Farewell to the Exumas

After more than 3 days without leaving the boat while we hunkered down between Big Major’s and Little Major’s to wait out the weather, the winds finally moderated and we bolted out of there Saturday morning.  We are beginning the long trip home — our visitor’s permit has but 3 weeks left on it, and while we’d likely be able to extend it, we need to be back in Florida by the first week of April.  We decided to end our time in the Exumas by spending it in Exuma Park.

On Saturday afternoon, we arrived at the Emerald Rock anchorage of Warderick Wells.  While there have been times we’ve had to jockey for position here (once, when our mooring was taken by a Honey Badger), this time we were the only boat in the entire mooring field.

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Such a pity that we had no one to share Cockle and Loyalist beaches with….

We paid a visit to Cherie at Park Headquarters, not just to pay our mooring fees, but to say “goodbye” and “thank you.”

Sunday morning, we rolled out of Warderick Wells to visit Hawksbill Cay, also in the Park. We’d not visited here before.  And again, we were the only boat taking advantage of a Park mooring.

010 - Calypso at Hawksbill

Calypso, all alone, on a still and quiet day at Hawksbill Cay.

Hawksbill Cay has many trails.  Though they start fairly flat and sandy, they become hilly and rocky, and at times we found ourselves scrambling along ironshore ledges lining the shore.   The views were worth the trouble.

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Exuma Sound views from Hawksbill Cay trails.

Although we did it in a roundabout way, we finally found our way to Loyalist ruins overrun with vegetation in the interior of the island.  As I’ve written before, during the American Revolutionary era, the British crown deeded plots of land in the Bahamas to Loyalists, who tried to make a go of agriculture here.  Even though the Bahamas were then more heavily wooded than they are now, sparse rainfall and topsoil ultimately prevented success.   Many of the families, and their slaves, continued in the islands, but there was no hope of plantation agriculture for the long term.  (A good fictionalized account of this era, set in the Exumas, is Jonathan Wilder’s Wind from the Carolinas.)

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Vegetation and ruin have taken over the buildings that once housed a Loyalist family.

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Judging from the remaining plants, it looks like sisal was grown here.  We’ve also seen remains of cotton plants on Staniel Cay and other places.

Of course, we’re not just about history.  Quality beach time was required as well.

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Another beautiful beach at the north end of Hawksbill Cay (Exuma Sound side).

Monday morning, we made the quick jaunt to the northernmost cay in Exuma Park — and my personal favorite — Shroud Cay.  Shroud Cay seems like a miniature version of another Bahamian island, the largest, Andros, which we’d visited in 2009 (http://islandtime.homestead.com/ExumaAndros09.html).

Shroud Cay, like Andros, is riddled with mangrove creeks and swamps.

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Our dinghy’s wake through the only mangrove creek on Shroud that goes all the way through to Exuma Sound looks like satin ribbons.  The sand/white mud bottom of the swamps makes the water look like it’s glowing.

In the morning, after arriving at Shroud, we took the dinghy ride to my favorite Exuma beach through the mangrove creek.

014 - Creek Exiting into Exuma Sound Shroud Cay 032 048

This will be the beach I’ll dream of once our Bahamian adventure ends.

In the afternoon, we headed for one of the creeks that doesn’t accommodate dinghies, and instead kayaked and SUPed to and through every branch of the creek.   The mangroves serve many functions, not least of which is as a nursery for juvenile sea creatures.

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I’m chasing a baby shark through the creek on the left.  On the right, tiny shells, which are mounded in piles throughout the creek.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a beach at the end?

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Of course, all of that beach time has taken a toll on my swimwear.

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The saltwater has eaten right through the metal hooks on my swimsuit straps.

This morning, Rick got an early start.  I was still sleeping at sunrise (we stayed up “late” to watch the last episode of Downton Abbey — we’d gotten Season 4 from a pirate….), but the water was so calm Rick was able to get us off single-handed.

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Rick got up early to this view.  He works harder than I do at this cruising stuff — he’s changing the oil as I write.

For a change, the seas were calm as we made a passage, and we were accompanied by pods of dolphins.  We made it to Eleuthera by just after noon, and we’ll hang out here for a few days to ride out the next front.

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Here’s one of the dolphins that was riding our bow wave this morning.  Maddeningly, they don’t pose for photos.

One thought on “Farewell to the Exumas

  1. Dave

    Rick and Eva,

    As you plan your departure from the Bahamas and your return to “civilized” life I find myself with mixed emotions. Sadness for the end of your sabbatical, Envy for your months of sailing adventures, and Anticipation for our own trip to the Bahamas in a few years.

    Of course, sitting here in Syracuse under, yet another, winter storm warning with 8-14 inches of snow forecast makes it all that more difficult. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your insights and adventures.

    Dave
    Sabre 362 #113
    Second Star

    Reply

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