Swing Set

May 18, 201310:07 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Cruising the Coast of Eleuthera

We missed Bandit on Tuesday when we went to Harbour Island, as he usually comes by the boat to collect our mooring fee. He was away piloting a boat through the Devil's Backbone. I called him on the radio and got his wife, or somebody, and told her we'd pay the next morning. So, early on Wednesday, Jock (Bandit) came by at 7:30 and we paid up for two nights on the ball and said our goodbyes.

We went over to Ronald's Service and filled up with diesel at $5.96 per gallon. This is a cash price. Credit cards are hit with an extra 4 percent, plus VISA charges an extra 1 percent for transactions outside of the U.S.

We learned that, particularly in the out islands, the Bahamas is a cash economy. A longtime ex-pat over here told us that the typical Bahamian doesn't have a concept of "owing" anyone, so the idea of having a credit card bill is rather foreign to them. I guess, more importantly, paying the bill every month may be more foreign. I don't know if this is true, but the extra charges for using the credit card are real, so we started a new plan in Dunmore where we'll go to a bank if we're near one and pay 2 percent to get cash with our VISA card, and then purchase all fuel with cash. We brought a lot of cash with us, but I like to save that for emergencies; for example, getting me out of jail if the need arises.

Not far from Spanish Wells is a little island called Meek's Patch, where locals go on the weekends to BBQ and hang out. A lot of Bahamian businesses are closed on Wednesdays, because Tuesday nights are party nights, so we thought we might meet some of the locals at the nice beach at Meek's. There are a few tables and a firepit there for anyone to use, just like a couple of the sand bars up on the Mississippi.

Only two boats showed up on the beach, and a sailboat anchored near us toward evening, so we had a peaceful night and went to bed early. We both woke up at 4 a.m. or so, both having smelled smoke. I wasn't alarmed, because it smelled like wood smoke, like a campfire was smoldering. Rosie and I went outside, and even though it was dark, we could see smoke billowing up from the east, over North Eleuthera.

The next morning, we pulled up anchor and headed southeast toward Current Cut, a pass that leads cruisers into Eleuthera Sound. The cut is reported to be somewhat risky, as it's narrow and has a swift current. (Thus, the name.)

We got there at high tide and breezed right through. There was little current and plenty of water until we got on the very eastern edge of the channel, but we still had eight feet easily. I'd rate the pucker factor much higher passing through the break in the dike at Bolter Chute, or the upper end of Lumpy's Chute, along the Dardenne Slough on the Mississippi. I wonder what some of these bluewater boaters would think of, passing through those two places? It reminds me of being a salmon heading upstream on an Alaskan river during spawning season.

After getting through Current Cut, we pointed the bow north-northeast, toward The Glass Window, a natural break in the rock formation separating Eleuthera Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The bridge used to be natural rock, but it was destroyed in a hurricane, so a bridge was built in its place. The road is an essential artery along the 75-mile-long island of Eleuthera.

We'd traveled a comfortable 20 miles or so, so just south of the Glass Window, we found a somewhat protected anchorage from the southeastern swells and dropped our anchor. There were a few homes and a reported hotel overlooking a couple of very pretty beaches. As you can see, the water was beautiful.

As we sat in the cockpit looking west-northwest, we could see the fire on North Eleuthera that we'd smelled on the previous night. This fire appeared to be a wildfire, spreading many miles wide. We tried to find some news about it, but were not able to. CNN wasn't covering it.

The wind picked up during the night, and we got tossed around some. I had a rough idea as to where we would find a better anchorage, so without planning a route, we just hugged the bluffs along the coast and headed southeast toward Hatchet Bay. Even putting along at 7 miles per hour, a slower speed than our normal one because we were making water (the water maker doesn't draw very well at higher speeds), and I was trolling for dinner, we came up on Hatchet Bay way too early for us to stop.

We peered into the very narrow cut in the rocks that shelter the bay from the sound, and we didn't like the view anyway. All we saw was a few buildings and scrub bush leading down from low hills. We'd also read about the locals trying to collect an annual "mooring fee" from passing boaters, and we didn't want any part of that. It sounded like something I needed to avoid, emergency cash fund or not.

I want to mention our water maker. It has turned out to be a one of the things we'd installed on the boat that we've found to be an essential item. We've only filled our tank from a hose once since we left the U.S., and that was from the dock at Harbour View in Marsh Harbour. This allows us to not have to worry about where we're going to get water for showers, drinking and flushing the toilet, not necessarily in that order. It's enough worrying about the weather, anchorages, getting food and where we'll get fuel, without worrying about where we'll get water, how much it will cost and whether it will be any good to drink. The water we make tastes great, and we've been able to keep up with demand, even when we use it to rinse the heavy salt residue off the stern occasionally. I'd advise perhaps installing a slightly larger one rather than our 3.5-per-hour model for anyone who's considering it.

A place called James Cistern was next on our list of possible anchorages for the night, but there was no protection from the southeast, where swells were still rolling in from, but not enough to make our cruise unpleasant. Our next place to check was Alabaster Bay.

Our wait paid off, as we glided into a very protected anchorage along a beautiful white beach and crystal blue water over a flawless sand bottom. We dropped the hook in eight feet of water, but still fairly away from the beach on a gently sloping bottom.

We had a quick lunch and then jumped into the dinghy for a shore trip with Holly. There was one couple enjoying a picnic of sorts on the beach when we pulled up, and we didn't waste any time asking them about the area.

Tony and Jessie were from Toronto and on their honeymoon. On this, their last day staying nearby at Governor's Harbour, they were told about the beautiful beach we were on and they came over for the day, carting along a huge cooler filled with Kalik Beer. Tony didn't have to ask us twice if we wanted a cold one, and we wound up sharing their beach towels and a couple more beers before I had to take the dinghy back to the boat to restock their cooler, only to wind up staying and drinking those beers, too.

Governor's Harbour is five miles away, and Tony had to drive their rental car back to their hotel, so we bid them goodbye, way later than we'd planned to. They wanted us to join them for the Friday night festivities in Governor's Harbour, but our hook was set for the night and we declined, even though we knew we'd have had a good time.

Back on the boat, Holly got a much needed bath after playing in the sand and surf all afternoon. Rosie and I chilled out and read our books as a gentle breeze flowed through the salon.

Dinner was two leftover breaded pork chops, with a nice big salad on the side, and after dinner we retired to the cockpit for a cocktail, accompanied by our library of tunes on the iPad.

The seas really calmed down as we watched the sun set. The water was window-pane clear around the boat, and we knew we were in for a peaceful night.

After dark, Rosie and I popped a movie into the DVD player and spent the next several hours having popcorn and watching The Gangs Of New York, a film we hadn't seen since it came out.

As expected, we barely rocked at all during the night, and we woke to a spectacular sunrise. Being Saturday, it was "big breakfast" day, and Rosie served me up some fried eggs smothering some leftover Spanish rice. Three slices of bacon, buttered toast, and hot coffee rounded out the meal.

Our plans for the day were to include a cruise over to Governor's Harbour, where we want to anchor for the night and go into town, but halfway through this blog, Rosie told me to come out and see the sky, and I found big rain clouds to our east and south, coming this way.

Oh, whatever shall we do? Maybe we'll have to stay here another day and night! Maybe the rain will come and go, the sun will come out, and we'll have to take the dinghy back to the beach and have another beach picnic with some more nice folks. Unlike Tony and Jessie, who at this moment are headed for the airport for their trip home, we don't have to be anywhere for the time being, and that suits us fine.

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