Updated: Aug 25, 2019
Norman's Cay to Warderick Wells, Exuma, The Bahamas //
On Monday morning, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day, after the winds from the previous day's storm had subsided, Tom and I picked up our anchor and headed out of Norman's Pond, looking to gain more miles down the Exumas island chain. On our way, we came to know what is known around these areas as The Rage... and yes, it deserves to be capitalized. The Rage happens an hour or so before AND after the high and low tides in the deep cuts of water between the Exuma Sound (deep western side of the islands) and The Banks (shallow eastern side). Imagine being thrown inside a washing machine, 4'-6' waves with a very steep chop... that's how it felt, at least. What were we thinking? We felt Wax Cay Cut would provide us with a nice wide passage back into the banks, but lo and behold, we really had not studied (or considered) what these cuts were all about. Another lesson learned.
Nevertheless, we made it through safely with our headsail and engine on. Once we turned to port to head Southeast along the banks we had a very pleasant sail. With strong easterlies forecasted for the end of the week, we made the decision to keep moving along and head towards Warderick Wells instead of staying in the sheltered pond. While we would have been very protected there, our schedule required us to move along. I remember getting a few skeptical looks from our fellow (and more experienced sailors) when we told them we'd continue our travels. I guess we are young and adventurous, and were willing to take on a few rolls at anchor wherever we ended up at next.
And a few rolls we did take! At Warderick Wells we weathered some very strong winds and got tossed around a couple of nights in a row while moored at Emerald Rock. There were no available moorings at their North Mooring Field, understandably, which would have afforded the greatest protection. But alas, we at least did not have to worry about the anchor dragging. Not only did we have to deal with windy conditions, we also had a bit of an incident where I almost drifted while on the dinghy out to the banks...
Tom had decided to go for a hike while I rested (after not sleeping through the night). We decided I'd pick him up before sunset by dinghy. When the time came, with the winds howling, I got inside the dinghy, checked that I had the oars, and a gas can of fuel and proceeded to fire the engine by opening the vent cap, turning the gas switch on, and pulling on the starting line -- off I go! As I am making my way out, all of a sudden the engine starts dying. I keep pulling the starting line, the engine turns on, and then dies. I begin drifting... drifting away from the mooring field, away from any help. I figured I needed to row STAT. I begin rowing with so much strength I could feel my asthma flaring up. I was determined to row back to one of the empty mooring balls against all odd — really, against the strong winds. That was the scariest moment in this trip so far for me. Tom was watching me from the beach, ready to leave his backpack behind and swim over (it would have been a good distance). After a few attempts at rowing against the wind I was able to catch on to the mooring by clipping the tow lines to it. I figured the engine must have been low on fuel. But opening the fuel cap and attempting to refill the tank proved nearly impossible with the winds and waves tossing me around like a fish fresh out of the water. Suddenly, this sweet and kind soul named Jerry came by in his dinghy. He said: "I've been receiving help from a lot of people lately, so I am paying it forward". All I could muster was "THANK YOU, you are a godsend!" Of course I was a little embarrassed, but hey, I just rowed and almost pulled a muscle trying to bring myself to safety. We decided it would be best for him to tow me ashore to Tom so that we could figure out the engine issue. Once with Tom and in more protected waters, we filled the tank and got the engine up and running. No real issues with the engine, just a bit of bad timing and bad luck. We think I somehow must have turned the fuel switch to off after starting the engine initially...
Because of the weather (we attempted leaving Warderick Wells for Staniel Cay on Wednesday but the winds were blowing at 28 knots on our nose), we really were not able to go snorkeling or diving. A bit disappointing since Warderick Wells is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, a protected area established in 1956, that extends from Shroud Cay to Bell Cay. The park prides itself in maintaining a healthy breeding and living environment for conch, grouper and lobsters. No fishing allowed. Observing life underwater would have been incredible. Nevertheless, we made the best of our stay and did enjoy some land time hiking through the beautiful scenic trails, discovering all kinds of secluded beaches and even a legit pirate's lair. We even left a little memento from Sparidae on Boo Boo Hill (we are not making that name up), a right of passage for any sailor cruising the area, to ask for good weather and to appease the spirits that inhabit the island at night. We were at least happy with getting a taste of this sanctuary, and will most definitely be coming back, hopefully when there's not a swarm of cold fronts sweeping through the area.