We had a smooth passage north towards the Abacos and our first stop was at Spanish Wells in northern Eleuthera. The winds were west so we tucked on the east side of Meeks patch and the next day as the winds went North we anchored just south of Russell Island. From here it was an easy dingy ride into Spanish Wells.
Spanish Wells is a very unique island. It is almost all white and very prosperous. It is also dry so no alcohol is sold or served in restaurants. The main industry is fishing and the major catch is crayfish or Bahamian Lobster. Spanish Wells supplies over half of the lobsters for all of the Bahamas and the fisherman make a very good living. We saw several of the mother boats returning to harbor with their catch. They towed the small boats used by divers hunting for lobster and conch. Most mother ships had at least 3 and sometimes as many as 6 of the small boats.
We went in and filled a propane gas tank, did some food shopping and had a nice lunch. Kim suffered without her normal Kalik beer but somehow survived. These kids were jumping of the bridge and agreed to perform for us. We bought some grouper directly from a fisherman but the lobster prices were too dear for us.
After a quiet night we made the 10 hour passage to the Abacos and anchored just inside Lynyard Cay where we found a calm spot to drop the hook in about 8ft over white sand. The next day we took a 2 mile dingy ride into Little Harbor.
Our guidebooks say Little Harbor "comes close to anyone's dream of a Bahamian hideaway". It is a much protected bay with a mixed shoreline of high rock cliffs and caves, a smattering of cottages, and a sandy beach.
We were enticed ashore by the aromas wafting from Pete's pub. The pub has a roof, but no walls or floor, a small bar area and large eating area with heavy wood tables and benches that sit on the sand. You could wiggle your toes in the warm sand floor and read the signed tee shirts hanging from the ceiling. The pub served burgers, conch and a variety of fresh caught fish...grouper, snapper, wahoo, and Kim had trigger fish...excellent. After lunch at the pub we wandered to the Gallery where bronze works were displayed and for sale.
This is the Gallery, Studio and Forge of the late Randolph Johnstone, well known artist of bronze sculptures. His sculptures became famous and ultimately lucrative. One of his large works, titled "St. Peter: Fisher of Men," rests in the Vatican's museum in Rome. It is now his son Pete Johnston, himself an acclaimed bronze & wood sculptor, who operates the facility.
There were some pieces done by the late Randolph Johnstone but most of the pieces were done by his son Pete (hence 'Pete's Pub'). Emily bought a nice leather belt with a cast turtle buckle. Further along the path we came to the Studio and Foundry, where the bronzes are cast. We were unable to see the casting process, which is done only a few times during the summer season.
We met a nice couple cruising on Mud Puddle Rose, a Grand Banks, and we went north with them for a snorkel on Sandy Cay. The snorkeling was good but the swell made it a little rolly. After the snorkel both boats moved north just outside Hopetown for calmer waters where Joe and Susan joined us on Emily Grace for dinner with Kim’s nasi goreng. Joe was full of cruising tips for the few remaining cays to my northwest and it was a nice evening. They brought their poodle Bocci and Emily enjoyed playing with her.
Next we motored north to Hopetown. Hope Town was settled by British Loyalists who were seeking safe refuge after the American Revolution. Many of the settlers came from the Carolinas, by way of East Florida, after that area was turned over to Spain in the Peace of Paris (1783). The same treaty called for the evacuation of New York by the loyalists. Many people moved back to England, Canada, or south to the British Caribbean. The initial settlements were at Carleton (near the current Treasure Cay) and Marsh Harbour. By 1785, there were over 1,000 refugees in Abaco who were distributed in five or six settlements. The settlement at Hope Town was founded in 1785, in part, by a widow from South Carolina named Wyannie Malone. Wyannie, along with her children, started a dynasty in Hope Town that spread the Malone name throughout the Bahamas, over to Florida, and outwards from there.
Every magazine picture of the Bahamas includes a photograph of one very historic lighthouse. After making our arrival at Hope Town Marina, we proceeded to the end of the island to the lighthouse steps. After a short walk to the entrance to the lighthouse, you enter, and then work your way up six levels to the top. You get great views of the Abacos in almost every direction.
This lighthouse is the only kerosene fueled lighthouse remaining in the Bahamas. There once were three, but technology and cost of ownership, has seen two of the remaining three converted. This lighthouse has been added to the UNESCO trust.
The candy striped tower rises 124 steps above the mound upon which it stands. The mechanism that rotates the light is a clockwork mechanism that is powered by a huge weight and must be rewound every two hours. The 8000 pound burner and its Fresnel lens rotate on a pool of mercury that reduces friction. A light push of the hand is enough to turn it. Construction of the lighthouse was opposed by inhabitants of Hope Town who made their living salvaging valuable cargo from ships that wrecked in the shallow waters. In one incident, salvers rescued the cargo of a ship en route to Cuba—slaves. They took the human cargo to Nassau where they were set free.
It is a picturesque little town with small, colorful houses, lots of flowers and narrow streets and lanes. There is only one real street that forks into two branches for a short distance. That street is navigable by small cars and trucks but the most common form of transportation is the golf cart. The lanes are so narrow that they are accessible only to pedestrians and bicycles.
We were walking along looking at the pastel painted houses when we came across a small tree being devoured by about a dozen of these enormous colorful caterpillars. We looked them up when we got back and found that they become a large but very dull looking moth.
Pseudosphinx tetrio is a species of moth in the family Sphingidae. Its common names include tetrio sphinx, giant gray sphinx, frangipani hornworm, and plumeria caterpillar. It is native to the tropical and subtropical Americas from the southern and southwestern United States to Brazil. The occasional individual has been recorded as far north as the northeastern United States so we must be getting close to home.
After Hopetown, we anchored in Marsh Harbor which is a good size town with a US style grocery store. We got a few provisions to hold us until we reach Florida. After the winds clocked around east again, we visited Great Guana Cay. We first anchored in Bakers bay that was created by a cruise ship company. They dredged out a deep water bay and actually created an island with the dredged sand. The cruise ship company has long abandoned this harbor but the island was great for collecting shells. After 2 days we moved just outside Settlement harbor for lunch at Nippers Bar.
Next stop was Green Turtle Cay and we anchored outside the harbor for the first night. Tom took the dingy into Black Sound with the depth sounder and made sure Emily Grace would not run aground going in the narrow, shallow channel. The next morning at high tide we entered without any drama with 8 inches under the keel…plenty of depth! Inside we found deeper water and grabbed a mooring ball at $15 per night at Donny’s Dock.
Originally settled in 1783 by the "Loyalists" escaping the revolutionary war, Green Turtle Cay is one of the most historical of the out islands. New Plymouth, Green Turtle’s main settlement with its brightly painted clapboard and gingerbread adorned houses and narrow picket fence lined streets is reminiscent of a quaint New England town.
The town offers several historical sites including its 200 year old cemetery, the Cays original jail (now painted pink) a model schooner museum, Albert Lowe Museum, a Sculpture Garden with bronze busts of famous Bahamian historical figures along with many historical homes.
We rented a golf cart for two days and Emily really enjoyed driving around. The Captain took over in the narrow concrete streets of New Plymouth but Emily did pretty good elsewhere.
We enjoyed lunches ashore and bought some local coconut bread warm from the oven. We are now officially famous since we were recognized by some strangers who have been reading our blog. They nervously approached us at a restaurant and asked if we were that famous circumnavigator family. News quickly spread around the dock and soon other cruisers were coming by to ask about favorite places, best equipment to have on a cruising boat, how much it all cost, etc. The captain handed out wisdom and stories while Emily folded and handed out origami birds and dragons. It was all pretty cool and yes, we now all have swelled heads.
After Green Turtle Cay we moved to an uninhabited island called Powell Cay. It was recommended by Aries II as a nice place to relax in front of a white sand beach. It was just that and Kim and Emily snorkeled and collected more shells there. We stayed 2 days until the winds shifted and drove us into the protected shores of Coopers Town. There we walked the small working town and found a restaurant to serve us cracked conch fritters.
We stopped once more at Crab Cay to collect the weather while we were within range of the cell towers. Since we now have a good forecast we will head off tomorrow. Tomorrows’ run will be a 7 hour run to Great Sale Cay and will take us out of cell phone/internet range . This is other uninhabited island with a white sand beach. We will spend the night there and leave Wednesday morning for the 160 mile passage across the Gulf Stream and into Cape Canaveral. The key here is to avoid any north winds that would oppose the swift north flowing current and build big waves. With any luck our last tricky passage will go well.
Stay tuned Dear reader to see how we did.