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When we were last in the Bahamas, 12 years ago, we were living close to the edge. Raising three boys onboard, working only a few months a year and exploring the rest of the time meant that moorings were not available to us. We just didn't have the money. But as the kids grew up and moved away, our careers advanced, and we discovered even more ways of living well on less, other experiences became possible. Warderick Wells was one of those places outside our budget before, but that we're glad we had to stop at this time through.
In the Exumas, there are few all-weather anchorages. In a cold front, or in those pesky summer storms that bring squalls from any direction, you either have to be in the right place and squeeze in with everyone else, or you have to move when the wind shifts or the squalls that were predicted to be from the east are actually from the west, which we had happen several times this summer. So when we were looking for a place to spend several days and nights that were forecasted to have "squalls from any direction" (my personal favorite weather prediction, along with "winds variable at 5 to 20") we decided to swing into Warderick Wells and take a mooring. After a few days, I was wishing we had splurged when the kids were still at home and taken them there. They would have loved it!
Our Explorer charts warned that the moorings are often full and reservations are recommended, but like many other situations that are true in season, this did not apply in June. We wanted to be in the main mooring field (for the 360 protection) as close to the office as we could because we row. When we arrived, there were only 4 other boats on the 22 moorings in that area, so we needn't have worried. In season, however, all three mooring fields fill up quickly. Contact the office on VHF 9 to make reservations for the next day, but no farther in advance. Have a backup plan before you arrive.
The moorings in the main field are along a narrow, deep "J" and to get to your mooring you may have to sneak around other moored boats. The water depth changes quickly, so it is easy to read by color. There is also a lot of current in this field, so be aware of how the current is affecting you and the moored boats as you pass close to them.
The center of this mooring field is a dry beach at low tide. Several boaters took lawn chairs and umbrellas to hang out on this temporary beach for a few hours. Others swam off their boats (be aware of the current!) and the more adventurous followed the many trails to secluded beaches around the cays. For snorkelers, there is a wreck by mooring ball #9 and there are several coral heads and reefs to be explored, many of them with dinghy moorings nearby. The office has a map of the walking trails and the snorkel spots. (If you would like to have a copy of these maps rather than simply looking at it quickly and trying to memorize it, I suggest you take an offering of printer paper to the office. They are always in need of supplies, as the list on the office wall will explain, and bringing your own paper will ensure that you can get a copy of the maps you may need. Also, consider taking the map back after you are finished with it.)
Warderick Wells is part of Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, so there is no fishing or spearing, which adds to its appeal. There are plenty of underwater creatures to marvel over, even if you just look at them from above. We saw several large sharks. The largest ones were nurse sharks, though a trail we were on passed through knee-deep water at high tide and a small black tipped reef shark investigated our feet as we went by. We had a shark "guarding" our dinghy when we came back from one walk, and several times we saw an ocean trigger fish. You have to see one of these bizarre fish swim to truly appreciate their uniqueness. They fascinate me.
This is a LAND and sea park, so don't miss out on the exploring to be done ON the cays as well as around them. A short walk away from the office is Boo Boo Hill. This area is so named because a sailing ship sank off this cay with no survivors. Not even a body was found. People on the island at the time said you could go up to the top of the hill and hear the ghosts of these lost souls moaning. What they were actually hearing were blow holes. Small (and large) holes in the moon rock lead all the way down to the water so when waves push water up it displaces the air, which comes rushing up through these holes, causing an eerie moan.Blow holes video
Also on Boo Boo Hill is an enormous cairn built by cruisers who leave bits of drift wood with their boat name. Though I don't really get into things like this, it was interesting to see the names of boats we had just left in Georgetown who had visited Warderick Wells on their way down earlier in the season. My biggest problem with this type of display is that many people are not very respectful. They leave plastic and bits of string (we even saw fishing line) to get blown all over the island (and into the water) and trap birds, fish, and turtles. Those of you who have participated in this event respectfully and followed the rules, thank you.
We were impressed by the beauty of the area, the friendly park employees, and the feeling of camaraderie among the boaters (because there are so few of us in that area, I suppose), as well as the protection the mooring field provided for those crazy, summer afternoon thunderstorms. For our 34-footer, the price was $20 a night. Because it is an isolated park, there is no water or trash service. You can purchase wifi (when it is working) or you can sometimes get wifi near the office. (Please ASK rather than assuming, like the couple we saw who walked right past the Do Not Enter sign in order to get better wifi, and then acted like they were in the right when an employee questioned them. Don't be obnoxious foreigners, please. It makes it harder on the rest of us.) There is also no cell service. Though some people may find this annoying, I was thrilled! It's sort of nice to be disconnected sometimes.
The next time you're in the Exumas looking for an all-around anchorage, consider a stop at Warderick Wells. We stopped for a night and stayed nearly a week. And that's saying a lot for frugal sailors like us.
So you want to go cruising but you have a house full of stuff. Where do you start to downsize for the big move? MONDAY we'll share an interesting first step that will get you prepared for cruising before you take the leap.PREVIOUS
Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?
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