We left Bimini with the intent of going straight through to the N Exumas / Wardrick Wells. Long story short it turn out the seas were a bit more rolly than we had anticipated so we stopped for the night on the Great Bahama Banks. It is a bit weird to be anchored in shallow water and not be able to see land in all 360 degrees. The thought was we could get chop in the shallow water, drop the hook, get a few hours of sleep and then pass by Nassau in the daylight where we could also spot (and avoid) some of the coral heads that dot the area.
At about 11:30pm after both of us were still wide awake because of the boat rolling all over we decided to just pull up the anchor and keep moving. We moved into our 3 hrs on/3 hrs off shifts and while the seas were still not great we were at least making progress toward our destination.
By mid day (now 24 hrs + in) all of us (including Kent) had had enough of the sea state. It was not quite barf worthy horrible but it was the second worse conditions we had been in with Heartbeat. The only time we had worse conditions was unfortunately with Kent's parents back in Feb 2019.
At this point in the trip we had a decision to make. We knew some strong east wind was going to be coming for the next couple of days. Likely where we ended up we would need to stay put until it passed by. We wanted to get as far south to Wardrick Wells (WW) for two reasons. First, we had missed that area last year and wanted to make sure we saw it. Second, friends we had met cruising last year were planning to be at WW and we were excited to catch back up with Hemisphere (Bob & Meghan and their kids Marin & Leonard).
So there we were – tired, a bit grumpy, had traveled ~200 miles and we were ready for calmer sea conditions. We started talking about just stopping a few cays north of WW (at Highborne) and cutting a few hours off our trip. Them we decided to keep going to WW and then ….well at this point making a decision was too much work. We finally decided that our Plan A was to get near Highborne and crossed our fingers that the sea state would flatten out once in the shallower water of the banks and then proceed south to WW.
Fortunately the seas flattened out as we approached Highborne and we pushed the extra 3 hrs south to WW. We tied onto a mooring ball and where we were greeted by Bob in his dingy who helped us quickly get Penny to shore (because of course she "held it" for over 30 hrs). Hemisphere was kind enough to have dinner ready and we all enjoyed catching up with each other. It had been almost a year since we had seen the four of them but of course at the same time it felt like no time had passed.
We spent 3 nights at Wardrick Wells which is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The park is a protected area so you do not fish or take/leave anything and in return the area should remain pristine. There are no services with the exception of mooring balls which you are encouraged to use for $25/night. While it was very windy the next couple of days we were tucked into a good spot at the Emerald Rock mooring field. We set out each day to explore what was available around us.
The waters in the Exumas are simply beautiful. At least 5 x/day we comment out loud – "just look at the water it is just beautiful" (or something to that extent).
From Wardrick Wells we left for Cambridge Cay, 14 miles south. Cambridge is also part of the Exuma Land & Sea Park. It was one of our favorite stops last year and we were looking forward to spending some time there again. We had a couple of perfect weather days for playing and then a day and a half of very very strong NW wind which pinned us on board. Such is the challenge with being in the Bahamas in January, it is still winter and strong fronts roll through. That being said we spent a total of four nights at Cambridge exploring what we could on the good weather days.
Video – Snorkeling at a site perfectly named The Aquarium.
Video – Snorkeling into one of the caves nearby on Rocky Dundas.
Video – Small plane that missed it's final destination.
Unfortunately we learned quickly that bull sharks were in the area. Last year we rarely saw them and were swimming without a care. This stop it was common to see 5-6 swimming around the boat so unfortunately no swimming for us.
Video – Kent caught this short video after following a shark in the dingy one afternoon.
Not quite sure where in the Exuma chain we will head to next. We have several areas we want to explore north of us and then also south of us. No surprise to us at this point but the weather will drive our decision on where to go and for how long. Stay tuned.