Exumas Land & Sea Park, and a big problem on the way to Staniel Cay

On May 16, we decided to wait one more day before moving on, and took a long walk along the roads and paths of Norman‘s Cay for some much needed exercise.

We lifted anchor the morning of Monday May 17 to sail to Shroud Cay, the northernmost island of the Exumas Land & Sea Park. Shroud Cay is not really an island, it is a cluster of little hills and mangrove salinas with some curvy channels running through them, a great place to paddle, kayak and explore by dinghy. We sailed at around 6 knots with just a reefed genoa, the wind was still very gusty. After we anchored in a nice protected anchorage in Shroud Cay, a sailboat with a German flag anchored just in front of us. Friends! We made contact and it turned out they were with a group of 5 German and 1 Swiss sailboats that all pulled in after them. More friends!

We took the kayak and paddleboard throuch the southernmost mangrove channel across the island and to the eastern beach. What a beautiful beach!

Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking

That evening everybody dinghied over to a beach for a sundowner, and we had a great time hanging out with the rest of the “German anchorage”.

Photo courtesy of Ingo & Andrea

The next morning we joined the German channel broadcast and everybody decided to take the northern mangrove channel by dinghy and find the lookout point on the eastern side of the Cay. The dinghy flotilla took off from the anchorage and through the winding channel. On the other side we beached the dinghies and walked up all 65 feet of altitude to the 360 degree lookout point right above the “Rapids”.

Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking
Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking

After a quiet evening, everybody got together again in the morning for a sand bank “walk” through the shallow water at low tide.

Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking

In the evening, everybody gathered on a new beach for a fun evening of drinks, laughter and guitar singalongs with our star players Jonathan and Jonas.

Photo courtesy of Ingo & Andrea

On Thursday May 20, Rob and I had a leisurely brunch, and then our new friends came over to Ronya for some “sunscreen and body care products on a boat” education and to get some Stream2Sea samples. Everybody is really excited to finally have found products that are truly (tested and proven) safe for our waters and our bodies too!

The German/Swiss dream Team: Wiebke & Ralf (S/V Flora), Natasha & Jochen (S/V Caroline), Janna & Ilja (S/V Thuja), Andrea & Ingo (S/V Easy-One), Leonie & Jonas, Jonathan (S/V Jollity) Mareike (S/V Morea).

Friday May 21 everybody (including us) left. Our new German friends all heading north (some to prep for their Atlantic crossing back to Europe) and us heading further south in the Exumas Land & Sea Park to Warderick Wells. There was much waving and yelling about as we all left the anchorage, and we pulled up sail right after we pulled anchor at 11 am. It was still blowing 26 to 28 knots out of the NE, so we settled on a full Genoa, which moved us along swiftly going 5 to 6 knots. Coming into Warderick Wells we had to tack a few times and motor the rest of the way in, and 5 hours later we dropped our anchor just west of the mooring field at Emerald Rock in Warderick Wells.

The next morning we dinghied in to Whale Beach and checked in at the Park Headquarters to pay for our 4 night anchorage in Shroud Cay and our anchorage in Warderick Wells. We got some great information on the available hiking trails, and decided to immediately hike up to Boo Boo Hill, the 360 degree outlook point where scores of cruising boats have piled up their boat signs and insignia. To us it looked like a pile of trash, but hey, it is part of the experience.

Boo Boo Hill

We then followed the trail further south and ended up doing a succession of trails for 2 hours which led us around the salt pond and back to Whale Beach on a different trail.

East coast of Warderick Wells
A trail
At the plantation ruins
Selfie in Cave
Warderick Wells Anchorage

We meet Heidi and Eric (who were there on their Bavaria 47) on the last part, and saw them again at the (inofficial because of Covid) Saturday night cruisers meeting on the beach that night. Great fun was had by all cruisers attending, and Boccia can easily be playeed while maintaining social distancing :-).

Sunday May 22 Heidi and Eric came over to our boat so we could hike the trails from Bushwackers Beach to Pirate’s Lair together. We set off in our dinghy together (note to self: it will not go on plane with 4 people in it), landed on the beach, and started out on the trail. We soon found Pirate’s Lair, which has another interesting story: Pirates used the channel on the esat side because it could accommodate their up to 12 foot draft, and their masts could not be seen from any side. The “lair” is a hidden area accessible by the beach with a fresh water well, and the pirates would meet there to rest and socialize. Interestingly, with their belongings they brought seeds from distant shores, so there are plants growing in the Lair that are nowhere else to be found in the Bahamas. A fascinating place!

Pirates’ Lair
Crab in freshwater well
Beach at Pirates’ Lair

We kept hiking the trails from beach to beach, and had a wonderful time. The next morning we lifted anchor in Warderick Wells to sail to Compass Key. We had a big problems trying to raise our mainsail since the in-mast furling kept getting stuck. When we finally got it out, the sailing was fantastic with 15 knots of wind on the beam and both sails out fully, doing 6 to 7 knots.

As we got closer to Compass Key we decided to skip that spot and see it on the way back, the sailing was just too good. We sailed to Staniel Cay instead.

Sushi enjoying cockpit time

When we got close to our intended anchorage and it was time to pull in our sails, we quickly realized that this would be a problem. It took us 15 minutes of combined effort to furl in the mainsail, and we were really relieved when we finally got it all the way in. After we anchored, we started finding little metal pins on the deck, and knew that this could not be good. Anya posted a pic of them in the sailors’ forum on Facebook, and we quickly had the answer: our top furler bearing had broken, and we needed a rigger. Needless to say, there are no riggers in the Bahamas (with so many sailboats around, how can that be?). So we had to face it: we are now without a mainsail. Luckily we have a large genoa so we can still sail a bit, but we will probably have to do a lot of motoring to get back home to the Keys. We both agree that this will not make us turn around and rush home – we will stay and make do, just at a much slower pace.

We hopped in the dinghy and went to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, there is a bar that the cruisers meet in. We ordered a beer, looked around, and saw Russ there, who had been our neighbor in Great Harbour Cay Marina for 6 weeks last year when Covid started. What a fun reunion!

Rob, Anya, Russ, Kelly