Monday, March 4, 2024

Toyed with by the weather gods.

We are under way across the Bight of Eleuthera, making for Rock Sound. The weather, as has been the case for weeks, is not being cooperative, and if the seas continue to build we may well be turning around to put them behind us, for the third time since arriving to Eleuthera.

Sunset from our blissfully calm anchorage at Royal Island.

We had a nice dinner on board and a very pleasant night at Royal Island harbor after I last posted here, and in the morning we left on a rising tide for the short one-hour trip to Spanish Wells. We have two different charts for the area, which are in disagreement, and so we proceeded slowly, following what was labeled the "deeper draft route" on the more reliable of the two. Deeper draft around here means two meters, or about 6.5'. We dropped the hook just south of the harbor in a small triangle between two published routes (map). We later saw the mail boat, which draws around 7', pass by on the deep draft route, stirring up plenty of sand behind her.

To find our way to the various businesses around town, I take a photo of the very detailed drawing in our Explorer chart book.

We heard there was a very nice grocery here, and, needing to replenish our lettuce supply due to the great chicken debacle, we splashed the tender and headed ashore. After scoping the entire harbor we found a spot on the seawall to tie up, and hoofed it the 3/4 mile to the Food Fair store. That turned out to be the nicest grocery we've seen in the Bahamas outside of Nassau, but all we needed was the lettuce. On the way back we made note of the waterfront restaurant, Wreckers, at the marina as a dinner option.

This may not look impressive to our stateside readers, but it's heaven here in the Bahamas.

Alas, seas in the anchorage built through the rest of the day, and while it was comfortable aboard Vector, we deemed it too choppy to bash our way ashore for dinner. With fresh salad now available we had a nice dinner aboard instead.

Conditions were not much better Wednesday morning and we just had a quiet day on board. I spent most of it trying to make more progress on the cantankerous watermaker, removing the hose from the intake through-hull, cleaning out a decade worth of crud, and blowing compressed air through it to clear any obstructions from the through-hull. None of that helped appreciably.

Dinner sunset from our anchorage off Spanish Wells.

By dinner time the winds were just slightly lower, and we decided to make our way back ashore for dinner. We tied up at Wreckers, which would be your basic waterfront burger bar anywhere in the states, but here is at the upper end of the restaurant spectrum and serves American fare to well-heeled yachtsmen. I had a salad, a rarity in the Bahamas, along with a Sands beer on draft, another rarity.

In the morning we went back ashore in calmer conditions to find a replacement T-bolt hose clamp for our stuffing box, as one of the doubled-up clamps had corroded through. We found one at the second boatyard store we entered, R&B, and were happy to have it at twice the price in the states. We rounded out our visit with a walk to the easternmost end of the island.

This ferry crosses the Current Cut to move people and goods back and forth to Current Island.

We decked the tender as soon as we got home and weighed anchor for the trip to Current Cut, which we timed to reach right after slack water. The current in this aptly-named cut can be upwards of three knots, which can make for either a wild ride or a very long transit, and can also mean steep seas if the wind is in opposition. We were just a little late, finding a knot against us but in the same direction as the wind. Our charts showed a shallow bar but we had plenty of water the whole way.

A somewhat distant view of the Glass Window.

Exiting the cut we set our sights on a familiar anchorage near the Glass Window, in the lee of a small spit of land. We tucked in as far as we could and dropped the hook (map). Better charts this time around meant we could be a little closer to shore. It was a little bouncy in the southeast wind and waves but not too uncomfortable for the night.

Sunset over Current Island from our anchorage near the Glass Window.

It was still bouncy in the morning, and so, after finishing our coffee, we weighed anchor to head for the protection of Hatchet Bay Harbour, the most protected anchorage in all of Eleuthera. It was a short run of just nine nautical miles, but we did not make it. Head seas built throughout the passage, with Vector pitching over them forcefully and rattling everything in the lockers to the point where we had to open each with extreme caution afterward. Between the pitching motion and the prospect of navigating through the very narrow rock cut into the harbor in a heavy beam sea, the crew called for a wave-off, and we made an about face just a couple of miles from the harbor entrance.

New vs. old motor brushes. This looks dramatic but only improved flow a couple of percent.

The ride was a whole lot more comfortable with the seas behind us, suggesting in hindsight that maybe we should have done Eleuthera in the other direction, as we did last time. We made our way back to the slightly more protected anchorage behind Mutton Fish Point (map), less than a mile from where we started. We were not alone, sharing the cove with several other boats, a couple of whom had turned around just as we did.

The actual culprit -- this graphite vane pump had become weak.

We still had some motion here, but less than where we started, and the cove is absolutely beautiful, with that indescribable turquoise water. Long-time readers may remember from our last visit that Lenny Kravitz has his Airstream on the beach in this cove, although it's harder to see now. I puttered around with more projects, and we again had a nice dinner on board. The motion overnight was not uncomfortable.

View from our anchorage this morning. That's the local boatyard. It's protected here, but does not have the beauty of the more remote Bahamian anchorages.

Things are often calmer in the morning, and so after coffee we weighed anchor for another attempt. Having learned our lesson the previous day, we turned around less than a quarter mile off the point, which tends to amplify things, when we found the seas not much better than last time. Several of the other boats had left the anchorage for points west, and we were able to tuck in much closer to shore (map) when we returned. A sailboat that had left right behind us also returned just after us.

Approaching and entering the Hatchet Bay Pond cut.

As it turned out, winds and seas actually calmed throughout the morning, and by 1:15 things had laid down enough for another attempt. We had a bouncy ride, but not nearly as bad as the first attempt, and we soldiered through it. We made the turn for the cut, putting the swell on the beam, I made a Sécurité call, and we powered through without a problem. Nine years ago, when we were still pretty green, this cut looked too scary to attempt, but it was really no big deal. Once inside we did a loop of the harbor before settling on the "no one anchors there" spot and dropping the hook (map).

The Alice Town dinghy dock, adjacent to Boaters' Haven.

After two nights confined to the boat we were ready for a walk, and a little before dinner time we splashed the tender and headed for the Alice Town dinghy dock. We strolled the entire town before landing back at the Boaters' Haven Bar, Grill, and Convenience Store, right at the dock, for dinner. You order your food take-out style at the c-store, and then sit in the bar area to order drinks; they had Sands in bottles. The burgers were quite tasty. Local character and bar proprietor Emmette Farrington entertained us on the guitar; apparently soon after we left a DJ took over and we heard music from the deck well into the night.

Emette entertaining his guests on the deck at Boaters' Haven.

On the way back to Vector we made a detour to the government dock to check out the dinghy ladder, so we could return yesterday for dinner at the Front Porch restaurant, a bit more upscale. We never got the chance; thunderstorms moved through the area all afternoon and into the evening, and in a very brief lull I grilled a steak instead, after spending the day in the engine room working on the watermaker. We were wise to stay on board; after sunset the thunderstorms intensified and we had winds up to 34 knots (gale force). We had excellent holding in out tight spot, swinging into 8' shallows.

The view over Hatchet Bay Pond from the deck. Vector is off to the right all by herself.

Yesterday's watermaker project was to replace the pump head, after having no luck with clearing the intake, changing the motor brushes and springs, and cleaning up all the connections. I'm mostly happy to report that changing the pump head made a huge difference, increasing feed pressure and production rate by 25%. That also brought the salinity down, but not as far as we'd like. Today under way we've been making water since leaving the harbor, but at a TDS of 650ppm. Ideally it should be less than 500.

This cat was very friendly and wanted to share our burgers.

This morning, with what passes for a weather window these days, we decked the tender first thing and made our way out of the harbor, right behind a 40' sailing catamaran. Their length and displacement was apparently just perfect for pitching violently over the waves, and they turned around and headed back to the harbor just a few minutes later. That did not bode well for us, but our waterline length is just enough larger that the wave period was not pitching us nearly as much, and we opted to press on.

This potcake puppy spread out right next to me and was content with some of our fries.

The plotter is saying we'll have the hook down in Rock Sound by 2:30. Weather for moving on to the next islands south will not arrive till Friday, so we will have a few days there. I would have liked to make some more stops along the bight, such as Governor's Harbour or some of the beautiful coves from our last visit, but Neptune and Aeolus have dictated otherwise. At least there are some restaurants, a nice grocery store, and some other services here, and maybe I can get a battery to replace one that's failing rapidly on our 12v system.

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