Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2nd - Spanish Wells - Touring

All day yesterday was spent touring the island of Spanish Wells ... by golf cart. This place is very "interesting" as I said previously.
Early in the day we were visited by Tom & Jean Goldson, who were originally cruisers out of Rhode Island but for the past 13 years have owned a house in Spanish Wells. They are wonderful people and Tom is a wealth of historical information about the Bahamas and especially Spanish Wells.
They invited us to their little home just up the street from where we docked our dingy, and we spent the evening telling lies .... I mean stories .... about each others adventures while "tipping the elbow" and eating snacks.
Did I mention that the island is dry ..... well, only if you can't get your liquor from somewhere else.

It was very nice of them to open their home to us for the evening. It was a lot of fun.

Our tour of the island took us down the main street where there are many little stores, and RBC (they're everywhere) and a large grocery store. You have to remember that the streets are very small and very narrow and in most cases you can't pass two golf cars going in different directions.

The homes here range from very little cottages to large cement homes with clay tiled roofs. All are equally nice and brightly painted.

The main industry here is fishing and the seawall lining the harbour is full of boats from small open boats to large fishing draggers.
Lobster season closed today and all the boats have returned to offload their catches of lobster tails. Some boats had as many as 22,000 lbs that were caught down in the Jumento Cays, in the southern Bahamas.
As with all the islands in the Bahamas, life revolves around the "Mail Boat". Here you see the M/V Bo Hengy II as she pulls into Spanish Wells from the western entrance to drop off passengers and cargo arriving from Nassau.

Did I say "touring"?? Well, you need a vehicle to do that so we got into our rented golf cart and away we went.

We passed many, many homes for sale during the day, however, as Tom put it, an American arrived here a number of years ago and offered a huge amount of money for someone's home and it was sold. Word quickly spread and now "everything" is for sale just to test the market.

April 3rd, Spanish Wells to Dunmore Town on Harour Island
Lat: 25 30N Long: 76 35.3W

For the past couple days all we were told by locals was that you had to have a pilot to guide you safely through the treacherous coral heads to get to Harbour Island. There is only one way in and one way out of Harbour Island and a pilot costs $80 each way.
A look at the chart showed that the channel is very convoluted and very narrow .... but heck .... the Bo Hengy II makes the trip once a day, and it's a lot bigger than us .... so let's do it!! The trip is only 12 miles long.

We departed Spanish Wells at 10am in absolutely perfect conditions .... calm seas ... mid tide ... teh sun high in the sky and behind us.... and no wind to create waves that would diminish the underwater visibility.

The first point of land (Gun Point) was sure a surprise as the channel took an immediate hard turn to starboard and the water depth dropped to near 7 feet ... still enough for us .... but what about those coral heads? All we saw was white sand banks all over the place .... Still need a pilot ??? Not yet!

I was trained all my life to navigate a vessel, and I was confident that I could do this.
With Ron steering and Jan up on the bow identifying the coral heads (actually, it was better to have her up there so she couldn't see just how shallow it was getting), we kept trucking along as, like I said, visibility was fantastic and you could see everything.

Did I mention the navigational aids down here?? .... well they go from a pole with a bird on it to just having a rusty old pole with no bird .... and paint?? ... forget it!!

Our route took us winding through very clear water, and the guide books say that these coral heads can rise from 30 feet up to within a few feet of the surface .... piece of cake .... we've done the inside route of the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia many times and you can't see the bottom.
This is easy. I took this picture in 17 feet of water.

Along we went .... more navigation aids ....

..... and more coral heads and shallow water. We were doing fantastic.

Finally, we made it to the entrance of Harbour Island and right in the middle of the very narrow channel was a beautiful power yacht. We're not going to hit this baby so we slowed to let it pass.

Everything was fine until Jan looked over the side and realized that there wasn't enough room for a sobster to cawl under us ... and we were making 6 knots over the bottom.
"NO PROBLEM" I calmly told her .... it's only sand ... and you can see where the keels and propellers of boats have carved trenches into the bottom.

WE MADE IT!!! .... through the treacherous Devil's Backbone ... and without the services of our highly recommended pilot. Even the pilot recommended that we help him make a living.
Once we were well up into the harbour, around a few more sandbars what a surprise we got. This place is for the rich and famous celebrities. Mega yachts everywhere and all between 150 and 200 feet long. I counted twenty five of them. now I know where all the propeller tracks in the bottom came from!
Harbour Island is known for rich celebrities visiting the island to take in the perfect harbour, the beautiful scenery and the infamous pink sand beaches. We've yet to see any of this as we just got here.
We continued into the anchorage off Dunmore Town proper and it was time to relax with a drink and a well deserved swim....

"GOOD GOD" some of you might say .... but Jan caught this one with my eyes closed. I was actually waving to her ... twice.

The houses on the hill ahead of us are in sharp contrast to anything we've seen in the Exumas. They are larger and more elegant. This is like America all over again.
Even the Yacht Club and Marina is brightly painted.

With all the boats tucked away for the night at the marinas and in the anchorage ....

We bid you a fond "Good Evening" from the crew of Wind Warrior I, at anchor in Dunmore Town, on the north tip of Eleuthera Island ... still making our way through paradise as we continue our journey through the Bahamas.

Ron is honouring Neptune and the Sun God for giving us another fantastic day ..... blowing of the conch shell as sunset is a mariner's tradition.

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