Wow! Eleuthera was a great surprise… From initially, just being an island to sail by to get to the Abacos, it now will have a special place in our memories of this trip. If you look at the chart of Eleuthera, you see a Long Island with very little protection from any other wind direction than east. The three harbors that do exist either have poor holding, or lots of sunken debris from hurricanes, that can snag your anchor. That said, while in the Exumas, the more people we talked to, the more people said we couldn’t miss it. So we dropped the hook in Rock Sound – the best of the three anchorages with good holding and protection from the west if necessary. We rented a car and explored the island.
It didn’t take long for us to recognize that this was going to be place we were going to enjoy. In a 4-wd rental we introduced the girls to some off roading shenanigans, we got lost on the island following paved roads, dirt paths, and sandy paths… a few long trips in reverse were required, as we hit either the ‘end of the road’ or sand a little too deep-with no cell service for help to dig us out.
The first part of the island we explored was the east shore in Palmetto Point – lined with isolated houses 50-100 ft up catching the breeze and then a walkway down to flour-like sand below. This location should be on everyone’s VRBO list for a short getaway.
We ‘borrowed’ the front yard of one of the houses on a tiny dirt road for this photo op. Can you imagine waking up to that view every day!!!
It was getting time for lunch, so we headed to the town in the center of the Island – Governor’s Harbour – the former capital of the Bahamas. We had a great lunch at Buccaneers and then explored the town. A few cemeteries, a little history, but the Library caught our attention… it was Easter Monday and offices were closed – it was this point that we decided we were going to need the car for another day.
We visited the library the next day… Book club was just finishing up and Tali headed right to the Kid’s section and found a book on, you guessed it… The Titanic. There was something odd about sitting in a library, browsing books, while having all the beautiful beaches just outside. I guess that’s an indication that we’ve truly immersed ourselves in the cruising life.
We headed north, initially following the Fodor’s guide stopping at all the highlights, including a cave, a tidal pool, the glass bridge, and of course the highly rated watering holes along the way. As our day progressed and we met more people, we changed our route… ending with pizza night at the Rainbow Inn – this is truly an island-wide event…
Girls in front of French Leave Beach. The first pink sand in Savy’s collection.
Heading into the cave… one of us has fears of darkness/bats/anything cave related – that’s who is taking the picture.
Savy and Tali in the cave…
Chris and Tali headed as deep as they could on an iPhone flashlight and took a selfie. If anyone has the opportunity, you can get a guide to go through the whole cave which exits over the ocean… we just ran out of time!
Our ride home exposed the kids to a close up view of Homecoming (remember the one that sounded good and smelled good from the anchorage?)… well this time, we missed the memo on where it was taking place and the party had spilled out into the only road across the island. Everyone was in good spirits, but picture Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras and driving through it – I’m not sure we ever saw the girls’ eyes so wide!
The next day we revisited some of the highlights and got to some of the places we couldn’t make it to, including Surfer’s Beach. We got in some last minute shopping at the organic farm stand, and breakfast at a gourmet market (Belgium Waffles, Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs, Homemade Granola and yogurt, and bagels and lox — can you tell that we’ve craved a little bit of home?). We returned the car and continued our northward travel on the boat.
Hmmmm… this looks interesting
Yes, a nice place to hang out
The next time any of you are on Eleuthera, please check on Chris, this is where we left him.
They just couldn’t wait to get in the ocean after being in the car driving from spot to spot.
Zoomed out a bit, but this was the girls’ favorite spot – the mermaid moon pool!!!
Another one of those pictures that you rarely get…
Not enough swimming, so we got back to the boat and some jumping off the bow.
During our travels we found the French Leave resort which had mooring balls available – don’t have to worry about the bad holding… We picked up the anchor and had a dead calm, windless motor up to Governor’s Harbour. Along with the mooring came access to the resort, so the kids got their pool time in, and there happened to be a pool bar for mom and dad-win/win!
This needs a little explaining… at this point we are almost 3 weeks on stern showers alone. A stern shower involves jumping in the salt water, using salt water soap to shampoo and lather up and then a fresh water rinse. The goal is to use the least amount of fresh water as possible to avoid the need to find a place to refill the tanks. We were walking from the dinghy dock to the resort pool (this is the back door of the resort). As we’re walking up the path we see this lonely shower off the back of the building covered by the upper deck and completely private. You know you have had some sort of shift in perspective when you get the kids set up in the pool, the first round of cocktails, and then run back to the boat to get the soap, shampoo and towel to take a shower on the way back to the boat. Out of the mouth of kids… Tali: “Mom, we are really boat people now!”
Who says you can’t take a shower outside the back of a hotel, then get changed and have a fantastic dinner inside the resort? We clean up pretty good for “Boat People”
The next day we headed up to Spanish Wells to prepare for our trip over the Devil’s Backbone – the reef responsible for countless shipwrecks over the years, including a group of loyalists fleeing religious persecution in Bermuda. They shipwrecked on the backbone and proceeded to spend months living in a cave named Preachers Cave.
Our anchorage was perfect to introduce the girls to the halyard swing – they loved it!
The Devils Backbone experience was a first for Chris… he has never given up the helm of his own boat to a stranger before, but that’s exactly what he did. We picked up our pilot, Captain Kirtland, just like the cruise ships that come into NY Harbor. The difference was, Captain Kirt, as we called him, was a wealth of knowledge. His ancestors go back to the Preachers Cave.
Captain Kirt and Chris during our trip over the Devils Backbone.
We arrived 2 hours later, safely in Harbour Island – a stop that we had on our list of must-sees. Harbour Island was definitely a bit of a culture shock initially… beautiful hotels and resorts, sushi restaurants, pink sand beaches, mega yachts, and plenty of people from our neck of the woods. We got a golf cart and explored the island and then headed to the beach the next day. It is obvious why so many people come to this quaint Martha’s Vineyard of the Bahamas (including the Vineyard Vines clothed traveling band!)
I know, another beach picture, but the views never get old! This one was simply perfect for the girls, small waves, shallow water, and pink sand!
Savy and Tali in a tree house… what so funny you may ask? Savy lost here shoe in the tree roots : )
Our next big hop was to the Abacos… this is an open water passage requiring timing of cuts which meant an 0-dark-30 departure. We couldn’t do that from Harbour Island, so we headed back over the Backbone to Meeks Island for a clear passage out the next morning. Our 60 mile trip was uneventful and HOT! Unlike no wind, this trip was worse… this had 6 knots of wind on our stern… we were traveling a 6 knots… it felt like there was no air – no complaints though. We arrived safely through the North Bar cut and anchored behind Wilson’s City (of course not really a city, but protection from the South and then West… we had a front coming through).
What do the girls do on a long windless passage? Give each other pedicures of course…
People always ask about our concerns with weather and storms… we’ve been out for over 5 months and have not run into a storm… but we got a doozey at anchor. 40+ knots with two of us in the anchorage. The anchor alarm went off, (not because we dragged) because the captain drew the wrong circle on the alarm and the wind shifted 180 degrees. The lightening was truly spectacular – it was like little flashes of daylight where you could see the land, reef, and the other boat to get a reference every minute or so. With things settled down, we went to bed, but of course – the anchor alarm went off again – the wind settled back to the SSW and the circle was in the wrong spot AGAIN- we weren’t dragging, just spun once again. The Captain needs to be a little more diligent with his circle drawing – perhaps Savanna can help?
The next day we picked up anchor on our freshly washed boat : ) and headed for Hopetown. We took a bit of a detour because that cold front had not finished yet. The good thing about cruising the Bahamas is everything is 15′, so if you have to drop the hook, you just stop, drop the anchor in the middle of nowhere, and ride out the storm. Of course the storms are not as spectacular during daylight. We finished our trip, and pulled into Hopetown…
The update is getting a little long, but Karma is an important concept in cruising and we always hope to keep the Karma jar balanced – our luck with a mooring in the harbor should be evidence of that. Getting in to the harbor at Hope Town brought us over the shallowest water we’ve seen in the Bahamas. We draw 5.5′ and the depth sounder said 5.5′. We both decided that whether there was a mooring ball available or not, we’d just spin around the mooring field and wait for the tide to come up – no need to do that twice. We rounded the corner and then saw the mooring field – the tightest field we have ever been in, packed with boats. Makes those quaint mooring fields in New England seem spacious. Not able to safely circle for an hour and not willing to go back out through the shallows, we picked up a reserved mooring and had lunch. We’re very surprised there are not more collisions – there is definitely boat rage going on… 40-50 foot boats racing each other for scarce moorings… there has to be a better way. Here’s where the Karma comes in… the reserved ball we happened to pick up had a phone number on it. We called the phone number, a person picked up and said that his reservation was over yesterday and we were welcome to the mooring… : ) We broke out the cocktails and started to settle in.
It really does make the mooring field in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island look spacious…
We got up the next day and explored a little bit to see what we were going to do with our time here. If Harbour Island was the Martha’s Vineyard of the Bahamas, Hopetown is the Cuttyhunk. Cute, small, friendly, quaint – all words that describe this town on Elbow Cay
The photographer in this picture has an equally terrifying fear, compared to the cave photographer, of falling… he had the iPhone in one hand and a steel bar on the outside of the lighthouse in the other!
It’s hard to believe, but while we’re here, we’re starting to keep an eye on the weather to put together a plan for crossing back to the US for the end of the month. We’ll look to move north to Green Turtle Cay to see some friends there and then begin to stage, in earnest for our crossing. That said, between then and now are beautiful beaches and more interesting people to meet. We’ll be wringing every last ounce of this experience over the next couple weeks.
Looks like things are warming up, temporarily, in the Northeast… enjoy the weather!