Next stop south in the Exumas was Shroud Cay, and our first stop within the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Throughout the park there are well maintained mooring fields, but at Shroud we elected to anchor in a more remote spot a little south of the field.
Shroud is about 80% mangrove, and 20% dry land, and is criss-crossed by several estuaries which made for great kayaking. We found one up at the north end that wound all the way through to the back side of the dunes on the ocean side.
The Exumas are largely unpopulated and undeveloped with a few exceptions, so cruising involves anchoring (and moorings in the park), making your own water and electricity, etc. I don't think there are any marinas, places to get water, or fuel stops anywhere between Highborne and Staniel. But, despite being more remote, we found the Exumas to be decidedly more crowded than the Abacos. The mooring fields all filled up each afternoon and the latest arrivals had to anchor (which is no big deal.) And even our more remote anchorage ended up with 1/2 dozen boats. It wasn't as tight as Allen's Cay, but there were still a lot of boats around.
The other interesting thing - and perhaps some of our readers can shed some light on it - was the predominance of boats from Canada. I'd say Canadian boats out numbered others by 4 to 1, and of the Canadian boats, more than half were from various parts of Quebec. With the Bahamas so much closer to the US than Canada, I'd expect the opposite. One thing I was wondering is whether there is a longer winter holiday in Canada that makes it easier for folks to come spend a month down this way? Or perhaps they are just smarter than us and more quickly figured out the pleasure of escaping a cold winter. I know I've been slow to figure it out.
But getting back to the number of boats, most of the mooring fields are first-come-first-serve. Except Warderick Wells, home to the park headquarters, operates on a reservation system. It all takes place over VHF because there is no cell service, wifi, or anything else. Every morning at 9:00 the process begins, conducted by the park "manager". First, there is a call to find out which boats will be leaving that day. Then there is a call for reservation requests. Most requests are for that same day, but while we were there they also accepted requests for the next day. It's a bit of a free for all to get your request in, fueled by the first-come-first-served nature of the reservations, but I can't think of any better way to conduct it. Once all the requests have been voiced, the manager goes off line for a few minutes while she sorts out the requests. Then she comes back on and calls the boats one at a time to give each their mooring assignment for the night. All in all, it works pretty well.
We listened in while at Shroud key, and although our reception was marginal at that distance, we put in a request for the next day, the decided to head a little further south for the night.