From Abacos to Eluthera
After a few hours, the wind increased enough for us to sail until 10 miles from the tip of Eleuthera where our speed dropped to less than three knots. So, as we didn’t fancy arriving before dark, we switched the engine back on and motored the rest of the way.
The wind gods here were in a playful mood. As soon as we navigated the cut leading towards Spanish Wells, the wind blasted us from ahead sending frequent sprays of seawater into the cockpit. This clearly was not the right weather to anchor outside Spanish Wells, so we made an early diversion into Royal Island Harbour, an anchorage almost completely protected except with the wind from the south. Fortunately, only a handful of boats were already there, so we turned right towards the other two monohulls. And Indian Summer turned left to join the catamarans.
Royal Island isn’t wind-free, it was blowing just as hard outside as inside, but the good thing is – it’s as flat as a lake in there. This was good news for us as well as power generation. With the wind generator whirling away, it poured charge into the batteries at an average of eight amps. That won’t boil a kettle, but it’s more than enough to keep our fridge and freezer working.
The next day we plucked out the well-buried anchor and continued the rest of the way to Spanish Wells, anchoring to the west of the entrance in good sand and a light breeze. Despite its apparent openness to the elements, the sea is flat here – so its a comfortable place to stay. There’s no rocking or rolling, and it’s possible to anchor far enough away from land to avoid being munched alive by sand flies.
Spanish Wells By Sea
After lunch, we launched the dinghy and headed around the headland, following the channel into Spanish Wells harbour. Then, after touring around the bay towards the fishing boats then back towards a marina, we looked for somewhere to park up. This was hard. There are no obvious places to land.
We asked the woman behind the bar at the Marina if we could tie up, but she didn’t know if it was OK. So we headed back towards the fishing boats. But a local guy told us a tanker was arriving soon, and we might get blocked in for the night. Bugger. All of the docks seemed to have PRIVATE written on them and, because it was low water, we couldn’t get near to the sea wall. Eventually, out of sheer frustration, we went back to the marina, tied up the dinghy and told the woman behind the bar that we’d be back later to buy a beer.
Spanish Wells By Land
It’s easy to make up stories about the locals – especially after a frustrating experience like that. And by the time we had scrabbled onto land at that marina, I had concluded that the natives were an unfriendly bunch of fist waving xenophobes who don’t want their island blighted by a bunch of scruffy overseas sailors.
I was wrong.
The people here are amongst the friendliest we have met. Everyone without exception, whether in a car, in a golf cart, on a cycle, walking along the street, or steering their trollies in the supermarket, would greet us as we passed by. This is at odds with the PRIVATE signs on the docks. So I asked the woman at the marina bar what’s going on. Taylor explained that, although the signs on the docks state that they are private, the owners don’t have a problem with people parking their dinghies on them. The solution is to ask if you park there. Fair enough. But I still wish they had a public dinghy dock – it would make life a lot easier for the first time visitors.
We also asked Taylor about Harbour Island – or Briland as it is known here. Harbour Island is famous for its pink sand and even pinker celebrities photographed on it. Getting to Briland isn’t easy, so we wanted to make sure it was worth the effort. Guidebooks recommend hiring a pilot to navigate through Devils Backbone – a rock-strewn stretch of water leading between here and Briland. And the services of a pilot costs at least $100 each way.
Apart from the ferry that sails late and comes back early – on the same day – the only other viable alternative is a water taxi. But it isn’t cheap, and we weren’t convinced it was worth the fare. Taylor confirmed our suspicions by telling us that it isn’t what it used to be and that she only goes there now to get wasted. As we can go to most places and achieve that result, we decided to opt for a lazy day on the boat instead; catching up with emails and updating our website.
As we were scrambling into the dinghy, Jim and Teri arrived. We shared our dinghy parking story and saw a mild look of concern appear across their faces. They left their dinghy exactly where the tanker was supposed to park. So we took them on our dinghy round to where they had left it. And, yes, the tanker was there. Fortunately, though, someone had moved their dinghy so that wasn’t the mass of blubbery rubber we expected to see. Of course, sod’s law dictates that one drama will lead to another crisis: their dinghy anchor was stuck fast. Eventually, though, After some help from the tanker’s crew, the Indian Summer folks got their anchor back and followed us back for sundowners on Lady Jane.
The wind changed direction overnight sending wavelets rippling into the harbour, making life onboard not as comfortable as it was the day before. So, late morning, we pulled up the anchor and headed off to the lee of Meek’s Patch to seek some calm water.
Meek’s Patch is a small strip of land to the south of Spanish Wells. And part of it has morphed into Pig Island. This swimming pig craze is catching on everywhere. But, the twist in the tail here is that the pigs on Pig Island share the beach with a dog, a family of ducks, and two turkeys thankful not to have played a more active role in Thanksgiving.
“Ze Plane! Ze Plane!”
Shortly after arriving, we heard the sound of a seaplane arriving. The pilot circled the island, presumably to make sure he wasn’t going to clobber anything on landing, then brought his plane down just a 100 metres to our right and ran it straight up the beach. Nice move.
I haven’t a clue why the pilot landed here. It’s hardly like Fantasy Island (the 1970’s – 1980’s TV series) where people arrive on the island to fulfil
As sunset approached, we heard a commotion from the beach. It went something like: “Why have you taken my boat… bring my boat back!” On the shore stood a guy, sans-Bateaux, shouting into his mobile phone at the miscreant who had made off with his boat. At the back of us, in the distance, was the faint shape of a boat speeding towards the sunset. The castaway’s ex boating companion appeared to have no intention of coming back. And I’m guessing the guy left behind didn’t fancy a night with the menagerie.
Fortunately, though, probably as a result of some smooth talking and promises to behave, Robinson Crusoe’s companion returned to collect him.
I’ll bet he felt a right turkey.