Thursday, March 27, 2008

Eleuthera Explored (part 1)

Our first introduction to Eleuthera, was the anchorage of Royal Island. This is now a private island, so access to shore is prohibited and guards make sure of that. With two dogs needing “to go” twice a day, it’s not hard to imagine how we felt about the whole place. But, the weather was bad, so we had no other option. The heavy winds produced enough waves for us to get soaked each time we tried to sneak the dogs to shore, so they could crawl up the sharp rocks and relieve themselves. One day, we tried to move to Spanish Wells to pick up a mooring. Halfway there, we finally learned that all the spots were taken and had to return to our least favourite anchorage. On the way back, a big wave managed to climb over our port side, and once again, we got swamped. In the big boat, this time. The highlight of our time in Royal Island, was a big rain storm. We took advantage of the abundance of fresh water by taking a cold, but invigorating shower. It was a little hard to get the soap off, but it sure was nice to feel clean again!

We all had high hopes for Spanish Wells, written up in the cruising guides as a great spot to provision and do whatever needed to be done. Of course it was Sunday when we got there, and all of that good stuff had to wait another day. To make a long story short: Spanish Wells was pretty disappointing. We managed to get two loads of laundry done (cold water), somewhere in somebody’s back yard. We filled our water tank with brackish water and regretted that long after, filled up with diesel, and got some gas for the dinghy after the attendant first filled the jerry can with diesel, emptied the whole thing and then replaced it with the needed gas. We also bought just enough groceries to survive a little bit longer, after discovering Spanish Wells is extremely expensive ($4.25 for a bread!), and discovered there was no internet to be found, other than a $10 per hour computer store. We did like it, though, that plenty of trash cans dotted the streets.

One of the things all of us wanted to do was to visit Harbour Island on a day trip. We were able to take the dogs with us and had a good time away from our boats. The pink sand beach is nice and Dunmore Town has a lot of character. People are friendly and we were surprised to see that the area was less touristy than expected.

When the wind shifted again, making for a rolly night of sleep, we decided to motor to Meeks Patch, an island south of Spanish Wells. This proved to be a good move and soon we were followed by our friends from Cindy’s Island and Yankee Zephyr. Meeks Patch turned out to be our favourite spot in Eleuthera and all of us enjoyed the lovely beach, clear water, each other’s company, a fun night with a fire on the beach and some relaxation.

Once again, the weather made us move on, to Glass Window this time. To reach the mainland of Eleuthera, we had to pass through Current Cut, named appropriately, and managed to sail at a very slow pace to our destination. Cindy and Gray passed us along the way and took some great shots of Irie. The wind picked up, making Glass Window a very unpleasant place to spend the night. Mark and I took the dinghy down, loaded the dogs up, motored to shore and walked to see this not too special of a sight. On our way back, we had to challenge the high waves and took two of them in. Luckily, my camera was in its protective case. This was obviously not a place to stay, so we packed up and moved to Hatchet Bay, with all around protection.

In Hatchet Bay, we picked up a free mooring (nice treat) and got stuck for a week with bad weather. The poor, non-touristy town grew on us. We found a good place to take the dogs to shore, internet was available in the school’s computer lab ($5 an hour), there was a decent supermarket and people were very friendly. The only problem was our schedule to get to Rock Sound, where my parents would arrive on March 22nd. It was us against the weather again.

The day before that date, the wind direction turned in our favour and we used its 25 knots of speed to fly to Rock Sound, reaching up to 8 knots. We anchored in the huge bay, right in front of the homecoming stand. A mistake, we found out later that night, when the whole boat was shaking in the beat and the music exploded in our ears as if we were sleeping next to the speakers. Why do my parents always travel around Easter?

What would follow was a pretty hectic period of things not going the way we hoped. More about that (and accompanying pictures) later…

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cold Fronts and Cold Beer

When our German friends Michael and Sabine left Marsh Harbour on February 24th, it was more than time for us to do the same. The next stop on our agenda was the small, picturesque town of Hope Town. We found a good anchorage, strolled the narrow streets with its colourful houses and cottages, explored the pleasant waterfront, and climbed the hundred steps of the wonderful kerosene operated lighthouse. From the top we had an amazing view over the whole town, the different blues of the ocean and all the boats in the harbour. On the one calm day, we tried our snorkel gear for the first time, and floated over the beautiful coral reef right off the beach. Our friends Shawn and Alison (who we met in St. Augustine, FL, and ran into several times in Stuart, FL and the Bahamas), and our good friends Gray and Cindy (who we’ve on and off been hanging out with since Stuart, FL) also arrived in Hope Town and the whole gang was together again. That resulted in social evenings with tasty drinks and lots of talking.

Our fridge had been giving us problems for a while, sucking up all the energy we created with the engine and the solar panels. Something had to be done and we tried about everything, from removing extra insulations around the lines, to adding weather stripping around the door, to adding caulk at the edges, re-foaming the connection between the lines and the ice box, turning down the speed of the compressor and removing some refrigerant. In the end, the fridge worked better and consumed less energy. We have no clue what solved it, but we’re sure happy with the result. Some days we now even make electricity, when the sun is bright and hot, and when we’re faced the right direction. Cold drinks on us!

Hope Town is a great little place, and I would have loved to spend more time there, but, another cold front was to approach again. Since no mooring balls were available in this harbour, we had to move to another place with all around protection. During a cold front, the heavy wind turns from the south all the way to the north, a tricky move on anchor and surroundings. This was the one and only reason, we ended up on Man-O-War Cay, a small, “dry” and traditional white settlement with nothing to do, no beautiful beaches, and a lot of people that look alike and have the same name. Black people are only allowed to work on the island, but have to live somewhere else. Interesting in a certain way, but we didn’t like to be stuck there on an “expensive” mooring ball.

For Mark’s birthday, we decided to spend another day and evening in Hope Town. The weather got better for a few days and we would try to make it to Little Harbour the following day. Little Harbour became our last stop in the Abacos and proved to be a decent place to sit out the next storm. We had a great sail over there, and met up with Shawn and Alison again. Cocktails, yummie home cooked meals (like fresh conch salad, conch fritters, and pizza), games, and other "hanging out with our friends" stuff followed, while we sat out the next cold front. With a bit of sadness in our hearts we said goodbye to Shawn and Alison, who turned north again, slowly heading back to the States.

As for us… We were itching to make our way to Eleuthera. Therefore, we needed to cross another stretch of ocean. After waiting four days for the weather to turn in our favour, we realized that perfect didn’t exist. But there is only so much you can do in Little Harbour. One of the more neat things is being present during the casting process of bronze sculptures by the local artists. Very interesting. Anyway, instead of losing our small window and having to wait another four days, we decided to risk it. Once again, the weather was worse than predicted, and once again, we had to beat into the wind and the nasty waves for about 11 hours under motor. We nevertheless made it to Royal Island in Eleuthera on March 6, 2008, just in time to weather out the next cold front. And, who was there to share beer and fronts? Gray and Cindy!

Cold Fronts and Cold Beer (pictures)

Funky sign in Hope Town

We loved the beach view and the snorkeling in Hope Town

Hope Town's cute lighthouse

The view of the town, the harbour and the ocean from the lighthouse

Our cruising friends Cindy, Gray, Alison, and Shawn

Pete's Pub and Restaurant in Little Harbour

Little Harbour

The old lighthouse in Little Harbour

Two artists are casting bronze statues. Neat sight!

Shawn, Alison, Mark and I eat our delicious home-made conch salad and conch fritters.