Escape Eleuthera, enter the Exumas


January 28, 2013 by Last Star blog

26 January

Escape Eleuthera, enter Exumas.

So well over a month ago Patricia and I elected to change the boy’s airline reservations leaving the Bahamas from Governor’s Harbour in Eleuthera to Marsh Harbour in the Abacos.  Our “guide book” which we coined the “master’s guide to hyperbole” gave a very lukewarm indication of Eleuthera and we sensed that maybe miles and time spent here would not be the best for the boys, combining it with a hard schedule–always a bad idea in cruising and sailing.  We made the right decision.

Yesterday we left Rock Sound and did a short hop to Powell Point and had reservations at the Cape Eleuthera Marina.  It was an amazing marina built for deep sea fishing crews.  Problem was there was NO ONE there, no one.  The hotel/condos were closed, two sport fisherman boats bracketing our assigned slip were still marred with Hurricane Sandy damage.  There were two other large yachts there but both were unoccupied (owners back in states after holidays?).  We anchored in front of the marina in the lee of the island in order to check out the facility with the dinghy before going through the docking dance and seeing if we wanted to spend the $90 dollars to spend the night on our boat in their slip.  The restaurant was closed, bar closed, hotel closed.  EVERYTHING closed.  The marina office was open and ‘Chanel’ was there to greet us and tell us the wifi was down so I politely asked her “why would I stay here?” to which she replied “yes, why would you?” and that is Eleuthera.  We saw some cool things during our trip.  Alice Town was run down but Francis and his wife are trying to make something good at the “Front Porch”.  Governor’s Harbour (the capital of Eleuthera) provided the dolphin show and a good anchorage in light conditions.  Rock Sound had an amazing market deep deep south into the island but Pascals, the only bar/restaurant on the water, had no patrons and a staff that was more interested in browsing the web than answering questions.  The people there were nice as usual.  Vernal told me all about the tomato and split pea cannery that was finally being torn down after being closed for 60 years.  Clement Russel took a great interest in my CrossFit workout and for a fellow that was 62 years old looked pretty dang fit in his own right; must be hauling crab pots.  We’ll post some shots of Eleuthera but they will never be in the tourist brochure.

This morning after a near sleepless night anchored  in the lee of the island we were the victims of the “surge” that can surround these islands from the mighty Atlantic.  We were at most 100 yards off shore, the wind was directly from the East and we were good regarding the 7-10 knot breeze but the ocean had a different idea.  There was a small swell that was coming at 90 degrees from the wind and man did we rock all night.  And the ocean likes to move these swells in a sets so we would go 3-4 minutes with nothing and then BANG!!  Rock and roll baby!  We finally got up at 7:00 (well, Hank was up way before then but a good dose of wine and earplugs..and I was sleeping to ‘rock a bye baby’..snuck in by P) and decided to get across the short 25 nautical miles to the Exumas from Powell Point.   We had to remove the engine from the dinghy, get it aboard in the rocking–challenge!! Get the dinghy stowed and tightened down.  You see we would have the wind at our backs all morning and the arrival at Hawthorne cut would be a challenge as I anticipated large waves pushing us at the other end.  We finally got everything sorted by 0900 and got the anchor up and the boat headed west.  I figured the head sail would be fine for the crossing and getting it stowed would be a might easier than getting the Main stowed into the mess I anticipated at the other side.  So if you looked at the chart you’d see that at Powell Point the ocean goes from 30 feet deep at about 1/4 mile off shore to 3000+ feet at about 5 miles off shore!!  It is a cliff.  I anticipated fish just off shore and was not disappointed.  I had the rod in the water for about 3 minutes and we had a hit.  A big hit!!  Not a Spanish Mackerel.  Now with the sail up you cannot control the speed like you can with the engine so we are pulling this fish along at about 6 knots, he’s trying not to die and I am trying to bring him aboard.  He had about 250 yards of my line and I was getting it back in fits and spurts.  It was a good fight and at least I was having a good time.  Now bear in mind that my boat is being tossed by the following sea, I have an arch back there with a dinghy, solar panels, flag (ensign for my Navy friends), antennae and any number of things in the way.  Bringing in a fish is NOT easy as they like to switch sides.  So after about 20 minutes he is spent, I am patient and seeing him occasionally at the surface as he is losing this battle.  Yippie skippie I see a Dolphin (not bottle nose–that’s a mammal)  sometimes called a Mahi-Mahi and they are great eating.  He’s a good size and this will be wrapped up in about 5 more minutes.  And then poof!  He’s gone!  WTF?  Just gone.  I don’t think he tossed the hook, when trolling at 6-7 knots when they hit they set the hook; I think something in his mouth failed or tore and the hook came out.  DAMN!  It was a fair amount of work and nothing.  Shoot.  OK, fast forward 3 hours and we are trying to negotiate the mess that is the arrival at the other end.  Narrow channel that goes from 3K to 30 feet in about 2 miles (steeper cliff).  A total washing machine.  Sail stowed, engine at 2400 rpm and boat speed is all over the place as white water is running under the keel and I’m trying to keep it straight.   BAM!! hard hit on the line.  Rod is bent in half and line is running out of it at a good clip.  I give Patricia the wheel, the boat is like a bucking bronco and I’m dancing on the back deck trying to get the rod out of its holder.  I adjust the drag to stop the hemorrhaging that is the line running out of the reel.  I finally get the rod out of the holder-took two hands; game on!!  Line is still going in the wrong direction.  I get seated finally, and after about two minutes it’s over.  I bring in the line and find nothing at the end.  Whatever it was decided he was going in a different direction and the 40 lb test was not a factor.  Oh-fer two today on fish.  Lost the weights, the lure, everything, not my knot that failed this time, just too much fish.  Truth is I probably can’t get anything greater than 35 lbs aboard; my boat is not a fishing boat.

We put the rod away and worked our way to an anchorage out of the way of the surge and settled in about 1:30 to a nice lunch.  Stayed clear of the surge and are looking forward a calmer night.  The Exumas have amazing water, we only got glimpses of it today with the cloud cover.  We’ll have photos for you soonest.   Sadly as we get further south to the “out islands” the weefee is getting harder to come by.


2 thoughts on “Escape Eleuthera, enter the Exumas

  1. Katie says:

    As a former boater who came to Eleuthera only out of love for the island, and now as a winter/spring six month resident of Governor’s Harbour, I feel compelled to speak up for our beloved island. Eleuthera is not a boater’s paradise; most boaters skip it entirely and head further south to the Exumas or further north to the Abacos. There are few boating services here, with the notable exception of Spanish Wells to the north, a tiny island but a boating mecca. What Eleuthera does offer is intangible, but magical if you can catch her rhythm and spirit. Fantastic uncrowded beaches and genuine friendly people contribute to the enchantment, but the sum is more than its parts. There’s a phrase you can find on t-shirts (although certainly not in tourism brochures): “Eleuthera–It’s Not for Everyone”. If it is for you, you know it…and otherwise you move on. I wish you great boating experiences elsewhere in the Bahamas but please plan on coming back to Eleuthera if you ever pack in your sail.

    • Katie,
      thanks for stopping by. There were parts of Eleuthera we did enjoy and as you state it is not for everyone. I don’t regret our trip south down its western shore but as you state it has its own rhythm. Maybe after the Abacos during the holiday season it left us wanting.

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