15 April 2010 | Rock Sound Harbor, Eleuthera
Gail Bermel/Sunny/75 degrees/Wind NE 25+
The girls were doing laundry at Thompson Bay, Long Island last time we blogged and the boys were dinghying back and forth to shore for diesel, water, etc., to get ready to move on. We learned that on one trip Frank forgot to tie the dinghy to the boat. After he gets out of the dinghy, he noticed a few minutes later that his dinghy is about 30 yards behind the boat heading "out to sea." He didn't have time to stop and think, he jumped in and swam for it. Good thing he didn't go below for a while!
When we left, the wind direction was not favorable to sail to Conception, so we sailed straight to Cat Island instead. What a nice experience! The island had no internet, no banks, very little things that boaters get in many stops, but we wanted for nothing. For example, there was no grocery store, instead we had bread baked by a local.
We sailed first to a settlement called New Bight. They call populated areas settlements instead of towns or cities. Although, it was a very small town, it was one of the most memorable of all our travels. We arrived the afternoon before Easter. When we went to Easter service the next morning, we learned a lot about the history of the church. It was the last church on Cat and Long Islands built by a once hermit priest called Father Jerome (born John Dawes). The history was fascinating. He was an educated architect that later became a priest. He designed and built churches, monasteries, etc. in the Bahamas, Britain and Australia. He wanted to assume the life of a hermit, so he built a monastery style home with chapel in the late 1930s atop the tallest point in the Bahamas, on Cat Island, 206 feet . We trekked to the top of the mountain to see the Hermitage. We were in awe over everything about it, the architecture, the view, the history. I could spend my whole blog entry on the subject, so I better leave it at that. You should google him and see what you find. (Did I mention the last hundred feet before the top, he had created the stations of the cross out of the natural stone from the island?)
After a couple of nights, we moved up the island to a sweet cove with a resort called Fernandez Bay. We had the first "American" breakfast at the resort that I had seen since we left the states. It was a buffet with eggs, sausage/bacon, bagels, croissants, juice, even cheese grits, etc., not to mention the view from the shore was beautiful, the gentle breeze, just right. That afternoon, the boys cleaned the bottom of Pete's boat. We were ready to "sail fast."
And "sail fast" we did. The next day, we sailed to a place called Half Moon Bay on a small island call Little San Salvador. A cruise line has purchased rights to the island as a playground for the big ships. Sailboats are asked to anchor in the north part of the bay, which is not protected from the wind and waves, so it is a rocky ride the whole time you are there. However, we didn't see any cruise ships, so we dinghied to the "restricted" area and asked permission to anchor near into the protected cove since we would be gone before the next cruise ship arrived. The workers were really nice, not only did they say that would be fine, but they showed us where we could anchor, which was closer to shore than we normally would have to ensure we didn't interfere with their area. This put us in a protected cove from the wind and waves. It conversely turned out to be one of the calmest rides overnight. Oh, I should mention that the water was as clear as being in a bathtub. Many, many places in the Bahamas you can see through the water to the bottom. When sand is on the bottom, it is a beautiful shade of green. This, however, was so clear, it was as if there were no water. The dinghy tied behind the boat appeared to be floating in air, you couldn't see the water, there wasn't even any movement on top of the water. I can see why the cruise ships chose it for a stop.
We then left for Rock Sound Harbor in the Eleuthera Island. The first 10 miles were miserable. The waves were large and from behind, we were rocking and rolling front to back and side to side. When we changed course, the sail was lovely. The same wind and same waves, but from a different direction and we were soon in the lea of the land; makes a big difference. The rest of the sail was nice.
Rock Sound Harbor is very peaceful. It isn't known for snorkeling coral reefs, fishing or other activities, but it is really nice. We have been able to relax, organize and clean the boat and move a little slower. The beach where Keesi goes to the ladies' room has a lot of shells. The wind is forecast between 20 and 30 for the next three days, so we will be sheltered here until it passes.
We are always anchored on the west side of the island. The east side of the island is the Atlantic Ocean. There is a special lady on the east coast, Rose. She has three bungalows for lease and a restaurant. Pete and Clare had been here twice before and had become good friends. Rose came to town to pick us up. (It seemed to be more than a 2 mile walk.) We ordered lunch, went down to the beach for about an hour. There were numerous reefs and it's said there are a lot of lobster there. The wind was up, so we couldn't feel the heat, it was nice. Then we went back up enjoyed grouper, red snapper, slaw, plantains, Bahamian mac & cheese and peas and rice. It was more food than one could eat and it was delicious. We had to wait a little while for Rose to be free to take us back to town. During that time, we were able to see one of the bungalows. It was sweet, one room, sofa, bed, kitchenette, bathroom, closet and, the most special, balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean breaking over numerous coral reefs.
As nice as the good food and the scenery was, the best part of the day was meeting Rose. She was such a special lady. She and her husband had starting building the restaurant and cottages, when he passed away. She not only finished what they had started, but she raised their five young children and one adopted child by herself. All went to college, some are lawyers and other professionals. Some have traveled extensively. She is a lovely lady.
We rented a car Wednesday, April 14 and explored the island. On the north end of the island there is a natural bridge called the "glass window." On the top of the bridge, there is only about 30 feet that separate the calm Bahamas banks on the west from the roaring Atlantic Ocean on the east. Below the bridge there is an opening that is described as a window that appears like you are looking through a kaleidoscope because of the different shades of blue and green waters. (We didn't see the window by car, but what we saw was still remarkable.)
We also stopped at several beaches. Alabaster Bay had fascinating shells. Many that looked like small queen conchs with rounded instead of sharp edges. I've never seen so many on the beach. Shells are a puzzlement everywhere we go, for example, five miles down the road on another beach the shells are totally different or, in some places, little to no shells at all. Many beaches are fed by the same body of water.
While we were at Rose's the day before, she gave Pete and Clare a cocoanut that had been "barked," meaning the green outer covering had been removed down to the "hairy" cocoanut shell. At one end there are three spots where the cocoanut had been joined to the tree. It created a face look, to me, like a little mouse. I wanted one! So while we were out, we passed numerous cocoanut trees. Pete and Frank decide they are going to get me a cocoanut. It started when they saw the nuts on the ground under the tree. They quickly learned that all on the ground had split open when they fell. So they set out to get one out of the tree. First they found an old metal pipe to loosen one from the tree while the other one stands ready to catch. It reminded me of the position you take to receive a water balloon without breaking it. The first one hit the ground and broke open. We all sampled the milk inside. It was really good. Then the boys loosen another one, but it hung in the lower fronds of the tree, instead of falling to their waiting hands. Pete then proceeds to climb the tree to retrieve the nut. Clare and I wish we had videoed the activity, it was so entertaining!
The Bahamas, of course, is a paradise for fortunate folks with big money, but we rarely see those outside of Nassau and Paradise Island. Today we took a small road not even on the map that a local told us about. There they were, miles of large, manicured estates facing the Atlantic. Such a contrast between local, brightly colored homes, including the first settlement in the entire Bahamas on Cupid Cay. Some structures were built in the 1700s. Big homes were fun to see, but we are drawn closely to the older, colorful local folks' homes and businesses. We also visited a lovely church and a library built in the 1800s in Governor's Harbor, the first capital of Bahamas before Nassau.
Before we turned in our car, we visited the blue hole back in Rock Sound Settlement. It is located in town; many blue holes are offshore. It is really unique. It is said to be bottomless. It drew the interest of Jacque Cousteau. He allegedly tried to determine its connection to the sea since it is salt water, contains sea life and rises and lowers with the tides. He could not prove its connection, so it remains believed to be a bottomless blue hole. There were numerous snappers close to the surface waiting for people to throw bread. The seagulls waited hoping to catch the bread before the fish get it. It is quite a show. One particular seagull sat on the ledge within 5 feet of us. Clare was our "breadthrower." She occasionally threw a piece directly toward the seagull and he caught it in the air, like a trained seal. After a few pieces, the other seagulls wanted to join him. He ran them off, then turned to Clare squawking, asking for more bread. He was clearly communicating with her. Such a sight!!
One more point, in the Bahamas, you must drive on the left side of the street. Pete did a very good job staying there with all the "back seat drivers" in the car. About three times, however, was he on the wrong side of the street and only once did he realize it when he came face to face with another car. When a car is rented in the Bahamas, you need a big sign on top that says "American Tourist Driving." We had a lot of fun with Pete yesterday and his driving was really good, I wouldn't want to do it.
Today we will "tote" water and fuel to the boat getting ready to move on Friday if the winds lay down, if not, we'll be moving on Saturday. Until then, keep smiling, we are!