Archive for » April, 2013 «

Harbour Island

Saturday morning, we took the fast ferry, BO HENGY II, to Harbour Island. The route goes around the north end of Eleuthera through an area called the Devil’s Backbone, where many ships have wrecked on the reef. Most private yachts that take this route, hire a pilot from Spanish Wells to guide them for $75. We choose to ride the ferry and leave LILI safely docked at the marina.

On the ride over, we met a couple, Jack & Marce, from Pittsburg. Their 40′ Manta catamaran, ESCAPE VELOCITY, was on a mooring ball in the harbor. They were starting out on a five-year “around the world” circumnavigation. They had just arrived from Ft Lauderdale and their plan is to sail from Spanish Wells straight to the Virgin Islands, then during the summer and fall travel through the islands of the eastern Caribbean. They hope to make it to the Panama Canal by January, before they cross the Pacific. You can follow their blog at – http://escapevelocity.mobi

Arriving at Harbour Island, we rented a golf cart to see the sights. This island has become a vacation destination for the “rich and famous” away from the cameras of the paparazzi. There are three marina’s loaded with megayachts. Betty and I poked through the shops, but most everything was a bit too pricey for me. I saw a beach coverup for $598!!!

The “in” place to have lunch on the island is at Sip Sip’s overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Pink Sand Beach. Betty had a great curried chicken sandwich and I had a huge lobster quesadilla. After lunch, we took a walk on the beach and I finally found two Sea Beans – a heart and a hamburger! I’ve been looking for one for three years.

Boarding the ferry to head back to Spanish Wells, I introduced myself to the captain and got an invitation to the bridge. Once the captain backed away from the dock, turned the boat around and headed out of the harbor, I went up to the pilothouse. Captain Harrison was the first employee hired by the Bahama Ferries Company and when the company ordered their first boat, he brought it down from the shipyard in New London, CT. He shared many stories with me about crossing the Devil’s Backbone in all kinds of weather. The shallowest section is 9 feet deep , where we were just 75 feet off the shore!

To save on fuel, the boat was running only three of its four engines. With two engines on the starboard side and two on the port, one of the port engines was shut down, and they removed the prop from the shaft. This fix saved the company over 500,000 gallons of fuel last year.

Sunday morning, we left Spanish Wells to head south down the western side of Eleuthera, but not before a bit of excitement. Betty offered for me to take LILI out of the slip. The wind was blowing on LILI’s bow and the current was pushing from behind, but what I didn’t count on was the current was also pushing on her beam. With the stern line and mid-ship line off, LILI’s stern quickly drifted over to the far side of the slip. Only problem was there was a “sissy pole” in the middle of the slip, just off her stern. I knew I had about 4-5 feet behind the swim platform to the pole and I “thought” that the tide was high enough for LILI’s anchors to be above the power pedestal and short pilings in front. Once LILI scooted sideways on the other side of the “sissy pole”, I put her in reverse and we were out of the slip. Just “a bit” of adrenaline was flowing through my veins, but there was no crunching fiberglass of the swim platform and the anchors never caught on anything. I just gave the other cruisers on the dock a bit of a show and Betty a bit of heart failure! But we were off to see the sights of Eleuthera.

Spanish Wells

Spanish Wells is a small community of 1,500 residents located 45 miles from Nassau. We had a slip reserved at Spanish Wells Yacht Haven for three nights.

This is not your typical Bahamian community, as the locals are mostly Methodist, hardworking fishermen, descendants of the Loyalists that moved here after the U.S. Revolutionary War and freed slaves. Because of their religious beliefs, all the businesses in Spanish Wells are closed on Sunday. More than 75% of all the fish, lobster and conch caught in The Bahamas is caught by the big commercial boats out of here. We heard rumor that Red Lobster Restaurants buys all their catch and has for the last eight years. Most of the boats, businesses and large grocery store are owned by co-ops, with this community having the highest per capita income in The Bahamas. The locals take great pride in their neat and tidy homes painted bright colors with well-manicured gardens.

Betty rented a golf cart and we were off to see the sights, as the fast ferry from Nassau arrived at the government dock. As we left the dock, the cold front arrived with pouring rain, lightning, thunder, blustery winds and a quick drop in temperature. Cold and wet, we went back to the boat to wait for the heavy weather to pass through.

About 1 pm, the rain stopped and we were back out to see the sights. Spanish Wells is on St. Georges Cay, only 1.5 miles long. There is a small one-lane bridge over to Russell Island, which is twice as long. We went from one end of the two islands to the other, even found the town dump and a small Haitian community. Visited the main grocery store, clothing store, bakery, fish market, quilt shed and just drove by four restaurants, four churches, two cemeteries and various other shops.

We went out to dinner at The Generation Gap, a local “greasy spoon” restaurant. We had cracked conch, coleslaw, peas & rice and mac & cheese. I thought the cracked conch was the best I ever had, but the portions were huge and I could only eat less than half.

Saturday morning we took the fast ferry to Harbour Island.

Nassau

Wednesday, April 3rd, was sightseeing day. We were lucky that there were only two cruise ships in port. In my past five trips through Nassau, I had never seen the sights, so off we went. The local transportation are jitney buses, that run all over the island. For $1.25, we got a ride downtown, with the driver’s favorite music blaring overhead, Kenny Rodgers!

Betty needed a museum fix; so first on the list was the Nassau Public Library. The octagonal, three-story building was originally built as a jail. Now each cell houses a different collection. The top floor is an open veranda, with view out over the city.

Balcony House Museum is the oldest wooden structure still standing. At one time it was the home of Julie Price, heir of the A&P Grocery chain. Her brother, Hartford Huntington, bought and developed Hog Island, which is now Paradise Island, home of Atlantis Resort.

We walked up the hill to Government House, home of The Bahamas’ Governor General and missed the changing of the guard by 30 minutes. Across the street is the Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant and Cigar Factory. I was curious about the cigar factory, so we wondered through the lush gardens and pool area of this Five Star hotel to a building in the back. We found four men and one woman from Cuba, hand-rolling cigars. It was fascinating to watch them work so quickly. In the late 1880’s the Hautzenroeder Cigar Company in Mansfield, Ohio (started by Jon’s great-grandfather) had over 200 women rolling cigars with tobacco shipped in from Cuba.

We wondered down to Bay Street, where we quickly walked through the Straw Market (which was full of straw bags that are made in China) and tried to avoid all the souvenir shops that caterer to the cruise ship passengers. The jewelry stores were all calling my name, but I just did a look see, no purchases. Enough sightseeing for one day, we hopped back on a jitney to get back to the marina.

A strong weather front was due in another day and not wanting to get stuck in Nassau, we moved on to Spanish Wells on Thursday. Last year, we would have liked to visit Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and Eleuthera, but didn’t have the weather window. This year the plan was to all those places at the beginning of the trip.

Bahamas’ Spring Adventure 2013

Betty and I are off for the fourth year in a row to The Bahamas! I arrived in Marathon on Monday, March 25th. While waiting for the winds to die down for six days, we continued to provision LILI to the point the refrigerator was groaning and could barely close. Excess veggies were stored in the lazarette, now known as the “root cellar”.

Monday morning April 1st, lines were off and we headed east in the Hawk Channel. Feeling we were a bit behind of previous years and with a small weather window, the decision was made to go non-stop to Nassau. In the past, Marathon to Nassau would take us four days – we made it in 27.5 hours! Yes, we had confused 3-5 footers in the gulfstream for about four hours, but then the wind died down and the seas calmed down for the rest of the trip.

I had the midnight to 4 am watch as we were crossing the Great Bahama Bank. Trying to keep awake in the middle of the night when there is nothing around us, I have found that rock and roll from my iPhone with earbuds (to keep it quiet) works for me. Therefore, I have a “dance party” in the pilothouse all by myself. Good thing no one could see me.

We arrived at Nassau Harbour Club at noon, shortly before four other sailboats. All of them came roaring into the dock for crash landings. We put out five fenders on LILI’s starboard side, just before the last one came in next to us. As the sailboat bounced off our fenders, the owner at the helm, just shrugged his shoulder. I guess he is a firm believer of “if there is no blood or crunching fiberglass, then it is a successful docking”. Betty and I are much more refined and are always out for “style points” when docking LILI.

We made a quick trip to BTC, (formerly BaTelCo) Bahamas Telecommunications Company, to get a new SIM card for my iPad and a pre-paid data card. While in the Out Islands, my hope is to be able to sparingly use the iPad to get email from just our families and daily weather reports from the weather guru, Chris Parker. Just have to wait and see how well it works. In the mean time, we have been able to get WiFi at the marina for $10 a day. Only down side, is it is slower than dial-up – how quickly I forget how advanced technology has become!

That night we were invited to dinner onboard SEPTEMBER SONG, a 55′ DeFever. Bob and Stephanie had followed us across from the Florida Keys and dinner was to say thank your for keeping in touch with them through out the night. While they were in the gulfstream, they put out some fishing lines and caught two Mahi Mahi. I made Caribbean coleslaw and brought it along to go with the fresh caught fish.

The best part of staying at the Nassau Harbour Club is that Starbucks is just across the street. With a purchase, they offered free WiFi with enough strength to Skype, so I got to call home to Jon.