We reef. And FINALLY get it right! After only 321 days on our trip! We sail, we stop and gawk at the power of nature. And we arrive in Spanish Wells…last stop in Eleuthera.
Start: Anchorage, Hatchet Bay, Alice Town, Eleuthera Island, 0725
Interim stop: Glass window, 1045-1200
End: Mooring ball, Spanish Wells, 1615
Total Distance: 37.4 nm
Time: 7:17 (moving)
Average Speed: 5.1 kts
We are feeling mighty frisky this morning. And ambitious. It looks like we have some pretty good wind that we can use to leave Hatchet Bay, head WNW to the Glass Window, anchor, check it out, then hop back in the boat, haul anchor and a$$ to get to Current Cut before high tide ends and the tide turns and runs out. We have to hit the cut at about 2PM (ish) else face (cue the creepy voice) DOOOOOOOOMMM! Current cut is one of two cuts to get around the west side of Eleuthera and it has, as you can probably suss out from the name, some wicked current. So much so that it states on the charts
“Check your tide tables before transiting Current Cut. The current is quite strong; it floods onto and ebbs off of the Bank. A sailboat or slower trawler may be unable to go against the flow at spring tides.”
We are a sailboat. So we want to hit right at high tide, with a gentle flow against us, but not ripping against/with a fast tide. Remember our middle name is benign.
So we have crunched the numbers and we figure if we leave at 7:15ish and the wind gods/goddesses smile upon us, we can do this. Which leads to the alarm getting us up at 6:15. Which is an hour and 15 minutes later than we got up when we did really jobs, but is a SHOCK to our systems here. We prefer a gradual wakey-wakey just before 8ish, thank you very much. And if someone could have coffee on as we are waking up, all the better.
Lucky to shore for a short business trip, back to the boat where Jan has coffee waiting, bring up the dinghy, bring up the anchor and we head out into the channel. Sipping coffee. Enjoying the sunrise. The forecast today is for north winds, 13 knots gusting to 15, and remaining that way throughout the day. We have a short discussion about ‘to reef’ or ‘not to reef’ and remember our rule: If we are having the discussion, we must reef. So we do. We get out of the cut, turn into the fairly light breezed and put up both sails. Turn to the right and we are on our way.
The wind, at first, is in the 8-10 knot range. Not great, not bad, enough to keep us moving along. Then we run out of the protection of the land, and the wind kicks up to 15 knots gusting a bit higher. And it is slightly more west of north so if we want to get to the Glass door we are going to have to tack at least once. But we are clipping along at a nice 6-7 knots, so our plan is still on track. Waves are present–that western component means that we are getting some chop and it manages to wake AJ up. Momentarily. Then he rolls over and goes back to sleep and we don’t actually see him until almost 10:30.
The sailing is good, though the gusts start to creep into the 20 knot range. We finally got it right with the reef. Not to say we won’t dork it up tomorrow, but for one day at least we got it right. We cruise south of the Glass Window, tack back and probably could have gone straight in, but there were two boats coming at us so we decided to tack one more time to stay out of their way. So around we go. But this time, I wasn’t paying attention to which way we were sailing and when we came through the wind I was fiddling around with something ‘more important’ than paying attention to, you know, PAYING ATTENTION TO WHERE THE BOAT IS GOING, and S/V Serenity, as she wants to do, went ahead and turned herself up into the wind. And we were ‘in irons.’ Stuck. Bobbing in the water. With two boats coming at us. Looking like the idiot that I am.
Fortunately those were sailboats coming at us, they were a good distance off, and it would have taken HOURS for them to crash into us. So I dropped an engine, fired it up quick and pushed our front back through the wind and we were on the way. Some call that cheating. I call it using all the tools that we have available.
One more tack to point us to our destination, then we bring in the sails and motor into the anchorage just off a beach where we can walk to the Glass Window. As we approach, we see a huge old time clipper ship called the “Liberty Clipper,” a tender ferrying people to shore, and on shore, about 30 people of all ages sipping cocktails (it is noon somewhere) and watching us come in and anchor. Hopefully this goes better than the tack we just did…
Fortunately we have Jan and AJ up front and they nail the landing. And at 1045, we anchor in five feet of water just off the beach, drop our dinghy and head into shore. We are right on time. Once on shore, we take to the people and the crew from the Liberty Clipper. They are on a six day cruise out of Nassau. The ship is out of Boston, spends its winters running cruises out of Nassau and this is a group of people from all over spending six days aboard the boat. The crew runs the boat like they did in the old days. Cloth sails, not electric winches, big pain in the rear end. They go either to the Exumas or Eleuthera based on the weather. Tomorrow they head back to Nassau to finish this cruise, today is spent at this beach and looking at the sights in the area. As we talk to them, a couple of people apply to be crew aboard our boat doing anything we want them to do as long as they get to stay in the Bahamas.
We head out and go up to the Glass Window. The Glass Window is a breach of the island between the ocean and the banks. There is a bridge over the gap and when you stand on the bridge you see, on one side, the deep blue of the big, bad Atlantic ocean. When you turn 180 degrees, you see in front of you the light blue of the banks. hundreds/thousands of feet vs. 10 feet. It is awesome. And slightly dangerous. A couple of weeks ago, when we were in Georgetown and the upper United States was getting pummeled by a wicked Northeastern, that weather systems generated HUGE waves that made it to the bahamas. In Georgetown we saw 10+waves crashing over small cays. At the Glass Window there were 30+ foot waves that crashed over the bridge. The bridge (and road) was closed. Unfortunately not before a man was swept away by the waves and killed.
Today the big, bad Atlantic is not dong anything so dramatic. Small waves on one side, pretty blue on the other. It is a pretty amazing sight. Once we soak up the wonder (only took about 45 seconds), we headed off to the Queens bath, a cut in the rocks that looks pretty neat. Then back to the boat. Quick lunch and then pull anchor and we are off.
Again, we had the discussion about pulling the reef or keeping it in; the winds seemed to be lighter. We decided to keep in and again, the right decision. As we cleared the land, the wind again picked up, but only to about 12-14 knots. But. We would get the HUGE gusts of wind that would shoot from 12 knots to 22 knots in an instant. Our boat would groan, lean, scoot forward and the sails would fill and you could hear the power of the wind push us forward. Then it would stop. Weird. It was so strong that our genoa went ahead and tried to throw itself into the water. Or so it seemed. We had the sheet back on the winch, but failed to brake the line. When we got a huge gust it pulled so hard that the line came off the winch and related the genoa. The line didn’t go all the way through the brake or we would have had a real mess, but it was enough for at least one of us to have to go clean his shorts.
Next up, as if we haven’t had enough fun already, is Current Cut. Our timing has worked out well. We arrive just before 2pm and there is a virtually traffic jam–boats running both ways through the cut. Or not traffic jam, but at least 4-5 boats all transiting at around the same time. Irish Rose, who was in Hatchet bay with us, was just ahead of our boat so we got the benefit of watching them go through. Their report was no issues–no waves on the other side and a two knot current against us. We head into the cut and other than being a slow trip through (see ‘two knots against us’), there wasn’t any big issue. We were through and turned north to Spanish Wells. Unfortunately the wind was also coming from the north, so no more sailing; we turned on the engines and motorsail for the two hours to Spanish Wells.
We decided to stay inside the inlet to Spanish Wells and pick up a mooring ball. We did this so that it would be a shorter trip to/from grocery store and fuel dock for the next day as well as easier run to shore for Lucky. The cost was $25/night. We haven’t paid for anything in a LONG time, so this was a shocker. But well worth it when we arrived. The mooring field is small in number–eight total balls. And small in size. Our boat barely fit in the swing area between boats. We are also about a stones throw from the dock and next to the channel so we get lots of wake in the day. But it is close to town.
We celebrate our successful trip by heading off to a local restaurant for drinks and appetizers before retiring to the boat for dinner and a game of phase 10.
Now we are sitting just outside the docks of what appears to be the cutest town we have seen in the Bahamas to date. We have a day, only a couple of errands, so lots of time to explore.
We get up early-ish. I ferry dinghy cans back and forth to the fuel dock immediately across the channel from our boat. Three trips and our fuel tank is full. Last time I filled up was early February; digging using the sail/wind to push our boat more than the motors. But looking at the forecast, that may not be the case tomorrow.
Then the three of us dinghy a mile down the channel to a random tie up and walk three blocks to the biggest grocery store that we have seen since we left Florida. Almost $300 later we have provisions for (hopefully) the remainder of our time in Bahamas.
Back to the boat to put groceries away, grab the dog and head into town. And a nice town it is. This could be a own found anyplace along the coast in Southeast USA. Brightly painted beach homes, real lawns with real grass (not sand, rocks, shells, bricks or broken down cars), landscaping, a ton of silent golf carts trying to run you down like a scene from a Stephen King novel. We stopped at a restaurant for happy hour and from our hardwood lined bar, we had a view of the dark blue Atlantic Ocean. The road along the waterfront serves two purposed. First, it is a road for cars, people and golf carts to bustle back and forth delivering goods and supplies. It is also the top of a cement pier along the water to which docks are built and stairs lead to the water for dinghies to get access to shore. It is a perfect way to blend the land and the sea together.
And the people, like everywhere else, are extremely nice, though a majority of the people that we (almost literally) ran into were of the tourist variety. Tons of people renting homes/properties and hitting the restaurants/shops/etc.
We spent a couple of hours walking around town, then back to the boat for late dinner, game of hearts and then to bed. Tomorrow we have our second to last crossing of the Big, Bad Atlantic.