Sunday, April 30, 2017

Exploring Eleuthera

Whew, it's only been 5 days since I last posted but we've done so much. I'll try to keep this to a reasonable length.

On Wednesday we showed up at the car rental place in Rock Sound at 7:45 and were presented with a 5-seat Toyota Raum. Nope, I hadn't heard of it either. This one was a right-seat-drive model imported from Japan...everything was in Japanese and every time we started the car we got a strident lecture in Japanese from the entertainment system! It was a cruiser's special at $65 for the day. Yup, that's what passes for cheap car rental in the out islands. Nevertheless it was a great way to explore Eleuthera. We started by driving to our northernmost visiting point, the Glass Window Bridge, which took about two hours. The Glass Window is the narrowest point on Eleuthera, only 30 feet across. I suppose in a few thousand years erosion will split the island into two. But for now it's a cool view from the Atlantic to the Bight of Eleuthera and vice versa. After that we went a mile south to the Queens Baths, which are several natural seaside pools that are refilled every high tide. When it's sunny out they are naturally warmed, but it wasn't sunny. In fact it was rather stormy, and we spied two waterspouts out on the Atlantic! We ignored them and enjoyed the dramatic view from the chilly baths.

Next we had lunch at Daddy Joe's bar & grill north of Gregory Town, then drove down to Hatchet Bay and Governor's Harbour. Hatchet Bay was originally our next cruising destination, but visiting by land we were struck by how run down the area was with rather few amenities for cruisers. Governor's Harbour, on the other hand, is a rather attractive seaside town with a beautiful bay. That bay is known to have poor holding but we've gained a lot of confidence in Windbird's 66-lb Spade, and it was settled easterly weather. So we changed our Thursday destination to Governor's Harbour. Next we checked out Ten Bay Beach near Palmetto Point, then bushwhacked a bit to find the alleged pink sand beach at Blue Window south of Rock Sound. I say alleged because I didn't think any of Eleuthera's beaches were all that pink, including the most famous of them all, Pink Sands at Harbour Island (which we visited with our plane two years ago).

We returned from our long day of driving to find that Piper had developed a split paw and bled all over the boat. We were having Totem's crew (minus Behan) over for dinner so Judy and I quickly stripped the covers off the cockpit cushions, scrubbed them, and set them to soak overnight in Oxy-Magic. Totem arrived shortly after 6:30 and we talked for a while in Windbird's cockpit before repairing to the salon. Totem's crew consists of former sailmaker Jaime, Behan (who flew to Annapolis early Wednesday to present a seminar at the boat show), and 17-year old Niall, 14-year old Mairen, and 12-year-old Siobhan. They're finishing up a 10-year circumnavigation in the next year; Dawn and I have sporadically followed their blog for a while now, so it was pretty neat to meet up. And they clearly enjoyed comparing notes with Judy. It turns out that Judy's blog was a frequent source of inspiration and advice for Behan as they were preparing for their own big trip. Pretty cool - Good Goes 'Round, as they say. The kids really enjoyed Dawn's Taco Pie - Niall quickly called dibs on seconds! - and afterwards the girls had fun building car houses on our salon table as Niall and I talked Papau New Guinea WW2 history.

Piper's split paw merits more mention. We think it's due to dryness caused by saltwater exposure without enough fresh-water rinses. The first few days we dressed it and wrapped it in an Ace bandage, but then the dressing seemed to cause more irritation so we've been removing it during the night and trying to keep him off his feet during the day. Easier said than done, I know. He loves exploring ashore, would prefer to run on beaches several times a day, and does frequent circuits of the deck while roaming all 42' of the boat. The paw seems to be healing more now so hopefully he'll be back to his beachside romps in no time.

Wednesday night brought several thunderstorms and Thursday morning dawned rather grey and squally. Chris Parker's SSB forecast confirmed the storms would hang around until midday, so we decided to delay our departure to Governor's Harbour and take care of a few chores in the meantime. The girls took our laundry as well as the cockpit cushion covers to the laundromat. I'm happy to report that the cushion covers are perfectly clean, though we've decided not to put them back on until Piper's paw is completely rehealed. Around noon we finally picked up the anchor and left the anchorage. It was a bit of a mixed bag sail with everything from light winds behind us to gusty wind foreward of the beam. At one point we went to set the spinnaker pole and the mast car broke...bummer! That left us with no way to deploy the spinnaker pole so we lashed it to the starboard toerail. And then once we unfurled the assymetrical spinnaker conditions faded too light to carry it...and then abruptly gusted to 17 knots while the wind backed 60 degrees! We fell off to the northwest at 7 knots and finally decided to douse the spinnaker to avoid some sandbars that were quickly looming, then set up for the close haul the rest of the way to Governor's Harbour.

Jaime from Totem told me that the holding in Governor's Harbour wasn't as bad as advertised, and he was correct. We dropped the anchor directly on a "poor holding" notation on our chartplotter - but in fact it was a small sandy patch that gave us great holding. Go figure. We arrived into town late enough that we didn't do much other than bring Piper into town for a walk, which only gave us a re-bloodied paw.  Poor guy. We planned for the following day's sail to Abaco and retired a little early. I was sad that we'd be missing the Friday night fish fry that was advertised on channel 16 right after we dropped anchor, but was eager to get up to Abaco to stage for the crossing back to the U.S. east coast.

In the next post, I'll talk about our rambunctious sail to Abaco and our explorations here.

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