We spent one rocky night at Highbourne Cay and left in the morning for Shroud Cay. Shroud is the first Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The water here is the clearest I have ever seen. We picked up a mooring ball in 15 feet of water and I can see the bottom just as clearly as I could if it was a foot deep. We arrived around lunch time, had our lunch and then boarded the dinghy to go exploring. Shroud has a few sandy patches along the shore but most is limestone. We saw many nurse sharks – in fact there were four that took a liking to the bottom of our boat. I threw out some crumbs from the bottom of a pretzel container and they came out from under the boat, swimming upside down and attacked the crumbs. Although nurse sharks are reportedly docile – still a bit disconcerting. There are dark patches that we can see in the water that are coral reefs. As we dinghied past, you could see colorful coral and fish swimming among the heads.
Shroud Cay beach
There we found a beautiful beach and sea life in the creeks.
Our second day at Shroud was wonderful. We took the dinghy up a creek that cuts the island in half and empties out on the Exuma Sound side. The Sound is actually an extension of the Atlantic – water goes from an average depth of 20’ near the cay to over 3000’ as we move away from shore. There were mangroves on both sides of the creek and we were on the lookout for sea life. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much. I don’t know if the motor from the dinghy scared them away or if we just didn’t see anything because it was windy and there were ripples on the surface of the water. We did however find a beautiful beach on the Sound side where we had lunch.
Then shoeless Bob and I climbed a hill to Camp Driftwood – All that is left here is a sign indicating what had once been. The view was spectacular. We later found out that this was a lookout for the drug running that operated out of the Bahamas some years ago. As we sat in the water on the beach, we realized this is what we came here for: the beautiful beaches, clean white sand, clear aqua water and clear blue sky above. We are very lucky to be here.
Aquila and Deseado joined us in the mooring field later in the day and we all had happy hour on the beach watching the sun set and getting eaten alive by noseeums. This was the first time in quite a while that the bugs were an issue and it cut the celebrating short. Bob has started a new tradition of blowing a conch shell right as the sun sets –and we quickly blew it as the bugs chased us back to the dinghies and off their beach. We got the shell in Spanish Wells at a shop called the Ponderosa – Lynne can you believe the Bonanza connection?
In the morning we were off to Wardrick Wells. It was an 18 mile trip with 15-18 knots of wind and 4-5 foot waves. Unfortunately, the wind was right on the nose so what should have been a 3 hours sail took a lot longer. In fact we motored the last three miles – just to get there after taking a number of large tacks.
Getting to Wardrick Wells was a major milestone. I had heard so much about the park that I felt if we were going to go to the Exumas, Wardrick Wells was must. The Park is supported by a private trust and its mission is to preserve the flora and fauna of the Bahamas. As you approach the mooring field close to the office, you know you are in a special place. The colors of the water defy description so I won’t try. Just look at the pictures – they will take your breath away.
Her Diamond on ball 11 at Wardrick Wells.
The eight of us hiked up to BOO BOO Hill and left our offerings with our boat names on it - wishing for smooth sailing in our future travels. I said the shechechianu prayer, thanking G-d for getting us all safely to this beautiful place. Probably the first time it was said at Boo Boo Hill!
Booboo hill. Can you find Her Diamond?
In the afternoon, when the current was at slack, we snorkeled over a sunken boat and then tried to also snorkel a reef that is very close to the Park office. However, by the time we got to the reef the current had picked up and it was too swift to safely get to the reef and then get back to the dinghy. We will leave that for tomorrow. The park sits very close to a cut between the Exuma Bank and Exuma Sound so the current is a real force. We met a couple living on their home-built boat from Toronto who volunteer in the Park in exchange for staying on their mooring ball for free. They explained that if the boat is facing the direction of the wind – the current is slack because otherwise the current (which in this area is normally more powerful than the wind) indicates the direction the boat is facing – the current when it is moving – dominates the wind. They were certainly correct today.
We had an issue with our generator last night that really upset me. We rely on the generator to charge the boat’s batteries and provide AC electricity to make toast, charge our toothbrushes, phones, computer, tablets, kindle and so much more. There is no way to anchor or stay on a mooring ball without a source of power. We do not have solar panels or a wind generator. Last night when we fired up the generator to restore the batteries, we also tried to use the air conditioning to take some of the humidity out of the boat. This is something we have done before and the generator instructions indicate that it should have more than enough power to do both the battery charger and the air conditioning. But – this time we tripped the generator’s main breaker – and it would NOT reset. Bob tried a few things to get it started but was unsuccessful. The generator is a new piece of equipment that we put on the boat right before we left on this trip and was VERY EXPENSIVE. This made it all the more frustrating as here we are on a mooring ball in a gorgeous place where we NEED the generator – and it fails us.
This morning Bob used my father’s multi meter (thanks Dad) to test how much current the generator was putting out – it was still generating full power but not transferring the power to the boat’s AC system. He pushed the reset button for the umpteenth time and this time the breaker reset. We have concluded that the breaker is defective. We will not tax it too much until we can get it replaced. What a sense of relief. It is difficult to be so dependent on a piece of equipment and be someplace that you can’t get it fixed if it breaks down. Our boat yard will have the manufacturer send a replacement breaker to Bob’s brother in Florida and Bob will install it when we get there.
When we thought we had no means for replenishing the batteries (other than running the boat’s engine) we thought we would leave here on Friday for Staniel Cay. Staniel is the next place that has a marina and a settlement with a grocery store. We will need to stop there to fill our water tanks, top off diesel, do laundry and grocery shop before starting to head back toward Florida. Now that we don’t have to rush, we are having a tough time deciding when to leave this beautiful place. Leaving here means the time to say goodbye to our traveling companions is approaching. This is something I am not yet ready to face.