Saturday, December 15, 2012

Exuma Land and Sea Park—WOW!

This place is amazingly beautiful!  I loved the northern Exhumas, and thought “can it get any better than this?”  YES it can!  As we have travelled and met fellow boaters or read boater blogs or books, we had noticed that many of them will say out of all the places they have been, the Exhuma’s are their favorite.  Now we know why… it is just so beautiful here.  The water colors are incredible, the clarity is amazing, and it is quiet and serene.  The snorkeling is great, there are sharks and rays everywhere we anchor.  The sand is beautiful.  The islands are a little hilly which makes for beautiful scenery.  There are no big cities, or towns or much of people at all, other than our fellow boaters.  It is heavenly.IMG_7837

In the Northern half of the Exhuma’s is the Exhuma Land and Sea Park.It incorporates all the Cays within a 22 mile range north to south.  Our first stop in the park, was Shroud Cay, en route to Waderick Wells Cay, the park Headquarters, I made a separate post for that stop.  We continued on to Wederwick Wells Cay for a few days stay.  We were going to stay in the Emerald Rock mooring field, but after looking at the weather a few days out, we decided to stay in the north mooring field for a little more protection from south winds in a few days.   It seems to me the north mooring field is the preferred site, and I know why, you could just sit on your boat all day and admire the view.  The Emerald rock field isn’t the same, but still beautiful.  The north field has a few sandbars that appear at low tide, which changes the water color and taking it all in, it is just breathtaking.  In fact just after we arrived and got settled, Calvin and Isabel set out to reach the sandbars via boogie board from our boat.  It was fun watching them figure out how to overcome the current that was running against them.  It was a good lesson for them on how to swim across the current not directly into it.  Then you can reach your destination.  It took them awhile, but they did reach the sandbar to play, and then it was an easy float back to the boat with the current carrying them mostly our way.  They had to stayed aimed for the front of our boat so that they wouldn’t get swept past the boat and have to fight the current back up to the boat.IMG_7696

Now… to the harrowing story of how we got there…  As we headed towards the entrance of the mooring field, we stopped to pull in our tender, we actually were planning on still towing it in, but at 30 feet behind instead of 150 feet behind.  As David pulled in the lines we were drifting and ended up with the tender off our port side.  David told me to head forward and as I did a part of the tow line from the very front of the tender was sucked into our port prop and yanked the tender right into the side of our boat.  we now have a nice scratched up 1 square foot area that will need to be gel coated and painted.  Along with a few scratches down the side.  So there we are the tender pinned to the side of the boat… I but the engines back in neutral and look over the side to see what happened, I’m driving from the top and only heard the tender hit us, I hadn’t seen what happened.  Savannah came running to tell me to turn off the engines because Dad was jumping in the water to see if he can pull the line out of the prop.  So now we’re engines off and drifting, and thank goodness it was about slack tide or we would have drifted faster.  Savannah and I kept an eye on where we were drifting towards.  I decided we should put out our anchor, so I confirmed with David, and then Calvin and I headed off to drop the anchor so at least we’d stop drifting and not end up in a shallow are, or worse—on the rocks.   All of this is quite stressful for me. 

With the anchor out David decided to grab the oxygen tank to see if he could get a better look at the prop with out coming up for air every minute or so.  Meanwhile we tried to stuff some fenders between the tender and our boat to minimize the scraping occurring as we rolled around in the waves.  We weren’t in a protected area, but open to the waves from the banks.  It wasn’t deep or big waves, but enough to move us around quite a bit.  Finally David realized he would just have to cut the line to get the tender off and we’d have to worry about the port prop later, the line was tightly wound in it.  So we cut the line.  We secured the tender so we could tow it on the hip of the boat, and got ready to head into the mooring field with only our starboard engine working.  We have run on one engine before, but never with the tender attached at the side and we noticed the drastic pull the tender had on us with only one engine working.  We hoped we would be okay as we made our way through the mooring field.  I was driving us in, and hoped it would be calm and easy to get thru the mooring field since it is protected from wind on most sides.  However, with it being low tide, the way thru the field was tight, the current was running thru strong, so I had David take over driving, I was too nervous.  We had to make a turn and as we approached there was another trawler on a mooring ball there, right where we needed to turn.  We had to decide whether to go behind the trawler and turn and go in front. We didn’t have long to decide, it was windy and the strong current was pulling on the boat.  The owner of the other trawler came out on deck and suggested we go in front of him as it is shallow to the side we were on, and with the current we might get run into the rocks behind him.  With the little engine control we had, David managed to back us up between the trawler and the sailboat on the mooring ball in front of the trawler.  I stood on the back deck watching and telling him where the other sailboat was and how close to the sand bar he was getting.  He did it though, we got a way with out any incidents.  Both of us were quite nervous and grateful that it worked out.  I think Heavenly Father was watching over us. 

The next task was getting hooked up to the mooring ball.  With current and wind, and our high bow, getting lined up with the mooring ball and attaching a line would be a challenge.  Madison and I were on the bow ready for the task, I had given Madison the 5 second run down on what we were going to do, when the guy from the trawler comes riding up in his dinghy and says “throw me your line and I’ll feed it through the mooring line for you!”  He fed in both of our lines and we were attached that easy!  That was so kind of him.  He didn’t have to come help us, in fact he could have just stayed on his boat and watched the show I am sure it would have been, as it would have taken us awhile to get hooked to the mooring ball.  But he hoped over in his dinghy and was a HUGE help to us.  Later that night after getting settled David and the kids took him and his wife a plate of cookies to thank him.  IMG_7706

Later the next day he and his wife stopped over.  We chatted for a bit and laughed about the close call with the boats and explained our one engine dilemma, and he and David talked about how to the get the line out of our prop.  He offered to come back in a bit and help David dive under the boat to get it out.  It turns out that He is from Poland, and his wife from Puerto Rico.  They swung back by a little later to help David, but David had used the hack saw and that worked to get the line out.  We invited them over to dinner that evening.IMG_7707





While David was working on the props, the baby took his morning nap, and Madison and I took the rest of the kids for a fun little hike on shore.  We hiked to the top of the peak on the island, not high up, but a beautiful view from the top, it’s called Boo Boo Hill. The island lore is that off the east coast of the cay many years ago a ship sank taking with it hundreds of slaves.  They say that if you come to the top of Boo Boo Hill at night you can hear the slaves singing.


To get to the top the trail passes thru a mangrove canal.  At first it started with rock hopping over small amounts of water.  Savannah was helping Matthew and they slipped and fell in the water.  They were upset that they had gotten all wet.  Then we reached the open mangrove area—and to continue on the canal we had to swim, well the kids had to swim, it was waist high on Madison and I.  We weren’t even wearing swim suits, the volunteer park rangers had mentioned anything about the hike being more water than dirt! 

We were having a great time, swimming in our clothes trying to reach Boo Boo Hill.






At the very top is a beautiful view of the anchorage, the path we had come, and the sound on the East side of the island.  Over the years, boaters would bring a piece of driftwood with they boat name on it and date and leave it at the top of Boo Boo Hill as a memory.  There is quite a large pile now. IMG_7758IMG_7750

Near the top are a few blowholes, and those were a lot of fun.  Small little holes, about 6 inches wide in the ground and then they narrow under the surface, sort of like a funnel.  Under us along the seashore are caves.  When the waves crash thru the caves the air is blown with tremendous force up these holes.  I was expecting a spray like a whale’s blow hole, but mostly air with a little mist came up.  But the air came at such a tremendous force—enough to blow our hair straight up.  If a little water came with it, the spray would sting our faces as it hit it.  Each blow was quite surprising and a lot of fun!.  We stood over the hole for awhile anxiously awaiting another blow.  IMG_7759



It was so exhilarating, like a roller coaster ride, just waiting for the next blow.  Savannah and Calvin walked a little closer to the side of the hill where the waves were crashing listening to them crash, and then a couple of big ones hit and sprayed up over the hill at us.  We had a great morning up there. Matthew didn’t like the Blow holes so he sat on a rock and patiently waited while we kept playing.  When Benjamin was done he went to sit with him.

On the way back we ran into David trying to make his way to us.  He had finished up his prop tangle, and had dressed to come meet us on the hike.  He didn’t know either that it was a “water” hike, so he got stopped as the trail became less ground and more water.  He was wearing his regular shoes and socks, and not interested in getting them all wet.  We were of course soaked by the time we found him, having crossed the deep part of the hike again.IMG_7786





When we reached the ranger station and headed down to our tender we found a nurse shark waiting off the dock.  Savannah and Calvin and Isabel were wanting to swim back to the boat, but had a moment of Shark fear.  They have swam with nurse sharks around them numerous times, so I am not sure why they got a little scared this time.  But Isabel jumped and started her swim.  She was headed out to the boat and saw Savannah and Calvin had chickened out and so she got a little nervous.  The current was going the other way at this time so she had to swim across it to get back to us.  She did a great job.  We loaded into the tender, and made Savannah and Calvin swim back since they left their sister alone.  We all made it back to the boat safely.

For the afternoon we decided to pack a lunch and head to find a beach on the south east end of the island.  But when we got there, the current made it so we couldn’t land the tender there, so we went over to the south west side and found a beautiful beach there to picnic and play for a few hours.  We brought Jessie along and she loved running and playing in the water and sand.



We headed back to the boat after a few hours to go for a snorkel and start dinner, but the kids still wanted to play in the sand more, so we dropped the older ones off at the sand bar near the boat where we could easily see them from the boat and the little ones took a shower and nap.



Madison and I were able to swim off the boat to a small coral area about 100 feet from the boat.  While snorkeling we saw 3 spotted eagle rays swim by us.  They were amazing to watch and just so big, maybe 5-6 feet wide.  DSCN2475

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