On Friday, April 17th, we bid farewell to the Exuma Cays and set sail to Rock Sound Settlement on the Island of Eleuthera. There is a light breeze in the 13 to 15 knot range from the southeast this morning. Seas are a scant 3 to 4 feet. This places Cutter Loose on a mellow beam reach across Exuma Sound to Powell Point on the southwest coast of Eleuthera. There are few things in life that are more satisfying than an early morning departure on a sunny day, sails drawing perfectly and waves lapping lazily against the hull.
Today’s schedule is relaxed. With 50 miles to our destination, there is no need to rush. At our current speed, we will arrive in Rock Sound by mid-afternoon. Other than our departure this morning through Warderick Cut, there are no tricky channels to navigate. Tide and current are not major considerations. Today is a day for the enjoyment of being outdoors and sailing silently to a new destination.
From Powell Point, it is a short distance around Kemps Point to Rock Sound Harbor. The harbor is immense and quite shallow in spots. There are a four cruising boats at anchor upon our arrival. Rock Sound is slightly off the beaten path of cruisers. For Cutter Loose, it is a stepping stone to northern Eleuthera where we will stage for an eventual passage to the Abacos.
There are a few amenities in Rock Sound Settlement of interest to cruisers including a laundromat, a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, a few restaurants, a bank with an ATM machine and a reasonably well-stocked grocery store.
Several buildings in the Settlement give the appearance of being storm-damaged. Since they lack roofs and windows, they appear to have been uninhabitable for decades.
The major visitor attraction in Rock Sound is a blue hole located one-half mile inland from the harbor. The community has created a public park at this site. The blue hole is a salt water pond that connects through underground caverns to the sea that were formed 300,000 years ago. Salt water reef fish inhabit the blue hole. The depth of this blue hole is over 600 feet.
On Sunday, April 19th, the anchor is up at 7:45 AM for the long 70-nautical mile trip to Spanish Wells in northern Eleuthera. Due to the relative absence of wind, our journey today is a motorsail event. Our course today takes us through Current Cut, a narrow opening between the Island of Eleuthera and Current Island. Our 4:30 PM arrival at Current Cut coincides with the final hour of ebb tide which provides one knot of favorable current through the cut. Finally at 6:15 PM, Cutter Loose is tied to a mooring ball on the east side of the busy harbor at Spanish Cay.
A day excursion to the nearby resort destination of Harbour Island has been organized for Monday, April 20th. This is an opportunity to meet our fellow cruisers in the mooring field who coincidentally will be making the trip to Harbour Island. The fast ferry from Nassau makes a stop at Spanish Cay en route to Harbour Island.
From here, it is a 30-minute ride at 18 knots through a reef-strewn body of water known ominously as the Devil’s Backbone. The cruising guides strongly suggest hiring a local pilot when transiting these waters for the first time. It is unclear whether this passage is as treacherous as the cruising guide suggests. Not wishing to tempt fate, we rationalize our decision by concluding that it is cheaper and faster to ride in the air conditioned comfort of the ferry and leave the navigation to the professionals.
Given the short duration of our visit, Harbour Island is best experienced by golf cart. After the mandatory visit to Arthur’s Bakery, we steer the golf cart directly to Harbour Island’s primary attraction…a three-mile stretch of wide beach with silky, smooth sand. It is referred to as “Pink Sand Beach” because the sand is comprised of tiny grains of coral and shell. This is a world-class beach that rivals the magnificent pink sand beach on the Island of Barbuda. It is well worth the visit to Harbour Island just to witness this famous local landmark.
Accommodations on the island consist of several small hotels and a larger number of rental cottages. Many of these bungalows date back to the shipbuilding era of Harbor Island in the late 1700s.
Some of these cottages are located on the bluff overlooking the Pink Beach while others are located along the streets of Dunmore Town near the government dock and marinas.
Lunch today is on the terrace at the lovely Coral Sands Hotel overlooking Pink Sand Beach.
Tuesday, April 21st is devoted to exploring the Spanish Wells Settlement. Of all the settlements we have visited in the Bahamas, Spanish Wells gives the appearance of being the most prosperous. This town dates back to the 17th century when the Eleutheran Adventurers departed England in search of religious freedom.
Today, this working harbor is home to a fleet of large fishing trawlers. The fishermen of Spanish Wells provide the vast majority of seafood consumed in the Bahamas. The local shops, restaurants and housing stock reflect the relative affluence of Spanish Wells compared to that of other settlements in the Bahamas. The population here is a mix of black and white Bahamians.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cutter Loose is bound for Royal Island, about 7 miles west of Spanish Wells. The natural harbor at Royal Island is a refuge during periods of heavy weather. Today, it serves as an overnight staging area for tomorrow’s early morning departure for Little Harbour on Great Abaco Island.