Warderick Wells (Exuma Park)
We not only point south, but we also skip a few islands along the way. It feels very unnatural to us, but the more reports we get about weather coming in the next few days the more compelled we feel to continue onward at a faster pace than we might hope. It’s so interesting to motor along in perfectly still/flat waters because there’s little to no wind at all and yet have to imagine that the reason we’re moving is because another huge storm is building. We’ve seen enough already to know better than to ignore the warnings and you’d better bet we’re looking at all options from ducking into a marina to which island to hide behind… but right now it just seems impossible that a massive storm is a a few days out.
We make our way through those calm waters heading south and then the rains start. Normally we would just ride this out anchored in a bay, but we have to make headway and continue onward. It’s amazing how cold and wet we immediately find ourselves between the rain and the wind while underway. Our former snowy winter travels seem like another world as we freeze despite temps hardly reaching the 60s (granted, w’ere sill barefoot and wearing shorts). I won’t even bring up the fact that others Are suffering through a “polar vortex” back home. Yikes!
We had planned to stop in at Shroud Cay, which we understand has a maze of rivers through mangroves that is absolutely perfect for kayaking and seeing wildlife (but not something we see ourselves doing in the dumping rain), and planned to snorkel at many places in between but we continue onward to Hawksbill Cay, where we drop the anchor in the rain and pull it up again first thing in the morning to continue on to Warderick Wells.
This island is the headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which is truly an amazing thing. The park itself is pretty impressive. The first in the world of its kind, and protecting 15islands and almost 180acres of ocean around them… The entire park is a “no take” zone and essentially a giant preserve to protect the wildlife both on land and sea in the area. We had kind of assumed we would spend a week or two in the park, and I’m sure we’ll return to do just that, but we pulled in and grabbed a mooring ball (our first) knowing that we were only here for the night before continuing on to a safer shelter from the pending storm.
Once secure on the ball we boarded the dinghy and made our way to the park office to pay for the night, get a map of the park and then on to the beach to chat with some of the other cruisers before going on a hike to the top of boo boo hill. Not exactly tall, but the highest point we’ve seen in some time and a pretty epic view out over the moorages around the island. We realized as we slid shoes (granted, lightweight slip-ons) over our feet that it was the first time we’ve worn shoes of any kind since leaving Florida almost 6weeks ago… that might be a record even for us and surely points to the fact we’ve been doing something right! ;)
The view from the top of the hill was in fact amazing. The perfect row of sailboats all moored in a thin strip of the only water deep enough for them and surrounded by shallow sandy bottom and that blue that we now are so completely enamored by. Sadly, the view is interrupted by a huge heap of wooden scrap with the names of boats scribbled or painted on them. Someone had mentioned this to us as though we should plan in advance and write Karma’s name on a piece of driftwood before arriving (we did not) because it has somehow become tradition for sailors and cruisers to leave their boat name here… but to us it just seemed like another manmade pile of trash somehow disguised as a good photo op or tradition. I will never understand what it is about the human condition that makes us want to stamp our name on a place. To leave something behind that shows we “conquered” it by visiting.
We saw much of the same when overloading Mexico and Central America. Bumper stickers of other travelers plastered to the windows of border crossing stations or on road signs at all the best views. As though somehow their travels wouldn’t mean as much if they didn’t stick their name on a place so that others could see they had been there. We didn’t leave anything behind then and we didn’t this time either… but enjoyed the view past the pile of rubbish and then continued onward and back to our dinghy.
We enjoyed snorkeling a few of the reefs on the way back to our boat and marveled at both the variety and size of the marine life here. The first are clearly thriving and we saw much larger fish than many other places we’ve snorkeled. On the way back to the dinghy we spot one of the largest lobster i’ve ever seen, barely even tucked away for protection… which would have been plenty, but as I go in for a closer look I spot a gigantic antanna and realize that hiding out just behind him is an absolute Monster that has to be 2-3 times the one peeking outside the hole. We obviously respect the park rules… but we suddenly can’t wait to find our first lobster (that we can take and eat)!
As intended, we cut our trip far too short and picked up anchor first thing in the morning.