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  • Katharine Hesmer

Bahamas | Take 2 | January 9, 2023

Shroud Cay to Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays, Bahamas

KORKZcrew is the blue dot on the map

Traveling has been important to me since my early 20's when I was fortunate enough to spend one of my college semesters in Dijon, France, living with a French family and learning far more than any class could promise to teach you, and consuming my weight in Grey Poupon. It's fascinating to see the world through a broader lens, and to appreciate that people just like you are doing things a little differently, often more interestingly, and equally effectively. I've loved having multiple opportunities to learn about cultures, currencies, and color, as we live in a beautiful, diverse universe.

I've been extremely lucky to have covered a lot of ground over my 60 (😱) years on this planet, and am fairly certain that the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park headquarters is the most stunning place I've ever visited. And you don't have to live on a 37-foot floating bathtub in order to visit — there are numerous options to consider if this is something you'd ever want to add to your bucket list.

To be clear, the Land and Sea Park includes multiple cays and encompasses 112,640 acres of land and sea. The headquarters are located at Warderick Wells Cay, which confusingly (after just saying I was trying to be clear 🤪) is part of the Shroud Cays. We were just at Shroud Cay (singular) the other day, and for some reason, this area a little farther south is also named Shroud.

This map shows the entirety of the park. The blue dot is KORKZcrew's mooring at Warderick Wells Cay, which is located in the park's north mooring field.

There is no anchoring allowed in this j-shaped mooring field, but it has 22 mooring balls, and we were able to reserve one ahead of time by calling the park office. I'm not sure they offer advance reservations during busier times of the year, but the typical way to request a mooring ball is to contact the office via VHF channel 09. Each morning at 9:00, they ask for departures for the day, and then accept requests for the park's various mooring fields. There is a lovely woman who greets you on the radio each morning, beginning on Channel 16 which is the main communication channel for cruisers, and then moving to Channel 09 where the park accepts direct requests for overnight stays. She has to say the same thing every day, on both channels, so instead of being bored by the repetitiveness, she's decided to turn it into a charming little performance.

When we visited here last spring, we made a mental note that we really liked the location of mooring ball 22, which is the one we were able to reserve for our current visit. It's the last mooring in this location, and is right next to a sandbar that's exposed at low tide.

Here's a 360 degree view of our mooring from overhead, looking north initially. KORKZcrew is at the bottom left at the beginning and end of the video. The boat at the top of the screen is moored at the entrance to this j-shaped field, so boats entering the channel follow the dark blue water around and past the park office, with a sharp turn to the right to access the mooring balls in the area where KORKZcrew was located. It is quite the feast for the eyeballs.

KORKZcrew entering the north mooring field at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

KORKZcrew is at the bottom left of this video. The park office is in the center, where you can see its dock on a little peninsula just off the beach.

The park office has several resources for your use, including maps that show good snorkeling locations, many of which have a designated mooring ball where you can tie up your dinghy while you take in the underwater sights. Another map indicates various trails you can investigate in the park, one of which we did last spring and decided to repeat on this trip because its vistas are so stunning. This trail is called Boo Boo Hill, and it has a story behind it.

"You may be wondering how a place gets the name 'Boo Boo Hill'. Legend has it that it’s named so because it’s haunted by souls of a ship that went missing in the surrounding reefs. During one stormy night, their ship vanished with every soul on board perishing. Some say the ship sank with all passengers on board, and other’s say the bodies are buried under the hill. It’s said on moonlit nights you can hear the spirits singing in the howling wind. It has now become a tradition for visitors to leave a piece of driftwood behind with the name of their ship. It’s viewed as an offering to the God Neptune and the other sea gods for good sailing and safe passage. On top of the hill, visitors will see a pile of driftwood from past offerings."

To access the trail, you start at the beach adjacent to the park office, which you can see in this video, and follow the trail along the mangroves and up to the top of Boo Boo Hill, which is the tallest hill on the cay although it doesn't look particularly big here.

It was great to have the chance to stretch our legs, and if you ever have the chance to check out this trail, be sure to wear shoes because it gets pretty rocky in some spots along the way.

While we had reserved our mooring ball for two nights, we decided to add a third for obvious reasons. Even when the weather was lousy, it was stunningly beautiful.

The sandbar adjacent to our mooring quickly became a favorite hangout at the end of each day, which gave Steve a perfect spot for "fishing" (in quotes because he does a whole lot of looking and absolutely zero "catching") and for getting off of the boat for a bit.

Ron, Steve, and Skeet

Ron and Steve on the sandbar

Suffice it to say that Steve would've lost his mind (and a few legs) if he'd seen the fish that I saw while flying my drone one afternoon. The water is so impossibly clear that any shadow going by is a sure sign you're witnessing a massive SOMETHING passing by your boat. But even bUefore my drone encounter, there was THIS incredible episode:

Eagle Rays swimming by KORKZcrew

My fish tale happened just before filming Ron returning to KORKZcrew from the park office.

Using an app on my iPhone, I can see what the drone sees while I'm taking pictures and/or video, and noticed what looked a whole lot like a shark going by our boat. A lot like one because it WAS one. And with apologies for my unrefined camera skills, here's a closer look. 😱

Steve has honestly been a terrific sport about boat life (as if he had a choice 🤷‍♀️), but you can see his mood shift dramatically any time he has an opportunity to run around and do his business somewhere other than on the fake grass mat he uses on board. Skeet took him to the beach one morning to do his thing and Steve beat him to the dinghy, knowing what was about to happen.

Tomorrow it'll be time to head south again, carrying memories of this spectacular spot right along with us.

2.25 hours underway; 15.5 nautical miles traveled

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