Monday, January 29, 2018

Elutheran Adventurers

Oh wow we have just totally loved Eleuthera - it might not have been perfect blue skies everyday however this island has certainly won us over with its beautiful people, lovely anchorages and lots to do and see.

Beautiful French Leave Beach, Eleuthera

After we left Treasure Cay in the Abacos we had a beautiful sail in light winds past Marsh Harbour to Tiloo Cay, there was a few shallow spots but the skipper had it all planned out perfectly. We anchored up for a really peaceful night to prepare for our early start the next morning to sail to Eleuthera.

Perfect anchorage Tiloo Cay 
Next morning we upped anchor at first light and made our way to the North Bar Channel - I am glad we didn't decide to anchor south of it as if I had seen it before bed I don't think I would have slept. We had North East winds so it was pretty much head to wind going out into the ocean, however the swell was North which meant it was a pretty good angle for Askari. The swell was just over a metre but with it breaking on rocks on either side of the boat it looked much worse than it was.
Very focussed - North Bar Chanel
The seas never look big in pictures - it was just over a metre but breaking on each side
Once we got out we turned off the engine and set a course for Eleuthera, 52 miles away. We sailed on the wind at an average speed of 7.9 knots the whole way. It was brilliant and we had a virtual race with about 5 other boats near us on AIS - of course we were faster than all of them..... not that we were trying or anything and we overtook 3. What an amazing day. When the weather windows open to move between the island groups the yachts all run like mad!

A short video clip of the sail

We overtook this boat who towed the dinghy out in the open ocean..... wtf!
We did such great speed we were able to continue to sail across the bay to anchor up north of the Current Settlement - that was tomorrow's adventure!

Egg Island - Grey day but passing this island took us back on the banks
We might have had a beer on passage sailing past Egg Island

Eluthera is a long skinny island - about 110 miles long and a maximum of a mile and a half wide. The Eastern shore faces out to the Atlantic ocean and has beautiful pink sand beaches. The Western side is where we are sailing. 

The next morning was leisurely as we had to wait for the tide to be slack high water to pass through the Current Cut - Andrew opted to go through a little before slack as we could power against the current which was running at 3 knots as there were shallows on the other side which we it would be good to have a rising tide jus in case we touched bottom. We heard one of the boats from the previous day had ran aground in nearby Spanish Wells. They were calling on the radio seeking help so we were keen not to be in that situation.

Going through the cut - the Current Settlement on the shore 

We took a hard right and got this view looking back - phew glad to get that done!
We sailed across the bank to near Glass Window and the sun came out and dolphins showed us the way

Our anchorage at Mutton Fish Point
We had our anchorage at Mutton Fish Point all to ourselves and swam and snorkelled around the shore - lovely. Later that night we saw lights approaching out of the blackness, it looked like a yacht so we switched on AIS to find out it was Drumbeat - the funny thing was that exactly a year ago to the day we were in St Lucia moored in Marigot Bay with Drumbeat - 142 foot long, beautiful yacht. 

We took our dingy to see the Glass Window - this in the narrowest part of the island - now there is a man-made bridge but originally there was a natural rock arch before it was destroyed by a hurricane. It's a fantastic spot to take in the contrast between the ocean side and the calm exuma sound side. I found it quite freaky as we watched the Atlantic ocean pound the Eastern side.

Approaching the Glass Window

Pano of the Glass Window - it even looks sunnier on the exuma side

That's what it should look like - google image

Yes glad we were on the exuma sound side today.

The next morning we had a wonderful sail down the island - the water here is a little deeper than the Abacos so more relaxing to sail. We dropped the anchor at Alabaster Bay all alone for another peaceful night and a lovely long paddle board the next morning along the beautiful beach.
Another amazing sail down to Alabaster Bay - tacking all the way
Alabaster Bay

Fresh food was necessary the following day so we headed to Governors Harbour in the centre of the island. We also wanted to check out good places to hide from strong winds that were forecast and this looked like a good spot. We were really surprised to find the bay empty on our arrival although the pilot guide doesn't give it a great write up we found good holding, protection from everything except west winds and a lovely friendly town.

Governor's Harbour
Governors harbour is the oldest settlement in the Bahamas - Cupid's Cay is where english pilgrims landed in 1648 having set sail from Bermuda, they were shipwrecked but finally made there way to Eluthera - they were known as the Elutheran Adventurers...... The town has lovely heritage buildings that are  up to 150 years old. 

Eleuthera Administrative Building
Any town with a lime green police station get's my vote!
That's dinner sorted - we bought an amazing yellow snapper which was delicious
We went for a hike over the island and at sunset walked on the beautiful french leave beach - pink sand and not a person in sight - wow. 
It's not just my hat that's pink - pink sand wow!

We decided to stay put for 'the blow' and moved Askari to the north east corner of the bay. Andrew did a full survey of the depths all around us, we put out plenty of scope and made sure the anchor was really well set. The calm the day before was just perfect. We had a lovely day snorkelling and paddling then went to the French Leave resort for sundowners. We still haven't manage to catch a lobster but at least spotted some nearby.  Then a big shark swam through and we delayed spearfishing for the next day....

The skipper surveying the bay
Meanwhile I went to explore by paddle board - all the way to Toms Rocks

Our view for sundowners
Ancho Margarita - just yum!


I got all the flags out for Australia Day but with 30knots of wind and big gusts we decorated inside only

You wouldn't believe how windy it was and we were calm as anything
The other side looked like this - yuck
Friday night in Governors Harbour is Fish Fry, the wind was still blowing hard however we decided we had held firm for 24 hours so we could get off the boat for some fun. The community has really got itself together for this event each week that is attended by locals, home owners, tourists and yachties. The event started in a tent but now has it's own pavilion and all profits go to the community - there's fish, pork and chicken all cooked on camp fires, the pavilion hosts the bar serving the world famous rum bubbas. There's dancing in the street live music and a limbo competition - this was a hoot but obviously this is the best event for the locals to take on the tourists! I did a limbo but then bowed out gracefully before falling in the street....

Conch Cracking

Rum Bubbas - they were seriously good (and strong)

Andrea from the liquor store did really well

We met the local policeman - how handsome is he!

Andrew and Andre who runs the fish fry

Lessons in Conch Shelling from JJ
We had a fantastic night and met some wonderful people - such a friendly event, not like some of the fish fries in the Eastern Carib that get a bit out of hand. When we got back to the dinghy we found it beached and the tide was way out, it's really heavy with a 20hp outboard but we managed to drag it out to deep water getting soaked in the process - laughing all the way due to the rum bubbas.....

The next day the wind had eased a bit so we hiked to the Leon Levy Naive Plant Preserve - it was a long walk but we needed the exercise - we hitch hiked back though which is how many people get around on Eleuthera as there's no public transport.

Another amazing Eastern shore beach
Leon Levy was a wall street hedge fund guy who had a home on Eleuthera and loved the natural environment here. After his death his wife established a foundation which funds the preserve which is operated by the National Trust of the Bahamas. It is just beautifully set up and a real pleasure to walk around the different areas - that include medicinal, edible and poisonous plants. Something else not to be missed here!
Leon Levy Preserve

Seriously red mangroves

Lovely bush trials

These terapens look like they are used to being fed - very cute

Fresh Water Wetlands

A Lucayan house - the original inhabitants of the Bahamas before Europeans

Ethan's Tower

Interesting bugs
After the preserve we wandered down to Tippy's for a fabulous lunch on the beach with the most amazing view - we had such a lovely day, but the fun didn't stop there.... We got back to Askari and moved her to the south end of the bay for a change in wind direction, then noticed a football match was on. This was the Bahamas so of course it included food, live music, drums and dancing  - the commentary was in Creole but soon after we arrived he occasionally gave a brief update in English - we felt pretty special. The pitch was pretty rough so the guys didn't tackle quite as often but it was still a good game, even when a hen and her chicks walked across the pitch.

Local Derby Governors Harbour Classic v Blackwood from Providence Harbour 
Chickens on the pitch
Unfortunately the local team lost 3.0 but everyone had a great time, and there was a lot of celebration afterwards.  Continuing the wildlife theme, we got back to Askari and found this fellow listening to our music.....

Apparently this Black Witch Moth is going to bring prosperity in the Bahamas 

The next morning we did a quick grocery run and then set sail south again. 

Thank you Governor's Harbour for a great time, fabulous memories and for keeping us safe while the wind was blowing so strong - we had reports of over 40 knots at either ends of the island for the three days but we only saw 30.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Stuck in Treasure Cay Marina

Treasure Cay - pic courtesy of Tina White flying over Hugo and Askari tucked up
We ended up spending 18nights in the Marina at Treasure Cay – oh my gosh there was just no let up in the cold and windy weather for more than a day at a time. With our 2.2m draft we could only get in and out of the entrance channel at high tide so we were effectively trapped, the good thing was they had a monthly rate that was about the same cost as for 5 days so it wasn’t costing a fortune and there is a really nice community. We met some great people there but this really wasn’t what we came to the Bahamas for.

Our grey view - not so bad and very private
I did have time for baking - even made pastry- Carmelised Onion Tart
Our recently repaired alternator had failed again so we took the opportunity to get a new one shipped in – Mastervolt USA were great and sent us a replacement unit free of charge the same day – getting it cleared through customs in Nassau and then sent to the Abaco’s was a different matter. Miss Marshall from UPS is now on our speed dial but eventually got it to us two weeks later…..

We did get visits from turtles and dolphins in the marina
We hired bikes for a day, they turned out to be the worst bikes in the world but they only cost $7 and we managed to cover the 30 km round trip to the blue hole. It was a totally circular sinkhole, buried deep in the forest. Apparently its 70metres deep and has three layers – fresh clear water on the top, a layer of old decomposing leaves, then deep dark salt water beneath. It was really cool as we had the place to ourselves and the swimming was great.

Nice bike!
Treasure Cay Blue Hole
Our good friends on Hugo had sailed out to the Bahamas from Florida for New Year and a wedding, a real treat was getting to spend their last night with them before they went back to their new land lives in Nashville. Russ’s mum Jen is 83 and was visiting from Australia – she sailed with them, a real life super gran.

Hugo arriving at Treasure Cay

Packing the lovely White family off to the airport - miss you guys!
We hired a car and drove the full length of Great Abaco island over a few days. Going to Little Harbour for lunch at Pete’s pub and a hike out to the lighthouse was a great day. We had a big food shopping day in Marsh Harbour in the torrential rain, where we ran into the crews of Venture Lady and Country Dancer hiding out in a bar. We drove to the north end and found ummmm like nothing, oh except a huge new port that the Chinese and Bahamian Government have invested $39m to build but apparently the depth is only 6ft- hmmmm?!
Little Harbour - very protected once in
Yes that's why we are in the marina
Pete's Pub - we resisted buying one of the amazing bronze sculptures - the family history is really interesting though
Derelict lighthouse at Little Harbour
New Port - North Abaco
The Lovely Treasure Sands Club
Very Bahamas - Treasure Sands

Finally a cocktail in a real glass - Treasure Sands Club
Lovely garden in Marsh Harbour on one of our many visits to try and get the alternator 
So like our old cat Scooby - Bacardi nearly came with us
Then on our last day of exploring we went looking for rare Abaco parrots – it was only when we got to the National Park we discovered that it was 4wd only so we went for a hike and only managed to find a few blue feathers, but we did find some really pretty Atala butterflies – apparently they were nearly extinct but are now common again following changes to harvesting of it’s host plant. Lunch at Nancy’s a lovely local restaurant in Sandy Point made the day – we could see the Disney island off in the distance and heard stories from the locals who used to work there, interesting that the chairs in the restaurant had mickey mouse on them!
Abaco Parrot feather - the closest we got!
In search of Abaco parrots like this - not my image
Atala Butterfly in the Abaco National Park - that's a mouth-full....
Potcake Dog at Sandy Point - these local dogs named after the rice and peas fed to them are very cute
Fried chicken at Nancy's - food of gods!

We finally collected the alternator from Marsh Harbour airport on the 18th, our third attempt. Andrew fitted in that afternoon and a weather window opened up for us to leave the marina the next day for more real adventure.

Heading south again.....