Warderick Wells Cay- Park HQ
Photos will be posted at a later date.
Judy—On 12/17/10 we decided to head for Warderick Wells Cay to hunker down through another cold front that was forecasted. “Barry Cuda” was still resting under us, so we waved goodbye, hoisted the sails and sailed off the mooring. What a lovely day! The sun was shining, we had an ENE breeze and off we went. “Otto” (the autopilot) was employed and I did Sudokus while sitting by the wheel. It took us 3 or 4 hours to get to the approach for Warderick Wells Cay. “Otto” was at the helm most of the way. We eventually turned on the iron jib to charge the batteries.
On the Exuma Banks’ side (west) of the Cays, it is extremely important to watch the chart and the water and to stay pretty far offshore because of the moving sand “bores” (bars) which stream out from shore like long, fat, misshapen fingers, sometimes 2 to 3 miles long. They are formed by the currents and the tides that come through the cuts or spaces between the islands (cays). The cuts are dangerous as the current flows quite fast (for those of you who are sailors think “Hell Gate” here. Unlike Hell Gate, some are quite narrow, with shallows on either side; poorly charted and with ever shifting sands. Other analogous cuts are Shinnecock inlet on the south shore of Long Island, and the channels between the Elizabeth Islands like Woods Hole and Quick Hole).
The northern end of Warderick Wells Cay has a lovely harbour protected by a ring of small islands (cays). It has a channel on the eastern edge that curves around into the center of the protected area. The channel is deep enough (6 to 15 feet at mean low water) but the rest of the area is 3 feet to nearly dry at low water. It is beautiful to see the deeper blue water with yellow in the middle.
Our mooring was near our friends on Legacy. We managed to lose the end of our boat hook while picking up the mooring and Steph decided he would dive in and save it, until he saw “Bruce”, the resident shark, swim by. We dinked into the park office and met Darcy, the “voice of Exuma Park.” She is a wonderful, friendly, very helpful person and manages the welcome center/museum, gift shop and the radio communications in the Park. We got all registered and joined the Bahamas National Trust which gave us two free nights on moorings in the Park. We received all sorts of information about the Park, the hiking and snorkeling on Warderick Wells and had a fun time looking at all the cool items in the gift shop. Darcy introduced us to the “Bananacuits” these cute, fear free, little birds with yellow on them. (They actually became pests on the boat, as they would come in, fly around the salon and into the aft cabin, where Mary reacted just like a cat should…but we wouldn’t let her catch any of them. They also pecked food and fruit that was out, and left little birdie poops wherever they felt like.)
While back in Nassau we picked up a package of Christmas lights and a small tree. Now was the time to light up the boat. I hoisted the 24’ string of multi-colored lights to the top of the main mast with 12’ descending from the cap to the spreader on either side. The anchor light served as the star (or shammos) atop our tree of lights.
We rented a DVD for the evening’s entertainment and signed up for a 24 hour period of internet via satellite. The internet was quite slow at times and there were no Skype or any social networking sites allowed. We were able to do email and upload some blog postings.
The next day we went in to the office again and picked up a map of the trails and went for a hike up Boo Boo Hill. Being a national park, there are all sorts of signs giving descriptions of the plants and natural wonders, and there certainly were lots on this trail. It was a very interesting hike. When we got to the top of Boo Boo Hill, we made a driftwood plaque with Bentaña’s name, the date and our names and left it with the others there. Boo Boo Hill is so named for the sounds the ghosts of shipwrecked victims make that can be heard on the hill at specific times. Skeptics ascribe it to the water rushing through the blow holes. Steph went to see the blow holes, but it was low tide so they weren’t blowing. We wandered back to the office, picked up another DVD (Something with Sean Penn and a sailboat, taking place on Smuttynose Island at the Isle of Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth NH) and headed back to the boat.
On Saturday, a front came through and the wind was quite strong. We had rain and were glad we were on a strong mooring, because we were pretty close to a rocky shore. A beach party had been planned for 5 or 5:30 that afternoon, but no one went, so it was rescheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The rescheduled party took place after sunset on the 19th. About ten cruisers were there, joined by three resident Bahama Defense Force officers. This island also serves as an outpost for the BDF, with members assigned here for two week shifts every year. We were also joined by a Hutia, a small endangered rodent. Here in the park it has no predators, and may not be harmed elsewhere, so it has become a pest here, but cute… In all it was a cool and windy evening with crudités and libations enjoyed by all. I enjoyed the Nassau Royale, a cordial made from rum. An example of activities was, “Whose flashlight can shine the furthest.” Getting our dinghys back off the beach in fresh surf in the dark (with a few drinks under our belts) was another chilling and thrilling event. And so we returned to Bentaña for another tranquil night’s sleep.
We stayed through Tuesday morning, 12/21, as the winds continued through Monday afternoon the 20th.
The 21st was Mom’s birthday, so Darcy let us use the office phone to call and sing Happy Birthday. The 21st is also the winter solstice, and this year it was accompanied by a full moon in a total eclipse. Can you imagine the treat to be in a place with no light pollution, no haze, and pleasant weather in which to lie out and watch the show? It was also benefited by having my fine Steiner binoculars at hand. Nothing says man in the moon like good German optics. The unexpected earthshine made the part of the disk in the “Dark” actually visible but reddish and dim. I took some pictures, but you can see ones worth looking at somewhere else on the net. After bidding “adieu” to our newfound friend, Darcy, we hopped in the dingy, headed back to the boat and released the mooring to head for Staniel Cay.