Exuma Land and Sea Park, Part I

We were beginning to go stir-crazy at Allans Cay…so thankfully, the bank finally showed enough improvement that we felt comfortable moving on. No mutiny…phew! We had two things going for us that Saturday morning: calm seas AND winds from the east. As soon as we hauled up the dinghy, we were on our way. Just about 20 miles south was Hawksbill Cay, our second stop in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Our three-hour trip was a blast…nothing like Gilligan’s! 10 to 15 knot winds kept our sails full on a beam reach. We got on a pretty good lean as the wind heeled us over, but not too much to knock over my sun-tea warming on deck. As we approached Hawksbill, I replayed the instructional YouTube video in my head…I was about to pick up my first mooring ball; we wouldn’t be dropping the anchor here. I walked up on deck with the boat hook in hand. Troy slowly guided us up to the mooring ball. All I needed to do was use the boat hook to pick up the pendant attached to the mooring in the water and feed our already-prepared line through, tying it back to the forward cleat on the bow. It seemed pretty easy on YouTube…as long as I didn’t miss stretching down to the water with the boat hook! This was a nail biter, but I got it! I quickly tied us off as Troy shut off the engine. We were one of three other boats in the mooring field: two sailboats, including us, and one mega-yacht. For our sized vessel, mooring in the Land and Sea Park cost $20 per night.

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The water was spectacular. Turquoise blue surrounded us below while puffy white clouds filled the light blue sky above. The island in front of us boasted several white sand beaches and once we explored by dinghy, we discovered a wide, dry at high-tide, beach around the backside.

The area was pristine, picturesque, unspoiled, breathtaking…none of these adjectives really do the island justice! During our second day, we hiked to the top of the island, a rocky trail is visible from the main beach. We were treated with panoramic views and got some great shots of Salty Tails! Later, we rode to the northern end of the island and hiked to ruins once occupied by British Loyalists. As we stood within the ruins, we commented that the views we were enjoying probably looked almost identical to the landscape the Loyalists called home so long ago.

After two nights at Hawksbill, we made our way south 13 miles to Warderick Wells, the headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park and the anticipated pinnacle of our trip. There are three mooring fields here, all of which require reservations by radio with the park headquarters. The North mooring field and Emerald Rock mooring field each have many mooring balls available, but over the nights we stayed, they were nearly full. We arrived around lunchtime and chose to stay at Emerald Rock. Cherry, the park attendant we spoke to over the radio, told us to pick any mooring and report to her which one we took upon check-in. We were glad I didn’t insist on that second cup of coffee while still at Hawksbill that morning because as we approached, about a mile out, we suddenly noticed an armada of boats lining up behind us on their way in. I counted seven boats to our stern…thankfully we were just ahead, so we were able to beat the scramble to find a mooring.

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Warderick Wells has so much to offer. Once we checked in with Terri and purchased wifi at the office (where they also have a book exchange and gift shop), we were ready to check out what the island had to offer! Aside from enjoying the unspoiled beauty, we were able to hike several trails, snorkel nearby coral heads, relax at several beaches, and add our sign atop Boo Boo Hill. There is even a sunken boat hull in the North field (which we didn’t get a chance to see, but we will on our way back North).

Our first night was pretty windy; winds clocked at over 30 knots. We were content knowing that the park mooring balls are well maintained…we trusted our mooring just as much as our Rocna! After a restful night of sleep, we awoke ready to explore. First, our sights were set on the trail to Boo Boo Hill. It’s said that in order to appease King Neptune, cruisers are to leave a token atop Boo Boo Hill…typically this means a wooden plaque decorated with your boat’s name. We wanted some inspiration before painting our own sign, so we decided to check it out first. The enormous mound of signs is pretty impressive; years upon years of offerings lay piled, some bright and colorful and others weathered by the relentless sun and salty sea spray. Ideas were brewing in my head for our sign as we headed over to the blowholes. The Exuma Sound was pretty rough so waves crashed against the rocky wall of the island, making the blowholes extra active! I decided sticking my head over top would give a pretty good idea of the force of air…I had knots for days. The next day, we made our sign using on hand materials…black chalkboard paint, red spray paint, a few screws, and a couple feet of extra rope. As best as we could manage, we snapped a picture of our sign with our three salty tails and headed back to Boo Boo Hill to leave our offering for Neptune.

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Snorkeling the nearby coral heads was next on our must-do list. Several snorkel spots are equipped with dinghy moorings, so once we tied off, we were ready to jump in. It was COLD, but I ignored my goosebumps. There were all kinds of fish and coral on the reefs. The reefs themselves weren’t huge, but they offered plenty to look at. Tropical fish of all shapes and colors called the reef home. We were even able to get nice and cozy with a nurse shark who rested at the bottom. This would make many people nervous, but we know nurse sharks are docile; it didn’t mind that we swam alongside as it got moving again.

After five nights at Warderick Wells, we were ready to say good-bye…well, sort of. We really loved spending time here and will definitely be stopping here on our way back!

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