In terms of Exumas cruising, we have saved the best for last. On Wednesday, April 15th, the anchor is up at Shroud Cay for the 20-mile journey to the island of Warderick Wells, headquarters of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
Most cruisers opt for the picturesque and popular North Mooring Field, which is a narrow ribbon of deeper blue water that arcs through the center of shallower water over white sand that is nearly dry at low tide. The picture that unfolds as one enters the mooring field is shocking in its natural beauty…a ribbon of color gradations ranging from deep blue to turquoise to pastel green to white.
The Park maintains 22 yacht moorings in the North Mooring Field on a first come – first served basis. For a fee of $30 per night, cruisers have the privilege of being surrounded by the scenic beauty of the island and its environs. Fees are payable at the park office located nearby where the Warden is kept busy coordinating the comings and goings of visiting yachts.
The Bahamas National Trust created the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in 1958. At the time, it was the first such marine national park and nature preserve ever created. Through the efforts of volunteers, the Park Headquarters was constructed during the period 1988 to 1989. The purpose of the Park is to preserve the delicate reef ecosystem as a habitat for marine life. Fishing is prohibited within the Park. The boundary of the Park is sizeable, comprised of 15 major cays covering 176 square miles. The North Mooring Field, however, is the centerpiece of the Park. A visit here is the highlight of an Exuma cruise.
Since the Warderick Cut entrance to Exuma Sound is less than a mile away, the mooring field is affected by tidal current. Each day, the synchronous swinging of boats to the tide is a choreographed minuet in one of the most exquisite settings in the Bahamas. For about an hour at slack tide, the moored boats lie perpendicular to the dark blue channel, riding to wind rather than the lackluster current. Ever so gradually, the wind loses its influence on the dancefloor as boats pivot simultaneously towards the flow of the strengthening current. This power play repeats itself four times every day, imposing a natural sensation of order and rhythm to life in the mooring field. Witnessing this perpetual dance is one of the pleasures of living close to nature.
Ashore, a network of hiking trails with interpretive signage connects to a series of beaches on the Sound side as well as the Banks side of Warderick Wells. It is possible to hike the entire length of Warderick Wells via its beaches and footpaths. Skeletal remains of beached whales have been reconstructed for display.
Words cannot describe the beauty of this place. Pictures are worth thousands of words.
During our limited exploration of the Exuma Cays, we have merely scratched the surface of interesting places this magnificent cruising area has to offer. There are literally dozens of islands and hundreds of secluded, white-beach anchorages yet to be explored. The color and clarity of the shallow water here in the Bahamas is unique to this area and breathtakingly beautiful. Although our visit to the Exumas has been brief, it has been most enjoyable. We are already prioritizing a list of anchorages and snorkeling spots to visit upon our return.
On Friday morning, Cutter Loose will depart the Exumas through Warderick Cut, bound for Rock Sound Settlement on the island of Eleuthera.