Experiencing the Exumas

Dec 19 – Warderick Wells

(posted from Staniel Cay, Dec 22)

We stayed one night in Nassau. Our marina was on the east end of town. There was a small shopping plaza across the street. Down the road to the west were a few marine related stores, a couple marinas and a couple restaurants. An OK place, but not that exciting. Maybe there was more farther down the road. We wanted to leave by 10 on Saturday, Dec. 12, but we left too many errands and chores for the morning to be gone by then. We finally got out of the slip, stopped at the fuel dock next door to top off the tanks, and were on our way around noon.

Laser Depth Sounders

We started out of the harbor into a strong wind. I had the chart next to me, but was having a little trouble finding landmarks and picking a route. Jackie was down below getting the computer and GPS fired up so we could use our electronic charts. Sometimes the computer can be a little cranky when first booting and trying to deal with the GPS input, and this was one of those times. In a moment of anal-ness, I had entered a waypoint for the harbor exit in the GPS at the helm, but it turned out that I entered it wrong and it pointed us back the way we came. I thought we were doing OK, but I saw a large motor yacht heading out on the other side of the harbor. I wished he would pick up speed so I could swing in behind him and follow him out.

Up ahead a fleet of Lasers (small, one-person racing boats) headiing directly at us. We could claim right of way if we were constrained by the depth, but they limited our options in that running over a small boat with a 25,000 pound yacht is not considered sporting. I held our course and tried to decipher the chart. The first laser sailed close by and the young man called out, “You’re running out of water.” The sailor on the next boat chimed in with, “You’re OUT of water.” As I looked at the depth gauge it dropped into the five foot range and kept going down. Compass Rose only draws 4′ 6″ but we were about there. I cranked the wheel around and looked for darker (deeper) water. I spotted a skinney channel and headed for it as Rosie’s keel kissed the bottom. Somehow we slid through and I dropped in behind the motor yacht, which had finally pulled out ahead.

We worked our way out and put up some sails. The breeze was nice, but a bit on the nose. Just before leaving the day before, Mark and Michelle told us they planned to sail Reach to Highbourne Cay. Mark gave me a SSB frequency to call on the next morning if we wanted to check in. I misplaced the note with the frequency, so I wasn’t able to confirm that Reach was at Highbourne Cay. No matter, they usually monitored VHF channel 16 so we would sail to Highbourne and call when we were in VHF range.

The wind angle was such that we couldn’t sail towards Highbourne. We were tired of motoring and we could make just as good time to weather sailing, so we plugged in a waypoint for the next island south and headed for it. We figured that we would later change our heading and motor the last few miles to Highbourne.

The sailing was great. Rosie was going to weather much better than would be expected of a heavy, full keel boat. It looked like the bottom job and feathering prop were really paying off. Soon we approached Yellow Bank. It is an area with coral heads that are pretty shallow. Jackie stood on the bow and kept lookout. When she saw anything that looked like a coral head she guided me around it. This went on for about half an hour.

As we neared the end of Yellow Bank, we spotted a squall directly ahead of us. We didn’t know how much wind to expect so we doused the sails and began motoring. We changed our course and headed for Highbourne Cay. The squall passed by us, but soon another one appeared ahead. This one was moving into our path. As we entered it the rain started and the wind picked up a few knots. We played with the radar a little to see how the storm looked.

We motored out of the storm and neared the waypoint for Highbourne Cay. We hailed Reach and they responded. They had stayed elsewhere the night before, but moved to Highbourne that day. It was dark by the time we made the turn at the last waypoint so we used their anchor light and our charting software to ease into the anchorage. We dropped the hook and settled in.

There was a third boat in the anchorage. We found out the next day that they had a very entertaining approach to anchoring. They dropped the hook and then motored around the anchorage until it finally dug in.

The next day we comissioned the new outboard that we bought in Nassau. It ran great. It had so much more power than the old motor that we could plane out even while running it in the conservative break-in mode.

We decided to move to a new anchorage at the south end of the island where we would be protected from the swell that rocked us to sleep the night before. It was an easy move. Once the anchor was down we got out our snorkeling gear and went for a swim. The water was warm and clear. I looked around and could see Compass Rose’s hull – a truly novel experience for someone used to the murky waters of the Chesapeake. Then I swam to the bow and out over the anchor. I could see it buried in the sand. I have no idea how many times I’ve dropped the hook, backed down on it, and just had to have faith it would hold. Here I could see exactly how it was dug in.

Hawksbill

We stayed over night and then headed for Hawksbill Cay on Dec 14. An easy trip, but an interesting entry to the anchorage. Lots of water in the six foot range and even dipping down into the fives at times. Jackie took her place on the bow to make sure we didn’t hit any coral heads. She only saw one that could have been a problem.

Reach and Compass Rose anchored in 6 ft of water at Hawksbill

We anchored in just over six feet. I took a swim and and checked the anchor and the view of Little Rosie’s hull. It had been interesting to see her underwater the first time, but now her keel was floating only one and a half feet above the sand. A bit unreal.

Mark and Eric rest on the "geezer bench"

Hawksbill is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. No fishing or shell collecting, but nice hiking trails and some old ruins to see.

Warderick Wells

The next weather forecast we got included some strong wind out of the south and west. If you look at the Exumas you will see that they run NW-SE. The anchorages are typically in shallow water on the west side of the islands where they are protected from the trade winds. Seldom is there any protection from west or south winds.

Warderick Wells from above. We moored by the X

We decided to move to Warderick Wells because it is one of the few natural harbors that is protected on all sides and it has moorings for $20/day. It is the home of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. It has lots of trails to hike and some coral heads for snorkeling.

Bridge to and from nowhere - looking for the trail

Following the trails is sometimes a challenge. We found parts of them to be less “trail” and more “path of least resistance.” We hiked to the top of Boo Boo Hill where cruisers leave pieces of driftwood carved or painted with their boat names.

Boat momentos on Boo Boo Hill

We enjoyed the park for a couple days and then hunkered down for the blow. We had a couple windy days separated by a very windy night. We did fine and took the time to work on some boat projects. The wind let up and after five days it was time to leave Warderick Wells.

Next stop, Big Majors Spot/Staniel Cay.

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2 Responses to “Experiencing the Exumas”

  1. Wylie Gerdes & Kathleen Moran Says:

    Hey Jackie! Sorry about your dad but good to see you back in Detroit.
    We’re extremely jealous; you did a beautiful job with the boat and it appears you’re having a pain-free trip so far. We’ve traveled to the U.S. Virgins, and still remember the beautiful water and exotic fish.
    Good luck!

  2. Dale Says:

    How are you doing?? Has the earthquake in Haiti had any effect on you? I hope you’re doing well. Hugs to Jackie

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