Revisiting Eleuthera

It’s been 5 years since we visited Eleuthera, so time to head back & walk on their famous pink sand beaches.Crossing over from Staniel Cay is an easy 46 miles to Rock Sound near the southern end of Eleuthera.  Almost caught a fish on the way – it was so big, that attempting to clutch down the screaming of the line caused my 80 lb. fishing line to snap, fly back & wrap around our solar panels – darn!  Rock Sound is approximately 1 1/2 miles around, but shallow & protected on 3 sides so you just anchor in the quadrant you need wind protection from.

Eleuthera Island was founded in 1648 & is the official birthplace of the Bahamas.  Captain William Sayles & a group of Puritans (known as the Eleutherian Adventurers) sailed from Bermuda in search of religious freedom.  The difficulties of settlement ultimately left only a few of the settlers on the island, thwarting their aim of creating the first democracy in the Western Hemisphere (almost 130 years prior to the American Revolution).

Prior to that, Eleuthera had been occupied by the Lucayan Indians.  Unfortunately, Christopher Columbus & other Spanish “visitors” caused the deaths of many from disease & those remaining alive were enslaved by the Spanish in the 1500s & shipped to South America to work in the gold & silver mines.

This time it was much calmer. By the morning, even calmer – a millpond without even a ripple.

Once the winds died down, we bravely continued north to Governors Harbour.  I say bravely, as when we stopped there last 5 years ago in Ortolan, the weather forecast had been completely wrong & we ended up anchored stern-to barely off the beach in high winds with large waves until the wind finally shifted to it’s forecasted direction the next day.

Just so you know – it’s not always about the donuts

Yummy coconut danish

(actually they had donuts which were good – these danish were excellent!).  We remembered from last time this tiny, but good bakery tucked behind a row of houses.  We had planned on having lunch from a “take-away” restaurant, but it was closed.  We exchanged some books at their library – probably the nicest we have seen in the Bahamas.

This was a one-season reality TV show featuring the Spanish Wells lobstermen. If you Google around, you may be able to view an episode or two.

Our 3rd stop was Spanish Wells.  A busy & industrious little town.  In addition to boat repair yards, they are most well known for their lobstering industry.  During the 8-month lobstering season, their fleet of 10+ large fishing boats, each towing several smaller fishing boats, travel 150 – 200 miles south to the far southern Bahamas where they don’t spear or trap the lobsters – they “accommodate” them with “lobster condos”.  They place thousands of these large, flat structures which the lobsters seek shelter under.  Divers come along, tip up the structures, grab & harvest the dozens of surprised lobsters.  Spanish Wells provides all of the lobster tails  served at all of the Red Lobster restaurants in the U.S.

The Spanish Wells lobstermen are indeed extremely industrious.  They have formed cooperatives for their power, water & most importantly their large fishing fleet.  To remain focused on work, up until a few years ago, the island was dry – no alcohol – now that’s serious.

We treated ourselves to an actual dock at an actual marina – the first one in months!

Our friends Glenn & Linda on Mintaka just happened to be there – Just how it is in the cruising world!

Looking out over the “cheap seats” – the moorings we stayed at 5 years ago. Sorry Benj, we’ve decided to just go ahead & spend your inheritance!

Going all out, we even rented a golf cart to tour around in. 

This little bridge connects Russell Island to the rest of Spanish Wells

With the weather looking calm for a few days, we’re heading off to anchor at nearby Royal Island to head north to the Abacos for our last few weeks in the Bahamas.

 

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Returning North via The Exumas

Having escaped George Town we headed north up the Exuma chain stopping at some usual haunts.  Our first night we anchored at Rudder Cay (which along with neighboring Musha Cay) is the location of David Copperfield’s very exclusive resort.  For lunch the next day we stopped at Ty’s Sunset Bar & Grill on Little Farmers Cay located next to their very cute airport terminal.

We anchored a little further along at Jack’s Bay for the night & then in the morning continued on to Black Point.  Black Point is a favorite stop for laundry, restaurants & most importantly, Lorraine’s Mom’s coconut bread.  Lori has previously written & shown of photo of Mom in her home kitchen baking up this wonderful bread –  the best in all the Bahamas!  Black Point is booming as most of the 12+ daily tour boats from Sandals Resort stop here for lunch on their way from Staniel Cay & other touristy stops.  Another restaurant has opened up & most restaurants have built their own docks just for these tour boats.

Lobster salad & fish tacos

Staniel Cay is also a must-stop every trip.  Home of the famous underwater grotto featured in the Thunderball movie.  Their restaurant at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is always a treat for us as well.

The tour boats arrive in droves to the nearby “Pig Beach” on Big Major Cay.  When we first visited in 2011, there was perhaps one tour boat & a few cruiser dinghies which would stop by to see & feed the pigs. 

It is now way out of control – two years several pigs died from stress & ingesting too much sand (when eating food people would throw).  And then there are the guys who think its cool to share their beer with the pigs.  The government has attempted to control the madness with a feeding station, but stupid tourists just wanna have fun…

Rather than continuing further north up the Exumas, we will be next crossing over to Eleuthera, as we haven’t been in several years.

One Last Jaunt before leaving George Town

While we often hitch a ride with our friend Cort for errands, propane refill & lunch at one of the nicer restaurants north of George Town up near the Sandals Resort, we had yet to bug him sufficiently to head south. Santanna’s, we heard, was a “real” beach bar.  Johnny Depp ate there while filming one of the Pirates Movies … maybe.

Our friends Mike & Ann on Traveling Soul graciously asked us if we wanted to join them in their rental car driving south – Of course!

Bet you didn’t know that the Bahamas is the secret testing grounds for self driving cars!

So off we went.  Santannas’s was indeed a treat.  Great food & a fantastic beach view.  As with much of the Exumas, the seafood is mostly fried but they did a great job preparing fresh grouper & lobster.

Ladling rum over our rum cake!

The “real” reason to visit the “real” beach bar was to visit the only “real” bakery on Great Exuma (actually Little Exuma), Mom’s Bakery!  For many years Mom had loaded up her van with goodies & would drive to George Town, parking under the same shade tree for the cruisers to stop by.  Unfortunately, she became ill & stopped the year before we started cruising.  Her daughter(?) kept the bakery going, but didn’t continue the Mom’s van tradition.  Mom’s Bakery is still in business & conveniently located right next to Santanna’s.

Mike & Ann playing tourists

Onward to several other points of interest, we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer Beach, where the Tropic of Cancer crosses Great Exuma.  On our prior sail catamaran we sailed south of this “most northerly circle of latitude at which the sun can be directly overhead”.

Next stop was the “famous” Salt Beacon.  This Roman Tuscan Column was erected during the vibrant salt trade in the 1600’s to guide ships from various parts of the world to anchor & load up with salt.  Actually, the Spanish arrived even further back, in the 1500’s to establish a salt colony.  The topography was perfect as many Bahamian islands had huge, natural “ponds” near sea level which would flood & drain every tide cycle.  Back then salt was good – not bad – as it was the most reliable way to preserve food.  It was so valuable that departing ships would be escorted by gun ships to protect their cargo from those nasty pirates hangin’ about.  If you look very carefully at the photo of the old salt flats, you can make out faint lines in the water – those are the remnants of the walls between the rows of the old salt flats.  It was quite the process to dry & rake & dry & rake again & process the drying salt.

That “growth” on the roof is a termite mound.

Lastly, we stopped at a “Bahamas Heritage Site” – we think – no signs or preservation.  This was an old plantation of Loyalists.  After the American Revolution, Loyalists (faithful to the British Crown) weren’t too popular back in the new United States of America so many went into exile in the Bahamas, where the Crown granted them land (England owned the Bahamas back then).  Among them were some wealthy plantation owners who escaped to the Bahamas bringing their slaves.  They foolishly thought they could continue on, growing cotton in a new world.  Unfortunately, the soil sucked & while some tried other farming, nothing was very successful.  Eventually the owners gave up & their land was divided up & deeded to their former slaves, however they had no sailing sloops to provision in Nassau (as their plantation owners had done) or money to pay for supplies even if they could.  It must have been a tough existence until sponging, working the salt flats, fishing & other endeavors allowed them to push towards their future.

We’re finally leaving George Town, Great Exuma, heading toward Eleuthera.

The George Town Shuffle

We’re often hidden away in Red Shanks, Rolle Cay, The Litter Box or off Crab Cay

Still hangin’ out in George Town, doin’ the George Town Shuffle, as it’s called.  Elizabeth Harbour is large – about 1 mile wide by over 5 miles long.  Who the heck decided that this was the ideal spot for hundreds of boats at anchor out in for weeks, with cold fronts, squalls & generally breezy weather? As the wind builds and/or clocks around, many boats shuffle about the harbour looking for protection, while some don’t want to give up “their spot” so they just stay & take it.  Of course, high winds or squalls cause boats to drag anchor, which only adds to the fun!

For a few mild days we had a great spot up very close to Monument Beach in shallow water, no one in front of us, with the 40 or so other boats well-spaced on each side & behind us.  Another boat even stopped over in their dinghy & joked that we were the envy of the anchorage with such a great spot.  That soon changed!  This 50′ sailing cat anchored very close to the beach, off our forward bow – not great, but clear of us.  20 minutes later they suddenly began dragging about 75′ to alongside of us.  We yelled over “You’re dragging!”  The captain stuck his head up & said “Don’t worry – I didn’t set my anchor – it will set itself”.  WONDERFUL!  While his anchor did seem to have now caught, we’re both swinging at different intervals & sometimes only 15′ apart.  Twice I told him (no need to yell anymore) “I don’t think this is going to work”.  Finally after a few close swings he agreed & retrieved his anchor – Yeah!!  Wait … what … now he’s re-anchoring about 75′ directly in front of us!  Oh yeah, the guy who thinks it’s fine to let his anchor drag to “set itself”!  With the wind remaining in the same direction & increasing during the night, we gave up & just moved.

Our next anchorage: That little speck in the middle is us.  In a harbour of 300+ boats, we found a spot with no other boats for 1/2 mile – probably because this entire side of Crab Cay is very shallow.  We draw 34″ & our rudder was brushing & smoothing off the nice, sandy bottom at low tide.

In between shuffling around the harbour & waiting for winds to lie down, we’ve been enjoying friends, happy hours, lunches, dinners, paddleboarding, kayaking & some of the annual Cruising Regatta activities on the calmer days.  This year, we joined our friends Chris & Erin on the Poker Run.  Poker Runs are often high-speed boats racing around to collect cards at different stops.  As Erin pointed out, this is more of a pub crawl – we just dinghy around the harbour stopping off at different restaurants & beach bars, picking up a card at each venue.  The winning poker hand wins a bottle of rum.  We didn’t win, but had a fun time!

Our time here is coming to an end.  We’ll be soon looking for a weather window to slowly begin our trek north once again.

Around (George) Town

After our rushed trip from Florida to the Exumas, it’s nice to be doing, well … not so much.

 

This is something people think we do all of the time, but sitting around a beach bar is actually a rare treat.  This one is new – the Peace & Plenty Beach Club in Elizabeth Harbour.

Lori, Cort & Max

 

This is the entrance to Lake Victoria in George Town where the dinghy dock for town is located.  Calm this day, but wind & strong tidal current can result in 1’+ standing waves.  A further challenge is that while incoming boats technically have the right-of-way, some don’t look or don’t care, leading to the dangerous game of chicken.

 

Always some interesting boats found about the harbor …

And creatures!

These lumps are frogs resting on a window sill!

 

The weather has been warm & beautiful, but some windy days have us “hiding” in one of our protected hidey-holes.  This has given me time to work on a new tab for this website “Our PDQ Enhancements”.  Probably only interesting to other PDQ 34 powercat owners, but if interested, click on the tab on top or click here: Our PDQ Enhancements tab

Our PDQ 34 Enhancements

Fortunately this picture was from over a year ago… Hopefully our projects will continue to get smaller & smaller!

 

I have tried to make my Lobsta Crawl slideshow from my last post appear properly, but without success.  So I’ll try one last time.  Just a 10 minute slide show with highlights of last summer’s cruise to Maine.

Click link to take a look:  Lobsta Crawl slide show

 

Florida to the Exumas – Just like that!

Weather windows crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas can get very dicey mid-January into March, as the cold fronts cascade across the country.  After a great visit with Benj, we were scheduled to leave the Fort Pierce City Marina (well, kicked out as our 2 months was up) on January 9th, giving us 1 1/2 days with a rental car to finish up preparations.  We would then head south on the ICW to West Palm to await (hopefully) only a week or so for a good window to cross to the Bahamas.

Early AM in Fort Pierce – After all, this is the “Sunrise City”

However, a great weather window was opening up on January 8th, which meant only 1/2 day of final prep & leaving from Fort Pierce, much further north & a poor angle to cross the Gulf Stream.  But … when the weather looks good in January, you go!

Sunset on the Bahamas Banks

As common this time of the year, our great weather window was short, but “Windy” & our other weather apps showed this calm area moving south towards the Exumas.  So if we didn’t stop at Bimini, but just keep going, we’d be enveloped in calm winds the entire way!  While not crazy about doing a 240 mile overnight, we were in Palm Cay Marina, New Providence (near Nassau) 27 hours later clearing Customs.  We were set to rest up & wait for another window, but our great luck continued!  The next AM the weather was calmer than the forecast so we got underway once again & headed to Staniel Cay, Exumas.  After a quick grocery store trip, we headed to nearby Black Point for lunch at Lorraine’s, do our laundry & most importantly pickup some of Lorraine’s Mom’s coconut bread – the best ever!  Then another move to Little Bay & then Big Farmers for beach combing.  And then a perfect window to continue on to George Town, but wait … there is more!

SO calm! Just past these little cays is the Atlantic Ocean!

The weather was so calm that we rafted up with our friends on Adventure for a great fish feast.  Oh, ya – the fish – we caught 4!  One barracuda we threw back & one mahi got away, but that left two beautiful & tasty 3′ mahi!

Sorry, hiding under the dinghy won’t work!

Lots of mahi fillets for our feast, giving some away & topping off our freezer.

Then the next day, onward to George Town for several calm days anchored at Monument Beach to see our friend Cort & start paddle boarding in the beautiful, blue water!  This was all in 10 glorious days!!  We know it won’t last, but absolutely enjoyed every minute!

Lori enjoying the sunset off George Town.  What?  Live on land someday??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecticut to Florida

Our annual 1,400 nautical mile trip from Deep River, CT to Fort Pierce, FL went fairly smoothly.  One minor, but annoying issue can be, well … other boaters.  Some years we’ve unfortunately been caught in heavy packs of boats (especially at opening bridges with our prior sailing catamaran).  Tempers flare, people are rude on the VHF radio, boats yell at other boats who “cut in line”, give lectures on “proper seamanship”, sailboats yell at powerboats who (in their mind) didn’t give them a “slow pass” & then the Coast Guard yells to those boats that “Channel 16 is the calling & International Distress Frequency – move your idle & passing traffic to another channel as channel 16 is blah, blah, blah”.  Not very relaxing…

This year started with a “oh, here we go again” moment between 2 trawlers while we were anchored at Atlantic Highland, NJ awaiting a window to head offshore down the NJ coast.  While resting up we heard repeated, loud 5 short air horn blasts – the danger signal when collision is imminent or there is a serious concern for another boats intentions.  Needless to say, we bolted up to see what maritime disaster was about to unfold.  Oh, just one of the two trawlers traveling thru the anchorage at idle speed apparently didn’t like that the other was heading towards “his” spot to anchor!

 

Fortunately, this did not foretell our trip.  In fact, it was the easiest & most peaceful trip south yet!!  Due to us being a little early, we got ahead of the crowds, while bad weather behind us delayed others.  There were many days of only a few passings making a much, much more enjoyable & stress free trip.  Lots of time to enjoy the scenery! 

But you can never relax too much – though I suppose the machine guns on the escort boats would have gotten our attention.  Yes, we were that close as we realized a minute later when the sub’s monster wake reached us & a few things crashed about our cabin.  I considered yelling at them on the VHF radio, as some sailboats do, for not giving us a “slow pass”, but I thought better of it…

 

 

 

 

 

To keep life interesting, every year there is a hurricane or tropical storm close enough to get our attention.  This year it was Hurricane Michael passing inshore of our Moorehead City, NC location, so no serious concerns for us, but we did head to a very secure marina, Moorehead City Yacht Basin.  At first I was a little perturbed that the dockmaster put us in an odd, far-in slip against the bulkhead.  In the end, we were thankful, tucked in nice & comfy with the wind right off the bulkhead behind us.  You can’t tell from the photo, but the wind further out in the marina was gusting up to 52 knots with occasional sheets of water flying across.  Just to be on the safe side, we took all normal precautions, doubling up lines, taking down our canvas top, etc.  which ended up being unnecessary, but we didn’t mind!

 

We arrived at the Fort Pierce City Marina a day early for our 2 month reservation.  Originally we were planning on having new cushions & a full canvas enclosure made for our flybridge.  We “chickened out” on the enclosure, but went ahead with the new cushions which are a huge improvement over our 12-year old original ones.

Hey! Who stuck in this donut picture!

It was great that Benj could fly down for a few days!

It was bad that the Fort Pierce City Marina was performing major dredging during our time there – I’m not sure my hearing will ever be the same (the dredge spent days right next to us).  Not very restful either – the dredging took a break for the holidays, but the construction equipment on the nearby spoil islands worked (& beeped) 7-days-a-week, including Christmas Day!

Lots of various maintenance projects & lots of stocking up for the Bahamas in January!  Can’t wait to get the hell out of there!