Saturday 4 Jan, BHS day 5: Change of plans! Sailing to Spanish Wells in the Eleuthera islands.
Oana had a feverish night but but her temperature is almost back to normal this morning. She is feeling very weak with that horrible flu feeling. Not a good day to spend in Sandals Resort as we had planned, so our visit there will have to be postponed. I want her to take it easy for the day, but she suggests we head to Spanish Wells as the wind is good and we wouldn’t waste a day sitting in the choppy Nassau harbour. A young Australian couple on the boat next to us had mentioned how nice Eleuthera is and it got our attention. Unusually, the wind is from the south today, so perfect to make the NE ~40nm passage there.
But first, we decide to head to the supermarket to get fresh fruit and veg and also to buy us a Bahamian SIM card. We heard it’s about $60 for 18GB. Given Oana’s condition we take a local bus for $1.25pp to the Bay View shopping center. The SIM is quickly purchased and installed. But it takes some time to make the hotspot work and we finally leave armed with a months’ worth of internet. Excellent.
Next stop is Fresh Market, a very nice supermarket with all things American, but prices at least 50% more than USA. For instance $5 for a cucumber, $11 for a lettuce or $3.5 for an avocado! So we just get the essentials. And even that “we bought nothing much” sets us back $120.
For our return journey to the dinghy (yes, journey) we take local advice on which bus number to take, but forget that what Caribbean locals tell you can be very open to interpretation. Bottom line is we end up on the recommended bus, but it’s heading the wrong way out of town! After 30 minutes (our dinghy was only 5 mins bus ride from the supermarket, an a one way street towards the supermarket) we ask what’s going on. They explain that eventually the bus will indeed get to the part of town we need to get to. And they are right, but it’s a full hour when we get off the bus having seen most of rural Nassau on the way. Well, at least we won’t have to hire a car to see where the locals live! But it also means we are late back to Cloudy Bay and now out of time to make it to Spanish Wells in daylight.
Over a cup of tea I’m resigned to the fact we have missed the weather window to see Spanish Wells and will now spend another 2-3 days at anchor in Nassau 🙁 But then Oana says, “if the wind’s right, lets go … we’ve anchored in the dark before”. Decision made! Literally as fast as I can get the instruments turned on we are pulling the anchor and zipping out of the harbour. See how our planning and decision making goes?! It’s no wonder we can never tell anyone where we will be on a given day … not even the same day!
It’s already 2:30pm as we exit the harbour passed the 5 ginormous cruise liners, and 35 miles to run to our destination. No chance of a daylight arrival unless we motor hard at 8kts. At first, this is exactly what we do, because the wind is only 7kts dead astern. But after 1 hour the wind swings onto our starboard quarter and pipes up to a nice 12kts. Engine is off and we are gently sailing at 6.5kts with the sun going down behind us. Oh, this is so so so much better than sitting in Nassau harbour being rocked by boat wash.
We end up having a wonderfully peaceful sail onto the early evening. The sun sets behind us producing a crimson sky through till dusk. Hard to believe there will be a big weather change in just 6 hours time.
After sunset the wind increases, up to 17 kts, and we are now doing 7.5kts downwind. As it is dark, I had planned on simply anchoring on the inside of Egg Island, but now that the wind is up all my planned quick and easy anchorages are in very choppy sea. When the wind turns to the north in 6 hours all these anchorages will be safe and quiet but not right now.
So we decide to head into Royal Island Harbour, a fully enclosed well protected bay in the middle of Royal island. The problems are: a) it’s dead low tide meaning 8ft maximum (we draw 8ft!) b) the entrance is only 40ft wide c) it’s a following wind and waves pushing us in d) it’s dark and e) we’ve never been here before. Not really a wise maneuver, eh? But we do it anyway!
I can see about 6-7 anchor lights already in the harbour and what looks like a nice gap exactly where I want to go. We approach with both caution and extreme nerves. I don’t look outside, my eyes are glued to the plotter. As we enter, I can hear waves smashing on rocks and when I glance up the rocks are only about 20ft abeam of us (maybe it’s a good job it’s dark!). We sneak in and lowest depth we see is exactly our draft (2.5m) then the depth thankfully deepens again to 3.6 once inside. Phew, phew and double phew!
And, of all the luck, there is actually a gap in the anchored boats exactly where I judged it would be. Very soon we are anchored in 3.6m completing the line of yachts. Once settled, we can see why this gap was left. The choppy sea is coming through the entrance right onto our position, but nothing like what it would have been anchored outside. And once the wind swings north the whole harbour will be quiet.
We finally get settled at 8pm. It’s been a long afternoon. And possibly will be a long night. I’ll have to do some anchor watch when the wind swings and rises in the night.