Sunday, February 13, 2011

Detour to Eleuthera, Bahamas

Saturday, February 5 - Sunday, February 13, 2011

Welcome to the lovely island of Eleuthera! Eleuthera is the third largest island in the Bahamas, and is only 30 miles away from Nassau and the Exumas at its closest point. Most cruisers only see Eleuthera if they pass through while traveling from the Abacos to the Exumas; we decided to join Genesis for a few days away from the relative isolation of the Exumas…and, of course, for shopping!

We arrived in Rock Sound at the southern end of the island after an easy 45-mile motor-sail from Warderick Wells. You can anchor right off of the main dock, and can dinghy in for a short walk to groceries, a liquor store, restaurants, laundry, hardware, etc. Rock Sound is a relatively sleepy town, especially on Sundays when, as it turns out, everything is closed. Oops! We were directed to Sammy’s Place, pretty much the only place in town that was open for lunch on Sunday. They served a great cheeseburger, and their prices were better than anything we’d seen in the Exumas. Sammy’s also had fliers advertising a Super Bowl party a local club; it sounded great in theory, but an after-dark dinghy ride and a walk to the club proved to be more than we could manage. Instead, we opted for dinner for four aboard Pipe, and got the final score from a local three days later. Aren’t we a bunch of party animals?

Tuesday we rented a car so we could explore the rest of the island. (When you cruise at an average of 5-6mph, a 100-plus mile long island can be a bit daunting!) A brief stop at Eleuthera's "Glass Window" bridge presented us with a view of the shallow, turquoise waters of Exuma Sound to the west of the road, and the deep blue of the Atlantic to the east. Our two-hour drive to the island’s north ferry dock was followed by a 10-minute water taxi (400HP, thank you) to Dunmore Town on Harbour Island. We rented a golf cart to explore the picturesque island, with its colorful historic buildings and “pink sand” beaches. Lunch was from a take-away shack on the waterfront, and we found a magnificent beach lined with posh resorts on the Atlantic side. FYI…a few of the Atlantic beaches on Eleuthera really do have a light pink hue thanks to the coral and shells that make up the sand. It really was gorgeous, and we could see why Harbour Island is known as a world-class resort destination.

Wednesday we went shopping in Governor’s Harbour, known as the first capital of the Bahamas. While many locals feel that Rock Sound offers the best grocery store on the island, Governor’s Harbour is the place to be if you want freshly-baked breads, pastries, and Bahamian empanadas, or a great (and affordable) wine selection at the local Bristol’s Wine & Spirits. And have we mentioned how friendly the people are here? Susan was asking someone for directions to a local restaurant we’d read about, and it turned out he (Michael) owned a resort/restaurant five miles up the road. Cocodimama is a charming resort on Alabaster Bay, just north of Governor’s Harbour. The original owners, a Sicilian couple, opened the resort in 2000; Michael’s family bought the place and re-opened in 2009, and have been running it ever since. The main building has a “Mediterranean oasis” feel to it, while the three cottages (with four guest rooms in each) are painted in lively Caribbean colors. We enjoyed lunch on the outside patio overlooking the bay, and the food was spectacular. The chef is Michelin-rated and comes from Milan, and all of the base ingredients are imported from Italy. There were some unusual takes on Bahamian staples (grouper and tuna, for instance), and some dishes were just plain Old World style…like the platter of Italian meats and cheeses that we shared. We absolutely loved our afternoon at Cocodimama, and wish Michael and his family continued success. They certainly deserve it!

After lunch we drove down the street to an abandoned US Navy base. The property now belongs to Cocodimama, and is as yet undeveloped. The barracks still exist, and you have to weave through some overgrown pathways to reach another gorgeous pink sand beach. We now have some on the boat to show our guests…hopefully it’ll even dry out by the time they get here! From there, we made a few stops along the way home. Stacy was on the hunt for cilantro to make Rick’s Sojourner salsa (no luck), and Rene tried six different hardware/plumbing shops looking for a replacement part for the water-maker. (You’d think you could find a 3/8” pipe fitting somewhere on the island – you’d be wrong.) We had quite the productive day and made it back to the boat by sunset. LA and Susan loaned us their baggie of spare plumbing parts and donated a jerry can of water in case we couldn’t get the water maker up and running. Rene managed to rig a couple of pieces together well enough to make 30 gallons, and we’ll ask Skip and Betsy to bring us the replacement parts later this month.

Thursday was a big day for us – the supply boat arrived! That’s one thing you need to remember if you’re ever cruising in the islands. If you want anything beyond onions, potatoes, and maybe even green peppers and tomatoes if you’re lucky, you have to get to the store right after the supply boat arrives to get the best selection. The people at the grocery store told us that the dry goods boat would come on Tuesday, and the cold boat (produce, dairy, meat, etc.) would arrive on Thursday. Woo hoo! Right on schedule, the Tuesday boat was at the dock when we woke up; we got a little concerned when Thursday morning came around and none of us had seen or heard it arrive overnight or that morning. By 3pm, we began to wonder if something had gone wrong. We finally decided to go ashore and check it out; after a dinghy run to the Four Points Marina dinghy dock, we wandered down the road to the store. What a difference a day makes! The produce aisle was filled with avocados, mangos, plantains, fresh spinach, asparagus, seedless cucumbers, snow peas, parsley…everything except cilantro! Hey, we’re not complaining. We can always use the dried stuff. (Sorry, Rick!)

We have another blow coming through Saturday night…20-22 knot winds from the north, which means we’ll stay hunkered down here in Rock Sound for a few extra days. We have a long list of boat projects to work on (repairing the cockpit enclosure, changing the gen-set oil, varnishing the companionway stairs, etc.), so no worries about staying busy. Susan and LA are going to explore a few anchorages north of here, so we’ll be on our own for a couple of weeks before Skip and Betsy arrive. It’ll be strange not seeing Genesis off our beam…fortunately we’ll see them again soon in Staniel Cay.

Other than that, we hope Stacy's Aunt Sue and Uncle Don have a fabulous 23rd anniversary, and that the rest of you enjoy a romantic Valentine's Day. Weather permitting, we'll be sailing back to Bell Island on V-Day, and will meet up with Storyville and Anchor Management in Black Point later this week. Til next time...

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