Okay, so I find anchoring and docking to be the most difficult and stressful parts of this cruising life. I am happiest when we find a spot and stay there for a few days or more, because I know I won’t have to dock or anchor for a while again. Docking is when you pull into a marina and park at the dock. Not always easy when the weather is not cooperating or there is strong current pushing your boat around in the water.
Anchoring is when you find a good spot, in a sheltered location with good water depth and good holding (a good bottom for the anchor to dig in to). Someone, usually me, stays at the wheel in the cockpit and Richard goes to the bow and drops the anchor and gives me hand signals to direct for reverse and forward and steering to port(left) or starboard(right). We have experienced some windy, currenty spots which makes anchoring even more difficult as the wind and water interfere with your control of the boat. Interestingly enough, anchoring time is usually the time that the boys begin a downward spiral as well and become tired, cranky and in need of attention! Imagine that!
Well, anchoring seems like a breeze compared to catching a mooring ball. We pulled into Shroud Cay, which is part of Exuma Park and for $15 you could snag a mooring ball and stayed tied to that for the night. It doesn’t do any damage to the bottom and you can pack a few more boats into a smaller spot. We thought, why not?
Well, Richard is standing on the bow, with the boat hook, a long, extendable pole with a hook on the end giving me directions to try and steer a course to the mooring ball. A mooring ball is a big buoyant ball, attached to a thick rope which is then attached to the bottom of the sea bed with thick heavy plates. The idea is that you catch the loop in the rope with your boat hook, run a line through it and attach it to the bow of your boat and bob’s your uncle. Well, let me tell you…I do have an uncle named Bob, but this bob is no friend of mine.
We tried and tried to catch that darn thing. I backed up and pulled a 360 to get us back to where we started and every time we came close, the wind caught the boat and pulled her nose away. Richard dropped the boat hook in the water, thankfully it floats and we were able to retrieve it. We finally decided to dinghy over, so Richard hops in the dingy and starts rowing over, I am at the wheel, trying not to drive over my husband in the dinghy somewhere in front of me and James and Matthew, who were asked to come up and help, are bickering over the line and it drops in the water! Another miss, again, thankfully the line (rope) floats as well.
Finally another guy from the boat Celebration drives his dinghy over, Richard gets back on the bow and I continue to steer Viatori and Wayne helps us hook the mooring ball with our line. It turns out Wayne from Celebration motored around the anchorage in his dinghy, helping a few other boats catch their mooring balls as well. Thank you, Wayne!
Shroud Cay was great. We met a few other cruisers, Wayne and Gaye from Celebration and Bob and Theresa from Spunky and actually had a convoy of dinghies go through a series of thin creeks around brush and mangroves to a beautiful spot where Exuma Sound opens up. It had a gorgeous beach, beautiful sand and a magnificent view from the top of Camp Driftwood. Camp Driftwood was once a spot at the top of a small hill, where a man, named Ernest Scholtes would pick up pieces of driftwood and other flotsam and jetsam to make picnic tables or benches and decorated the area with shells, seabeans and floats. Well, some cruisers started leaving garbage there, so the park wardens cleared everything out, but there is still a path up the hill and a great lookout spot.
The next day we slipped our line and sailed/motored to Warderick Wells. Here was another place with mooring balls that you actually had to call ahead and reserve a spot. We were expecting some strong wind in the forecast, so we needed to hunker down somewhere for a few days and Warderick Wells is very sheltered. We talked to them on the radio and we put in our request for a mooring ball and then crossed our fingers that they had a spot for us. They did and we headed over.
Well, when we get there, we enter a rather narrow channel that is full of sailboats and power boats. We find the mooring ball reserved for us which was right near the Park Headquarters and near the beach and a floating pier. Well, same thing happens except I am at the bow and Richard is at the wheel as the current was very strong and I was not confident in handling the boat. The channel was quite narrow between a shallow bank and the rocky land, there was current and wind! Yikes! This time, we also had people on the beach and at the pier. Great, all we need is an audience! I managed to catch that darn thing from the stern, but we couldn’t slow down and stop in time, so I dropped the boat hook, again, into the water. We kept circling around the mooring ball, terrified at running aground. Did I mention that we came in at low tide as well?
Another cruiser, not Wayne, hopped into his dinghy and motored over and helped us. At this point, Richard and I are not sure a couple (two people) could snag a mooring ball, without any assistance. Another boat came in at the same time we did and actually did run aground, which means that the bottom of your boat touches, scrapes or worse, rams the bottom of the seabed. Apparently others watching us trying to get the mooring ball, thought we had run aground as Viatori has this terrible habit of heeling, or leaning, to port side. Thankfully, we did not!
The best thing about our spot in Warderick Wells was that at low tide, we could jump off the back of the boat and swim about 20 feet to a sand bar. James and Matthew could jump off of the sand bar into deep water and Ethan could splash around in the shallow water. It was perfect. Our friends from Spunky and Celebration were there as well, so we chatted with them. We did some school in the mornings, went to the beach and chatted with other cruisers or visited the Park Headquarters and swam off the back of the boat. We rode out another weather front in a great location.
On to Staniel Cay!