Back on the Move South - Berrys to Eleuthera: February 11 2020

     

Back to the water pump in lovely Great Harbour Cay (2/1).  There appears to be one solitary drip so segments were (again) unscrewed, unwrapped and re-wrapped with teflon tape.  So much teflon tape has been used in this project that we ran out.  Thank goodness the hardware/snack/souvenir store had some in the tape bin; duct tape, masking tape, blue tape…keep digging…scotch tape…and…teflon tape.  Phew.  While parts were separated Chris also moved the check valve upstream of the water pump.  Ah, purring like a kitten without drips.  Back up from the engine room it was overcast cloud conditions that made it tough to tell where the sun was in the sky.  Is it time for sundowners yet…with our newly acquired Ricardo’s coconut rum?!  It will be a raucous night of wind and rain storms so we hauled the dinghy up, added fenders, reviewed ropes and chatted with neighbors in case action needs to be taken in the night.  Thankfully, no drama occurred but we slept with one eye open as the storm howled through.    

   

The storm had passed so we made a morning walk to the beach to check out the sea state.  As forecast, the white caps and strong winds made it clear that today was not the day to leave.  That is good news because tonight is the Super Bowl under the marina gazebo.  A projection TV will display onto a tightly stretched sheet with pot luck nibbles and BYOB cocktails.  Barefeet is literally steps away so it is a great set-up for us.  For the potluck we whipped up veggie noodle casserole (recipe below).  This recipe is infinitely adaptable to whatever remains in the fridge.  This time we used spaghetti noodles, onion, green pepper, red pepper and tomato.  Delish!

   

Congrats to the Kansas City Chiefs for the Super Bowl win.  Right on schedule the sun came up and the winds were mellow (2/3).  Final two engine checks - oil level was good, coolant level was good - so lines were tossed for a 4.5-hour drive south in the Berrys to anchor at Little Gaulding Cay (thanks for the tip m/v Valkyrie).  On the way we caught and released two large barracudas.  We have happily eaten barracuda in the past; however, when they get too big the ciguatera toxin from the small ocean reef eating fish that they eat can be an issue and no one needs to deal with nausea, pain, paralysis, etc. so back they went into the sea and swam away.  Jeepers – those teeth are intimidating as the needle nosed pliers reach in and unhook the hook.  

       

A smooth ride and a quick anchor meant we had time to leisurely dinghy south to Little Harbour Cay.  Stunning place!  We were amazed by a group of eight dancing rays, starfish scattered on the sandy floor and the overall tranquility of the place.  The underwater camera came out again and it is hard to believe that these shots are from UNDER the water because the water clarity is amazing.  Back to Barefeet and about a dozen boats have joined the anchorage including s/v Seaforth.  We shared anchor rums on their boat and then on Barefeet.  It was a great time in a beautiful location. 

Time for another big jump.  We were up anchor at 7am for a 50-mile run from the Berry Islands to the northwestern end of Eleuthera (2/4).  We passed between Great Abaco and Nassau through the thousand foot deep Fleming and Northeast Providence Channels.  Our next several days will be in the Meeks Patch and Royal Harbour area.  We will likely be shuffling around as winds shift direction daily which will keep us shucking and jiving for better protection.  For tonight we are anchored on the eastern side of Meeks Patch.  There are roosters ashore, steaks on the grill and potatoes baking.

           

Calm morning conditions were just right to make the 1.5 mile dinghy to the settlement of Spanish Wells (2/5).  Harbour Island is around the corner to the east of Spanish Wells which has been enticing movie stars and the rich and famous to its glitzy, ritzy beach and restaurant scene for decades.  In the meantime, Spanish Wells has quietly built a prosperous fishing industry – currently supplying well over half of the Bahamas commercial haul of lobster, conch and fish.  This economic activity was abundantly clear as soon as we entered the harbour’s channel with mangroves on one side and an explosion of docks on the other side.  The docks would have seemed more at home in New Bedford or Cape Cod rather than a 1500 population outpost Cay just over half a square mile in size.   

       

That said, Spanish Wells has thrived and prospered as a crossroads of the Bahamas since early Spanish explorers found fresh water here and made it a last stop to replenish supplies and refit boats before crossing the Atlantic back to Europe.  Later, the Eleuthera Adventurers settled here after becoming ship wrecked on the Devil’s Backbone in the 1640s as they escaped religious persecution.  Next to arrive were the British loyalists escaping their defeat in the US Revolutionary War.  For all of this prosperity Spanish Wells homes and people are humble, neat & tidy and neighborly.    

     

We easily strolled the few, narrow streets more heavily traffic-ed by golf carts than by full-sized cars.  In the supermarket we found fresh veggies and homemade English muffins.  Heck, there is an entire section of shelves dedicated to homemade goods by local sellers.  Einey, meeney, miney, moe…Tony’s or Nene’s or Lizzy’s?!  And many local shop keepers sport gold chains with stunning pieces of eight.  We could have stayed longer – maybe even had a drink at Budda’s bar but the winds were expected to pick up and we needed to shuffle the boat to a slightly different anchorage. 

 

Shuffle, shuffle, shuck and jive with the wind.  Watching the weather today and into the next few days shows that no one place is perfect to anchor.  However, winds are not bad enough to force us into the docks at Spanish Wells either.  Since we were rolling like crazy at Meeks Patch (yes, things rolling in the fridge and in the cupboards individually tracked down and stopped – wine, biscuits, glass cleaner, pasta sauce).  We think the spot with the most protection to the variety of wind shifts is Royal Harbour.  We were there last year and it is well protected…except…from the south.  Of course, south is the dominant wind direction for now but only through the small entrance to the harbor.  Let’s check it out.  Off we go and in we went with a bit of (gulp) skittering through the entrance due to strong winds funneling water through the entrance (2/6).  Yep, this is the place.  We set the hook and turned on the anchor alarm app.  Time for breakfast with some of Tony’s English muffins.  After our move of Barefeet these steak, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches hit the spot in a calm anchorage after our rolling night.  Time to relax as we stay in this spot for a few days…no landing ashore but the sun is bright and the sea remains a beguiling blue.  

The anchor alarm app tracked our swings as the wind shifted and never sounded an alarm. A dozen boats were nicely spaced out with good anchor sets.  By the end of our time in Royal Harbour we had made a nice circle of marks on the anchor alarm app…much like a complete donut drawn around our anchor spot in the center.  Time flew by as we were boat bound thanks to my current book – A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith (thanks Eleanor).  It is historical fiction based on the multi-generational MacIvey family as they scratch out a living in pioneer Florida from 1858 – 1968.  The characters are likeable and had me cheering them on through struggles and celebrations.  Tons of grit and determination at every turn. 

   

A short break in the wind meant it was time for us to move (2/8).  As we target the Exumas we decided to skirt along the west coast of Eleuthera for some protection from the wind rather than along the more exposed Nassau route.  But first we must pass through Current Cut – a narrow 100-yard wide break in the land where water ebbs and tides at up to 9 knots.  We did this last year so we feel slightly more knowledgeable; however, we still need to time the current to avoid rampaging waters.  We pulled up the anchor from Roral Harbour at 6.30am and slid through Current Cut at 8am (one hour after high tide in Nassau)…not seeing anything more than a 3 knot push and a smooth water’s surface.  Phew!  Rain showers and downpours, grey skies and 18 knots of wind meant that there was no need to stop and explore ashore like last year.  We passed Hatchet Bay at 10am, Governor’s Harbour at 12.30pm and anchored in Rock Sound at 4.30pm.  Our long 10-hour day ended perfectly with club sandwiches at Frigates Bar and a nice reunion with bartender Nathan.  The sandwiches were as amazing as we remembered.  We’ll wait here for strong winds to pass before jumping to the Exumas.  The first photo above is the island of Eleuthera with Rock Sound in the upper right hook of the “Y” at the bottom of the island.    

         

Tucked into Rock Sound gives us a good spot to wait out the next several days of wind and rain.  Thankfully, the rain should move on after about a day or so.  Our anchor is well buried with 75 feet of chain out.  The 20 boats in the anchorage are also tucked in snug for the upcoming winds.  Dinghies did not buzz as folks stayed mostly boat bound (2/9).  We watched the Irishman, recorded Duke basketball games from the previous night and read between exchanging ideas for what would be for dinner.  As conditions improved boaters emerged for exploration.  We wandered the town, checked out the Ocean Hole (600 feet deep blue hole packed with fish) and perused the offerings at the supermarket (2/10).  This is a friendly, quiet town where cars give a hello toot of the horn or a wave of the fingers as they pass…even offering a ride.  Our next moving day looks to be on Friday (2/14).  In the meantime, we will explore the southern tip of Eleuthera and relax in this sheltered place where life is mellow.     


Vegetarian Noodle Casserole (serves 6…or a potluck crowd)
6oz egg noodles
3 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
cup broccoli, chopped
cup yellow squash, chopped
cup milk
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
Salt & pepper
cup bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons butter 

1)     Butter casserole (2qt) and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2)     In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook noodles.  Drain and transfer to a big bowl.  Add cup milk and mix.  Set aside.

3)     Chop veggies.  Melt butter over medium heat, add veggies, stir until softened (approx. 8 minutes).  Reduce heat and add cup milk and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir until cheese melts.  Pour over noodles.  Toss until well blended.

4)     Scrape into casserole and bake 15 minutes.

5)     Combine bread crumbs and melted butter.  Spoon evenly over top of casserole.  Bake 15 – 20 minutes.