Saturday, October 24, 2015

Back in the USA - Catching Up (Part 2: Georgetown to Spanish Wells/Eleuthera)

The storms passed, the water tanks were filled. Food and drink were added to the cabinets and fridge and Pearl was off on her next adventure. Next stop was Long Island a full day sail away.

About an hour after we left the Elizabeth Harbor and Georgetown, a straight line showed up on our chart plotter right across our path. I zoomed out on the screen and it said Tropic of Cancer. Fortunately we still had cell data so when in doubt, Google it. It turns out if you are on the line at  the summer solstice the sun will be directly overhead. As hard as we tried, we could not see the line in the water.

It was a beautiful day with mild conditions. As we got near Long Island we heard another boat hailing us on the VHF radio. It was Apres' Ski that we had met in Georgetown. They came across the previous day and anchored north of the Salt Pond anchorage that we were headed to. They were going there as well so we would have some playmates to explore with. Pearl met up with Apres' Ski and settled in for a couple of days.

There are many cruising guides written for the Bahamas and they tell you were all the main sights to see are at each island but we were blessed to have bought Pearl from folks that had cruised the Bahamas for many many years well before the current guides were written. They left us their old charts that have many notes written on them as well as their old guidebooks that also have many notes in them. On one of the charts was a handwritten note that said Trail To Beach and indicated that it is located at telephone pole number xxx (we won't disclose the number so we can keep it off the current guidebooks).

Off we went down the road reading the numbers on the telephone poles. About a forever mile, there it was...the trail entrance. It wasn't obvious and had no worn parking spots so we gave it a try. The trail was about a quarter mile through the typical scrub brush and small trees.

When we reached the end of the trail we were rewarded with one of the most secluded and beautiful beaches we had found. The beach was long with soft white sand and the rock outcroppings in and out of the water were picturesque.

Long Island is about 80 miles long so the next day we rented a car with our friends to go exploring. In the Bahamas they drive on the left side of the road so the front passenger was responsible for constantly reminding the driver to make sure they were not driving on the right (or wrong as it may be) side. This arrangement worked well until it was my turn to drive near the end of the day in one of the more remote north sections of the island. I probably went about 7 miles after we turned from a side dirt road onto the main road before we all realized I was on the wrong side! Thank goodness that section of road is not well traveled.

We made several stops to explore but two were the most memorable. First we got a guided tour of the Hamilton Caves which are considered the largest cave system in the Bahamas. The tour was given by Leonard Cartright who owns the land the caves were on and grew up playing hide n seek and exploring in them. The five species of bats swirling around you while you tour the cave makes for an interesting time.

The next was a stop to see Deans Blue Hole. It is an amazing sight. Its the deepest blue hole in the world at 663 feet deep. Evidently it is the site of the world free diving championship. There are also some awesome cliffs around it that the young adventurous folks took advantage of by jumping off....with their GoPro in hand!

Lastly we made our way north to Cape Santa Maria. It is believed that Long Island was the third stop for Christopher Columbus in the new world. He lost one of his ships, the Santa Maria on the reef that extends north from Long Island. The next stop for Pearl was supposed to be Conception Island and Cat Island just north of Long Island. The view from Cape Santa Maria convinced us that the seas were far too rough to take that route so we decided to head back to Georgetown and work our way north up the Exuma chain of islands until things calmed down and we could cross the deeper water to Eluethera.

Retracing our steps from Georgetown we headed north and once again anchored off our favorite island, Lee Stocking Island. This time we had plenty of fuel for our dinghy so we could explore the smaller island that surround it.

The first stop was to see the pink iguanas on Leaf Cay. Fortunately we got there at a time when there were no day tourist boats around so we had the place to ourselves. Needless to say the iguanas could care less about us when they saw we didn't bring food for them.

Next stop was a larger uninhabited island nearby called Norman's Pond. We found the "hidden" small blue hole.

and a short way down the western side was the runoff stream from the large abandoned salt producing flats in the center of the island. The tide fills in the flats at high tide and as the tode goes out, you can ride the current back to the beach.

After we returned to Pearl another sailboat anchored close by. I got in the dinghy and went over to say hi and to ask what the conditions were in the deeper water because we wanted to leave the next morning. After their quick report of "it was fine" they asked.."do you want some tuna?" They had caught 4 tuna on the way there and couldn't eat it all so they cut them into filets and gave us a large bag of fresh tuna. The feast was enjoyed an hour later.

 Since our destination was Eleuthera we moved quickly north only stopping when needed. The one place that cannot be passed is always Black Point for the laudramat. Clean clothes make us happy and probably those around us as well.

How many laundromats have a view like this?

We traveled two more days north and the weather was finally going to be good for us to sail east across the Exuma Sound to Eleuthera. We anchored just inside the cut at Cambridge Cay at dusk, and enjoyed a glass of wine with our visitor watching the sunset.

Daybreak came quickly, we raised anchor and went out through the cut at slack tide. The day was breezy from the south which made to a vigorous full sail across arriving at Rock Sound in the late afternoon. It took us a few weeks of backtracking but we finally made it to Eluethera.

Eluethera is about 110 miles long and has several settlements with harbors along it's western protected shoreline. Each one had a unique personality that catered to the variety of interests of different types of cruisers. We moved up the island stopping for a day or two at each one.

After Rock Sound we headed north to Governor's Harbor. We enjoyed 18-20 knot winds along the  25 nm beam reach..... whatta day! We took a mooring ball in beautiful Governors Harbor for a couple of nights to relax and wait out the next blow.

The mooring balls were owned by French Leave Resort. It is a new resort in the making that is perhaps the most upscale property we had seen in the Bahamas. We played Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous as we enjoyes the grounds overlooking the harbor and Pearl.

On the ocean side of the island, the resort owned the grounds of the long gone Club Med. The beach there was amazing with pink granules mixed in the sand.

I remember when I was growing up I used to hear about the crazy and wild Club Med at Eluethra. Today all that remains are some flat foundations from the buildings that were there and an empty hole that used to be one of the pools.

The weather calmed down after a few days so we continued heading north. There is never a dull moment when cruising. The next stop was Hatchet Bay Pond. The entrance to Hatchet Bay Pond was a fun experience. I would hate to try it with the wind and swells going the wrong way.

We didn't get off Pearl here because we had a plan that was different than the folks we were bumping into along the way. They all rented cars here and drove north to a place called the Glass Window. After doing a little research we decided to leave the next morning and sail there instead.

Just when we thought we had seen it all we anchored in the late morning at the Glass Window in the north part of Eluethera. This is a part of the island where the Atlantic Ocean with its deep dark and rough waters is separated from the calm shallow light blue clear water of the Exuma Sound. There is a bridge across the gap where the high tide waves crash through. At one point not too long ago a storm brought a huge wave that hit the bridge and moved it 7 feet. They had to restore most of it to allow for passage to the lower 2/3rds of Eluethera. It is only one lane now and really looks like it cannot handle the 8 tons it says it can. Just south of the bridge is a place called the Queen's Baths where the ocean waves crash up and fill many small pools. After being here for a few hours it has become one of our favorite anchorages...have we said that before?

A short walk south on the Atlantic Ocean side is the Queen's Baths. This is a group of small ponds and caves in the rocks that get filled with water at high tide.

We almost lost Gayleen to this wave but she used her Ninja skills to beat back the ocean.

We really enjoyed it there so we stayed a few nights, swimming and exploring. This was our back yard while we were there.

The last night lived up to the old adage.... Red at night....sailor's delight.

The next morning we were on our way to our last stop and the northern most point of Eluethera, Spanish Wells. Most of the boats we had met the past couple of months happened to be there at the same time. We were all looking for the proper weather to make the open water crossing north to the Abacos Islands. We stayed in Spanish Wells for two nights exploring the town and one of the adjacent islands.

Spanish Wells is a fishing town. It is responsible for the majority of the lobster business in the Bahamas. The pretty harbor is lines with fishing boats.

The first night we took a mooring ball near the entrance to the harbor. It is a narrow entrance and when the ferry came in, it looked like we were going to be in trouble.

After surviving the close encounter with the ferry we thought we would have a relaxing night. This was not to be. Just as the sun set, The no seeum biting bug from the mangrove swamps next to the mooring field swarmed the boat. Even after quickly closing all the hatches they continued to bite us all night. At first light we wasted no time leaving the mooring field for a nice anchorage at a nearby island. Thank goodness the folks next to us offered to hold our money to pay for the mooring ball later in the morning when the owner came around collecting.

The last night we anchored with four other boats we knew. The next day was going to provide us with a good weather window to head north. We all left at daybreak to make the crossing to the Abacos Islands. 

Coming up next.....zipping through the Abacos and heading back to Florida.

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