Jaw-dropping Beauty

We depart Lyford Cay Club at first light. It’s been a great stay. Great Fresh Market 2 miles away, hardware store, bank, and beautiful marina. We are provisioned and ready to go. Weather is settled, seas calm, little wind. Temps in the upper 70s; a beautiful day. We opt to head around the west end of New Providence and avoid Nassau altogether. As we turn south and clear the protection of New providence the wind picks up and the seas do as well. Still, the ride is good and Tivoli marches on. By midday we are well south and turn east to cross the Exuma Banks direct for Highborne Cay. The water depths change from 1200 feet in the Tongue of the Ocean to 10-15 feet under the keel on the Banks. We keep an eye out for coral heads but this route has few and they are a half-mile or more off our path. Traffic is light; the occasional sailboat passes, a small freighter, several trawlers. We arrive at Highborne by 2 PM and head for the anchorage. There are 8 other boats on the hook off shore as well. We zoom in on the radar to get an overview of their locations and to help us choose a spot. Fortunately, just as we arrive two sailboats choose to depart leaving a nice hole in the array of boats that we promptly fill. With the hook down we settle in; comfortable with the Rocna and 110 feet of chain holding us solid. We are surrounded by megayachts; one in front, one to the west and one about 250 yards behind. All have their watertoys out; jetskis, center console boats, inflatable toys, water slides, etc.

We notice a bit of surge when we dropped the hook. Tivoli rolls a bit but nothing uncomfortable. By nightfall the wind picks up to 20 knots; whitecaps form on the sea, and the rocking begins in earnest. We sleep in the tumble-dry cycle. By morning we are fluffed up pretty well and debate whether to stay put for another cycle waiting for calmer weather or to pound our way south in head seas and winds. Deanna does a load of laundry while we ponder the matter. Finally, we decide to depart for Warderick Wells in hopes of finding a calmer anchorage and a refuge from some strong northerlies predicted for next week. Warderick Wells has also been on the “bucket list” for some time.

By 9:30 AM we have pulled up anchor and are on our way. It is rough. We are pounding our way into head seas and 20 knots of wind. The windshield wipers get a workout. The ride, though, isn’t bad. We meet a dozen boats; sailboats, megayachts, trawlers….all headed north. I think we already missed the party.

By 2 PM we’ve nearly reached Warderick Wells; one of many islands that are part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. I call the park headquarters on the VHF channel 9 in hopes of securing a mooring ball. This would provide us a secure anchorage in a protected spot but, given the apparent crowds, we are not optimistic. Plan B is to anchor west of Emerald Rock. Amazingly, headquarters staff responds immediately and gives us mooring ball #17. We turn east into Warderick Bore channel and head for the entrance to the north mooring field; the preferred location.

As we approach the beauty of this place begins to unfold. White sand shallows covered with bright turquoise water is punctuated by deep blue channels in which are moored a half-dozen boats. We ease past them all, past the park headquarters and turn north into a dogleg in the channel. There is white mooring ball #17. If you’ve followed this blog you may know we’ve covered 6-7000 nautical miles so far this past 18 months but have yet to pick up a mooring ball. We are usually in a marina or on the anchor and have not had to tie up to a fixed mooring ball. This is a new opportunity to entertain the neighbors! Deanna and I discuss options and decide on a plan. We are a bit nervous; what is the current and its likely effect on our approach? What is the wind and its likely effect on our approach? How close will we come to our neighboring boat? The channel is narrow; will we run aground? Our plan works flawlessly. We snagged the pennant, tied it to the boat and we are secure. After shutting down and logging our trip numbers we quickly launched the tender and motored over to the park headquarters to check in.

We can’t believe our eyes. We have traveled to many places around the world yet none have the beauty we see here. Warderick Wells is jaw-dropping and only accessible by boat. A dozen islands surround us; each with rocky outcroppings, sand dunes, palms, sandy beaches and white sand seabeds extending well offshore. Whites, grays, and greens define the land and every shade of blue and green the surrounding seas. The water is so clear sunlight bounces off the white sand bottom and illuminates our hull; bulbous bow, stabilizer fins and rudder shine brightly. We are definitely not used to seeing the bottom of our boat as clearly as the top!

There are dozens of trails on the island to explore and many places to snorkel. One of these; the “Coral Garden“ is just 50 yards away from our mooring.

It will be easy to spend a few days here exploring this stunning place.

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