At this point you might have thought that something happened to us? Or maybe we lost the computer? Or maybe we took a vow of internet silence? Or maybe we didn’t have anything to write about?… Au contraire! Since departing the Jib Room on Friday February 10th we’ve weathered storms, caught fish, re-fixed the stuff I fixed on the fixed engine, caught more fish, snorkeled an awesome wreck, reunited and said goodbye to old friends, made new friends, navigated a cut at idle traveling at 8 knots, and as of today I’ve finally found an internet connection. So where to begin, hmmmm, perhaps chronologically would be the best bet?
Friday February 10th – Marsh Harbour to Lynyard Cay
We sailed down to Lynyard Cay to stage for our departure to Eleuthera. We’ve made this 25 nm trip three times and it was raining two of those three times. Lesson to be learned is that you shouldn’t sail to Lynyard, it always rains down there. Just joking, Lynyard is a beautiful place and we just want to save its northern anchorage for ourselves.
Saturday 11th – Lynyard Cay, waiting for more wind
We awoke on Saturday to a dead calm on the Sea of Abaco, with not nearly enough wind to take us to Eleuthera. So we decided to motor around for a little bit to see if we could catch some fish and practice navigating the Little Harbour cut under calm conditions. Shortly after we headed out I noticed that the engine wasn’t running properly so we headed back to drop the hook again. I did some quick fixes and then we went fishing. It was a horrible day fishing, we only caught one barracuda, and the wind was picking up all day. By the time we got back to drop the anchor we were pretty tired. Late in the afternoon the west wind was picking up signaling the start of the frontal passage we were awaiting. If that wind would have started earlier in the day we could have made it to Eleuthera on Saturday.
Sunday 12th – Lynyard Cay, waiting for less wind
By Sunday morning the wind was raging, we had sustained 25 knot wind with a few gusts of 30, and it was lingering in the NW quadrant and not clocking around to the north quite quick enough for us. Where we had anchored had excellent protection from the N and NE, but the NW was exposed. So we spent Sunday working on projects and we accomplished quite a bit, and our to-do list keeps getting shorter and shorter. For those of you that may not understand sailors, we are a fickle bunch, we want wind, but not too much, and not from certain directions, and it should be consistent, not shifting, and not gusting, and… you get the idea. So we did our projects and waited for our perfect wind.
Monday 13th – Lynyard Cay, waiting for less swell
On Monday we considered heading sailing to Eleuthera, the wind had died down to about 15 knots from the NE, but the reports on the Atlantic were still calling for 7-10 foot swells. While we COULD have gone out, we didn’t HAVE to go out. So we crossed off a few more projects off the list and stowed everything for our Tuesday morning run. One surprising thing, from Friday till Monday we were the only boat anchored anywhere on Lynyard Cay, by sundown on Monday night we had 15 other boats in the anchorage. Sabrina remarked that at night all the anchor lights made it look like Annapolis! We found some other boats that were making the crossing to Eleuthera on Tuesday, a ketch named “The Edge,” and two catamarans named “Alesto” and “Exit Strategy.” On Monday I also took the time to rig the first ballyhoo of my life for our fishing trip to Eleuthera…(foreshadowing….)
Valentine’s Day – Last minute shopping for Sabrina
We left Lynyard Cay early on Tuesday headed for Eleuthera, we had 10-15 knot winds from the ESE on our port quarter, diminishing swells, and sailed the 60 nm in 11 hours, we made pretty good time since we had to stop for about an hour to pull in a massive mahi! At about 8:00 I had mahis tearing through the spread, they were jumping and silhouetting in the early sunlight and it was awesome. We had a few knockdowns and then one hooked up, I added tension and we had a line failure. The line must have been knicked or frayed somewhere during its use, and I was very disappointed.
Mid-afternoon we were overtaken by a group of flying fish fleeing from something, and a moment later we had a knockdown on one pole and a hook-up on the other. This guy was strong, we were sailing along at 6+ knots and I couldn’t stop him from streaming line with my mid-sized TLD-25 reel. He kept taking line and wrapped himself around the other line that I had out. We rushed to drop the genoa while I struggled against the fish with one hand, Sabrina winched the roller furling lines, and the autopilot steered. With our speed now down to 3 knots I stopped losing line but I couldn’t gain anything with the twist around the other pole’s line. We tried to free the lines and to my horror the chafing of the two lines cut the line that the mahi was on! Sabrina grabbed it while I dropped the now useless pole, the mahi line was tangled enough in the other line to allow us to gain some slack on the fish. Once we separated the two lines I put on a pair of leader gloves and started fighting the fish via the hand line, luckily he had already tired himself out. We pulled him to the boat, and through sheer determination hoisted him into the cockpit. This was probably not the best idea, he flopped everywhere but luckily couldn’t escape, I tried to bleed him with a knife and he slapped me in the head with his tail, (it was a fair fight.) So we poured some liquor down his gills and that quieted him down. I didn’t measure him, but he couldn’t lie flat behind the wheel, so that’s about a 3.5 to 4 foot fish! I filleted him in the cockpit, we cleaned the blood and I finished cleaning the fillets after we unfurled the genoa. I’m getting good at working with a sharp knife at a 15 degree heel! That night we anchored in Royal Island with our buddy boats and dined upon fresh mahi, it turned out to be a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
Wednesday 15th – A voice from the past
We awoke Wednesday morning after a great night’s sleep in the protection of Royal Island’s harbor. We pulled the dinghy off deck and dropped it into the water. The winds from Tuesday had died down considerably and clocked around to the SE and we wanted to check out the north side of Egg Island and Royal Island. On the north side of the islands it was almost dead calm and we found some very cool coral heads and outlying rocks with nice fish on them. We didn’t shoot anything because we had plenty of mahi in the freezer, but I did shoot a huge lionfish, not as big as the ones we saw at Krista’s presentation, but the biggest one I’ve shot by far.
We returned to Joint Venture and I made a tentative call on the radio to our friends Glen and Seray on Moonshadow. We knew they were headed north along Eleuthera, but I had no clue how close or when we might see them. I was very surprised when Glen answered me and his call came through very clear meaning he was close! He was headed for Current Island, I told him we were bored with Royal Island and we’d move down to anchor with them tonight. Bonus, we’d be dining on fresh mahi and a lionfish appetizer!
We made it to Current Island in about an hour of motoring in the light winds and it was great to spend a wonderful evening with Glen and Seray. We told them the places we liked in the Abacos and they told us of the places to go in Long Island and the Exumas. We dined on lionfish with crackers and fresh mahi tacos and I mixed up Painkillers for the special occasion. It was quite the evening and Sabrina and I were ecstatic that we got a chance to meet up with old friends.
Thursday 16th – Current Island, Spanish Wells
Sabrina and I walked the Current Island Settlement in the morning, it is a nice settlement with friendly people. It wouldn’t be a place I’d want to spend a week, but the nice sleepy town was a great place for a morning walk. After we returned to the boat, we hauled anchor and proceeded to sail dead downwind under wing and wing with Moonshadow to an exposed wreck off the southern tip of Egg Island. Along the way Bob and Judy on The Edge hailed us and I invited him to join us in our snorkeling adventure, they fell in line and the three of us proceeded to anchor near the wreck. The wreck was fantastic and for anyone snorkeling in Eleuthera it’s a ‘can’t miss’ destination. I’ll be writing a full post on the wreck so hopefully google searchers will find the information and more people will experience this dive site. We also picked up two more large lionfish in the deeper water around the wreck.
After we jumped back onboard, Moonshadow and Joint Venture sailed over to Spanish Wells for the night. Another dinner aboard, this time tandoori chicken, fresh naan, jasmine rice and Dark n’ Stormy’s celebrated another night with our friends. We picked up mooring balls in the Spanish Wells harbor and watched in amazement as the big ferry moved through this tight channel.
Friday 17th – Spanish Wells to Gregory Town
We walked Spanish Wells with Glen and Seray on Friday morning. It’s a nice town full of small working boats and big fishing boats. Spanish Wells supplies the majority of the lobster to the rest of the Bahamas, and it can be seen that tourism isn’t the number one enterprise in this town. For those wishing to buy seafood, this is not the place, lobster was $18/lb. We passed on lobster and took on diesel and water and wished Glen and Seray well on their sail to the Abacos. I’m sure we’ll see them again this summer on the Bay.
From Spanish Wells we motored in light winds through Current Cut and on to Gregory Town. Current Cut is not for the faint of heart, I had the boat in idle to try to slow our progress as we rocketed along at 8 knots. We followed the preferred route in the guidebook to take a sharp angle to the south once we cleared the main cut and now the current was on our beam washing us towards the sand and rocks nearby. While we made it through okay, I made a note on our chart to take the straight-away channel shown and disregard this curving channel. It would also be best to approach either just before high tide or just after high tide so the current is less. But we did have a great ride for awhile!
We went ashore in Gregory Town to find Elvina’s Restaurant and Laundromat which the guide book said had live music on Tuesday and Friday nights. Sadly we learned that Elvina passed away in the fall and the restaurant is closed. Other citizens are trying to reopen the restaurant, which was beloved by the residents, so other cruisers should check to see if it is open when they are passing through. Some residents directed us to a church fair that was benefitting new booths for the sanctuary of the Roman Catholic church in town. We headed over to find fabulous food, friendly people, and Bahamian music blaring through the PA system. It was hard to hear the prices over the music, and I double-checked when I heard that their conch fritters were 6 for $1! Dinners were $10, Sabrina ordered the “Fry Fish” and I ordered the ribs. The ribs were delicious, I could smell them being slow-cooked over the fresh coals that they were shoveling out of the large fire. Sabrina’s “Fry Fish” were two small fish, cleaned and lightly fried whole (i.e. bones, head, tail and all.) Sabrina said that they were good but I wouldn’t like them, so I took her word for it. J Dinners came with the usual Bahamian sides – peas and rice, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad – along with a couple of beers apiece, and two orders of conch fritters, our big night out in Gregory Town cost us $32! That’s the price of one dinner in Marsh Harbour!
Saturday 18th – Gregory Town to Hatchet Bay
Early in the morning we snorkeled some of the cliffs and large rocks found all along this stretch of Eleuthera. We spotted a couple lobster, but the one I was able to flush out was small and the other one went deeper into the rocks. This whole stretch looked like a lobster’s paradise, and I assume that was the case, the deep cracks and holes in the rock probably hid them out of our sight. We shot another lionfish and Sabrina cleaned this one by herself for her lunch.
Gregory Town is known as a surfer’s hangout and after snorkeling we went into town to photograph the sites and some of the local character. Several small boats were pulling in with hundreds of conch and cleaning them along the harbor walls. I think they see a lot of travelers via the Queen’s Highway which passes through town, but folks were a little surprised when we said we came in by boat. From Gregory Town we motored in light winds to the protected harbor of Hatchet Bay, nearby Alice Town’s motto is “Home of the Country’s Safest Harbor” and it’s easy to see why. The entrance was carved out of solid rock to the pond behind and is only 90 feet wide in the channel. Once inside it opens up to a well-protected harbor and the anchoring is reportedly tricky, but there are ten free (yes, free) mooring balls. We picked up the last mooring ball and I dinghied over to our neighbor to ensure that they were indeed free. Once we were secure we headed into explore Alice Town. It’s a friendly place and a bit bigger when compared to the quaint Gregory Town.
While in Alice Town we found the newly opened Twin Brother’s Seafood and Steakhouse. They said they had live music starting at 7 so we headed back to the boat for a bit and then dinghied back into town. The Twin Brother’s have had a daiquiri stand for a long time and the sign on the old stand says they were featured on NBC’s Top Chef and the New York Times. The restaurant just opened in December and one of the brother’s said they were still making changes to the layout of the bar and dining areas. We figured we needed to try a daiquiri, so Sabrina got mango and I got the “Miami Vice,” (a mixture of strawberry and pina colada,) and a dozen conch fritters. We can both say that these were the best daiquiris we’ve ever had. They come without alcohol, and I suggest you don’t get the rum added, it just detracted from my drink. The conch fritters were excellent and fried to perfection.
To anyone that wishes to dispute that Twin Brother’s has the best daiquiri in the world, I invite you to sail or fly to Eleuthera and see for yourself!
All in all, our two drinks, conch fritters, and live music cost us $17.25! I think we’re going to like getting away from the over-priced touristy locales.
And finally….. Today, Sunday the 19th
We’re riding out a mild frontal passage here in Hatchet Bay on our free mooring. Tomorrow morning we need to get an early start because there’s wind tomorrow but not much the rest of the week. We’re trying to make it to Rock Sound and maybe even farther depending on what the weather does. We’ve working on some small projects on the boat and then stowing for the trip.
Who knows, maybe we’ll end up back at Twin Brother’s for another daiquiri tonight?