Cat Island, Little San Salvador, Eleuthera
05 March 2017 | Davis Harbour Marina, Eleuthera
Feb 22 - March 5 This week's weather front came through overnight Wednesday (22nd) and was not "well behaved" in that the wind veered from SE to SW and stayed there for over a day. It was not a comfortable place to be with no land protection from the west. The wind built overnight to 24-27 kts and we were pitching pretty well at anchor by morning with a lee shore astern of us. As a result on Thursday we moved across Thompson's Bay to the NW corner to be out of the larger of the waves. We then stayed put while the wind gradually decreased but never clocked around to the north as it has done on every other front we've experienced here. Saturday we hoisted anchor and moved 25 nm up the coast to Calabash Bay, this time staying in the north end. We took the dinghy ashore at the quiet resort on the beach there, the Cape Santa Maria Resort, and had a nice dinner at their restaurant (same place we visited by car on the previous Sunday). On Sunday (26th) we set out for points north and Cat Island on a sedate beam reach with fishing gear in tow. By the time we reached the SW cape off Cat Island the wind had died and I hooked a fish just as we came to the shallower depths from the deep ocean. While in the process of reeling it in, a bigger fish decided to eat my fish for lunch so I was left with only the front one quarter of what I think was a yellowtail snapper, oh well. By late in the day we had anchored in "New Bight" on the west coast of Cat Island, a 43 nm day's run.
The next few days were spent exploring the sights of the island, first on foot up to the "Hermitage" situated on the highest point in the Bahamas, Mount Alvernia at 206 ft above sea level. The place was constructed by the architect/hermit/priest Father Jerome in 1939, and is sort of a one man monastery. There we had panoramic views of Cat Island and fun exploring the small chambers of the two thirds scale monastery. Tuesday we arranged to rent a car to explore a little further. Not unlike Long Island, Cat Island is very sparsely populated with many partially constructed homes that had long since been abandoned along with quite a large number of Loyalist ruins from 200 years ago scattered all along the road running along the west coast and north from New Bight. Apparently land ownership is a fuzzy issue in many parts and people may start a home in a place without a clear title to the land, then find that banks are unwilling to finance construction without that title. As a result, progress on construction stops, often never to resume. Most of the island seems to be in a natural state with denser woods and scrub areas that in places south of here. We found no evidence of agriculture that once supposedly existed here. We drove north to near the end of the road at the Tailwinds Resort, and met owner Richard there, chatted and had lunch. It was another nice place on a secluded beach, open and operational, but no guests at the time, so we had the place to ourselves. Driving to the south of the island we found the marina at Hawk's Nest nearly full with sportfishers and quite a few waterfront properties on the banks side of that peninsula. To the south and southeast was Port Howe that looked to be a possible anchorage inside a fringing reef and we saw a couple of catamarans anchored inside there. Unlike the drive to the north, there were very few houses or anything on the road to the south, only scrub and lowlands, wetlands.
Wednesday morning we did some shopping and turned in the rental car at Gilbert's, a super well stocked grocery/hardware/liquor store and car rental establishment. Seemed like they really had it all...except for fresh bread. For that, as on other islands, it seems customary to find the local bread baking lady and get it directly from her at her house, which we did. And it was only a short distance from the beach where we landed the dinghy. By midday we hoisted anchor and headed up the coast about 5 nm and around Bonefish Point to Fernandez Bay. There was some decent snorkeling there around a small rocky islet in the middle of the bay. We saw lots of fish and good coral with a few stingrays on the bottom. We went for a buffet dinner at the resort there that also featured a unique "self-service" bar arrangement. We met and had dinner with a younger couple from NJ that were staying at the resort. Thursday (2nd) we headed out NW for Little San Salvador, a small island now privately owned by the Carnival cruise ship line as a daytime beach destination, and renamed by them as "Half Moon Cay". We anchored off the beautiful beach there but were told we're not permitted ashore while the cruise ship was in. Fair enough, we waited until later in the afternoon, then landed the dinghy for a long walk on the now vacant beach. Three other sailboats were there with the same idea, as a stopover on our way to other destinations. There we met Gail and Laura of Fancy Free whom we learned were to be on their way to Davis Harbour Marina on Eleuthera as were we in the morning. Friday we preparing to hoist anchor as the next cruise ship arrived for their day of beach fun and made our way across to Eleuthera Island and a little way up the SW coast. We had a great peaceful sail on a broad reach, then a run with the genoa poled out to port for a few hours to arrive at the cozy man made harbor by noon. There we topped up the fuel tanks and secured ourselves for the next coming frontal passage that night. This front had winds starting out from the north and we had a rare overcast rainy day for most of Saturday (4th). By the early hours of Sunday and throughout the day we had strong winds out of the typical NE to E directions, 25-30 kts with violent gusts (inside the protection of the marina!). This made a good opportunity to do laundry, cleaning and maintenance items while hiding out until things simmered down a bit, and also to start some exploration of southern Eleuthera.