Sunday 12 Jan, BHS day 13: Bum-twitching return to Spanish Wells and visit the lovely town.
Today we leave Dunmore Town anchorage and Harbour Island, at long last. Been here too long! High tide is at 9am so alarm goes at 7am. The wind is still around 20kts. Less than yesterday but it makes us nervous that we will be attempting the Devil’s Backbone Passage with a strong following wind and a high sea state. Very nervous in fact. But the next few days are no better forecast so we gotta go!
We set off at 8:30 and while transiting across the bay I practice sticking EXACTLY to the outbound track we saved on the iPad. It may sound weird, but I’m so used to steering using the autohelm that I actually find it easier to just punch the “+” and “-“ buttons to steer the boat rather than holding the wheel myself. And I find I can stay within 20-30ft of our incoming track.
As we go out the bay over the shallowest section we see 2.9m depth (on a 1m tide). It’s very clear we could only do this at high tide.
As the nasty shoreline section comes into view, where we almost have to be on the beach to squeeze inside the reef, we are horrified to see huge waves crashing on the shore sending plumes of spray into the air. Immediately, I’m pretty certain we’ll have to turn back. But on the chart there is a small area before that reef where I should just be able to do a u-turn if needed, so we carry on.
As we get near, it doesn’t look as bad as it did from a distance, so we continue into the notorious Devil’s part of the passage. It’s very unnerving being so close to the beach on the left and seeing waves breaking over the reef to our right, just a boat length away! As we get to the narrowest part we only have 1m below the keel.
Just when we feel we are through, I hear breaking water behind. All of a sudden a set of huge waves are coming into shore (beam-on) just behind us, each one strongly breaking, some with a barrel! It’s like a perfect surfers scene and if we’d been 1 minute later we would have been right in the middle of it, and possibly rolled! These are the sort of waves (swell coming in) that we must have observed from a distance. It leaves our hearts pounding as we safely exit the passage into open and deeper water. Phew, what a relief! The gods were surely with us. And I wonder just how many “lives” we’ve used up in the last few weeks! Maybe time to throttle back on taking such chances.
As we turn the corner into Spanish Wells (George Island) the sheltered water calms down, as does our pulse. Gladly we see there is no one on the mooring (the only one available for our size) and Oana having again skillfully plucked it out of the water, we are soon nicely secured. In the movies, this would be the time to hit the drinks cupboard for a shot! But we settle for coffee and a bit of blog writing!
We decide not to go ashore to explore Spanish Wells till later in the afternoon when the heat of the day has passed. Oana’s cough is a bit better but she is still quite delicate.
A quick job in that time is to clean the bottom of the dinghy tubes. They got covered in black oily soot in Atlantis dinghy dock when in Nassau. Boat wash doesn’t touch it but the PVC cleaner from Starbright is brilliant. After some hard work and a little gymnastics from the swim platform it finally looks like new again. No more dirty harbours please!
At 3pm we venture ashore, leaving the dinghy in the marina. The marina itself is very neat and tidy and has a nice swimming pool too. We decide we’ll come back for happy hour after our stroll through the small town.
Almost as soon as we are in the little streets we realise there is something different about Spanish Wells. It’s clearly not wealthy but each and every house is extremely neat and tidy, most with nicely kept gardens and lawns. Some are painted in pastel colours which contrast the bougainvillea flowers. And it’s all so very quiet and peaceful. Barely a person about, zero traffic and no sound of music. Is this really a Caribbean island? What a pleasant change from the usual rubbish, wrecked cars, blaring music etc. But then this island is 95% white and clearly they have great pride in their environment.
We walk through to the north side of Spanish Wells and onto the beach. It’s not as picture-perfect as Dunmore’s but nonetheless very nice. Shallow water extends out to a long sandbar that a few people are walking along. Lots of small unpretentious holiday houses line the back of the beach. It’s all very low key compared to Dunmore but very pleasant.
Back at the eastern tip of town, where Cloudy is still happily secure on her mooring, we return to the marina via the fishing area. Clearly quite an industry, but again all very neat and tidy. There are a few shops here and there but all closed on Sunday.
Back at the marina, the sun is setting and happy hour has started. $5 for a cocktail. Now that’s more like it! A third of the prices in Dunmore Town. To start with, we are on our own but very soon several locals arrive to enjoy a Sunday sunset drink. Our cocktail turns into 3 (each!) plus dinner while we enjoy chatting to those around us.
The real Spanish Wells locals have a very distinctive accent, which is hard to understand when they talk to each other. Some say there was significant in-breeding here, but who are we to comment on that! Whatever the population source is, undeniable they are all extremely friendly and with good sense of humor. Really reminds me of Newfoundland people.
Several at the bar are from Abacos where hurricane Dorian hit last season with devastating consequences. The official death toll was 60, but these people are saying more like over 1,000! Many being the illegal Haitian community at Marsh Harbour who apparently couldn’t be counted. They become quite emotional as they talk to us about their experiences and how they lost everything, poor them.
By 8:30pm the bar has again emptied so we return to Cloudy Bay. It’s a lovely romantic moonlit dinghy ride and a bloody wonderful end to the day 🙂