Thursday, January 7, 2016

Warderick Wells, Land and Sea Park

Odin from the Boo Boo Hill

Warderick Wells--we had never heard of it until we started planning our trip to the Bahamas. What a fabulous place. If you don't snorkel, you have to learn!  A majority of the things to see are under water!  However, we enjoyed daily hikes and the all-around scenery also. There were a lot of charter boats here, which I would have to recommend if you don't have your own boat.  We're told this is some of the best snorkeling in the Bahamas.  We stayed as long as our food & water allowed. 

Day 1:  We decide to depart Hawksbill later than our usual "be there by lunch."  The winds seem stronger overnight and die down after lunch (backwards for us midwesterners). This will put us entering the mooring field near high tide.  We tune in to the 9:00 am broadcast to confirm our mooring ball request as we start engines. 

The park office is already closed when we arrive, so fellow boater's direct us through the narrow mooring field. We pick up the ball on the first try and I'm working on the bridle before The Captain makes his way to the bow (yep, big audience--everyone is lounging in the cockpit or on the beach until slack water). We're one of 14 boats in the main field. We ended up on ball 12 near the office and between beaches (there is a lot of begging to be "near the beach, near the office or not near the cut-side entrance"). After lunch & naps we go for a quick snorkel around the boat and along the beach, seeing some more kinds of coral and fish that aren't afraid of people (no fishing!). At 3 o'clock, all the other dinghies head out to the same spot--yep, slack water at Ranger's Garden. Tomorrow. We head out on deck to investigate an annoying noise (boat faced into the current and wind is coming from the side always makes the rigging hum) and discover we've lost our Bahamian courtesy flag--not shocking, considering the constant wind here!

Stats:  Total time 3:30, avg speed 4.3 kts, total mileage 15.0 nm (estimates)

The Captain at Boo Boo Hill

Day 2:  After the 9:00 am broadcast, we head over to check in and then out for a morning hike to Boo Boo Hill. We walk across limestone boulders and then end up wading through thigh-high water to cross a creek, nary a sign advising, "wait for low tide, silly!"  At the top of Boo Boo Hill, a family asks us to take their picture, and we end up stopping to chat for quite awhile with the crew of sv Oopsea. We didn't bring our driftwood sign, but I suddenly get a cell signal, so we'll be back!  We head down to the beach and then back over to the blow holes. 

Looking for the blow holes...

Atlantic side

As we arrive back at the boat, we realize we can still see Boo Boo Hill & hear the blow holes. What if we hoisted the cell phone up the mast? (Active Captain told us there would be no cell coverage here & it's $15/100 mb of data). Wahlah--FaceBook!  The Captain digs through tools to donate to the Park and then goes to work on our driftwood sign.  A large motorboat and motor yacht arrive, unleashing jetskis and center console dinghies, running full throttle through the mooring field. Not cool. 3:30 is slack water, so we head out to the dinghy moorings at Ranger's Garden. It's my first snorkel off the dinghy, so hubbs sends to me in first to get comfortable.  A quick glance below reveals every kind of coral in our Bahama Reef Identification Guide--I gave up trying to memorize them all. We stayed together this time which allowed us to do more, "Hey look over there." including a small nurse shark, and 2 turtles. Seriously, it's like swimming in the main tank at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago!  We take a quick break, then swim out to the second mooring and drift back. Now the tricky part--getting back in the dinghy!  Swimming to shallower water is an option, but I use a trick I learned on the internet to climb up the outboard--it wasn't pretty and I'll probably have a bruise, but I'm in first try and hubbs is not!  Back at the boat, I decide to jump back in the water while The Captain scrapes the hull. I swim up the our mooring and as I round the bow, I'm greeted by one of the large spotted eagle rays we saw swim by this morning. He's gorgeous and gives me a sideways glance ("Hey...") and keeps going.

Causeway Trail to the Atlantic-side beach

Warderick Wells Causeway beach

Warderick Wells Causeway beach

Day 3:  We head out on the Causeway trail, then circle back to Boo Boo with our sign for the pile.  The mooring field thins out to 5 boats again.  This morning's entertainment is a 65 ft motor yacht (with the obnoxious jet skis) doing 3-360's of their mooring ball as he tries to depart--with another 70 ft motor yacht heading into the channel.  Wow. 

Runaway dinghy

We swim over to the sunk sailboat on mooring #9, just before low tide at 4:00 pm. The current was still pretty decent--we learned our lesson while near shallow water--wait for slack water!  As we got ready to jump in the dinghy for a return trip to The Ranger Garden, a shiny, new Lagoon 39 picked up the ball behind us (wait for it). After a great snorkel, including several lionfish (invasive species) and an almost perfectly camouflaged, tiny round stingray ("I can't believe you spotted him.") we head back. As we near our boat, we saw one of the 40 hp rigid inflatable dinghies come flying in front of the Lagoon then do a hard turn back. First we curse--then realize nobody is in it--then became concerned about the safety of us & our boat. We shove the dinghy between the hulls and clamber on the boat. A quick radio call revealed the driver was safe. The dinghy was flying around pretty wildly, then settled into a tight circle between the Lagoon, another large cat and a monohull. The first thought is to wait until it runs out of gas. Then the hope is it will run aground in the shallows (low tide) behind our boats. The park rangers start to assemble on the radio. Another brave dinghy arrives to help and the driver hops in, hoping to throw a rope into the prop (terrible, dangerous idea). Then he jumps in the water--lots of screaming "get back in the boat."  (People are killed or seriously maimed by being run over by their outboards every year.). The dinghy runs itself aground a few times, but they don't react quick enough (don't blame him--not his dinghy). Then, the old salt on the monohull Copper Penny, calmly climbs in his dinghy and slowly motors out as it runs aground again (he probably had the best view) and reaches over to pull the kill switch. He calmly returns to his boat (quick visit from the park warden).  After playing with it for awhile, they can't get it started, and pull it back to the boat.  Light-bulb moment--shampoo hair while wet with saltwater, then rinse with fresh!  Afternoon entertainment over. 

Day 4:  The mooring field turns over almost every day. We're down to 4 boats until after lunch, when it starts to fill up again. We're getting lazy and start to plan our next leg. I play on the internet, while The Captain tightens the standing rigging. A couple rainshowers go through in the morning (we usually just have a brief shower overnight). I lost track of the boats that should have run aground today--a monohull, the 4-300 hp tender, a Lagoon picks up the mooring in front of us from the back step--and & ties it off. And leaves it there. In the middle of the channel. We dinghy in to pay for one more day and have a few laughs with Sherry ("Did you see that?"). We'll do our afternoon snorkel off the dinghy dock. When I get back to the dinghy, The Captain advises that he jumped in on top of a nurse shark--"careful, he's under the dock."  Um, what?  (Reef Fish Identification,  "Habitat and Behavior:  In all habitats, from shallow water to outer reefs  Often lie on sand under ledges and overhangs.  Reaction to divers: Appear unconcerned; usually lie motionless unless disturbed.  Tend to bite if provoked."  Apparently, this is a lot of the shark attacks at beaches. Moral of the story, don't step on the shark or he will bite!) I jump in & he leaves, supposedly, but it turns out there's 2!  The second one herds us to the other side of the dock and sits there on the bottom. Not nice to play with the tourists!  (I don't care if it's a nurse shark at a park--they still make you gasp at first sight--tricky in a snorkel). There is an amazing congregation of fish on this small reef, but no lobster. We drift around to the beach and I glance over and see the other nurse shark laying on the bottom just off the beach. I'll stick to snorkeling--You never know what you'll step on. We circleback to the dinghy. "Sherry, You should put those sharks on a leash."

We use the last of our fresh (frozen) meat to make gf spaghetti. Main 80-gallon water tank is at half (we use about 5 g/day)

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