Our plan for this season is to move to the Exumas via the Abacos and Eleuthera as quickly as the weather and circumstances allow. It’s simply warmer in the Exumas. Later in the spring as we head back north we’ll dawdle in Eleuthera and the Abacos, and we may also explore a bit farther afield in the interim.
Regular readers may remember that our first year in the Bahamas we checked in at Green Turtle and followed the same path, having a great time and sailing most of the way. Last year (our second year) we made the mistake of going to the Bahamas via Bimini, promptly got pinned down for a week due to weather, then had several days of lousy, crappy, constant motoring into headwinds until we finally landed at Staniel Cay in the Exumas.
This year we decided to switch back to year one’s route, and we can definitely say it’s the only way we’ll do it from now on. Since arriving at Green Turtle it has been almost nothing but sailing. The angle is simply better with the prevailing winds, and as an added bonus there are more places to stop along the way.
The only exception to our sailfest was the trip from Little Harbor to Royal Island on Eleuthera. That actually was fine with us, because the days were so short that we never would have made it before sunset without turning on the engine. We had a smooth, 55 nautical mile trip to Royal Island where we waited out some weather for several days. This was also where we discovered that we needed a new carburetor for our watermaker (the subject of a future blog post).
We enjoyed relaxing in Royal Island before moving on to a mooring at Spanish Wells. We had planned to save Spanish Wells for the spring, but we wanted to see if we could source a carburetor there (short answer: no). The anchorage didn’t offer much protection from the forecasted wind direction so we decided to cough up the $20/night for a mooring for two nights and enjoyed the conveniently short dinghy ride to the dinghy dock.
Moving on, we had a fantastic sail to Hatchet Bay which was a new stop for us. Hatchet Bay has an incredibly protected anchorage but spotty holding given the amount of grass on the bottom. Our first attempt at anchoring had us sliding steadily backwards when we backed down with the engine, but on our second try Jeff found a patch of sand with solid holding. Our typical practice is to back down at 75% of wide open throttle for 30 seconds (although for Tropical Storm Isiais we backed down for 60 seconds at 90% of wide open throttle). If we don’t move backwards, we know we’re set. It’s worked well so far.
Anyway, we had the option of motoring into headwinds to Rock Sound for an upcoming blow, or stay put at Hatchet Bay and then sail to Rock Sound. Guess which one we picked?
Hatchet Bay has a dinghy landing next to Farmington’s which is a restaurant and small store owned by Emmitt. One day we went to Twin Brothers for some conch fritters and drinks, and on the way back we stopped at Farmington’s to try to source our favorite Hill chocolate cookies at the small store. While we were there we were helped by a gentleman who was hard at work putting up drywall. He said that the restaurant was closed because they were expanding the bar. He had been working until 2:00 a.m. every night in an attempt to have it finished by Christmas Eve.
When we landed the dinghy on Christmas Eve to go check out the larger store, we met Emmitt himself who told us about the services he offers (including laundry and a rental car) and sang a line from a song he wrote about Eleuthera. He also mentioned the bar expansion and said the restaurant would be ready in a day or two. The guy we had spoken with a few days earlier was walking by, still covered in dry wall dust, and he heard what Emmitt said. He stopped, looking at Emmitt incredulously. “No! No!” he said. Emmitt looked at him. “What do you mean?” “It’s Christmas!” his hard working helper responded with wide eyes. Emmitt just scoffed. Jeff and I had a chuckle about it when we returned to the boat.
On Christmas night we heard music, so we went out into the cockpit to see where it was coming from. Emmitt’s restaurant was fully lit up, music playing. Looks like Emmitt won that debate!
The next day was the start of two fantastic days of sailing, first to Ten Bay and then to Rock Sound. We had wind from 8 knots to 20 knots mostly just behind the beam, and we were even able to set the whisker pole for a while. It was the first time we had used it with decent wind speeds and we were amazed at how quick and smooth the ride was. We will never again hesitate to head out with that wind direction thinking it will be rolly and slow. Bonus points for being able to go out in stronger winds since the wind direction is so far behind the beam!
I’ve said in the past that I would like to get used to sportier sails, and this was a perfect opportunity. On our way to Rock Sound the wind would gust up to twenty knots for a while, then back down to 12 of 13. Up to twenty knots, back down again. It was the perfect desensitization scenario for both of us, and with a reef tucked in, Pegu Club was zooming along without wanting to round up. By the time the anchor was down in Rock Sound we were both on a natural high, completely psyched about how fantastic the last two days had been.
Yep, this is shaping up to be a great season in the Bahamas!