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Madcap Sailing
Where the Banks Meet the Atlantic
Beth - wincing at moving up the latitudes
19/04/2008/2:21 pm, The Glass Window, Eleuthera

In our policy of lingering as long as possible, we chose to hug the shore and pull in at the Glass Window while Interlude, Werplayin and Rachel E headed for Current Cut. It was interesting that we first thought "Oh - maybe we should push on with them and position ourselves for a crossing to the Abacos," despite not having seen the northern end of Eleuthera as we'd planned. It is very easy to get caught up in a group movement. I even reported on Cruiseheimers that Madcap was enroute from Alabaster Bay to Current Cut. As we started out, however, we came to our senses and veered off, and we were so glad we did. Jim commented, "What could we have been thinking?" while we strolled along the sand in this reprieve from towns and activity and the push northward.

This was a beautiful anchorage with excellent holding and Madcap was the only boat there. We usually like to balance periods of group activity with a day or two of solitary travel or anchorage so this was perfect. It was a beautiful bay - several dinghy-friendly beaches, a view of water foaming and crashing under the bridge from the Atlantic, wide expanse of soft green water reaching out to the western horizon and the roar of the Atlantic waves reaching our ears.

The "Glass Window" is a narrow ridge that joins the northern and southern ends of Eleuthera and divides the dark blue Atlantic Ocean on one side from the soft turquoise of the Bahama Banks on the other. Over time, the waves have eaten away at the natural ridge and now a man-made bridge spans the opening. It is one lane wide and crosses an opening through which the water foams and crashes onto the Banks. A few years ago, the bridge was shifted a few feet sideways in a storm and it looked pretty precarious even in its repaired state.

The views were simply stunning. We'd have hated to miss this. Shelling was interesting on the little beaches around the bay and although the water seemed a bit cooler (28C) it still felt delicious as we went in for a swim. The evenings have been cool this week and dinner was in the cabin - sweet and sour meatballs with pineapple and green peppers over rice and a nibble of chocolate for dessert.

We headed out at 7:45 to catch a favourable current at Current Cut - aptly named. Figuring that time was a bit of a trick. We knew that the water ebbs to the Ocean and flows onto the Banks so that narrowed it somewhat. The next consideration was to arrive at or near slack tide, and that's where there can be some confusion. One book said the tides there are 1 to 1 ½ hours after Nassau, another book said 2- 2 ½ hours later. High in Nassau was at 7:58 so we figured that if we got there sometime between 9:30 and 10 we would catch slack tide or the beginning of the ebbing current or at worst, the end of the rising tide when it wouldn't be very strong ...and it worked. We caught the ebb tide. Once again we were the fortunate beneficiaries of good planning and good luck. The planning worked for the time, and Mother Nature was in charge of the wind which was behind us - meaning that both current and wind were going in the same direction - and that makes for smooth water. Our speed picked up to 7.7 knots as we made the elbow turn - a very comfortable passage.

As we left the anchorage on Saturday morning, we kept turning to see the "window" behind us, and it was visible for miles - looking absolutely like a window through the rock. The land formations were just beautiful and we highly recommend it as a place to spend some time.

By noon, we were anchored outside the harbour at Spanish Wells and Jim has been making regular dinghy runs back and forth to the tap outside Pinder's Grocery to fill our water tank. I went walking around to find some steps to sit on where I could link up with wifi - and found it beside the school. We will probably stay in the area till Monday (at least) and then make our trip across NW Providence Channel to the Abacos.

We are definitely feeling nostalgic today; this is the first revisiting of a place on our way back north. We are up to 25 degrees of latitude again. With each passing landmark we say, "Oh, that's the last time we'll see this water... or that beach ... or this coral reef" and we moan and wail until one of us says, "until the next time!!" and we cheer up again because we surely will be back.

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Socializing on the Nort' Shore
Beth - sunny, windy
16/04/2008/2:16 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera

Cruisers have to be the most social lot of people I've ever run across.

After a day of errands and a little of this and a little of that as days in port so often seem to be, a great gang of us trooped over to the Nort' Side Beach Restaurant. Rose is the woman in charge - of cooking, hostessing, serving, chauffering, and that night was assisted by her son Ashley. Some of our friends had been there last week and had a wonderful time so Solitaire decided to go again with Madcap. As it tends to do in cruising circles, the group grew and grew until there were 25 of us. Because the restaurant is on the other shore, about a 10-minute drive from the main anchorage, Rose offers free valet service from Dingle's garage and most of us piled into her car and van there.

It was another one of those fabulous evenings of beach walking, socializing, and good Bahamian home cooking. I don't know how these women can produce such feasts for huge crowds of people in small kitchens all by themselves. We had a choice of chicken, grouper or conch, served with peas n' rice, macaroni, potato salad, coleslaw - mostly ordered ahead of time, but because the group had kept growing all day, she asked for a last minute show of hands for each entrée and then set to work.

A visit to the beach yielded sea hearts, hamburger beans, and some interesting shells for some of us, and an appetite whetting walk for others as we listened to the gentle roar of that wonderful surf rolling in, felt warm sand under our feet and gazed at palm trees leaning out over the hills. Back at the restaurant we met new friends and reconnected with old ones, playing the ever-present game of swinging a ring to catch on the hook on a post. It shows up in many places and some of the folks are pretty good at hooking it.

I'm sure we ate every scrap of food in her kitchen, and I know we drank all the beer and wine until it was time to pile back into the van for multiple trips back to our dinghies. Those dinghy rides "home" after dark remain one of my favourite things about this life - it seems so absolutely exotic to ride across the water and through the darkness as we each pick out our own twinkling anchor light and call out our goodnights.

Thursday started with one more round of errands in town - fuel, groceries, ice, laundry pickup - Janet picks up laundry from Dingle's, washes, dries it and returns it within 24 hours all for $6.00 per load (washed and dried - I've paid more to do it myself!). Then we were ready to follow in the wake of all the boats that had already pulled out. Many of them headed for Governor's Harbour while we opted to go to Alabaster Bay. Werplayin and Interlude were already there and Rachel E pulled in shortly after us. Deb and Paul (Werplayin) were entertaining, and the 8 of us had a fabulous evening enjoying their hospitality. Tom (Interlude) was kind enough to act as chauffeur so we didn't even have to put the dinghy down. We peered through his looky bucket to see that our anchor was pretty much lying on the sand but with 90 feet of chain out and no wind we didn't budge at all.

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Exploring Eleuthera
14/04/2008/2:11 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera

We're still here in Rock Sound! The wind... she blows.

Jim, Jim, Nancy and I rented a car to go exploring on Monday and we covered the area from Governor's Harbour to East End Point, some of it on fine Bahama roads and some of it on not-so-fine Bahama roads (aka potholes and ruts that provide excellent challenges for would be off road drivers). First off, we headed north, cruising through pretty towns like Tarpum Bay and South Palmetto Point (not as enticing as Rock Sound, but interesting). Governor's Harbour has lots of facilities - we filled our water cans at the Government Buildings on Cupid's Cay, checked e-mail from the parking lot at the grocery store, bought wonderfully sweet pineapples, and then drove up along gorgeous little streets in search of the pink sand beach. It took a few starts, reverses and alternate routes but we found it. A development called French Leave seems to have taken over the beach front and one road was blocked by a gate and another road had a pothole that was just too deep to get through, but the third one took us there. The beach was gorgeous - similar to the pink sand of Harbour Island - very few people there - tiny waves rippling gently in over wide sand bars that were streaked with the darker pink of crushed coral. It felt just as though my feet were being washed with some spa-like concoction of water and powdered stone. The sun was hot, the breeze gentle, the water turquoise, the sky blue. Aaahh - bliss.

As we drove through narrow streets past houses with inviting porches and bougainvillea cascading over fences, we discovered Tamarind - the house Jim's sister and her family rented last year when they enjoyed an Eleutheran beach holiday. There are many houses with rental signs on them and this would be a great place to make a base for some land travel. The chartbook shows poor holding for boats but Jim (Solitaire) talked to friends who had success in the area.

Lunchtime found us at Papa George's in Tarpum. George makes pizzas from scratch and was an enjoyable conversationalist as we savoured them. He recounted memories of the Junkanoos of his youth, and told us of his dual career of writing books and making pizzas.

With stomachs full, we roared off to the south. Once again, it took some determined questing to find some of the beaches. We stopped near Bannerman Town where Princess Cruise Lines have a land base. The beach around the corner was small but pretty and Nancy and I picked up some shells. Jim (Solitaire) steered us skillfully down treacherous tracks to the Lighthouse and stunning beach at East End Point. It was really worth the searching - we were surprised to see two other rental vehicles at the end of the track but when we followed the path to the beach we could see why they made the effort. Limestone cliffs have been eroded to show beautiful layering and caves; the reefs are close for snorkeling when the wind allows; the beaches serene for lying about. We chatted with Rob and Kim, here on vacation and heard from them that the fishing is good too. While the lighthouse itself was not of the picturesque variety, the view was superb.

Several boats relocated over to the western side of the bay where the waves were calmer, but because we wanted to stay close to town we opted to stay put on Tuesday. The wind came up, the waves rolled by and Madcap bucked up and down a bit. Neither of us went ashore because we'd have gotten wet for sure. Jim exercised his creativity in making a wonderful DVD presentation of some of our pictures, while I did my creative bit in the cockpit with my basket weaving. The second basket was far superior to the first one!!

It was much chillier Tuesday night - both of us put on long pants for dinner in the cockpit. That was a "clean out the fridge" success story. Some additions of curry, peppers, tomatoes and fresh pineapple to leftover rice with sautéed plantains and mango chutney on the side made for a delicious new combination that I'll put in the "keepers" file! The night was rough with winds steadily upwards of 25 knots from WNW but the anchor held and we both managed to get some sleep despite the noise of waves crashing on the bow. On Wednesday, the sun was out, the wind has dropped to 15 NW; the temperature was 21C when I got up, and rose steadily through the day.

We'll most likely stay here till Friday to give the swell a chance to drop before heading off to the northern end of Eleuthera and then on to make the crossing to the Abacos. The timing for that is still up in the air (literally and figuratively) since we don't see any point in beating into a strong wind or plowing through 10-foot swells. This is a pretty place with a fine company of cruisers and welcoming Rock Sounders.

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