2/10/05 – From Spanish Wells, Eleuthra Islands
This is the story of how much fun we had after we left Marsh Harbor and our exploration of Spanish Wells. It was such a nice ride over, where we both agreed we can call ourselves “blue water cruisers” because the water was so BLUE and DEEP. I think they call it “cerulean blue”, but it is an indescribable sapphire blue, with big rollers that were from 10 to 12 feet, but so huge and gentle it was almost fun when they came. Nuts, huh! But the wind was behind us so Billy dozed most of the way, and I took the time to send a message in a bottle (in 13,000 feet of Atlantic Water Current) and write to my mother. I probably did a few other things to keep me from getting stir crazy and seasick, but I won’t bore you with the details.
We entered through the extremely narrow and dangerous cut into the tip of the Eleuthras. We first tried for the Ridley Head cut, but it was so skinny, we opted for the Bridge Point cut, which was a little wider, but not any deeper. The sun was not over our shoulder and we had to rely on the waypoint on our chart, visual plotting…and wits. Of course, I was a MaJOR wimp and double guessed the captain, who had every right to tell me to shut up, so I hid down below. I just get so nervous going through these cuts. Then he yelled “STELLA” and told me to get up on the bow and watch for coral heads and reefs. He was right; I should have not been such a wimp and I should have taken my position up on the bow. Once I was standing on the bow, holding the headsail and looking out for dark spots, I was Fine. So we made it thru that cut, and into the huge area that is “Bahamian Marked”, i.e. not a lot of aid to navigation. A couple of sticks here and there, and they don’t designate which side to favor. No red right return. Aground we were (not hard aground). Because we had popped the dinghy the day before and it was deflated, we could not hop in and push ourselves off. Fortunately it was just a few minutes before the incoming tide had us floating again, and we were back in deep water and anchored behind an island close to the channel that lead to town. We repaired the dinghy there, as well as flushed out the engine that we sank when we backed down the engine….we really are the Two Stooges of the Sea.
Today, we wanted to explore this teeny tiny town, so we loaded into our newly inflated dinghy 2 bicycles, 1 bag of trash, one very full bag of laundry, one empty jerry can, and a few miscellaneous items. There was so much STUFF in the dinghy that there was no room for me. So I had to sit on top of the two bikes to get to town. I have some bruises, but what is one to do if one needs a ride to town?
First we disposed of the trash…there are barrels at the end of every street and we found out later that trash pick up takes place 3 times a week. Then we went to the only public laundry place, which was one washer and one dryer located behind a tiny grocery store. Unbelievably, both were excellent machines, we did 2 washes and 2 dryers at $2 each. (You never know what you will find for laundry facilities down here. The best places from last year were not working this year because of the hurricanes. So we paid $4 wash/$4 dry per load for really bad machines at the Jib Room. After that, I went on laundry strike, and started wearing my clothes right into the shower to wash them while I showered.) But because we had 2 loads we had to fill the time in between. So, by riding around this 2 mile X 1 mile dot of land, we explored the cemetery ( I have pictures) and tiny shops (complete with handmade straw items where I bought a hat) and eventually worked our way toward the town pier, where a woman popped her head out from behind the seawall and said “you two look like cruisers”. That is how we met Jean.
She had been painting the floor of her kitchen and her feet were sticky so she walked down to the seawall to wash them off. She pointed out her trawler on a mooring, and then said she owned a house “right there”. She and her husband Tom were from Rhode Island, and bought a house here 4 years ago, after pulling into this area for a quick stop and getting holed in for 3 weeks. The house was a termite special, but they found 2 local carpenters who worked with them several weeks each winter for the last 4 years to do renovations. The result shows a labor of love and a true Eleuthrian structure, with a taste of New England! They love to meet cruisers, and invite them to their house every day at 5:00 for cocktails and snacks. Jean made 3 batches of popcorn for us and the 4 other Canadians that came that night. I brought cheese and crackers, and wasabi peanuts which were a huge hit and made for much conversation! We talked (we mostly listened) about the ride “south” and different experiences spent along the way. One of the coolest things about Jean and Tom is that they have set up their own book exchange right in their living room, and they encourage you to bring a book to swap. That in itself draws sailors together, if not just to look at the titles and book shelf. The two books I brought didn’t make it into the house, because the Canooks all wanted to read them, but I was allowed to go in and pick out a few books.
Jean even took me upstairs to show me the work done in this tiny house. In order to take advantage of the winds blowing thru north east south and west windows, they made just 2 bedrooms upstairs, with just a partition in between. They never lost the cottage look, or the total Bahamian/Eleuthrian design of the house.
It was amazing. She kept a fantastic photographic journal of the work while it progressed, which she showed us. Hanging on the wall was a recently painted watercolor of the house, done by one of the previously invited cruisers. She even had a photograph of the original homeowner, who was an Albury (huge name down here). The house was so simple, yet so tasteful and cozy. We could have stayed all night. And I know that we will always come looking for them whenever we are in this area, or in the summertime in the Jamestown area of Rhode Island. Jean and Tom are cruisers best friends in this area. They can help you with anything and are so generous.
The other crazy thing about this tiny settlement is the fact that everybody drives cars. Big cars, fancy cars, all day long. The island is only 2 miles long and a mile wide, and you can’t help but wonder where everyone is going. I guess they all make a fortune as the suppliers of lobster and conch to more than 50% of the Bahamas, and they like to spend the money on their cars. It is busier here than it was in Marsh Harbor. Riding a bike on the skinny roads was almost dangerous.
At lunch we met a really nice young couple from Bogata, Spain, that were living on their boat and had been here for years. They just couldn’t tear themselves away. He is an artist and paints murals on the buildings around town. They are beautiful, and we even got to see him at work painting a real estate building. Bridget, Michael and Amy, their daughter, were so sweet and nice we could have talked to them all day. When they eventually do pick up anchor, they hope to head to New Zealand and live on their boat there.
Everyone in this town was so nice and friendly, I can see why Jean and Tom bought their house here and live here six months out of the year. I wish we could do that.
All of this was an adventure for us, because up until now this has been a pretty uneventful trip. There have been a few stories to tell, but for the most part, I think our adventure has just begun, and we intend to milk it for all it is worth. For the next few weeks, anyway, until Justin Rachael and Liam arrive. Here for a good time, but not a long time. There will be a time within the next few years, when I think we will feel OK to just keep going and going. Right now, there are too many things that we need to go home to. It is nice to be able to come this far, even if it is just for a few months.
So tomorrow, weather depending, we will push a little further south, and get a little closer to the Exumas, and appreciate every minute while we are there, because from what we hear from everyone else, it is Paradise. Sounds good to us.