Northern Exumas And The Park

Snorkeling Exuma

March 25 – April 1

March 25th. Day break brought a beautiful calm day. We upped anchor and drifted slowly south to Long Cay. We navigated the north entrance by VPR (visual piloting required). This is a term used on charts and guides to indicate that there are no published waypoints and you must use your eyes in good light to work your way past the coral head and shallows. We had not visited Long before and found a beautiful anchorage and beach. We walked the beach and took some drone footage when back on Sonas. We slept the night through without a murmur from the water.

It’s really handy being able to see how your anchor is set!

March 26th. We cruised slowly from Long Cay to Normans Cay, entering from the north navigating through numerous coral heads. Once safely anchored we radioed McDuff’s Bar and Grill to make sure that they were serving lunch and received no response. So we dinghy’d in and walked over to the restaurant, where they told us that the whole Island had been privately reserved and closed to the public for the week. So we had lunch on board and then dinghy’d over to the south east side of the island. We had a look at the new marina that is currently being built there, and motored past the sunken plane left over from the islands past as a drug lord’s haven.

Norman’s lifeguard platform!

March 27th. Today we were hopping one island south to Shroud Cay, another island we has not previously visited. Shround is the northernmost island in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, the world’s oldest national marine preserve. There is no fishing or taking conch in the park. Since the water was a flat calm we ran the dinghy up over the top of the cay and ran down the Exuma Sound side, passing numerous unspoilt beaches. Stopped at the beach below Camp Driftwood and climbed the hill. This is a spot that was created by Ernest Scholtes who permanently anchored his boat in the creek and built steps to the top of the hill. The tradition was that visiting boaters had to find some gift to take up there, shells, driftwood etc. Nowadays the park rangers warn not to take anything as it will be removed so as not to ruin the area. The view from the top of the hill was splendid. At the top we met another couple, Jim and Pam who were admiring the views and then going to dive the nearby offshore reef. We took the opportunity to have photos taken of each couple!

The view from Camp Driftwood

That night an unexpected wind kicked up from the North West, driving straight into the anchorage. This brought four foot swells, tossing the ten or so boats in the anchorage around. We watched other boaters drag their anchors and then reset. We stayed awake during the night, taking turns to nap in the salon, along, we suspect, with everyone else in the anchorage! Our ground tackle held well with no issues.

Sian: As the wind got up we saw the sailboats around us swinging erratically on their anchors and in the dark watched the anchor lights sway like metronomes, slightly out of time. Even watching a boat of a similar size to us corckscrew around with no rhyme or reason., knowing we must be doing the same. It was a very long night but we were happy to see all our anchor mates still present and accounted for come the light of day.

March 28th. The weather forecast was for winds clocking from NNW to NE and then E. We upped anchor early and went to Hawksbill Cay north anchorage. One of our favorite places in the Exumas and a good stop for the forecast winds. We saw a power catamaran already in the anchorage and we watched about ten people on board dinghy to the beach, noticing how very well dressed they were for playing on the sand! Then realized that we were watching a wedding! We later walked the beach and chatted to the newly weds and family. They were engaged on this beach last Thanksgiving and had now returned to be married here!

Beach wedding

March 29th. We awoke after a solid night’s sleep. Most likely because of zero sleep the night before. We did a couple of hours of boat chores by which time the wedding party had departed and we had the anchorage all to ourselves. We spent a relaxing day (aren’t they all!) walking the beach, then going back in with our beach chairs to watch the sun set over Sonas!

Sunset over Sonas
Hawksbill drinks holder!

March 30th. The day started off cloudy and rainy. We stood by the radio and called the Exuma Park 9am broadcast. They come on air at this time every day to ask which boats are leaving the mooring and which boats require a new mooring booking. We reserved a mooring for tomorrow in the northern mooring field. The day cleared up so we took the dinghy north and cruised the beaches on the Western side of the cay, seeing lots of green turtles. We went ashore and walked up to the ruins of a loyalist settlement from 1785, then we had a short walk into the interior of the cay.

18th Century Loyalist Ruins
Old walls

Later we snorkeled over the small coral reef at the north end of the anchorage, seeing lots of varieties of coral and fish. On our way back to the dinghy we disturbed a huge ray and followed him for a bit (all the while thinking of Steve Irwin!).

March 31st. Today we said a fond farewell to our favorite anchorage and motored for a couple of hours to the north anchorage at Warderick Wells to pick up mooring ball number 16. After a quick lunch we put on our snorkel gear and swam from Sonas the short distance to the reef behind us. We found a turtle eating the grass underneath the boat! After that we prepared the Stand Up Paddle board that we bought just before we left Jacksonville. It was time to learn how to SUP!

Turtle having lunch

We towed the SUP over to the beach on the Western side of Warderick so as to be able to get on the board more easily when we fell off! Paul went first – though not successfully. First on his knees, then finally he stood up, wobbled, and then a magnificent face plant! After a couple of more attempts he finally relaxed and got it – paddling the board, turning it, and not falling off!

First on his knees…
Then up, but wobbly…
Then an amazing face plant!
Teaching the SUP a lesson!
Now it is behaving!

Now it was Sian’s turn. She clambered on, started paddling and off she went. After five minutes making sure she could do it, she paddled the board all the way back to Sonas!

Of course, Sian nails it right away!

Sian had prepared a joint of lamb in the slow cooker, which was delicious served with roasted potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts – AND HOME MADE MINT SAUCE!!

Lamb dinner

April 1. Before the day got too hot we walked the Causeway Trail through Warderick Wells, across to Boo Boo Hill and back to the Park HQ, a hour and a quarter’s exercise. We paid for last night’s mooring ball, and the three nights anchorage at Hawksbill. Getting back to Sonas we went for another snorkel at the nearby reef, before untying from the mooring ball and leaving this beautiful anchorage.

Boo Boo Hill
Using the underwater camera

We ran for an hour and a half to the south entrance to Cambridge Cay. This is a tricky entrance and quite shallow. Most boats prefer the longer north route. We got through with no issues. We were planning on anchoring but the anchorage was quite crowded so we decided to pick up another mooring ball. Paul then went on-line and paid Exuma Park for the ball.

Sian: There is definitely a knack to picking up a mooring ball and today was my most successful “grab” to date! With an audience on the catamaran next door I might add! Acknowledging Pauls expertise in maneuvering Sonas into perfect position I still think the cat people could have given a ripple of applause for a job done right!

We had seen on the charts and read in the cruising guide that there were a couple of great snorkeling spot at the south end of the cay. So we went off in the dinghy to explore those. They were off Honeymoon Beach which is quite open to a SE breeze, so there was pretty good wave action over the reef. We snorkeled for 30 minutes or so then gave it up for today. We will plan on going back tomorrow morning if it is calmer.

We felt pretty good in our exercising today – a long hilly walk, and a couple of snorkels!

There are plenty of big mega yachts where ever we go, with the toys for their charter guests. We passed one yacht yesterday that was over 300 feet long!

Mega, mega yacht!
Yacht toys!

12 thoughts on “Northern Exumas And The Park”

  1. Great write up and photos! These stops are definitely on our soon-to-do list. Keep ’em coming, please.

  2. Reading this as I am wearing my coat inside the house !!!! Amazing photos and well done to both on the paddle boarding

  3. How wonderful to see your latest trip. I’m sure the Yoga gives Sian the advantage on the Paddle Board.
    So great to see the turtles and the sights below the water. x

  4. Sounds like a delightful cruise . . . . except when unexpected winds roil the anchorage. Good photos, congrats on mastering the SUP.

  5. Beautiful pictures and adventures! It was fun to see Sian showing you Paul that she’s more coordinated . Have fun!

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