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S.V. Gratitude
Brewer 44, hull number 284
Jade Plant
EVS: Sunny and Warm
02/01/2013, Spanish Wells

The vegetation here is very interesting, incliding seemingly ancient jade plants, many without leaves, but in full bloom. Check out the trunk.

Server or Served
EVS: Dark and Stormy
02/01/2013, Harbor Island, Eleuthers

It is blowing, dark, and somewhat stormy as a cold front moves through, so we are staying put in Spanish Wells. (In the last 1-15 hours, the wind has clocked through all 360 degrees of the compass, and they are forecast to increase in intensity as the day goes on.) We had a short rain squall yesterday, which rewarded us with a rainbow.

Our trip on the fast ferry to Harbor Island was quite a ride. We guesstimated that we were making some 20+ knots (about 3-4 times faster than Gratitude) while weaving through the Devil's Backbone, appropriately named. There were spots where the boat changed course within several of its own boat lengths as it wiggled through the reefs and coral heads. At one point, someone could have tossed beers from the beach we were so close. (Of course, there was no one on the beach - too bad, because it was a beautiful beach.) We arrived in the harbor of Harbor Island at about 11:15 and pulled up to the government dock, which was swarming with folks renting golf carts. (That is the preferred means of transportation on these islands. Although there are a few cars and trucks, most people use the carts as they are small, maneuverable in the tiny streets, and fairly cheap to run.) We had thought of walking where we wanted to go, but decided to rent a cart so as to see more of the island, which we were glad we did - there are some hills on Briland (the "abbreviation" of Harbor Island > Harb-risland > Briland) and it is bigger than one would want to walk in the limited time between ferries.

Of course, we did the requisite shopping (basket weaving stands, T-shirt shops, clothing stores, Bahama Crafts and Tings, etc.) and then decided to go to lunch at the Coral Sands hotel, which had been recommended by one of the shopkeepers (who is Bahamian, lives on Briland during the winter months, and has a home in Stowe, VT for the warmer months). The restaurant / beach bar is right on and stands above the pink sand beach for a lovely view of the beach, the ocean, and the shore-side vegetation. After lunch (variously lobster and pork dumplings, Mahi Mahi Caesar salad, grouper sandwich, all washed down with the requisite Bahama Mamas), we took a walk on the beach. The sand does have a pink cast (likely from the coral sands) and it is wide and long. As we passed one resort, a man was raking the seaweed from the beach - in front of that resort. There were miles of seaweed, except for that short strip of beach. Van commented to him that he would have to do it again tomorrow, to which he replied "every day, when the wind blows from this direction I do this every day - job security", and they both laughed.

It is obvious, as we had been forewarned, that Harbor Island is a resort and tourist island, unlike Spanish Wells. As one boater put it, Harbor Island is a dual society - the served and the servers. In contrast, Spanish Wells is a working community that is very independent. (In fact, we were told it is the only island in the Bahamas with its own utility because the people here do not want to rely on others.) Although the island is fairly self-sufficient, the residents are warm, friendly, and inviting. Many expressed the same sentiment as Caroline (Jock's wife, who manages the mooring field and pilots boats through the Devil's Backbone) "this island, I do not care if I never leave it." Of course, some do, for education, jobs, or to seek a spouse - there are a few very common last names on the island. Most people also have several sources of income, whether it be fishing, something to do with boats, or providing goods and services. For instance, we bought stone crab claws from Jock and Caroline for dinner the other night. Boy were they good - the biggest we had seen - but we had to resort to a hammer to break the claws open.

In view of the weather, today is a stay-aboard day, baking, cleaning, reading, etc. There always are chores to do. Well, we may go ashore to see what The Restaurant is serving for lunch!

Garden Plot at Spanish Wells
01/28/2013, Russell Island

Look closely for the leeks, onions, and cabbage. It's there!

Spanish Wells Homes
01/28/2013, Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

These are typical of the village homes here, in contrast to the Royal Island resort property in the main post.

This or That
EVS: Sunny and Warm
01/28/2013, Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

This or That

We spent a delightful day exploring Spanish Wells, and it is evident the folks here are very proud of their island, their heritage, and their lifestyle. As we mentioned in the last blog, Royal Island (our last stop) is owned by a developer and has been undergoing efforts to subdivide the island into multiple lots. While that is understandable, it also will be hard to see the island go from its natural, wild state to one containing many lots with vacation homes. From the appearance of the resort base building and individual accommodations presently there, it will be tastefully - and expensively - done, and a lovely haven far from the madding crowd, but likely no longer accessible to boaters.

In contrast, Spanish Wells is a living, working community that, while not crowded, is equally well maintained and about the prettiest real community we have seen in the Bahamas to which visitors are warmly welcomed. The homes are painted a variety of pastel colors, and some not so pastel, the yards are neat and orderly, and the roads and public areas nearly spotless of trash and litter. The island is pretty dependent upon the fishing industry and the fishing boats are immaculate. Van asked the fellow who came to collect our mooring fee about that and he explained that the boats are not owned by a company or an individual, but are owned by the crews, who live on the island. He added "If you want to live and work here and do business with us, you have to be neat and orderly." Even the ferry boat that came into the harbor this morning displayed not a bit of rust or staining.

We (including Steve and Mary Ann from Living Well) started our tour on foot. After traversing a small portion of the island and only a few of the shops (!), we rented a golf cart for a day and proceeded to explore the island (actually two islands - St. George's and Russell) that comprise the area called Spanish Wells. Some of the homes are more grand than others, but even the simple ones are well kept. (It was only on Russell Island, where the Haitian refugees live, that the houses are shacks and not well cared for. Even those, however, sit quite nearby many other homes that appear to be owned by folks from away, who come to vacation here. A marked contrast.) Along the way, we saw areas planted in bananas, leeks or onions, and cabbage. The fields are rough, dry, stony patches in which it is hard to imagine anything growing.

As the noon hour approached, we passed a stand with a group of young girls obviously selling something, so we stopped to see what. They are members of the local senior class selling food to raise money to fund a class trip to Atlantis, on Paradise Island, Nassau. We met the entire class - 8 young women, no males. It seems there were four male members of the class, but two years ago, one left to go to school in the States, last year, two got jobs on a boat, and this year, the last one did so, leaving the class entirely female. Of the women, some plan to go to college, but others plan to stay here on the island, get jobs, marry, and raise a family. While we were talking with them, a great many folks drove by (most in golf carts) and hollered encouragement and waved, to which one of the girls said "it's a small island [2,000 inhabitants we were told] and everyone knows everybody." Lunch was delicious fresh and tangy conch salad, hot and meaty conch fritters, and a coconut bar. We wished them well on their venture and headed to the beach that we had been advised to visit at low tide.

While walking on the sandy flats in ankle deep crystal clear water, we found numerous live conch, including a Queen Conch, sand dollars, and shells - to add to the collection we started on our honeymoon oh so many years ago! Tonight is a quiet night aboard and tomorrow, well, we do not know what we will do on Tuesday yet. The fast ferry to Harbor Island is not running (it is freight day), so we will wait until Wednesday to take that over the Devil's Backbone to check out Dunmore Town.

Wires Wires Wires
EVS: Beautiful
01/27/2013, Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

We have arrived in Eleuthera, and presently are sitting on a mooring in Spanish Wells! From a first look, we really think we will like this place. The town obviously is a working community (this supposedly supplies the Bahamas with much of its lobster, conch, and fish) and the fishing boats are spotless. The houses are all shades of pink, blue, tourquois, yellow, and a variety of other pastels. Just lovely.

After spending 4 days in Nassau - longer than we had intended -- we were ready to leave. We do not much like sitting on a dock. Aside from the fact that it costs more (a charge of anywhere from $1.00 - low - to $4.00 - high - per foot, per night), it is noisier and more "jerky" than being on a mooring or anchor. The rodes on moorings, and even more so on anchors, are far more forgiving than a stationary dock. When one comes to the end of a line tied to a dock, the boat jerks back into position. It not only is uncomfortable and disconcerting, but in bad weather can be damaging and dangerous. So, why stay so long in Nassau you ask? Good question. We noticed at the end of last year that the batteries ran down even while the engine was running. It happened again as we traversed the Bahama Bank and headed to Nassau from Bimini. So, Van tried trouble shooting the alternator and regulator, not really knowing what he was doing. With the help of several different books, he checked various fittings and readings, but all was more confusing than clarifying. So, he decided it was time to call in some experts. He asked at the marina office and they recommended not calling in someone to come to the boat, but to remove the alternator and take it to the Bay Street Garage for a diagnostic and, if necessary, repair. They assured us it was far more cost-effective. So, that's what he did. The walk there was a bit long with an alternator in hand, but manageable. The alternator was promised back the next day and, after several calls to check on progress, we were told to come get it. When we arrived, it was not quite ready, but they showed us the old parts (including burn marks on the windings) and were told it was "burned up". When we asked what could cause that, they indicated bad batteries (but ours are just 1 year old and very good ones) or overloading the alternator. (We finally decided it likely was caused by a "closed" ignition switch while the engine was running, which resulted in the alternator experiencing a sudden surge in power and nowhere to put it.) The bill for labor and parts was very reasonable. After walking back to the dock, Van reinstalled the alternator and ran some diagnostics that were slightly at odds with the test results indicated for the regulator, so he emailed the manufacturer and we had dinner with friends. The next day, at Starbucks, we received a response that the numbers were fine. So, Van completed the installation and fired up the engine. We now have electricity from the engine while we are motoring (and not just from the generator or the solar panels).

This is good because we have wires everywhere - for iPods, iPads, computers, radios, spotlights, electric razors, you name it. It is amazing how much stuff comes aboard that is "portable" and "rechargeable", which leads one to believe the items are self-sufficient and stand-alone. Beggar the thought! All those items need juice and lots of it, so we are dependent on electricity from one source or another, and having multiple sources is most helpful and satisfying.

From Nassau, we went to Rose Island to anchor for the night. Then, promptly at 7:00 on Saturday morning, we pulled up anchor and, with friends Steve and Mary Ann on Living Well, we headed to Royal Island, just a short distance from here. Departing Rose, and entering Hanover Sound, was quite the ride with huge swells coming in off of the deep water (well over 1000') and "piling up" in the shallows. We then had a close hauled sail (with motor at slow speed to maintain heading) all the way to Royal Island. It is a lovely spot, but it slated for development. While slowed down by economic conditions, it will not remain wild for long, so we are glad to enjoy it now. This morning, Sunday, we motored the 5 miles to Spanish Wells.

We intend to stay here on the mooring for a couple of days, explore Spanish Wells, the shops, restaurants (sea food!), the beaches, and take a ferry to Harbor Island off of North Eleuthera, just to our south. We are scoping out the area for the arrival of our friends from Seattle, Doug and Kea and John and Carita. We spoke with them this morning as they began their cross-country drive to Miami to fly here. We think of them as a sort of couples Thelma and Louise, and we are sure to hear many "road trip" stories. In the meanwhile, we hope to learn much about this lovely area so they can share stories of their time in the Bahamas with others. We look forward to it!

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