There are just too many wonderful places to stop and experience in the Exumas to see them all in one season, given our limitations. Many will have to be left for the next time. From the Exumas, our next destination was Eleuthera. There are several ways to get there, but most cruisers will exit through the cuts at Warderick Wells or the Normans/Highbourne Cay area. We chose Warderick Wells because the cut is wide, deep and there are no reefs or obstacles to navigate around. Beach House exited the cut at 9:30 am, heading for Cape Eleuthera, and from there we would decide later. We had a good weather window for the crossing, but a strong front was due to arrive in a couple of days. A harbor with good, all around protection was an important consideration once again. It just seems like this entire trip has been weather driven for the most part. That makes it hard to really enjoy the experience.
The crossing was smooth with light winds at around 10 knots and small seas. By 2:00 pm we arrived at Cape Eleuthera just off the marina. We didn't plan to stop, but we had been there years before when it was closed and you could just pull in and tie up. The entrance is open to the west and that is where some of the stronger winds would be coming from later in the week. We imagined that a pretty good surge could work into the marina and make it uncomfortable. We pressed on and considered going to Rock Sound for the next few days. But as usual, the weather forecast seemed to be changing and the strong winds were actually coming later. The forecast also looked good for a crossing to the Abacos in three days so we made a spot decision to keep on going and try for Spanish Wells the next day. If the forecast changed again, we could always duck into Hatchet Bay, which is a very protected harbor.
A quick check of the charts showed our best anchorage for the night would be around Ten Bay. We had been there before. It's a beautiful spot with a great beach. It seemed that the wind would be shifting more to the north so we chose to stop for the night at South Palmetto Point with good northerly protection from the nearby Pineapple Cays. We dropped the hook just off the beach at 5:20 in the afternoon and settled in after a long day. The setting was perfect and the sunset spectacular. During the night the winds died and the next morning we woke to smooth, clear seas that made the bottom look like we were in inches instead of feet of water.
Our mornings begin at around 6:30, gathering weather information for the current day and upcoming week. Our weather window was still holding so we needed to be in the Spanish Wells/ Royal Island area to stage for a crossing in the next two days. By 7:40 am, we were once again underway in flat seas and hazy skies. An important transit for us would be Current Cut, about 10 miles south of Spanish Wells. The cut can be difficult, and under certain conditions, impassable. The current can run as high as 5 knots, and slower boats, like ours, can have a difficult time. Ideally, the cut should be done at slack water. But when is it ever ideal? A little after 1:00 pm, we arrived at the cut. The tides were incoming, and slack water had been about an hour and a half earlier. There was a fishing trawler anchored right in the old channel that approaches the cut straight in from the Bight, but they would not answer the radio.
There is another approach, which for us proved to be better. Picking a spot just southwest of the cut near Current Island, we used a channel that parallels the island very close to shore until we were abeam of the cut, then turned into it. This kept the boat out of the strong current for as long as possible. The channel is a little tricky with shallows and patch reefs on both side. But the deeper water is visible. And wouldn't you know it, the wind was picking up and making for a bouncy ride just before we entered the cut. Once we entered the deeper water of the cut, the current grabbed us in earnest. We turned the bow toward the north before we could be swept too far south and powered the boat up to try and compensate for the current. There were whirlpools and eddies all around us. Even at increased throttle, once Beach House was committed to the cut, our forward speed dropped down from 7 1/2 knots to about 3 knots. It was a long, slow trip for such a short distance. Even once we were out the other side, the currents were still strong until well clear of the cut. Once the boat was back up to speed, we gave a big sigh of relief.
With the wind continuing to increase from the south and east, Spanish Wells became the choice for our destination at days end. It was decided that the anchorage at Royal Island would probably be too rolly with winds from this direction. At about 2:00 pm, we entered the south channel into Spanish Wells. It had been many years since we had been there last so we were looking forward to our visit. Spanish Wells is one of those Bahamas destinations where you can find any service, supply or distraction you might be looking for. By now, the forecast 10 knot winds were blowing 15 to 20 knots so it was nice to be somewhere secure. But how long would we need to stay?
Susan and I are both long time sailors with tens of thousands of miles under our keels spanning the US east and west coast, Bahamas, Caribbean, Central Atlantic, and US Gulf Coast. We have been freelance writers for major boating publications, including Bluewater Sailing, Soundings Magazine, Sail Magazine, Southern Boating, Lats and Atts, MarinaLife Magazine, Nor' Easter, Good Old Boat, Living Aboard Magazine and a host of internet sites. We have spent over 17 years living aboard and cruising our Mariner 40 ketch, Sea Trek. In the not to distant past, we sold her and after much soul searching decided a change in lifestyle and scenery was in order so the search was on for a new boat. We knew a trawler was in our future and after doing a lot of research and looking at a lot of boats we found a very well cared for 1980 Marine Trader 34. We have named her Beach House for Susan's love of the beach and the hopes that the view from our new house will always be pleasant. Our plans are to continue our lifestyle and to change our cruising grounds a bit and visit those inland lakes and rivers we never could with our sailboat.