Monday, May 2, 2011

Salt Pond, Long Island, Exumas, Bahamas

Saturday, April 2 – Sunday, April 10, 2011

How does that old song go? “Sailing, sailing…over the bounding main…” Okay, with 12 knots on the nose, maybe “motoring, motoring” is more appropriate. Who cares? It’s turned into a beautiful day after last night’s squalls, and the sea is a beautiful shade of deep blue as we make our way to Long Island. Life is just better on the water!

We left Georgetown at 7:30 this morning for the 35 mile trip to Thomas Bay near Salt Pond. Today was our last chance to get out before the weather changed on us; 20 knots, gusting to 30, are expected tomorrow, and it won’t die down for another 2-3 days after that. Long Island should give us as much protection as Georgetown would, and it gives us a chance to check out the place before we return with Stacy’s parents.

You know it’s a calm ride when Tux manages to take a cat nap in the cockpit – without getting seasick. We reach Salt Pond shortly after 3pm, only to see “Texas Navy” boats, Morning Glory and Kaleo, anchored near shore. (Queue the “It’s a Small World” singers now…you really can’t make this stuff up!) We all agree to meet up after taking showers and putting the dinghies back in the water. MG and Kaleo know of a place in town that offers cold bevvies and free wi-fi. What a terrific way to begin our stay in Long Island!

The next couple of days are spent visiting with the Texas Navy, catching up on boat projects, exploring the grocery offerings in Salt Pond, and enjoying the almost-free wi-fi (so it’s the price of a beer) at Long Island Breeze Resort. There’s a morning cruiser net run by Mike, owner/manager of Long Island Breeze, but that’s about the only thing Long Island has in common with Georgetown. The VHF is blessedly free of chatter, and the ratio of boats to anchoring space is the best we’ve seen since Eleuthera. We love this place!

Tuesday we rent a car with Storyville to check out the rest of the island. We’ve been told there are plantation ruins, the world’s deepest blue hole, one of the world’s top ten beaches, and a Christopher Columbus monument at the northern tip of the island, where the Santa Maria allegedly ran aground. Keeping in mind that Long Island is 80 miles long with some less-than-stellar roadways, we know we have a long day ahead of us. We begin to head south, but decide to make a quick detour to check out the Atlantic side of the island. Long Island is less than two miles wide at Salt Pond, so we figure it’ll be an easy trek to a beautiful ocean beach. What were we thinking?? We turn left before Harding’s grocery store, and soon run out of pavement. We continue on up a steep hill, and…STOP! The ruts have become soft sand, and we manage to hit the brakes before we get stuck. On the bright side, it’s a beautiful beach and is definitely worth a stop.

After a quick beach walk, we manage to drive about three miles before we scream for Rene to stop the car again. We’ve just passed the remains of St. Mary’s, a 17th century Spanish-built church, and the ruins offer some dramatic photo ops. Pictures complete, we’re soon on the road again headed for Deadman’s Cay. Not to confuse things, but Deadman’s Cay isn’t actually a cay…it’s a settlement. Huh? So Long Island isn’t a cay, but it has a town that’s called a “cay”. Sorry – we don’t grasp the logic, either. (If anyone knows what dictates a cay vs. an island – length, maybe? – PLEASE let us know!) Anyhow, we do manage to find a convenience store in Deadman’s Cay that sells beef patties. Woo hoo! Think ground beef with curry and other seasonings wrapped in a soft pastry shell. It’s yummy Bahamian junk food, and somehow makes a great late-breakfast treat. Four happy tummies later, we drive through the settlements of Buckleys, Cartwrights, Mangrove Bush, and Hamilton. Just before we reach the capital of Clarence Town, we see the sign for Dean’s Blue Hole. Dean’s Blue Hole is 663 feet deep and is reported to be the deepest blue hole in the world. It’s on the Atlantic side, but is completely protected from waves thanks to being located within a small cove. A passing squall keeps us in the car when we arrive, and more rain clouds convince us to come back later in the afternoon – hopefully with better weather for pictures and swimming. For now, we get back on the road to Clarence Town and one of its best known features: the Catholic church built by Father Jerome.

Father Jerome is well-known throughout the Bahamas as a restorer and builder of Anglican and Catholic churches. Born John Cecil Hawes, Father Jerome was first an architect and later an Anglican priest. He was sent to the Bahamas in 1908 to rebuild hurricane-ravaged churches, and later settled on Long Island. Our cruising guides tell us that the view from the tower of Clarence Town’s Catholic church is a must-see, so that’s where we’re headed. We climb up the steep, narrow staircase and manage to pry ourselves through a tight opening at the top of the tower. Wow! The view really is spectacular. We can see the Anglican church on a nearby hillside, abandoned salt ponds to the south, and quite a few sailboats anchored in the harbour.

Back in the car, we continue on south of Clarence Town to Dunmore in search of the Dunmore Castle ruins. Thanks to a total lack of street signs, we have no idea where we should turn to see the ruins. We finally turn east near Dunmore proper, only to find a decaying brick structure that’s now being used as an open-air garage for a broken-down pick-up truck and a tie-up for a few goats. We don’t think much of it until a local woman comes up to the car asking if she can help. When we tell her we’re looking for the castle ruins, she points back to the brick garage and says it’s there, “where the goats are tied”. Seriously?? This is it? Okay…maybe it’s time to give up the hunt for the ruins and head back to the blue hole. Fortunately the weather has really improved, and we’re able to see the spectacular color changes thanks to a break in the clouds. Rene even manages to climb a rope ladder to jump off a 45’ cliff into the blue hole. Geronimo!! This hole is also used for the world championship free-diving competition in a couple of weeks, so we’ll definitely bring Stacy’s parents back here.

Believe it or not, we’ve only covered a half-day in the car. We still have the entire north side of the island ahead of us, and we’re getting nibbly. Given that it’s already after 2pm, we try to wait a little longer to have a late-lunch-slash-early-dinner. We head for Deal’s Beach, supposedly one of the world’s top-ten beaches. (Really??) Further north is a rutted goat road that leads to the Columbus monument at Cape Santa Maria. As hellish as the road is (think 2-3mph over gravel and larger rocks), the views definitely make it worthwhile. The one thing we haven’t found yet? An open place to eat. We’ve passed a few restaurants that have open signs, but no one is home. Even the take-out spot we find has closed for the day. We try one restaurant again at 5:30, hoping maybe it closes until the dinner rush. Nope, it’s still closed. We finally drive back to Salt Pond and end up at Sou’ Side, a little bar/grill just across the street from our car rental place.

We get a surprise visitor the next day: Shane, from Guiding Light, is anchored in Clarence Town and has rented a car to tour the island. He knew that we and Storyville were in Salt Pond and was able to hail Deana and Troy on the VHF. They’ve dinghied over to our boat, and we have a chance to catch up on Shane’s travels to the Jumentos and Crooked Island. We spend the rest of the afternoon on deserted Flat Cay, where we enjoy a beach day with a good book under an umbrella. This is the life! We’ll be raising the anchor for Georgetown in a day or two, where we’ll meet up with Stacy’s parents on the 13th. There’s still plenty to see on Long Island, and we’re excited to share it with them. Til next time…


1 comment:

Gringo said...

Hi y'all. Found your blog while I was looking for a reference to Chicken Harbour, for our own blog.

We bought a catamaran and sailed it home from Jacksonville FL to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where we've lived for the past 8 years. Now I'm reading your blog, as you have already visited many of the places we plan to stop eventually when we get this boat ready to cruise. Abacos, Belize, and Grenada are on our list. Maybe we'll run into you one of these days. We're meeting lots of cruisers as they pass through Provo.

Happy trails.
( from the "2 Gringos in the Caribbean" blog. I didn't put a link here because that would be spam and I HATE it when people do it to me. )