Exploring Eleuthera

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Lydia Fell

Dec 2, 2010, 11:32:00 AM12/2/10
to flyingpiglog
Rock Sound, Eleuthera
December 1st, 2010

It's been six weeks since I wrote last, and since we've been on the move
recently, it feels like an eon ago. It's getting harder to write these logs
now that we're in our fourth year of cruising, not because the experience is
diminished in any way, but rather that I feel I must sound repetitive, and
"repetitive" is another way to describe boring. When you're sailing from one
beautiful, sleepy town to another, the adjectives become the same. For me,
each town is a little different, its residents are unique, and the general
ambiance of each new port (if you can call anchoring off a beach, a "port")
brings something new to our senses. But I think Skip and I perceive these
small variations in each new town because we're so tuned in to the minutiae
in a world otherwise filled with persistent peace and tranquility. We live
by the weather; when a window opens for good sailing, we take it and move
further south. When the weather isn't perfect for moving on, we explore and
relish where we are. If I feel like I've explored myself out, there's always
laundry, cooking and boat chores to do. Every now and then, in the midst of
this solitary existence, an event will occur that raises our heart rates and
pumps the adrenaline. But hurricane season was officially over yesterday,
and the cold fronts that make our passages south quick and exhilarating
have been kind fronts, where we've been able to pick and choose between 15
to 20 knots of wind, instead of 25 knots or more.

We left Marsh Harbour on November 10th for our last run south through the
Bahamian islands before we return with the boat to the States next April.
Before we left, Skip tuned our rigging; the stainless steel cables (shrouds)
that hold our mast in place. You'd think that a 62 foot aluminum mast is a
fairly inflexible object, but a small adjustment to each shroud will bend it
from side to side and front to back like silly putty. This affects the shape
of the sails, which directly affects the performance of the boat under sail.
We had our rigging replaced the summer before last in St. Simons, but we
hadn't fine tuned it after "breaking it in" for a year, which causes some
stretching of the cables. That's all to say that since Skip has tuned it
again, sailing this boat is sheer joy. For all her size and weight and all
the things that make her a sailing slug, we've been skimming across the
ocean like a porpoise.

We chose a weather window to head down to Eleuthera, one of the islands we
had yet to visit, immediately before some high winds and very rough seas
were due to arrive as a result of a gale off New England. We left through
the Little Harbour cut off Lynyard Cay, and headed due south through the
night. The sail down was comfortable and uneventful, although we veered off
course more and more as the wind shifted, keeping the wind on our stern
quarter. At dawn the next morning, we jibed the boat due East and headed
directly for Little Egg Cut, our entrance to Eleuthera, and fairly flew
across the last fourteen miles of our trip in growing seas and wind. I
surely love it when we time those windows just right.

Our first anchorage was off Royal Island for a day of respite, and then we
made our way over to Spanish Wells, where we anchored out. We had excellent
wifi, and I started following in earnest the Caribbean 1500 Rally on the
web. The Rally is an annual event for sailors, who leave Norfolk, VA and
sail directly to Tortola, BVI, a 1500 mile passage of 9 to 14 days or so,
depending on the speed of your vessel and, obviously, the weather
conditions. There is a considerable entrance fee to participate in this
adrenaline boosting endurance feat, for which you receive, amongst other
things, a transmitter for your boat so that your family and friends can
monitor your progress. We had friends in the rally this year, Glenn and Elsa
on S/V Windara, and there was barely an hour a day that I didn't think of
them and the weather conditions they were enduring as the winds built to
over 30 knots, and the seas grew to 20 foot swells with waves on top of

While all that weather was going on out in the Atlantic, we were safely
tucked into the lee off Russell Island, a short dinghy ride to Spanish
Wells. This kind of sea swell was very unusual for the islands, and in our
quest to find a place to tie up the dinghy and find the dramatic beach surf,
we met Loretta Munsey, the caretaker of the Sands Estate (of Sands Beer) on
the north end of Eleuthera. We explained to Loretta that we were looking for
surf on the shore and she invited us to tie up at her dock, and then lead us
to the ocean side of their property. Pull out the camera, click, click,
click, while we chat, chat, chat and suddenly we're at her house, drinking a
beer and admiring the gorgeous art she makes from material she finds on the
beaches. She gave us directions to walk across the property, past a gate,
and over to a cliff top to admire the surf (while the high tide is pouring
over her driveway as we spoke), and off we go.

Somehow, we managed to misunderstand Loretta's directions, and we found
ourselves leaving the property by the main gate, and following the dirt road
through the Haitian village. There are many Haitians in the Bahamas, mostly
illegal, but usually gainfully employed. In this particular area of
Eleuthera, they all live together in a village of houses which are often
provided by their employers, but which have no running water. Water is
available at one spigot, but has to be toted. Loretta told us there weren't
any outhouses either, and despite plenty of wooded areas in lieu of, there
is a real concern for sanitation. Nonetheless, you couldn't have asked for a
more friendly village as we walked through, with calls of "Good Afternoon"
and families waving from their front porches.

Meanwhile, we're still trying to get to the beach. Three miles later, we
finally arrive at Preacher's Cave, an astoundingly large cave which could
easily hold 50 people, and was in fact, an immediate shelter for some of the
earliest settlers who shipwrecked on the notorious Devil's Backbone shoals
nearby. The Preacher's Cave is claimed to be the earliest Settlement in
Eleuthera, and later, was used as a meeting place and a church. The Atlantic
ocean and a beautiful beach was just a path away from the Cave, and we saw
an angry, frothy sea with an exceptionally high tide, but no spectacular
surf from where we stood. Nevertheless, I wouldn't have wanted to be out in

That night back on the boat, I checked back in with the Caribbean 1500 site
and found S/V Windara's track, making tremendous speed, and still headed in
a large group to Tortola. They were several hundred miles to our NE with, we
knew, some really horrendous weather. But I also noted another boat's track
which had veered off from the rally group, and was heading towards the cut
just north of Lynyard Cay, where we had left to come south a few days
earlier. The boat was S/V Rule 62, and as Skip and I watched their track, we
visualized, in horror, the rage conditions which must be present in that

The following morning of November 14th was my birthday, and I noted that
Rule 62 hadn't moved from the previous night. There was only one hideous
explanation that made sense to us; the boat must have foundered and hit the
reefs off Lynyard.

The phone rang - it was Loretta and Jack, her husband, inviting us to go
down to the Glass Window further down the island, to look at the rage
conditions. The Glass Window was originally a natural, narrow rock bridge
spanning the narrowest part of Eleuthera, separating the Atlantic ocean on
the East side of the island, from the calm, azure water on the West side.
The massive open area beneath the bridge (which is now man-made) forms the
"window" where one can look through to the ocean. Several years ago, this
man-made steel-reinforced concrete bridge was moved 8 ft. to the west during
a hurricane, and on the day previous to our visit, it had been closed as
waves crashed over the top of it and threatened any traffic trying to cross
it. Although they had subsided, the waves were still spectacular, and after
a terrific birthday lunch with Loretta and Jack, we managed to get
completely soaked by a 30 ft wall of spume as we endeavored to get even more
dramatic pictures.

By the time we got back to the boat that afternoon, news of the grounding of
S/V Rule 62 was circulating in the cruising newsgroups, and horrifically, of
the loss of a crew member from Atlanta, Laura Zekoll. The other three crew
miraculously managed to survive the ocean rage and the reef intact, and made
it to a beach where they were rescued and flown to a hospital. As small
details of the wreck were posted, I was mentally and emotionally transported
back to our own near disaster nearly 4 years ago.

When a tragedy like this happens to a fellow cruiser, we are all reminded
once again of our lives at sea, living on the edge. It doesn't have to be a
profoundly dangerous lifestyle if you are cruising on small hops from port
to port, with reliable weather information and a very conservative approach
to passages. But most cruisers want to make the larger jumps - the several
hundred mile (and more) trips occasionally, in order to get from A to B,
even if we're not crossing the Atlantic or doing a circumnavigation. We can
get the best weather forecasts all day long; there can still be surprises we
simply can't foresee or avoid. How we react to those unexpected surprises,
which may be life threatening at the time, make all the difference to the
outcome. I know from experience how easy it is to make a bad decision based
on fatigue, or ignorance, or because you're incapacitated with seasickness,
or all three. And then sometimes, but rarely, there just isn't anything you
can do but hang on, hope and pray.

Rest In Peace, Laura.

This afternoon, we're making one of those larger hops of 120 miles, which
will mean an overnight sail for us, so I must get this log out and shift
into my pre-passage mode of thinking and doing. I want to bake some bread
before we leave, double check that everything on deck is tied down, latch
all the cabinets.

I'll try to fill in the trips we made after Spanish Wells over the next week
or so, and the wonderful people we met along the way who invited us into
their home, cooked us a feast, and reinforced that there are many who still
commit random acts of kindness.
Here are the pictures during the long, long walk to Preacher's Cave and the Beach:
And here are the pictures from the trip to the Glass Window:

I hope this finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying the Holiday excitement.
Love, Lydia

S/V Flying Pig
Morgan 46 #2
"The only way to live is to have a dream green and growing in your life - anything else is just existing and is a waste of breath."
Ann Davison

Love, Lydia

S/V Flying Pig
Morgan 46 #2
"The only way to live is to have a dream green and growing in your life - anything else is just existing and is a waste of breath."
Ann Davison
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