Exploring Eleuthera part 1

I’d have been perfectly happy to stay in paradise in the mid-Barrys for a week, but Mother Nature had other plans. January weather is tricky in the Bahamas, especially in the northern islands, and we had found ourselves in a pattern of cold fronts bringing unusually cold temperature to Florida, and then carrying on with strong north winds to our region of the Bahamas. At one point, Chris Parker was forecasting winds up to 40 knots. Yikes! So we temporarily left paradise behind, and grabbed a break in the weather to head south.

We raised anchor at 6:40 am and our small flotilla of three boats sailed south along the Berry chain, paralleling the coast of Little Harbour Cay, before leaving land behind and heading mostly east and a little bit south toward Eleuthera. It wasn’t a sure thing that we could successfully make this jump. The magnitude and direction of the wind introduced risk of high swells that could slow our forward progress enough to keep us from making it to safe harbor before sunset. But we were lucky this time, and the winds instead made for an exhilarating day of sailing! No need for our backup plan of diverting to Nassau. We set our anchor in Royal Island Harbour at 4:45 after traveling 51nm and squeezed in among the dozen boats already there; apparently we aren’t the only ones with this great idea to hide from the next front.

Royal Island is definitely safe and secure – practically a hurricane hole – but there’s NOTHING to do there. It’s a private island, hosting a luxury resort whose five villas and private clubhouse start at $14,000 per night. So they obviously don’t want riffraff like us ashore. We entertained ourselves in the calm before the storm with stand-up paddle boarding and scraping growth off the bottom of Sanitas. Fun, too, surprising the local turtle population with our loud and splashy presence.

But the next day, the front hit just as protected with torrential rain and sustained winds of over 35 knots and we never left the boat. We baked brownies, indulged in snacks of smoked salmon and goat cheese, and watched movie after movie. I’ve gotta admit – it killed me to be only four miles from the closest point of land at Spanish Wells, and not to be able to get over to town! One more reminder that while cruising, weather is always king.

So as soon as that front passed, we made another hop over to Eleuthera to find our next hidey hole and hopefully a bit of civilization to go with it. One of the best things about this second season of Bahamas cruising is that we can mix favorite locations from last year with visits to new places that we missed the last time around. Eleuthera is one of those new spots I’ve been really anxious to explore. After a fast 35 mile sail and successfully timing passage through Current Cut, we set anchor outside beautiful Governor’s Harbour. This colorful city filled with flowers was the first capital of the Bahamas, and the colonial architecture and largest library outside of Nassau attest to that legacy of influence. We put Bug in the water and rushed ashore to explore the town and beautiful French Leave Beach on the Atlantic side of the island.

Look at those cute newlyweds!

Unfortunately (say it with me now) weather is king! And the holding is poor off Governor’s Harbour, in hard marl and grass, and we couldn’t trust it to keep Sanitas safe during the next front. So with only a teaser of the islands’ charms, we hopped another 25 nm south to Rock Sound. Capt. Mike and I really tested our standard operating procedure for lowering the dinghy when we tried it in more than 20 knot winds. Good thing we’ve had a lot of practice! Flawless. Several friendly wagging dogs showed us the way to Ocean Hole Park, just two blocks from the dinghy dock, and we quickly oriented ourselves to the location of the cheap grocery store, the fancy grocery store, the free drinking water, and the absolutely not free happy hour at Frigates.

Then I had a real treat …. I’m a member of the Facebook group Women Who Sail, and I’ve learned a great deal about maintaining a boat and about cruising life from the discussions. A fellow WWS member, Amy, had posted that she lives on Eleuthera and would love to meet up. The timing worked out perfectly and she drove down to meet me and to show off her beautiful island the day before returning to winter in Vermont. We had a great time exploring marinas and secret beaches well beyond the range I could ever reach by foot.

And of course we shared stories about our families, backgrounds, and lives. It’s really special when social media can facilitate real life friendships! Amy gave us tips for where to listen to live music and how to find the local fish frys, and introduced us to another local, Bobby, who we met up with every day for the rest of our stay. Thanks for the homemade bread, cheese, and other treats Amy! And thanks for sharing your love of your beautiful island home.

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