It was only about 5 nautical miles from our Royal Island anchorage to Spanish Wells, but after reviewing our paper and electronic charts we had concerns about the depth of the approach at low tide in the morning. We are getting used to travelling in 8 feet of water but our charts showed sections of 1.7 meters – not great for our 5’8” draft. We called Claude on the radio. He called “Bandit’ in Spanish Wells to check on the depth of the approach as well as inquiring about moorings. Considering the source – Bandit – we weren’t sure of the reliability of the info! He reported back with reassurances and suggested that we follow La Toison D’or in since their draft is a few inches less than ours and they could read us the soundings on the approach via VHF and let us know of any concerns. So this is how we entered Spanish Wells, and as promised we saw nothing less than 6’ 8”.
We were certainly glad we made the side-trip as we fell in love with Spanish Wells as soon as we passed through the narrow harbor entrance into the long passageway between St. George’s Cay and Russell Island, that makes up the working waterfront of this fishing town. Spanish slavers named the island for its abundance of fresh water. It was settled by loyalists fleeing the American revolution and puritans fleeing Britain in order to set up a better religious state elsewhere. It was/is a dry island, in that you cannot buy alcohol in the grocery stores, but it is quite freely available and a liquor store is strategically placed on Eleuthra, just a short dinghy ride away. The houses in Spanish Wells are all well-kept and it is a pretty town, with a more authentic working community feeling – less dependent on tourism, with fewer holiday homes.
We picked up a mooring that Claude had booked via VHF through Bandit. We had not been there long when a couple, noticing our QCYC burgee, pulled up from the nearby trawler. Chris and Pete, from New Jersey, bought their boat at QCYC and have travelled extensively in the Bahamas with it over the past 17 years. We invited them over for sundowners and went into the town with Claude and Marie in their dinghy. We managed to get a lot accomplished in the hilly town – a load of bedding laundry, shopping at the big grocery store, getting cash at the bank, and a walk on the pristine beach.
Steve even got a bolt to replace the sheared-off one on the alternator. We met up with friends of Marie’s who have a cottage on the beach – Mark and Susan. We invited them over for sundowners too! We also stopped at the fish market to pick up stone crab which is fantastic here and relatively inexpensive at $10/lb.
We got back to the boat in time to put away the groceries, bake a loaf of bread and remake the bed. We had a fun evening with lots of chatter and laughter when everyone turned up for bevvies and d’oevries on the boat, and after they had left, Claude and Marie stayed on for our planned feast of stone crab. Since it is cooked and flash frozen when caught, all we had to do was thaw it and steam it for a few minutes to heat it through. Claude cracked each claw between layers of towel with the back of the knife, we loaded a platter, added a small bowl of melted butter with lemon juice and coriander, and laid into it! It was delicious.
Mark and Susan had twisted our arms (not much effort) into staying in Spanish Wells another day so we all agreed to spill another day here. We spent the morning catching up on blogs and correspondence. In the afternoon, Steve and I took the dinghy over to the liquor store, which was another funny experience, similar to going to the liquor syndicate in Doha for the first time. We beached the dinghy next to the store, which stands alone on the closest point of the main island of Eleuthra to ‘dry’ Spanish Wells….the Kalik (local beer) signs painted on the building advertising its presence from a distance. Inside there is a good selection and we got 20% off for buying a dozen bottles of wine, which we later split with Claude and Marie! Rum here is about the same price as a bottle on wine – between $7 and $17!
It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we decided to go on a dinghy excursion through the harbour channel along the length of Spanish Wells. We admired the modest pastel homes on one side and the egrets and birds in the mangrove swamp on the other side. Mark had told us that his mother was well-known in the area as she had cruised there for many years aboard her sailboat, Granny Goose. At 84 she decided to ride out a hurricane on board in one of the mangrove-holes there. Unfortunately the crane arm of a fishing boat blew over onto her boat and she was thrown into the water head first, her pant-leg caught on a cleat and diesel leaking around her. Miraculously she survived.
We beached the dink on a pretty stretch of fine sand at the far end of the island and checked out a nearby beach shack – a real man cave with old plastic chairs around a barbecue and fire pit, fairy lights in the trees, and old shabby couches inside the shack around an enormous flat screen TV!
At 4:30 Claude and Marie picked us up in their dinghy and we went around the rocky ledges and sand spit to Mark and Susan’s beach house on the other side of the island. They come from California, but Mark, a pilot with United Air, has spent vacations here since he was a teenager, first with his cruising mother, and later when he built a home here. Their house is beautiful, and would be a fantastic family rental – sitting right on a sandy beach. Check it out here: www.sailbeach.com.
We passed a pleasant evening with them, and returned to the boat at 7:30 pm, Steve sitting in the front of the dinghy with a strong spotlight so that we could make sure we avoided the rocks, channel markers and shallows. The night was starry and quiet, a perfect ending to a very enjoyable side trip to Spanish Wells.
The next day we left our mooring early and followed L Toison D’or out of the channel. We were amused to see a herd of goats on a rocky promontory as we left Spansih Wells – I think they were stuck there and needed to wait for the tide to go out to get back onto the island. Unlike our trip from the Abacos to Eleuthra, the trip from Eleuthra to New Providence was as perfect a sail as one can hope for. Not much swell or wave action, and enough wind for sailing with all canvas over calm seas on one tack all day!
We reached New Providence in the early afternoon and came close enough to see the hazy skyline of Atlantis and the rest of Nassau as we passed through Chub Rock cut and rounded Rose Island. We dropped our anchor at Rose Island, and La Toison D’or followed suit behind us. With some daylight left, Marie, Steve and I took our sundowners with us in the dinghy to explore a shipwreck on the sandbar and little beach nearby We found a hammock and picnic chairs set up just for us! We returned to the boat for dinner and watched the sun set over Nassau.
Day 186: December 12;
Distance travelled on this leg: 42 NM;
Current Position: 25° 05.05 N; 77°12.48W;
Left Spanish Wells, Eleuthras at 07:15;
Anchored at Rose Island, near New Providence at 14:00;
Wind 15 kn; seas 0.3 m, sunny and clear, 25°C.
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