Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Warderick Wells, Exumas to Little Harbor, Abacos

Warderick Wells, Exumas to Little Harbor, Abacos

26 19.6 N 076 59.9 W
(click on each photo to enlarge view)

Perfect weather for crossing
Exuma Sound to Eleuthera
from Dream Catcher's bow.
We left Warderick Wells on Wednesday 3/23 bound for Rock Sound, on the southwestern side of Eleuthera Island. Our fishing line was out for the 30 mile crossing of Exuma Sound with not even a nibble! The island of Eleuthera is about 110 miles long. Approaching from sea, it definately had a different look than the Exuma Cays with higher hills and a more developed coastline of houses. We anchored off of Rock Sound Settlement, the largest “town” on Eleuthera along with about 20 other cruising sailboats.

The west half of the "bottomless"
Ocean Hole. Note the Green
Sea Turtle swimming at lower left
The market was a short walk from the Four Points Restaurant/dinghy dock. It was very well stocked and not too pricey by Bahamian standards and they also gave us a ride back to the dinghy dock to save us the walk with groceries. Eleuthera also is known for its many limestone caves and blue holes. Just on the outskirts of Rock Sound Settlement is Ocean Hole Park with a limestone rimmed blue hole about a ¼ mile in diameter (24 51.8 N, 76 09.31 W). 

Kathy looking up at the cavern roof
where the Banyan Tree roots extend
 It is a “bottomless” hole which connects to the ocean. The depth has never been verified but a local told us that someone from the US dived down to about 270 feet and still no evidence of bottom. We then walked out of town a short distance to another blue hole and cave system. Banyan tree roots grow like vertical shafts out of the moist cavern floor 30’ – 40’ skyward with their leafy tops extending through openings in the cavern roof to the daylight above.  

Approaching the 90' wide cut into
Hatchet Bay
Saturday 3/26 we motor sailed with our reaching spinnaker up another 35 miles northeast, entering Hatchet Bay through a 90’ wide cut that was blasted through limestone cliffs. The settlement of Alice Town lies on the south bluffs of the bay. After a walk through the community it’s apparent that this is a poorer community than many other towns we have visited in the Bahamas. They are still trying to recover from the direct hit of Hurricane Floyd followed by Hurricane Andrew back in the 90’s.

Pollie & Mo from S/V Serenity
sharing a good time at the Front Porch
restaurant at the Alice Town dock.
The one bright spot was a cute little restaurant/ bar/ gift shop known as the Front Porch, located just off the town docks. It was neat and clean with pastel colors and cute furnishings – lot’s of artsy, crafty kind of stuff, wi-fi, and excellent local foods.

The Glass Window. Waves of the
Atlantic Ocean in foreground. The
Bight of Eleuthera in background.
You can see where the bridge
shifted 7' to the west .
We rented a car for two days to do some land-based sightseeing. Mo and Pollie from S/V Serenity joined us for the 1st day. After Mark figured out the nuances of driving a car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car and keeping to the left side of the road we headed north along the Queen’s Highway. Our first stop was the Glass Window, a rock formation where the Bight of Eleuthera (on the west) meets the Atlantic ocean (on the east) in a very narrow section of the island. It was originally a natural rock bridge 85’ above the sea level which was washed away by a hurricane in 1926 and replaced by the Queen’s Highway Bridge in 1960. A rage (like a nor’easter) on Halloween Day 1991 spawned a rogue wave that lifted the concrete bridge deck moving the north end of it 7’ to the west.

Ricky Ricardo ferried us
across to Harbour Island
 We parked the car at a ferry dock at the northeast side of the island and took Ricky Ricardo’s Water Taxi #26 across the 2 mile wide bay to Harbour Island. There, Mo took his turn at the wheel by renting a golf cart for us to explore the island by. The island is very upscale with expensive resorts and boutique hotels along the long stretch of pink sand beach. By late afternoon we took a return water taxi back across the bay. We arrived back at Hatchet Bay by sunset after an unplanned wrong turn out toward Current Island.

Along Bay Street in Dunmore
Town, Harbour Island

The famous pink sand beaches on
the Atlantic ocean side of
Harbour Island

One of the chambers of
Hatchet Bay caves

The next day, Tuesday, we made use of the car to visit another larger cave system called Hatchet Bay caves. We also came upon a few banana trees and Mark cut off a bundle of green bananas to take back to ripen on Carina. We then drove over to the ocean side of the island to place known as Surfer’s Beach that is apparently well known for the excellent surfing conditions the reefs and bar produces.

We had the big lobstah in the center
for dinner that night
In the afternoon we drove down to the town of Governor’s Harbor. Local fishermen were selling fresh seafood at the seawall that we could not pass up so we bought a huge 4-5 lb lobster and also a smaller Grouper. We had a wonderful grilled lobster dinner that night.

An impromptu arrival of 5 Catamarans!
We departed Hatchet Bay on Wednesday 3/30 and had a nice sail up to Royal Island by way of Current Cut. Current Cut (25 24.18N, 76 47.57 W) is a narrow channel with swift flowing current between North Eleuthera and Current Island  that we had to time our transit with the favorable Ebb.
Royal Island is a popular well protected harbor and 4 other catamarans arrived shortly after us. Unfortunately there is no place to land the dinghy with the entire harbor ringed by sharp coral rock. It is also privately owned and there have been big plans for a "Royal" resort development with proposed marina, shops, hotels, restaurants, golf course and private homes. Some construction that started a few years ago came to a halt during the bad economy and everything is presently at a standstill.

Looking down over Carina's
transom (the charted depth
was over 15,000' deep in this
area) at the beautiful blue color
of Northeast Providence Channel.
We awoke on Saturday, 3/2 with every intention of just motoring 5 miles over to the island of Spanish Wells and spend a few days at the in-town marina. After listening to the 6:30 weather net though we realized that today would be the most favorable day over the next week for us to make the passage from Eleuthera up to the Abacos. Guess we’ll save Spanish Well’s for next year. We also bid a final farewell to Gary & Janie on Dream Catcher who were on a tight schedule to return to the US. We were underway by 8AM and made the 55 mile crossing of Northeast Providence Channel arriving in Little Harbor by 4PM. But once again…no luck fishing !!!!

The anchorage at Little Harbor
Little Harbor is the 1st protected harbor when approaching the Abacos from the south. We had visited it in 2007 for the “Manta Migration” as guests aboard Dan and Sara Even’s boat, Manta One. Little Harbor was first settled by the Johnston family in the 1950’s. Randolph Johnston, a professor and talented sculptor decided to leave the “Megamachine” of the US behind and take his family cruising and allow him to spend his time sculpting.

Some of the beautiful bronze castings
in the gallery.
They got as far as Little Harbor and decided this was the “one particular harbor”. The family lived in a cave in the harbor while building their home and foundry. Randolph passed away at 88 years old. There is a gallery with many of his beautiful sculptures on display next to Pete’s Pub on the beach. Randolph’s son Pete (as well as his grandson) continue to produce new artwork in the foundry and is frequently seen sipping a cold one at the bar.
There are no walls or floor at Pete's Pub.
It's just an outdoor bar on the beach.
An easterly wind built all day Sunday and by the afternoon there were impressive sea swells breaking on the reefs on either side of the cut we had entered through yesterday. Once again, timing is everything on picking a good weather window.  Pete’s Pub was rocking with a live band in the afternoon but thankfully the music stops by sunset as a rule. 

Carina on a mooring in Little Hbr. with
Pete's Pub & Gallery on shore behind
 Overnight, with our hatches open, we could hear the surf on the beach just on the other side of the spit of land that separates the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean. By Monday winds were steady 18-20 kts so we decided to confine our activities to inside the harbor & on land. After breakfast we fired up the generator for an hour to do a load of wash, make some hot water, and charge the batteries while we made desalinated water.

1 of the 2 caves along the shore
across the harbor from us.
 After Kathy finished hanging the clothes out to dry on the life lines we went for a kayak ride up into a small lagoon and then part-way around the harbor, beaching the kayaks to explore the 2 caves. We went back to the boat and after lunch dinghied back to shore for a long walk. It was quite hot and still once we got on land... we must have walked at least 5 miles. By the time we returned to Pete’s Pub we were very thirsty so we both ordered their specialty drink called a Blaster. It’s made with 4 or 5 different kinds of rum... or did they say 7 flavors??? Anyways… they went down real good. 

Beating conch meat with a
tenderizing mallet for a fine
cracked conch dinner.
We then returned to the boat and proceeded to use various tools of destruction to prepare our supper. Mark had found a nice ripe coconut during our walk so he opened it up with hammer & chisel and scraped out the coconut meat with knife. Kathy got out the meat tenderizing mallet and proceeded to beat the conch meat in the cockpit well (some of the conchs Mark had "harvested" back at Sampson Cay). So for dinner we had cracked conch with coconut rice and fresh whole wheat bread with a little white wine….. A very nice meal!
(Correction – Kathy must have been too blasted from the Blaster as she forgot to serve the bread!)

Sinbad enjoying a placid anchorage
We're all hanging out today (Barnacle & Sinbad as well), with our primary goal to finally finish this blog. A cold front with our 1st T-storm since last fall in (was it ) Georgia pushed through in the late afternoon but we’re snug and comfortable in this harbor. We plan to spend the next month in the Abacos before making our way back to Florida sometime in May.

 Post Script: A few pix of some stylish Bahamian signs we passed by during our walk-about Little Harbor:


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