Bumper Boats… Then on to Staniel Cay

Oh, What a night! I mentioned last time how that there was crazy current and wind in the Allens Cay anchorage. The anchorage consists of a strip of water between two narrow islands running north and south on either side. There is also a small island on the south side. Water comes in from either the north and south and provides for a strong current through the anchorage. Besides dealing with the current, during the night, the wind clocked around from the north to the south. When we pulled into the anchorage, all the boats were all lined up nicely and pointing in the same direction. If only they had stayed that way. Around 12:30, we awoke to an unusual noise. When I went above to check on the source, I found the monohull (which was to our right when we first anchored) bouncing off our port bow. I yelled for Cindy to grab fenders. After separating the two boats, I fired up both engines to be ready to act if needed. Well… it was needed. For the next five hours, the boats in the north end of the anchorage were all dancing to there own tune. They were pointing in any and every direction and some were swinging in circles. It was as if a giant billiard game was being played with boats instead of balls. There were three boats just to our north which were all hitting each other. After our initial contact with the other boat which awakened us, Beatitude was bumped no more. But, she would have been if not for our overnight vigil. As if to make one think that the whole night was just a bad dream, an illusion, at 5:30, all the boats lined up perfectly, each pointing in unison to the southwest. Our fatigue, however, served as assurance that it had been all to real. It is obvious (not just from this night, but from previous experiences), Beatitude does not do well with current and wind together. We’ll have to try to find anchorages with little current in the future if possible.

Just before sunrise, gladly exiting Allen's Cay anchorage for the Exuma Bank

Just before sunrise, gladly exiting Allen’s Cay anchorage for the Exuma Bank

Well,.. We’d had enough. So at 6:30, we raised our anchor, motored out through the pass onto the Exuma Bank and headed south. We followed the bending convex shape of the western side of the Exumas for around forty miles. We motored the entire way since we were heading right into a 15+ knot wind from the south. The ride was smooth enough, as we glided at 6 knots through God’s beautiful, twenty-foot deep crystal clear water. We were tired, but we did fine.

Sunrising on the Exuma Bank

Sunrising on the Exuma Bank

While heading south, we passed this cat heading north, flying their colorful gennaker

While heading south, we passed this cat heading north, flying their colorful gennaker

Another look at the gorgeous waters (about 7-10 feet deep here)

Another look at the gorgeous waters (about 7-10 feet deep here)

A look past this sandy area at Sandy Cay reveals our anchorage, Big Majors Spot, in the background

A look past this sandy area at Sandy Cay reveals our anchorage, Big Majors Spot, in the background

Upon arriving at our destination, Staniel Cay, we turned to port and tucked in to the huge anchorage called Big Major Spot. This place is as roomy as Allens Cay was cramped. There are probably thirty boats in here, but room for thirty more. After our experiences last evening, I found myself a big wide-open space and dropped our anchor in 9 ft. of water. It dug in right away, and we were secured for the night. Although we were tired, we hadn’t had a chance to get groceries in five days, so we took Dalí for the roughly one-mile ride into Staniel Cay and dinghied right up to Isles General Store. A sign on the door said the store will reopen after lunch at 2 p.m. The only thing was… it was already 3 p.m. and the doors were locked. We waited around until someone told us the owner lived next door. So, I went and knocked on the front door to enquire when and if it would be opening. She smiled and said she would be right over. There were about 4 or 5 groups of people waiting to enter when she arrived ten minutes later. We quickly ransacked the shelves of the very small store (although she did have a good variety) and then stood in line forever while she opened her mail and made two phone calls to family members while standing behind the counter. Only in the Bahamas!

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The Isles General Grocery Store

The Isles General Grocery Store

After reboarding Beatitude, we fried up some beer-battered fish tacos made with the king mackerel which we caught the day before. The food was delicious and we were tired, but we decided to watch a movie before bed. After all, it was only 6:00. We watched James Bond’s Thunderball (in anticipation of an upcoming excursion!).

Meal one from our King Mackerel - Fish Tacpos

Meal one from our King Mackerel – Fish Tacpos

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Spanish Wells, Eleuthera to Allens Cay, Exumas

On Monday, February 16th, we visited our third Bahamian island group in three days. After a brief stay in Eleuthera, we weighed anchor at 7:30 a.m. and headed southwest, back out toward the Northeast Providence Channel. In about an hour and a half, we exited the shallow waters of north Eleuthera and made our way out into the deeper waters of the Atlantic. We continued parallel to the edge of the channel for about an hour and a half before reentering shallower waters through the Fleming Channel.

Somebody had a bad day!

Somebody had a bad day!

Under sail in the Exumas

Under sail in the Exumas

From the Flemming Channel, we headed southward to the Exuma bank. It was quite an interesting experience for us as we made our way toward the Exuma Islands. It was our first real test of visual piloting. The two hour journey was fraught with hazards. There were coral heads (small isolated spots of coral reef) rising to the surface everywhere. Cindy stood on the bow and helped to spot these hazards so that I could avoid them. The water was crystal clear, and the sun, for the most part, was bright overhead, making our task of spotting the hazardous coral heads easier. We zigged and zagged our way past these dangerous upcroppings of coral, which our friend aboard Delfino calls “land mines”, all the way to Ship Channel Cay, at which time we could breathe a little easier again. A short while later we turned to port into our anchorage for the night at Allens Cay.

Crocheting on our passage south.

Crocheting on our passage south.

A dangerous coral head

A dangerous coral head

Another "land mine"!

Another “land mine”!

We could see numerous masts tucked in behind Allens Cay as we approached. It looked crowded from the outside, and it was. It is a fairly small anchorage, but there were eleven boats anchored in this small space. It was difficult to find a place to drop anchor. Initially, we thought we had found a spot in the northern section of the anchorage. We dropped our anchor and it set right away. But as we let out scope, the catamaran behind us came out to the bow and told us he had 125 ft of chain out, and that we would not have swinging room where we were. That was a ridiculous amount of scope in this small, shallow anchorage. But, we pulled up anchor and moved around behind him. Twice we tried to set our anchor, but it would not set. I moved up a little closer and tried again. The third time was the charm. We let out 80’ of chain and backed down on the anchor hard. It held.

Cindy and I both wear headphones for communicating during anchoring, mooring, docking, sail changing, etc...  It works great!

Cindy and I both wear headphones for communicating during anchoring, mooring, docking, sail changing, etc… It works great!

Our anchorage at Allen's Cay

Our anchorage at Allen’s Cay

Looking northward in Allens Cay Anchorage

Looking northward in Allens Cay Anchorage

The wind and the current in this anchorage is crazy. I jumped in the water to dive on my anchor to make sure it set. It was all that I could do to swim from the back of the boat to the front. I was totally exhausted swimming against the swift current. I held on to the bridle for a few moments before continuing forward. Just a few feet more and I had had enough. I could see the anchor buried completely in the sand from where I was. We were in about 10 feet of perfectly clear water. I drifted back to the boat hoping that I could snag the swim ladder on the stern as the current rapidly took me astern. The wind was coming from the north when we entered the anchorage (as was the current). It is supposed to shift to the South in the night. I was a little anxious, given the poor holding in certain areas within the anchorage. There were rocky shores on the islands to the east and west, and numerous other cruisers to the north and south. Hopefully, my anchor holds… and all the other boats’ as well.

Giving it all I have trying to swim against the swift current to check our anchor.

Giving it all I have trying to swim against the swift current to check our anchor.

Delfino also made the passage with us today. It really is nice to have a companion vessel on a passage. We had Fabio and Michelle over for a spaghetti dinner in the evening. We discussed the adventures of the day and our plans for the next few days. We’ll probably see them again before they continue further south to the Caribbean and we return northward on our return to the States.

The cook at work preparing  her delicious spaghetti

The cook at work preparing her delicious spaghetti

A little after dinner chat with Fabio and Michelle, our guests aboard Beatitude

A little after dinner chat with Fabio and Michelle, our guests aboard Beatitude

The biggest highlight of our passage today was the fish we caught. During our brief excursion out into the deeper waters of the New Providence Channel, we hooked a fish on one of our stern trolling lines. It was a beautiful 26” King Mackerel. I quickly filleted it and placed it in the fridge for a future meal or two. It was small enough that it didn’t put up much of a fight, but it was still nice to catch a fish to dine upon.

Our King Mackerel

Our King Mackerel

Cleaning the fish

Cleaning the fish

Sunday in Spanish Wells

Our planned stay in Spanish Wells, or for that matter in Eleuthera, was for only one full day. We arrived Saturday evening and hoped to leave on Monday morning for the Exumas. So, that left Sunday to go into town. Unfortunately for us, most everything is closed on Sunday in Spanish Wells. There are three churches on the island (Baptist, Brethren, and Methodist) and they were, of course, all open. About the only restaurant open was the Shipyard, where, the night before, we had eaten our Valentine’s Dinner.

Entering the Spanish Wells Harbour from Dalí

Entering the Spanish Wells Harbour from Dalí

Spanish Wells was founded back in the 1640s by a group of Bermudians who were traveling to Eleuthera. Their boats shipwrecked on The Devil’s Backbone, a reef which runs along the north and west of northern Eleuthera. They found shelter for a while in a cave, and ultimately ended up staying, founding what is now Spanish Wells. It occurred to me that this may explain the unusual accent of the people on the island. Loyalists from America later arrived in this area as well. The name Spanish Wells is derived from stories of the Spanish explorers. This was the last stop for many of them before crossing the Atlantic back to Spain. The ships would stop here to replenish their fresh water supply from the wells on the island.

A Spanish Wells House

A Spanish Wells House

And Another!

And Another!

We dinghied ashore just after ten in the morning and walked to the Gospel Chapel for their Holy Communion service at 11 a.m. We had no idea what kind of church it was, but it didn’t take long to notice that all the women wore head coverings. We asked the friendly people in the vestibule what kind of church it was and found out that it was a Brethren church. This was our first experience at a Church of the Brethren. We were informed that the church service (at least for Holy Communion) had no set order or plan. People would rise when “the Spirit moved them” to comment on and suggest a hymn from their 19th century hymnal or to share some thoughts from Scripture. It was, in many respects, a step back in time. While the people were polite and friendly and obviously sincere in their approach to worship, I missed the liturgy to which we’ve become accustomed. Even so, it’s a pleasant experience visiting all these different churches in interesting places.

The beautiful water of Eleuthera

The beautiful water of Eleuthera

Having lunch with the Delfino Crew

Having lunch with the Delfino Crew

Michelle and Fabio

Michelle and Fabio

A Dolphin in the Harbour

A Dolphin in the Harbour

A harbour-front business

A harbour-front business

The Dinghy Dock at Spanish Wells

The Dinghy Dock at Spanish Wells

Heading back to Beatitude

Heading back to Beatitude

After church service, we crossed the street to On Da Corner for some free wifi. The shop was closed, but the wifi still worked. We then met our friends from Delfino, Fabio and Michelle, at the Shipyard for lunch. We had a wonderful visit, sharing about ourselves, our past experiences and our future plans. We then hung around for a couple of more hours using the restaurant’s free wifi. I was able to publish two blog posts while there. We Tangoed and Face-Timed family while we could. Afterwards we walked back to Dalí and returned to Beatitude, just in time for a gorgeous sunset.

Looking westward down the narrow harbour

Looking westward down the narrow harbour

Sunset in Eleuthera

Sunset in Eleuthera

Delfino, sun behind, anchored off Russell Island

Delfino, sun behind, anchored off Russell Island

Sunset

Sunset

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