Thursday, December 5, 2013

Highbourne to Warderick Wells to Staniel Cay

The passage from Highbourne to Warderick Wells went nice. It was a beautiful sunny day, the wind was mild, every breath felt like a blessing. Warderick Wells is headquarters to the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. The entrance to the park is located in between two islands, and you should arrive at a slack tide. We got there as the tide was coming in because I just can’t get it right, this means a 3+ knot current working against us. We had to hug the shoreline in order to make any progress. It was agony to rev the engine up and only move at about 1 knot. It just feels wrong, like something’s gotta give. It’s hard to convey the anxiety of hearing the engine revving away, but not much happening in the way of forward progress. This portion of the leg lasted about an hour. We can call it “the longest mile”. As we reached the parks mooring field we were told to pick up mooring ball 6. Now picking up a mooring ball is something that we had not done before as a crew. There was some current to make things a little harder, like more Indians for Custer. The mooring field is in a natural
Looking down on the moorings at Warderick Well from Boo Boo hill. Mirador is the boat in the middle.
channel about 40 feet wide and it runs for about a half mile, but not in a straight line. Oh no, it curves like a hairpin, throw in some more indians. On our first pass Marie managed to hook the mooring but she just couldn't hang on so we lost one boat hook. I had to turn the boat around inside the 40 foot channel. Everyone was amazed at the turning radius of the boat, myself included. Now, on the second pass, as soon as I heard that they had the mooring I ran forward and grabbed it. With the boat fast to a mooring, the stage was now set for a few nice days at the park. It was starting to get dark by the time we were ready to visit the rangers’ office to check in, and yeah, we missed them. Oh well, we’ll check in tomorrow. On our way back to the boat we stop at our neighbors’ boat to say hello, when we noticed sharks following just behind the dinghy. I mean 2 feet behind the dinghy, man, they were tailgating me. I’m sorry but I don’t buy into the “they’re like pets” thing just because people have been feeding them. It’s like the bears at Yellowstone; I've heard stories of parents wiping peanut butter on a kids arm so the bear can lick it off. No sir, the animals are going to have to work a little harder than that for a taste of Diaz blood.

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
This is a sperm whale skeleton on display at the park.
One of the beaches at the park.
Low tide at the mooring field, not much water left for Mirador.
Our visit to the park was spent hiking around the hills and woods. The east coast of the island is rocky cliffs that constantly get struck by huge waves. The splashes are spectacular as the water has no place to go, but up. The views from on top of the hills are post card perfect.
Here we are watching the blow holes in the rocks along the east coast.
Atop the haunted Boo Boo hill, look down towards the mooring field.
This a view of the rocky east coast of Warderick Wells.
The mooring field at the park.
After 3 days of hiking we were ready to move on to the next port-of-call. I’d heard of swimming pigs at Staniel Cay. I’m sure the kids would love that, so off we went. The guide book made Staniel Cay sound busy with development, phrases like “by the time this guide gets printed the third marina should be completed”. As we approached, we called “Thunderball Club Marina over and over on the radio, no answer.
Sunset at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Eva posing in front of the clubhouse.
We pulled into Staniel and picked up a mooring ball, we had gotten a little better at this. Still I ran forward as soon as I heard they had the mooring, and grabbed on to it. We could see the Thunderball Club house from the water. It had the name spelled out on the roof with asphalt shingles. When we went to check in at the club house we didn’t see any new docks. We did find a dangerously dilapidated old dock with no one in sight. There were missing and broken boards all over. We went up a flight of steps carved into the steep cliff to get to the club house, and walked around the building. It was all boarded up. Who do we pay for the mooring? Just as we were climbing back into the dinghy, we heard a voice, back up the steps we went. Turns out this guy had come over to do some work. When we asked about the mooring he whipped out his phone and called Solomon, the owner of the moorings. Solomon got there in a few minutes and requests 20 dollars a night for the mooring. Marie asked if they were sturdy, and Solomon said “thems sleep-tight-moorings”. In an effort to look somewhat official, Solomon pulled out some folded paper from his back pocket. It could have been some advertisement flyer, folded twice over to fit his pocket. He pulled out a pen, and asked “What is the name of the vessel?” “What is the length of the vessel?” I was impressed by the record keeping. I can’t imagine where this was to be filed. We spent 2 nights on those moorings, and it blew hard, they held fine, but we did not sleep tight.
Hadrian went paddle-boarding with his new friends. They paddle so far out of sight and we had to go recover them in a boat.
The third day there it was still blowing hard, so we threw in the towel, and took a slip at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, the only marina there. The cruisers I met thus far take a peculiar pride in not paying for services, and they don’t seem to weight in the efforts or equipment damage they incur or go through in order not to pay for any said services. For example, a couple came by our boat while we were at the mooring ball, and inquired about the cost of the ball. I informed them of the cost, and assumed they would pick one up themselves as it was blow hard. Not the case, he simply said “why would I pay twenty bucks when can anchor here for free?” Well, they spend the night dragging around on their anchors and dinghying around the anchorage trying to reset them…at 3 am. They probably spent as much money on fuel as they had saved. Not us, we like our butts to be powdered if possible.
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club was the hub of activity for the island. It is a modest operation by our standards back home, but for the islands…hoo-hoo. The club house consisted of a one story structure that had obviously grown over time by miss-matching additions that made the roof a puzzle. Up front, the bar took up the whole first room, as well it needed to in order to accommodate the crowd.
The beach at Big Majors.
The pig that stole lunch.
As it turns out swimming pigs were at Big Majors Island, just to the north of Staniel Cay. We packed our leftovers in a plastic bag and headed to Big Majors. As we neared the beach we could see two big pigs on shore, and they saw us too. As we approached the pigs would follow. I got about 20 feet from shore and turned the boat to study the rock laden beach. One of the pigs jumped in to follow us, but quickly realized we were too fast for him, so he turned back. I spotted a clean area on the beach where we could land. As soon as we were beached the pigs came to us. They were big, I mean 300 pounds big. What were we thinking? These pigs didn’t beg, they took. The first pig came over and started to climb onto our dinghy, he put his front hoofs in. Have you ever seen the head on a 300 pound pig? Well, we were about 2 feet away from the business end of this animal, and it was going to wreck the boat. I saw the situation was out of my hands, so I grabbed the bag of food and just threw it, plastic bags and all, the pigs followed. I sometimes feel I keep the Lord busier than I should with my stupidity, but hey, he’s been cool about it. Well, after having our thirst for swimming pigs quenched, we headed back to the yacht club for food and drinks.
See the company I keep, these are my neighbors, ha-ha.
With bad weather approaching the docks were full. One of the larger yachts had 5 kids on board. This was fortunate for us as Hadrian and Eva really needed to play with other kids. They were in temporary heaven on the big ship. They had television, a hot tub, and an assortment of toys. We joined our new friends on a snorkeling trip to Thunderball cave, or the Grotto, as some guides refer to it. I was not expecting much more than a small cave, but man was I wrong, it was huge, with several chambers. The ceiling in the main chamber was about twenty feet high, and it had a hole that allowed daylight in. The water inside the cave was about 10 to 15 feet deep, and full of fish, some nice groupers, but no fishing allowed here. Our friends had brought along a few cans of Cheeze-whiz that had the fish going crazy. In all there were 4 magnificent chambers. The cave was ablaze with light, colors and life.
The weather was turning for the better. We met a lot of nice people at the yacht club, but it was time to move on. For our next destination we chose Blackpoint because of all the hype that heard about its’ Laundromat, “The best in all the Exumas”. Since I don’t do laundry and I don’t wanna have to start doing laundry, I like to spoil Marie with these little treats.


  1. Nice pics dad! Glad to see you guys are all having a good time, we miss you over here, call some time.

  2. We are glad that you guys are having a wonderful adventure!!!!