25 January 2008 | Royal Island, North Eleuthera
Beth - windblown but warm
After a couple of days of being boatbound but safe in Marsh Harbour during a long norther, we enjoyed a day of activity on Tuesday. First off was a successful stop ashore to post a couple of blog entries followed by a delicious lunch at Wally's with Steve and Sandra. We were happy to be introduced to this elegant little restaurant where the colours were soft pastels, the food exquisitely prepared and the service attentive. Jim and I both had dolphin burgers that were wonderful. (Note: Dolphinfish is the local name for Mahi Mahi - it is not dolphin the mammal!)
We then made a stop at the BTC office to add more dollars onto our phone card. A find here was a couple of computers free for the using! It kind of made up for the fact that 2 of the 3 payphones outside were broken. We managed to connect with our boys before we had to relinquish the booth to the next man in line.
By the time all our errands and goodbyes were done and said, it was almost 3pm and we just had time to exit the harbour, motor around the corner, across the sea and pull into an anchorage just south of Tavern Cay - tucked in at the north end of Tilloo Cay - for the night. It was after 5 by the time we got there - pushing the boundary of good visibility. Madcap was the only boat there, and wonder of wonders, we had an internet connection so I was able to send a couple of messages.
We knew it would be a longer day than we really wanted to go from Tilloo to Royal Island, so after listening to the 6:30 weather we opted to motor on down to Lynyard Cay and spend Wednesday there. Sapphire was anchored there already so we went ashore with Mike and Cathy, chatted with Carl and Cheryl of Mistique, and after exploring the beach a bit, we piled into our dinghies and made the trek across the inlet to Little Harbour. It took us about 20 minutes with our little 5 hp outboard motor, and we felt perfectly safe in the gentle swells coming in from the Atlantic.
Little Harbour is notable as the spot to which Randolph Johnston moved his family in the 1950's. I had finished reading his book - An Artist and his Island - and was anxious to see the gallery, the foundry, and of course, the famous Pete's Pub. (Note the Acadia U shirt on Jim, the Mt.A grad!) Well - I managed 2 out of the 3. Kathy and I visited the gallery where we viewed some of the bronze sculptures I had seen pictures of in the book, as well as many pieces of Pete's work and a few of Greg's - Pete's son. I coveted the tiny gold turtle earrings, but had to leave them there for the time being. We'll see if there is any money left in the kitty on the way back in a few months! In the meantime, we each bought T-shirts and the 6 of us amused ourselves at the pub. It is a wonderfully funky beach bar - bits and pieces of jetsam and flotsam give the eyes lots to explore. A sign on a post invites all comers to "Pete's Annual 50th Birthday party" on Saturday. We bet it will be quite the party. If we hadn't felt a need to use this weather window to make the next crossing, we would have stayed.
So about this crossing... We've had a happy time exploring the Abacos - the Northern part of the Bahamas - since we crossed the Gulf Stream in early December. Many cruisers stay in this area for the winter because the scenery is lovely, services are widely available, and protection from all sorts of weather is available within easy distances. We were feeling itchy to see new waters though, and needed a weather window to get there. We might easily have been persuaded to hang around Little Harbour till after the party, but to have shelter from the forecast north winds due to blow in on Thursday night and Friday, we'd have had to go back north to Hope Town or Marsh Harbour or some other spot with protection from the clocking winds, and we didn't want to do that.
The trip through Little Harbour Cut from the Sea of Abaco out to the Atlantic Ocean and back in again at Egg Island in North Eleuthera was about 50 nautical miles. Not a bad distance for a day at all, but one that is nice to have gentle weather for. Accordingly, 5 boats set off at the crack of dawn to cross New Providence Channel and get safely into the harbour on Royal Island before the north winds picked up. The plan worked and the crossing was easy. We motor sailed all the way to keep an average speed of no less than 6 knots. If we hadn't been in a hurry, it would have been lovely to shut off the engine, but because the wind was just barely off our starboard bow (we even had to back off it a bit to keep wind in our yankee sail), we wouldn't have been able to make such good time.
As it was, the wind didn't move around to the north and pick up in intensity till late Thursday night/early Friday morning so we wouldn't have had a problem. Royal Island has a perfect little oval harbour with room for lots of boats. There is no town or anything here, but it is in the process of being developed into a large resort. Boatloads of workers arrived each morning and left in the evening.
Jim put out his fishing line on the way over but had no luck. On Sapphire though, it was a different story and Mike called to invite us over for a dinner of freshly caught Dolphinfish! It was just delectable and we enjoyed sitting under the stars and eating food fresh from the sea. Mike and Kathy entertained us with stories of fish caught and released - barracuda - and fish caught and consumed - dolphinfish (which are really pretty) and tuna. Before too long, we'll have those stories too.
During the night, the wind clocked around and picked up so that our anchor alarm went off to warn us of our swing. Jim saw several boats shift positions but we were able to hold tight. The wind blew all day Friday and the water was choppy, so we settled in again with onboard activities. I dug out my tin whistle to practice a melody or two; we tuned in NPR to listen to some of the American political talk and CBC to hear "Ideas", and Gian Gomeschi's program "Q"; we read up on Spanish Wells and Harbour Island - our next stops, and played a few games of cribbage (the winningest man won of course).
Dinner was baked chicken in a lime/ginger/soy sauce, roasted potatoes and carrots, and cole slaw. We lit the candles, dined well, read for a bit and tucked ourselves in bed at our usual early hour. Like most of the cruisers we know, we're hard pressed to stay up past 9 o'clock....zzzzzz... We'll go explore Spanish Wells tomorrow and maybe anchor back here out of the wind again for Sunday.