06 April 2017 | Hopetown, Elbow Cay, Abaco
21 March 2017 | Spanish Wells
14 March 2017 | Cat Island
01 March 2017 | Great Exuma Island
16 February 2017 | Emerald Bay Marina, Great Exuma Island
24 January 2017 | Marina at Emerald Bay
16 January 2017 | Staniel Cay Yacht Club
10 January 2017 | Exumas Land and Sea Park, Warderick Wells
28 December 2016 | Bay Street Marina, Nassau
20 December 2016 | The Berry Islands
12 December 2016 | Grand Bahamas Yacht Club
02 December 2016 | Saint Augustine Municipal Marina
24 November 2016 | Charleston City Marina
The Blows of Abaco
06 April 2017 | Hopetown, Elbow Cay, Abaco
Our visit to Abaco featured mostly high winds interspersed with occasional calm. Our first stop in Abaco was the beautiful and well protected "Little Harbor", where we picked up a well-maintained "Pete's Pub" mooring on 21 March 2017. In the mid-1950s, the world-renowned sculptor, Randolph Johnston and his family arrived by boat and established their home in Little Harbor. There, he built a foundry, which his son, Pete Johnston, still operates using a 5000-year-old process in casting bronze sculptures inspired by natural motifs. He maintains a lovely gallery, and manages Pete's Pub, a very popular open air bar and restaurant.
While waiting out another big blow at Little Harbor, we enjoyed long walks and shelling on the beautiful beaches. We shared tasty lunches at Pete's Pub with our new friends, Tom and Sandy on Renaissance II. One day, we rode our bikes south about 5 miles to a tiny settlement at Cherokee Sound, home to colorful little cottages, Bahamas' longest pier, and a well-stocked little grocery.
Our next stop on 28 March, was Elbow Cay, and Hopetown, an extremely crowded little bay of moorings. We chose to anchor outside of the bay, just below the red and white striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse. Built in 1936 to replace a lightstation that had been erected in 1864. The 89 foot Lighthouse uses kerosene, which is hand-pumped through a tube and vaporizer, which sprays the heated mantle. After climbing the mere 101 steps to its top, the 360 degree views from the lighthouse were spectacular.
Hopetown is a charming and picturesque village with numerous shops, restaurants, and private resorts. We visited the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum, an exceptional historical collection of life on the cay since the 1870s. One afternoon, we rented a golfcart with our friends, Sandy and Tom, had lunch at "Da Beach Restaurant", and drove to the southern tip of Elbow Cay and the famous Tahiti Beach. Just another gorgeous day in Paradise.
After 2 days at Elbow Cay, we headed to the Harbor View Marina in Marsh Harbor arriving 30 March. This bustling little Marina is home to two charterboat operations, Dream Yacht Catamarans and Blue Wave Fishing Boat Charters. It was intriguing to witness the comings and goings of all the visitors and boat crews, from our "home" on Dreams.
One day we took a Fast Ferry to Man-O-War Cay to partake in a historical boatbuilding town festival, and witnessed the unveiling of an impressive bronze boatbuilding memorial. The children sang "Boat Launchin' Day", which was so heart-warming that it brought tears to my eyes. Town Elders shared brief memories of times of wooden boat building, and the Minister of Tourism, Honorable Obie Wilchombe gave an impressive speech about preserving and documenting Bahamian history. Then the town's boat builders re-enacted the launching and christening of the Man-O-War Cay built "Conniption". The ceremony concluded and we enjoyed free cake and strawberry soda, the traditional boat launching day treats.
We departed Marsh Harbor on 5 April, and motorsailed up the Sea of Abaco to Treasure Cay, another beautiful resort island. We picked up a mooring ball, and waited out another big blow for a couple days. Treasure Cay is adorned by one of the loveliest beaches in the world--it expands about 3 miles in a nearly perfect semi-circle. Since the Sea of Abaco is very shallow 10-15 feet in most areas, the aqua waters are cool and refreshing, and the white sands as fine as sugar. While relaxing in the gentle swells of the sea, I could only describe it as the ultimate infinity pool.
Spanish Wells and Dunmore Town
21 March 2017 | Spanish Wells
We departed Royal Island early on 14 March, and motored a short 5 miles up to St. George's Cay, to a delightful newly renovated marina called Spanish Wells Yacht Haven. St. George's Cay was originally the home of the peaceful Arawak Indians. However, within 25 years after Columbus, Ponce De Leon, and other Spanish Pirateers arrived, the Awaraks were wiped out by the European diseases. Legend has it that the settlement of Spanish Wells was named after early Spanish explorers discovered fresh water here. However, as a "cay", St. George's Cay has no fresh water wells. It is more likely that the Spanish explorers "created" wells, by sinking barrels in 2 feet of sand to resupply using rain water before heading back to Spain.
We found it most curious that while St. George's Cay settlement is called "Spanish Wells", it was not until the late 1640s that Spanish Wells was permanently settled by English Puritans seeking religious freedom. Approximately 70 English Puritans set sail from Bermuda to settle the Island of Eleuthera, and became shipwrecked on a reef, known as the "Devil's Backbone" off Northern Eleuthera in 1647. Survivors lived in "Preachers Cave", until eventually making their way to Spanish Wells. Today, most of the permanent inhabitants are descendants of these early English Puritan settlers.
Our visit to Spanish Wells was truly delightful. Once safely moored, we quickly dispensed with necessary boat chores, and headed out on foot to explore the 2 mile long, half-mile wide cay. The town of Spanish Wells is like a quaint new England fishing village, featuring colorful cottages and well-manicured gardens. Much of the Spanish Wells economy is dedicated to the fishing industry, especially spiny lobster. We learned that nearly 70 percent of their catch is sold to the Red Lobster restaurant chain.
While Spanish Wells had no electricity or running water until the 1950s, today we can find almost anything we could want, including well stocked grocery store, marine and hardware stores, liquor stores, and both casual and upscale restaurants. The town also boasts a large, well-managed boatyard, with a lift that can take a 50 x 26 ft. catamaran. (Thankfully, we didn't need it this time around). The road is paved and well-traveled by every kind of vehicle, including golf carts, bikes, cars and trucks. On more than one occasion, we took our bikes out exploring every path of St. George's Cay and it's neighboring Russell Island, which is connected by a one-lane bridge. One day, we visited the Spanish Wells museum and hair salon in the same afternoon. Of course, we hunted down Ron's Seafood Shop, and bought some lobster tails and stone crab claws. One morning, we saw an enormous freighter come through the same cut that we had used and head north through the channel. The freighter had no more than 10 feet of clearance on either side of the channel, and when it was docked, only small fishing boats could pass behind it.
On Monday, 20 March, we caught the "Fast Ferry" from Spanish Wells to Harbor Island on the east side of Eleuthera. It was a wild ride with the ferry careening at 20 knots through the shallow waters and coral studded reefs, aptly named "The Devil's Backbone. Harbor Island is home to Dunmore Town, which is similar to Spanish Wells, with its pastel-painted cottages and golf carts galore. Yet, Dunmore Town is a bit more upscale, with private resorts and shopping catered to tourists, and marinas befitting megayachts and huge fishing vessels. We spent the day exploring the shops in town, and strolling the "Pink Sand" Beach. On our return trip to Spanish Wells, the Fast Ferry had to pick its way through the roaring breakers, and at times we were a mere 10 yards from the beach. Yikes! It is no wonder that the cruising guides strongly recommend hiring pilots to guide the yachts through these treacherous waters.
Cat Island / Eleuthera
14 March 2017 | Cat Island
After almost 5 weeks at Emerald Bay, nearly everything on Dreams is back to working order; new anemometer, new generator voltage regulator and new shorepower cable connectors. Hooray!
Underway before 0800, on February 25th, we decided it was time to head north, and so we dropped anchor that evening at New Bight on Cat Island. Just above the colorful anchorage is Mount Alvernia, which is the highest point (206 feet) in the Bahamas. The highlight of our visit was the hike up Mount Alvernia to the site of "The Hermitage", a tiny Catholic monastery built by the hand of architect, John Hawes (also known as Father Jerome) in the late 1930s. Our approach to The Hermitage was adorned by the 14 Stations of the Cross, carved roughly from the rocks, situated every 20 feet or so, up the steep hillside. Although the site has no electricity or running water, Father Jerome lived in this primitive hermitage, complete with bell tower and private chapel until his death in the 1950s. The hermitage is still owned by the Catholic Church, Diocese of the Bahamas.
Unfortunately, a cold front forced us to stay at Cat Island, far longer than we had wanted--nearly two weeks! There were several days when we couldn't even get off the boat, so we were relegated to doing 50 laps around the Cat as our only exercise. We finally got underway again on March 9th, and we anchored that evening at Half Moon Cay, Little San Salvador, a private island resort owned by Holland America Cruise Line. The cruise ship was just departing as we arrived, so we had the entire beach to ourselves. We enjoyed exploring the quaint little cabanas, and pirate ship replica. The next day, we enjoyed a great sail to Rock Sound, Eleuthera, a huge and well protected anchorage. After a full day of provisioning and boat maintenance, we set sail early in the morning for the beautiful white sands of Alabaster Bay. The place was just gorgeous, offering refreshing waters and great shelling.
Underway the next morning, we headed north to the amazing Current Cut, which is an extremely narrow cut interspersed with dangerous coral-heads through Eleuthera's northwest end. We timed our passage for just after slack tide, allowing us to visually navigate Current Cut at a speed of nearly 11 knots! Whew!
Next stop, the isolated, but well-protected Royal Island Harbor. No frills, and didn't even get off the boat, but we stayed safely tucked in during the Norther' that dropped record snow in the Northeast U.S. in mid-March. After two nights hosting Happy Hour and dinners with our fellow cruisers, we were off to the Spanish Wells, whose name is derived from an early explorer who found fresh water there.