After Kate, Will and Penny left we spent a few days in Marsh Harbor getting the boat straight (!!), re-provisioning and doing laundry. Only when you are cruising do you appreciate the appliances you have at home –large fridge, freezers and most of all washer/dryers to use at your whim. At $5.50 a load to wash and another $5.50 to dry, you think twice before tossing the slightly worn top or pants into the washing pile! Besides the expense, not many places offer laundry facilities because water is a precious commodity down here, so laundry day is a big deal.
There was a humdinger of a storm forecast for the 7th so we scuttled over to Hope Town to hunker down. It blew and it blew and it blew. After the big storm, the winds stayed strong and there was no chance of heading south for a while. So we explored Elbow Cay by golf cart for a day.
(The boat in the picture on the right is a Nicholson 31 – the same design as the Morgan 31 we were building in Durban in 1981 and in which we planned to cross the ocean with the two children – boy were we optimistic!! Hats off to our parents for their support in that project – I’m glad things changed and our lives took the path they did!)
We golf-carted down to Tahiti Beach and had a wonderful walk as the tide receded – found three pretty baby conch which had been left high and dry and were waiting for the water to come back in; beautiful sand flats with amazing patterns left behind; and then, as always, on the ocean side: rugged rocks with wild seas.
On to Sea Spray Marina where we had a good lunch (we hear the names of these places every morning on the Cruiser’s Net – VHF Channel 68 where they give you weather updates, sea conditions and everything that is happening around the islands in the Abacos). The highlight of my day was when we stopped at Firefly Resort for a drink and found that there was a manatee at the dock!! He was huge and lumbering and not pretty, but so friendly and I could finally see what one looked like. Gary (who used to train dolphins many years ago and knows such a lot about sea life) went down to pat him, and when another guy on a boat reached out, the manatee flipped over, as though he wanted his chin scratched!! It was a very special day for me.
We did a Trivia night at Captain Jack’s, joined the Sip Sip Sots (which supports animals on Abaco), did a Bingo night, ate on the boat, ate on shore, watched football when we could – all passing time until the weather changed. We went to a great lecture about Wreckers – it was a government sanctioned profession in the 1800’s. When ships foundered on the many reefs and rocky shores the wreckers used to go out to save the crews and salvage the cargo. A lucrative business all round as the government took a percentage of the spoils and it was a major source of income for the Bahamas islands. (It was different to piracy as the goods would have been lost had the wreckers not gone out – pirates were basically thieves). Looking at some of the coastline it is not surprising that there were so many ships sunk!
Muffin and the talking dog Lucy took us on a great walk along the lighthouse side of the island where no cars can go – she collects driftwood and shells and all kinds of bric-a-brac which she crafts into items for sale in support of various island charities. Her husband Will, owner of Mac & Cheese (which is anchored on the beach on the water’s edge so that the planks stay swollen and there are no leaks) helped Garth craft a step for our deep-drafted dinghy so that getting in and out was not as difficult.
Finally there was a forecast for a break in the weather! Time to go. We set off south and went into Little Harbor – one of the more famous, almost land-locked anchorages in the Abacos. In the 1950s a professor from Smithy College, Massachusetts, Randolph Johnston, decided he wanted to take his family away from the rat race (was it a rat race even then?) and headed South for the Caribbean and then to the Pacific. After spending some time travelling around the Bahamas he decided he didn’t need to go any further than the Abacos and anchored in Little Harbor. He and his family lived in the caves and set up a bronze casting foundry on the island – he is famous for his bronzes and although he has now passed on, his son Peter carries on the family tradition. It is a place that most people visit, with beautiful diving just outside the completely contained harbor.
Again, we went for a beach-combing walk along the ocean side – we were struck by the different rocks that make up the shore line. It is very rugged with no delicate shells – everything gets smashed to pieces and only the strongest survive.
The sea creatures all have to cling on for dear life – but there is always beauty to be found in the minutiae!
We spent a night there and had to leave the next morning in order to get out of the entrance on the high tide. We joined the armada that had gathered behind Lynyard Cay – everyone had been holed up waiting for a weather gap to head south, and Monday looked to be the day.
At 6.00 am we heard the first boats on the radio as they were going through the cut in the reef – their report was “rolly, but no breaking waves”. We saw the lights of all the boats moving in the direction of the cut – I think about 15 boats left – we were off! I don’t have a single picture of the crossing. Although it was do-able, it was not pleasant. It was about a 50 mile trip – the seas had not laid down yet and the waves were 10’+, with winds constantly at 20 knots, gusting up to 25 at times. We had two reefs in our main and the genoa half way out – the boat sailed beautifully like that, but the waves were beam on and so we were riding up and falling down – the whole way! I was not feeling great – fortunately I had made some sandwiches and various things early in the morning and packed a bag for the cockpit. I sat and lay huddled for most of the way – Garth was a trooper and did it all himself. He took a number of direct hits from huge waves that left him drenched – fortunately it wasn’t a freezing day. Finally we saw land and soon we were in the lee of Eleuthera – seas calmed and we were there! We dropped the anchor at Royal Island and just chilled.
Next day we did some chores and then went ashore. There are ruins of a once-beautiful plantation that had been built in 1937 and then abandoned. It was so sad to see everything broken down and overrun with vines and graffiti. The thing that amazed us was the floors – tiles in all the rooms that were still there, perfect, grout intact and not cracked or chipped. Must have been some special craftsmen who laid them. We walked all over the island – enough exercise to make up for the completely sedentary day before!
This morning we sailed over to Spanish Wells. A commercial town that supplies more than 50% of the Bahamas with lobster and fish. The water here, despite the fishing boats and commerce, is crystal clear. We will eat ashore tonight (about time!) and do some exploring of the island in a golf cart tomorrow. And from here, more heading south and seeing what we find. Another big front is expected this weekend so we will make sure we are somewhere protected. In the meantime, the sunsets remain spectacular!!