Back & Forth,Royal Island &Spanish Wells
28 January 2008 | Spanish Wells
Beth - weather coolish but sunny
Sapphire and Madcap made the half hour trip over to Spanish Wells on Saturday, and dropped anchors just outside the entrance to the harbour. It didn't take long to confirm what the guidebooks said: this is a working harbour and self-sufficient town, named in the day when Spanish explorers considered this place to have the sweetest well water in the Bahamas. Big and well-kept fishing boats lined the harbour, side by side with little sport fishing boats. Boats with "arms" like those we saw back in Georgia were also tied up. Jim was told that they fish for crawfish - although the man pointed at another one and said it had just come back from Miami. "Fishing?" asked Jim. "Nope - shoppin'"came the answer.
This harbour is long and almost fully enclosed with room for a whole fleet of fishing boats and it's easy to see why Spanish Wells is considered to be home to some of the best fishermen in all of the Bahamas. There are a few moorings at the eastern end and a marina at the western end. High-speed ferries run back and forth from Nassau and Harbour Island. Water taxis and private boats abound.
When we first arrived at the dock (we tucked the dinghies in just in front of Pinder's Grocery Store near 7th St) a gentleman on a bike rode over to welcome us. "Hawk" lives here 6 months a year and is just about the best one-man welcome committee we've seen. "Yes, your dinghies will be fine there." "Do you want some tomatoes? See that woman right down there by the buggy? Go down there and get some - they're fresh off the vines, and get a pumpkin too." "Garbage? Put it in any of the bins around town - it's collected every day." "Internet? There are several hotspots around, and you can come down to my place if you want."
And so off we went down by the buggy to buy juicy tomatoes from Shirley. She also had green peppers, pumpkin (different from the ones we are familiar with) and pigeon peas. We ate tomatoes and peppers for dinner and pumpkin & rice will be on the menu another day.
Mike, Kathy, Jim and I walked pretty much the whole town, stopping at the Gap for a tasty but very, very slow lunch, at the Food Fair for oranges and green onions, and at Kathy's Bakery across the street for fresh bread and a bottle of home made pickles. I have always loved buying groceries at little specific shops and I like doing it here too - produce in one place, bread in another, meat or fish in still others. Often, in the small stores, we find an older woman or two sitting behind the counter along with whoever is doing the serving. I haven't asked, but my thinking is that these women have been working in the stores all their lives, and are still there to help or keep company. We've met them in New Plymouth, Marsh Harbour and here in Spanish Wells. It's a nice small-town sight.
We walked along to the peaceful garden at the Methodist church; it had about the only shade in the entire town, pretty little paths with lots of benches and chairs, and signs with bits of scripture on them. On our way there, we were passed by a couple of young girls on three wheel bikes. One of them had a toddler in the back - probably a babysitting situation, and the other had a big boombox! We could hear them coming a couple of blocks away - they sounded like those cars that cool dudes drive around with the bass pounding, the windows down, an elbow hooked nonchalantly out and eyes scanning around to see if anyone notices them. I was so surprised to turn around and see these two preteen blonde girls with hair in cornrows peddling their bikes. They parked themselves down by the Methodist Garden and even did some dancing in the street, and I think they were quite pleased to be the objects of our attention. Kathy and I took a little walk on the beautiful white beach while the guys filled jerry cans with fuel and water (FREE water in jerry can amounts), and then we came back to the boats.
It was a still, quiet night. As dusk fell, Jim went on deck to look at the stars and called me to come look too. A couple of metres off on our port side - nearest the shore - we could see one tiny spec of light - there for a moment or two and then gone - then back again. We have no idea what it could have been - a fish giving us the beady eye? A UFO (Unidentified Floating Object)? A lone firefly that went swimming? It hung around a bit and then passed on by -definitely the strangest thing we've seen.
We made sure we were well lit (the boat, that is, not us) and took advantage of the limited wifi from the boat to make a posting and some phone calls. The water was absolutely still overnight, and when the anchor alarm went off at about midnight, I got up to see that we had swung a perfect 180 degrees with the current.
By morning, the wind was up again and we headed back to Royal Island - discarding our tentative plans to anchor off Little Egg Island and snorkel on the reef. We tucked into a spot close to where we were last time - we knew the holding was good. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the same spot because when the tide lowered we began to bounce. Up came the anchor, ahead we went, down went the anchor. We were a bit close to another boat but figured we'd be OK. More about this figuring in a minute...
In the meantime, we dinghied over to the ruins of the old estate. We explored the fringes of the area, trying to see a little of what was, in the 50's and 60's, a grand property with dock, windmill, citrus groves. Paved paths led inland, stone walls still stood - many with plants growing from the remaining fragments of roofs. We'd love to have explored further, but thought we should probably respect the Private Property sign!
On the way back we stopped to say goodbye to Cheryl and Carl on Mystique - off to Nassau in the morning, and Jean-Michel and Anne on Cipango, an Ottawa registered boat. It was a delight to meet them because we had seen the boat in Marsh Harbour but hadn't spotted Ottawa on the stern. Jim discovered that they knew several people in common and we had a really good gab.
Back to the close anchoring, overnight the wind shifted and we found ourselves uncomfortable close to the boat next door. Not within collision distance, but definitely too close for a good sleep. Lesson learned - next time we leave more room, even if it means moving a 3rd or 4th time.