabed below, and just a few hundred meters away from this is Boo Boo Hill.  The lore of Boo Boo Hill is that many years ago, a schooner sank off the shores of Warderick Wells on a stormy night and that every soul on board perished.  They still like to haunt the area though, and legend has it that if you climb the crest of the hill at the bloom of a full moon, you can hear the voices of the lost souls singing hymns.  We weren’t up for night hiking, and I don’t think we were even anywhere near a full moon, but a hike up the hill sounded fun enough.

anchorage at Warderick Wells

The term hike should be used very lightly though, and after a few minute uphill climb in which I never even had the chance to become short of breath, we were at the top.  The views up there were spectacular, but that wasn’t the only thing we had come to behold.  For you see, there’s been a tradition going on here between cruisers for quite a few years now.  Keeping with the theme of the natural reserve, cruisers have been leaving their mark at the top of this hill in the form of driftwood with their boat name painted or burned into it.  We didn’t have anything to leave as a memento, nor were we planning to, but the stunning views we were afforded at the top was well worth the trip in.  Through the mass of driftwood we tried to search out friends that we knew left pieces behind, but the crowd of 2014 was exceedingly strong and we would have had to do a lot of digging to unearth anything older.

Boo Boo Hill, Warderick Wells

Jessica on top of Boo Boo Hill

looking down Boo Boo Hill

 There was one sight we spotted at the top of Boo Boo Hill that we weren’t expecting too see but extremely happy we did.  Sitting on a mooring ball was s/v Laho, belonging to our friends Kim and Jereme that we hadn’t seen or talked to after spending a night out in the Bahama Banks, something we still hope they don’t hold against us.  (‘Oh, this uncontrollably rolly anchorage out in the middle of nowhere?  We’ll be fiiiiine.’)  Getting back in the dinghy we planned on doing a ride-by stalking to see if anyone was aboard, whilst trying to pretend that we were just checking out the mooring field.  Coming up on Laho we saw that in was in fact their boat, but it didn’t appear as if anyone was home.  There were however a group of dinghies gathered in the center of the anchorage where low tide had provided a couple of lavish sandbars that would be the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner, and we cut the dinghy over to see if they were among the crowd.

The crowd however, completely dispersed as we came up on it, and we think we saw Kim, Jereme, and Oliver riding off in a direction back toward their boat.  Not wanting to actually stalk them by immediately turning ourselves back around, we landed the dinghy at the sandbar and walked around for a few minutes before trying Laho a second time, where we were eagerly invited aboard and offered cold beers while the four of us filled each other in on lost time.  With both boats being stuck for at least one more day due to a front coming through, I made sure that Kim didn’t mind me stopping back over once more so that I could return her favorite hair clip that I borrowed during our casino night and forgot to give back in the excitement of Jereme falling out of our dinghy on the way back to the boats.  That was just a cover story though.  What I was really after was Photoshop lessons so my photos can begin to look anywhere near as amazing as hers.*

Matt on sand bar

Warderick Wells at low tide

 The promised storm did come howling through in the middle of the night, waking us up at 2 am while 35-40 knot winds straightened out all our anchor chain and left Matt in the cabin to sleep in case any quick action needed to be taken.  None did, and 30 minutes later everything calmed back down to the peaceful 15-20 knots we’re used to.  What the storm did leave in it’s wake though were larger than normal seas on the Banks side of the island, the one we were exposed to.  We have not been doing well so far this year in trying to hide ourselves from west winds, and the result has been us rocking back and forth, familiar to those dreaded swells we experienced back in Grand Cayman.  This now being our second day of experiencing them, I could not handle it anymore.  Calling up Kim on the VHF, I begged her to let me take refuge on Laho for a few hours. I think the phrase ‘I’m going to burn this boat down’ was starting to make it’s way back into my vocabulary.

Knowing that I couldn’t show up empty handed again, I made a quick batch of Johnny Bread after following a recipe on my friend Brittany’s blog.  For being a first time attempt I think it came out pretty good, albeit a little more burned than I would have liked, but coupled with a side of strawberry jam I figured it was a very presentable gift for my gracious host, who in turn, handed me a cold Bud Light upon my arrival.  You gotta love how these trades work on the high seas.  Plus all the valuable lessons and tools I picked up from Kim to use on my CS6, well, let’s just say I think I ended up in the black for the day.  (Or week)

storms over Warderick Wells

storms over Warderick Wells

Georgie watching fish

Today we got off the boat to do a little more exploration of the island in the form of snorkeling and hiking.  There are a few patches of coral marked off in the anchorage we’re in at Emerald Bay, and taking the dinghy over we dropped hook in sandy patches next to the reefs and devoured every colorful fish and piece of brain coral we could take in.  I’ll be honest, it didn’t compare to the diving we did in the Ragged Islands last year, but it was our first chance to see anything underwater this year and we were soaking it all in.  Once we had finished on the three pieced of coral in the bay we took to diving Emerald Rock itself and found much more life there.  Matt spent tons of time in the water sneaking into every little crevice he could find, but the 5 ft barracuda that kept eyeing me, even though I knew it wouldn’t do anything, sent be back to the dinghy to soak up some sun and get warm instead.

After lunch we took to the shore and let Georgie join us.  We’ve decided that even though she loathes dinghy rides, we want to get her off the boat when possible so she can add a few new sights and smells to her world.  As soon as she was dropped off on the beach she began rolling around in the sand and chasing Matt as he ran near the waters edge.  In short, she was acting kind of like…a dog.  We were even able to get her to walk on her leash and we hiked up one of the trails to some ruins, and as long as one of us was in the front leading the way, she was completely content to follow.  It wasn’t until we were back on the beach that we remembered all the signs posted asking you not to bring your pets on the trails and to keep them on the beaches.  Ohhh, right.  She is a ‘pet’.  I forgot.  Cats walking on leashes tend to do that to you.

beach at Warderick Wells

Davis Plantation Trail marker

Matt walking Georgie

Jessica at Warderick Wells

We could have spent all afternoon resting on that beach, and Matt had even picked out a little cove where he would love to anchor Serendipity for a month straight if we had the time, but true to the Bahamian nature we’ve been experiencing so far this year, the sun was quickly overtaken by approaching clouds and sending us running back to the boat to close all the hatches before something really nasty blew in.  With two and a half days here though, I think we still managed to get the full experience in. Verdict of Warderick Wells:  Exquisitely beautiful and well worth the stop.

5.4.14 (14)

 *Now that we’re back in Miami we are hunting down deals for me to buy a new DSLR body so I can stop shooting with my Cyber Shot.  I am so over the moon about the prospect of being able to shoot great photos again.  Thank you mom for the gift, you’re the best!!

 

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Making Miles

Wednesday May 7, 2014

Exuma Banks

There was only one thing left on my Exuma wish list, and sadly, I did not get to complete it.  The last item on the list that we missed out on last year and I wanted to squeeze in this time around was stopping at Norman’s Cay, just about 10 miles north of Warderick Wells.  This spot is famous for being the headquarters of drug smuggling operations for Carlos Lehder (even featured in one of my favorite movies, Blow), and even though the drug runners have been gone for about 30 years now, this little island still has a few draws.  There’s the famous McDuff’s restaurant where we hear you can pay $20 for a single burger (thanks, I think we would have passed on that one), and the sunken remains of an airplane that lies just a few feel below the water and is perfect for snorkeling.  That is the reason I wanted to visit.  But according to Kim and Jereme, whom had just come from there, getting to the plane from the anchorage we would have been in on the west side of the island would have been very far in the dingy and very hard at times with the current ripping through the cut between islands, where the wreckage lies.

Well, since our intended plan had been to anchor at Norman’s Cay, then Allen’s Cay; Nassua, Berry’s; Great Bahama Banks; and finally Bimini, and now it wasn’t likely that I’d even be able to see the one sight I wanted to go to Norman’s for, we decided to skip it all.  After talking to a couple from s/v Sea Witch while out snorkeling the other day, they mentioned there would be steady east winds for the next three days that they themselves would be riding directly back to their home port of Palm Beach.  We took a moment to think about it, and this is what we came up with.  We need/want to be back in Miami by May 15th to give ourselves at least two weeks to prepare the boat for our Atlantic crossing with a departure date for that of June 1st (weather dependent).  If we were to still hit all of these intended anchorages, even just staying for one night, that wouldn’t put us back to Bimini until the 12th.  Doable, but any bad weather could quickly put us behind schedule.  Or…we could skip all of that and head directly back to Bimini from Warderick Wells.  So that’s what we decided to do.

Matt was a little more enthusiastic about this ‘go go go’ idea than I was, I wasn’t ready to give up these excruciatingly beautiful anchorages just yet, but he’s been indulging me throughout all of the Bahamas so far, so he did not hear any complaints from me when he asked for this one favor back.  He was ready to get into ocean crossing prep mode, and after 8 days, I was just excited at the thought of getting internet back.  Anchor was weighed at 9 am yesterday under sail power alone, and we slid out into the calm waters of the Exuma Banks.  Due to the east winds and still being so close to shore, we enjoyed a good five hours of extremely settled water where it was hard to tell we were even moving.  Poor Georgie, who probably assumed we were still at anchor since it was so calm, didn’t understand why she was being reprimanded as she tried to wander the deck.  We still never want to take the chance that she might go overboard while underway and contain her to the cockpit, but unless conditions are pretty rough we won’t actually force her leash secured leash on her, letting her wander the cockpit and cabin.

Although we were headed in a NW direction, the winds had clocked just south enough to keep fairly downwind the whole way.  Things did start to pick up yesterday evening where the waves began to build just a little and even though our apparent wind was only in the 15-20 knot range, we were keeping a steady 7 knots under our hull.  We passed Nassau just at sunset and then I was sent to bed.  Even though we were speeding along and would normally reduce sail once the sun went down (just so a reef doesn’t have to be put in when one person is trying to sleep…we just take care of it beforehand), there was an unspoken wish between us that we might actually cover all our miles to Bimini before sundown the next night, but we needed to keep going fast to do that.  It was only when I had been down below for a few hours, never actually catching any sleep, that I felt a sudden knock on our side.  A big gust had come up and basically thrown us over and rounded us up into the wind.  Ok…time to slow down a little.  Matt brought in the headsail, but even in doing so we still managed to keep 6 knots under our hull until getting in the lee of the Berrys.

The NW Channel was crossed over at 3 am, and something we would normally never do in the dark, except we still had our track on the chart plotter from the first time we passed through and we made sure to stick to it exactly.  Surrounding us were the lights of anchored boats that had dropped hook in the shallow waters just before the pass, waiting until morning to make their run through it.  By this point I had been on shift for three hours, and since I had not managed to accumulate any sleep from my first shift below, Matt let me go down early to catch a few hours even though I still owed him two more. (We made sure to both be up for crossing the channel)

The rest of our sail today through the banks was rather uneventful, although I wish some excitement would have come in the form of fish biting on our line.  We didn’t even have any barracuda to throw back.*  I guess in the world of yin and yang though, we had to give something up to get something in return.  Our journey might have been fish-less, but it was also fast.  We rounded the North Rock of Bimini at four in the afternoon, plenty of time to get ourselves to a comfortable anchorage for the night.  Since the tide was now coming out though and we would prefer it to be at our backs instead of fighting it on our way in, we decided to anchor outside of the harbor for the night.  Which not only satisfied my wish for at least one more beautiful anchorage, but it might satisfy my wish for good snorkeling as well.  Because we have just put ourselves in a prime spot to check out the Bimini Road tomorrow morning.

 

*Imagine my disappointment when, as soon as I logged into our Facebook account after having scheduled a bunch of post to go up as we were heading up the Exumas, one of our readers pointed out to me that the first time we crossed the banks our first catch was not actually a barracuda, but a mackerel!!  Something we could have eaten!!  Thanks for letting us know Ben, we’ll make sure to keep a sharper eye out the next time.  It was those damn big teeth that had us confused the first time.

 

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Exuma Land & Sea Park

Monday May 5, 2014

Exuma Land & Sea Park

Keeping as true to my Exuma wish list as possible, since we’ve now already skipped the sunken sculptures at Musha Cay, when Matt asked what our next stop was, I told him ‘Warderick Wells!’.  This is one spot I’m actually very sad we missed out on last year, and as soon as we pulled into the anchorage and then brought the dinghy out by the park headquarters, Matt was as well.  This place is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l!  As well it should be, too.  That’s because Warderick Wells is part of the Exuma Land & Sea Park, a 22 mile stretch of sea and cays that are protected under the Bahamas National Trust where they like to promote the saying ‘Take only photos, leave only footprints’.  Meaning you take no fish, plants, flowers, ect, and do not leave any trash behind.  It’s a great concept and the island has definitely benefited from it.

Warderick Wells hosts two big claims to fame among the cays that make up the Land & Sea park.  Not only does it contain the park headquarters (ok, that’s not actually one of them), but it has a stunning horseshoe anchorage filled with mooring balls to preserve the seabed below, and just a few hundred meters away from this is Boo Boo Hill.  The lore of Boo Boo Hill is that many years ago, a schooner sank off the shores of Warderick Wells on a stormy night and that every soul on board perished.  They still like to haunt the area though, and legend has it that if you climb the crest of the hill at the bloom of a full moon, you can hear the voices of the lost souls singing hymns.  We weren’t up for night hiking, and I don’t think we were even anywhere near a full moon, but a hike up the hill sounded fun enough.

anchorage at Warderick Wells

The term hike should be used very lightly though, and after a few minute uphill climb in which I never even had the chance to become short of breath, we were at the top.  The views up there were spectacular, but that wasn’t the only thing we had come to behold.  For you see, there’s been a tradition going on here between cruisers for quite a few years now.  Keeping with the theme of the natural reserve, cruisers have been leaving their mark at the top of this hill in the form of driftwood with their boat name painted or burned into it.  We didn’t have anything to leave as a memento, nor were we planning to, but the stunning views we were afforded at the top was well worth the trip in.  Through the mass of driftwood we tried to search out friends that we knew left pieces behind, but the crowd of 2014 was exceedingly strong and we would have had to do a lot of digging to unearth anything older.

Boo Boo Hill, Warderick Wells

Jessica on top of Boo Boo Hill

looking down Boo Boo Hill

 There was one sight we spotted at the top of Boo Boo Hill that we weren’t expecting too see but extremely happy we did.  Sitting on a mooring ball was s/v Laho, belonging to our friends Kim and Jereme that we hadn’t seen or talked to after spending a night out in the Bahama Banks, something we still hope they don’t hold against us.  (‘Oh, this uncontrollably rolly anchorage out in the middle of nowhere?  We’ll be fiiiiine.’)  Getting back in the dinghy we planned on doing a ride-by stalking to see if anyone was aboard, whilst trying to pretend that we were just checking out the mooring field.  Coming up on Laho we saw that in was in fact their boat, but it didn’t appear as if anyone was home.  There were however a group of dinghies gathered in the center of the anchorage where low tide had provided a couple of lavish sandbars that would be the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner, and we cut the dinghy over to see if they were among the crowd.

The crowd however, completely dispersed as we came up on it, and we think we saw Kim, Jereme, and Oliver riding off in a direction back toward their boat.  Not wanting to actually stalk them by immediately turning ourselves back around, we landed the dinghy at the sandbar and walked around for a few minutes before trying Laho a second time, where we were eagerly invited aboard and offered cold beers while the four of us filled each other in on lost time.  With both boats being stuck for at least one more day due to a front coming through, I made sure that Kim didn’t mind me stopping back over once more so that I could return her favorite hair clip that I borrowed during our casino night and forgot to give back in the excitement of Jereme falling out of our dinghy on the way back to the boats.  That was just a cover story though.  What I was really after was Photoshop lessons so my photos can begin to look anywhere near as amazing as hers.*

Matt on sand bar

Warderick Wells at low tide

 The promised storm did come howling through in the middle of the night, waking us up at 2 am while 35-40 knot winds straightened out all our anchor chain and left Matt in the cabin to sleep in case any quick action needed to be taken.  None did, and 30 minutes later everything calmed back down to the peaceful 15-20 knots we’re used to.  What the storm did leave in it’s wake though were larger than normal seas on the Banks side of the island, the one we were exposed to.  We have not been doing well so far this year in trying to hide ourselves from west winds, and the result has been us rocking back and forth, familiar to those dreaded swells we experienced back in Grand Cayman.  This now being our second day of experiencing them, I could not handle it anymore.  Calling up Kim on the VHF, I begged her to let me take refuge on Laho for a few hours. I think the phrase ‘I’m going to burn this boat down’ was starting to make it’s way back into my vocabulary.

Knowing that I couldn’t show up empty handed again, I made a quick batch of Johnny Bread after following a recipe on my friend Brittany’s blog.  For being a first time attempt I think it came out pretty good, albeit a little more burned than I would have liked, but coupled with a side of strawberry jam I figured it was a very presentable gift for my gracious host, who in turn, handed me a cold Bud Light upon my arrival.  You gotta love how these trades work on the high seas.  Plus all the valuable lessons and tools I picked up from Kim to use on my CS6, well, let’s just say I think I ended up in the black for the day.  (Or week)

storms over Warderick Wells

storms over Warderick Wells

Georgie watching fish

Today we got off the boat to do a little more exploration of the island in the form of snorkeling and hiking.  There are a few patches of coral marked off in the anchorage we’re in at Emerald Bay, and taking the dinghy over we dropped hook in sandy patches next to the reefs and devoured every colorful fish and piece of brain coral we could take in.  I’ll be honest, it didn’t compare to the diving we did in the Ragged Islands last year, but it was our first chance to see anything underwater this year and we were soaking it all in.  Once we had finished on the three pieced of coral in the bay we took to diving Emerald Rock itself and found much more life there.  Matt spent tons of time in the water sneaking into every little crevice he could find, but the 5 ft barracuda that kept eyeing me, even though I knew it wouldn’t do anything, sent be back to the dinghy to soak up some sun and get warm instead.

After lunch we took to the shore and let Georgie join us.  We’ve decided that even though she loathes dinghy rides, we want to get her off the boat when possible so she can add a few new sights and smells to her world.  As soon as she was dropped off on the beach she began rolling around in the sand and chasing Matt as he ran near the waters edge.  In short, she was acting kind of like…a dog.  We were even able to get her to walk on her leash and we hiked up one of the trails to some ruins, and as long as one of us was in the front leading the way, she was completely content to follow.  It wasn’t until we were back on the beach that we remembered all the signs posted asking you not to bring your pets on the trails and to keep them on the beaches.  Ohhh, right.  She is a ‘pet’.  I forgot.  Cats walking on leashes tend to do that to you.

beach at Warderick Wells

Davis Plantation Trail marker

Matt walking Georgie

Jessica at Warderick Wells

We could have spent all afternoon resting on that beach, and Matt had even picked out a little cove where he would love to anchor Serendipity for a month straight if we had the time, but true to the Bahamian nature we’ve been experiencing so far this year, the sun was quickly overtaken by approaching clouds and sending us running back to the boat to close all the hatches before something really nasty blew in.  With two and a half days here though, I think we still managed to get the full experience in. Verdict of Warderick Wells:  Exquisitely beautiful and well worth the stop.

5.4.14 (14)

 *Now that we’re back in Miami we are hunting down deals for me to buy a new DSLR body so I can stop shooting with my Cyber Shot.  I am so over the moon about the prospect of being able to shoot great photos again.  Thank you mom for the gift, you’re the best!!

 

 

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