After Christmas and New Year, we had a wonderful visit from our friends Kevin and Kathy. They flew down and stayed in a hotel, but we were able to show them all around Elbow Cay and Hope Town. We went for a sail one day, not really enough wind but we anchored and swam – and passed these two boats which were anchored out. The first was called Incognito – 165’ of luxury. The second, called Shadow was their support boat – 185’ !!! Besides the three high powered motor boats we could see, there were FIVE jetskis on deck and I can just imagine what other goodies they carried for the folk on Incognito.
You certainly see all kinds of things – including a seaplane which motored into Hope Town Harbor one day. I can only imagine the surprise when that sport fishing boat turned the corner and was confronted by a plane motoring out!!
We had fun with Kevin and Kathy – lots of great meals, lots of great drinks, lots of great beaches, and then sadly it was time for them to leave.
The weather window was good, so as their ferry set off to take them to the Marsh Harbour airport, we motored out of Hope Town and down to Lynyard Cay to wait overnight for our crossing to Eleuthera the next day.
The crossing was good – we felt very diminutive when we crossed paths with this HUGE cruise ship. I don’t understand how they just don’t topple over; they seem so top heavy.
We love Spanish Wells at the north end of Eleuthera. We rented a golf cart and explored all around; we shopped at their well stocked grocery store and we re-visited all of our old haunts. We had always wanted to go to Harbour Island, but the route there is studded with treacherous coral heads so taking our boats around was not a good option. We got a ticket on the high speed ferry that comes from Nassau and goes to Harbour Island (the name is diminished to “Briland” by the locals). It was a great idea as five hours there, walking almost the whole time, gave us a good idea of what it was all about.
First things first – we found a coffee shop for a good latte – they had these art pieces that I liked.
Next are a whole bunch of pictures of things that appealed to me – I could have taken hundreds more. We didn’t have time to learn too much of the history, but the surface of things left a great impression.
We found yet another gem of a local restaurant – The Queen Conch – Mel had the mango conch salad. Yum – as were our special of the day rum drinks …. until we got the bill and found that they had cost $12 each!
Time to head further south. We had seen a weather pattern that would allow us to make our way to Cat Island – always wanted to go there – and so we went quickly down Eleuthera this time. Our one stop was at Governor’s Harbour. As in so many places around the world, the churches are what anchor the community.
It was a nice stop, but on a Sunday nothing was open so we left at first light the next morning. What a day! Not a breath of wind and amazing light and colors playing on the water.
Our destination for that night was Little San Salvador. This small island has been bought by a cruise line and re-named Half Moon Bay (much more enticing for the brochures!) It is a day destination for the huge cruise ships – there were two there when we arrived. Hundreds and hundreds of people ferried ashore to enjoy (?) themselves swimming and sunning and sipping umbrella drinks until it was time to go back to the ship. I think a skeleton staff stays on the island, but staff is brought in from Eleuthera and Cat Island and taken home again once the ships leave. Fortunately, cruising boats are permitted to anchor at the northern end of the island which is completely unspoilt and we had the best swim ever off the beach.
Our friends Terry and Di do a house swop every year to Cat Island – their house was on the beach at the south end in Port Howe. We anchored in a little bay that was completely protected by a reef – it was spectacular!
We all came ashore and shared a delicious lobster dinner at Terry and Di’s.
We were able to do some much-needed laundry and generally enjoy the comforts of land-based living. Like a car. Terry and Di drove us around and showed us all the sights which we would never have been able to see on foot. The most impressive of which was The Hermitage. Please indulge the many photos I took – these are just a few – but I was blown away.
A man, John Hawes, born in 1876, had trained as an architect but then became an Anglican minister. After further study for the Catholic priesthood he travelled the world as a bush priest. When it came time to retire, he came to Cat Island and received permission to retire there as a hermit. With his own hands and native rock, alone, he built The Hermitage which was a miniature replica of a Fransiscan Monastery. After entering through the arch at the bottom, you climb the 206’ to the top (the highest point in the whole Bahamas), with the 14 stations of the cross depicted on your path.
He lived there alone until his death in 1956 and is buried on the site. The one-person chapel makes you feel close to his solitary calling and philosophy – I was interested to see that there are barrel bolts on both the inside and outside of the door.
Our next stop was something completely different – Da Pink Chicken!! A great little Island bar and restaurant run by Dean and his wife Patti. Apparently there used to be many flamingoes on Cat Island – their numbers reduced to almost none by the fact that they were considered … the pink chicken! We had wonderful conch prepared by Patti in her little hut of a kitchen, while Dean kept the drinks and the stories flowing! The water and beach are almost luminous they are so pristine.
After another great meal at Terry and Di’s (Gary shared the mahi he had caught on the way over the day before) that evening, we gathered the next day for a lunch at the Sunshine Bar. We had stopped there for a drink the previous day and Pompey Johnson had promised that if we came for lunch the next day, he would get his trio – “Bo Hog and the Rooters” to play Rake and Scrape for us. We had a really fun time with local food and Bo Hog (Pompey) and his girls (who were the cook and waitress at the bar, so we had to wait until that was all finished) playing up a storm. I’m fascinated by the percussion sound of the saw being “played” with a screwdriver.
Sadly, all good things come to an end and it was time to get across to the Exumas. We left in a spectacular sunrise – the clouds brought a little bit of rain, but we were rewarded with a marvelous rainbow.
Our first stop after the crossing was Staniel Cay where you can “swim” with the sharks. You have to stand still, have your picture taken, and get out of there! Last year a model was doing a photo shoot and she was wallowing and splashing around – one of the sharks grabbed her arm and pulled her under! Not for me thanks; everyone to their own environment.
Also at Staniel Cay is Thunderball Grotto where the James Bond movie was shot many years ago. You swim in at low tide under these rocks and it is apparently a spectacular cave inside. Garth, Gary and Mel went (I had an ear problem from my swim at Little San Salvador) and were the only ones there. Shortly after they left the tour boats started arriving – we counted ten boats with at least 4-5 people on each – they were lucky to get in early.
After that we holed up in Sampson Bay for three days – strong winds kept us hunkered in our boats. But at low tide we dinghied around to some sand flats that became exposed when the water drained out – wonderful shelling and we found lots of sand dollars. We had a day’s respite from the strong weather but more was forecast so we put our names down for a mooring ball at Waderick Wells, which is the home of the office for the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The park spans many islands, and the area is completely protected – bring nothing, take nothing. When you snorkel you can see the abundance of coral and fish that has resulted from this conservation – the world needs to wake up! It is a most beautiful place – the water is crystal clear and this green turtle was coming and going alongside our boat.
The people anchored in the bay all get together for happy hour on the beach and we met so many people that we have bumped into all the way down the islands since then – it becomes a community of friends. These pictures were taken from the top of Boo Boo Hill (so named because the story goes that a ship floundered there many years ago with all lives lost – evidently if you go at night you can hear their ghosts calling – Boo, Boo. Frankly, there is a blow hole there and it is just the noise of the wave action, but it makes a good tale). Cruisers all climb the hill armed with a piece of driftwood with their boat names – this is the only place you can leave anything behind. We put ours there when we were here two years ago – we searched but I think we have been buried under the pile.
A huge squall came through and a couple of boats arrived from the ocean side in horrendous conditions. One of them went aground trying to pick up the mooring ball – Garth went over in his dinghy and managed to get a rope to the ball, but the wind was so strong that the park warden had to come out with their bigger boat and engines to pull them off. Things can go wrong so quickly when you are on a boat – it is a sobering lesson.
A little more meandering brought us to Black Point – another of our favorite places. This picture shows a typical dock that we tie up to – climb up the ladder which is high or low depending on the tide and then go ashore. In Black Point there is the most fantastic laundry (your priorities change when you live on a boat!) with at least ten machines. It is a one-stop shop – laundry, convenience store, coffee, carrot cake, showers, free wi-fi and we even both got haircuts. Foot-long hot dogs with chili and cheese for lunch – all run by one enterprising woman called Ida who also rents out rooms above and has condos in another place in the town.
Black Point is the gathering place for boats heading down the Farmers Cay for the 5F’s – the First Friday in February Festival at Farmers. There is a regatta with wooden C-class boats from all the island coming to compete. At the moment there are about 100 spectator boats anchored here enjoying the festivities – we are one of them. This is where I’ll end – next blog will have the racing and our continued trip down to Georgetown where on the 18th we are picking up Jonathan and Anne Hutchings for a week of hopefully spectacular sailing and sun.