Exuma Land & Sea Park
20 December 2016 | Wardrick Wells
Dec 13-20 Tuesday we stayed put at Big Majors and did some more fiddling with the generator and internet research. We took a long dinghy ride to the islets and shallows NW of our anchorage here and explored the beach at the west end of Fowl Cay. It was a beautiful light air evening with a brilliant full moon high overhead by late night. Wednesday we sailed downwind to the southern end of Exuma Land and Sea Park and anchored in an unlikely NE facing cove on Chicken Cay--only because the conditions were unusually calm and not expected to change for awhile. We chose this spot because it is close to the rocky islets known as Rocky Dundas, which we arrived at by dinghy at low tide. It was perfect conditions to access the two caves by snorkeling, something not really possible in the normal strong easterly winds as these entrances are on the windward side of the islets. Inside the first one was a large cavern lit by holes in the ceiling far above. One could climb out on the dry ledges and look around a bit. At the innermost point was a small beach exposed at low tide only...a perfect spot for a buried treasure chest I'd say. In the second opening, the cavern was accessed under a low overhang then opened to an immense chamber, again lit from above. It contained an amazing array of limestone formations, stalagmites and the like. Some of them almost give the appearance of carved saints and angels as if it were an ancient cathedral. Later on, back to the boat found us just touching bottom in the soft sand...I had pushed my luck a bit too far on entering the cozy cove there, so we had to wait a few hours uniil later in the afternoon to move a few yards to deeper water for overnight.
Thursday we picked up and moved on to the NW to the center of activity and headquarters at the Exuma Park Reserve (see link: http://www.exumapark.org/ExumaParkHome/tabid/36/Default.aspx) They have a very organized call in procedure for getting on the list for a mooring ball, not really a reservation, but seems to work quite well. At this spot at Wardrick Wells there is a horseshoe shaped mooring field that has twenty or so moorings along a deep narrow channel with dramatic sand bars that nearly dry or completely dry at low water. Upon approach we received our assigned mooring around the far side of the horseshoe, starting out all by ourselves, but later joined by 4 others. The current rips through here on the ebb and flood, so we were thankful to be on a solid mooring which were regularly maintained by the park. It was fun to dinghy over the short distance to the sand bars at low tide and walk around in the inch deep waters. Later we dinghied to nearby dinghy moorings that were positioned over a great snorkeling area, but normally exposed to a lot of current. There's about 30-45 min at slack tide to be able to do this and we were glad to take advantage on the calmer of the days of our stay here. We saw a great variety of reef fish including a "high hat" and a school of squid.
We made a plan to stay here for four nights to explore as well as escape the regular weekly high wind periods that we seem to be experiencing. One day I tackled the generator problem once again since I realized that I would be quite disappointed if we made the trip to Florida to have work done and it turned out to be something simple that didn't require removal of the whole thing from the boat. So I tore into it further than I had gone previously and found a small broken bolt end that was jammed in a place where the injector pump plunger fits--sure seemed like it could be the source of the problem. Resolution will have to wait until we return to phone & data connectivity next week, but we were encouraged. Donna also baked bread for the first time on the trip and it turned out quite well.
By Saturday we were in need of a good walkabout so headed for shore to explore the extensive trails indicated in the Park information. However, we learned that at the extreme high tides we were having that day, many of the trails were too flooded to make any progress, so we dinghied over to another beach to more easily access trails to the hills and blow holes on the rugged windward side of the cay. That night the park staff had organized an appetizer pot luck at their main beach and it was fun to meet with fellow cruisers that had collected here in the park this weekend. We were a bit surprised to find that nearly all of the boats there at the time were from Canada, in fact in many of the anchorages in these parts in recent days the Canadians were often in the majority. The next day we again beached the dinghy and went for a long hike along the park trails that went through some pretty rough terrain. Good shoes are a must as we learned the hard way. The hike took us over some quite jagged rocky areas amidst dense growth where in parts it was uncertain where the trail led. We persisted and completed the loop trail and were glad to have a swim at the beach.
Monday we left our mooring in the Park and headed out for the banks side and around to the southeast where we had come from last week. We had a great sail close hauled in 15-20 knots and made the 20nm trip back to Big Majors Spot in less than 3 hours. By now here there were nearly 30 boats at anchor, but room for many more. Once back in good cell range I made some more calls and got another order for generator parts placed. Much hope is riding on this attempt...we'll see!