BoatTravelingSoul: Spanish Wells to Governor's Harbor
Getting from Spanish Wells to our next destinations on the West Coast of Eleuthera takes a bit of doing. There are two ways of getting there. One is to go through Fleming Cut. The other, about fifteen miles shorter, is through Current Cut. As an article in BOATUS magazine put it,
Current is the name of the Bahamian settlement, and Current Cut is the turbulent channel in front of it its famous namesake, actually where the tide ebbs and floods like a freight train in and out of the Bight of Eleuthera. This can be a treacherous place for those who arrive or leave by boat. At the height of the flow, the current can rush as fast as 10 knots in a channel barely 100 yards wide. As you pass through, there’s no room for error as the water churns. Of course, there would be no childish Fleming Cut for us; we had to go through Current Cut. I know, I know, you all think we are intrepid adventurers who take on life-threatening challenges simply because they are there; that we scoff at danger; that fear is afraid of us. Well, not exactly. As is often the case, if you do a little homework, you know how to beat the odds. There is always a little current running through the cut. But if you can avoid the spring tides (which have nothing to do with the springtime, and everything to do with whether the sun and moon are directly in line with the earth and their gravitational pulls reinforce each other) and you can determine when slack tides will be (about two hours after the well-published tides in Nassau), you will be able to defy death and make it into the Bight of Eleuthera. In the event, the water ranged from 12 – 40 feet deep and the current was about 1.5 MPH against us. And oh by the way we had 1100 horsepower in our engines if we had needed them.
Eleuthera is an interesting island. It is about 110 miles long and at places less than a mile wide. It became the first English settlement in the Bahamas when the Company of Eleutheran Adventurers (Eleuthera meaning freedom in Greek) set sail from Bermuda, in 1648, searching for a place where they could practice their Puritan faith. These Pilgrims were smarter than their New England brethren who were freezing their butts off in and around Plymouth, MA at about the same time. Although the Adventurers eventually established a couple of settlements, the most important of which was as Governor s Harbor the capital of the Bahamas for a time for over 350 years, Eleuthera has struggled economically.
The initial Pilgrims tried to grow crops on Eleuthera, but, while the island s soil was not as bad as that in some parts of the Bahamas, it wasn t good enough to support an economy. Then the inhabitants turned towards the sea and what is called wrecking (where inhabitants go out and take the cargo off wrecked ships). That proved lucrative until navigation improved and lighthouses were built. Later, Eleuthera served as the new location of many Loyalist plantations after the Revolutionary War all of which failed. Later still, it became a major pineapple producer until the US put a tariff on Bahamian pineapples. It has also served as host to US Navy and US Air Force facilities during the Cold War both of which are now closed down. More recently, efforts were made in the 1970s and 1980s to convert parts of the island into hoity-toity housing developments and large, expensive resorts which also seem to have failed. In short, Eleuthera is somewhat like the rest of the Bahamas. It is a magnificent island that is unable to support the economic development of even a small population. But it is a hell of a cruising destination!
The last time we were in Eleuthera we visited the Glass Window and wrote extensively about it in our January 2014 Blog. This year we skipped over it and decided to anchor for the evening in Annie s Bight, about mile north of Gregory Town. In years past it had possibly been used as the headquarters of a real-life pirate. According to Eleuthera: the Island Called Freedom, George Thompson of Gregory Town tells a story:
My mother s great-grand-father used to live with a man whom everyone called Mr. Saunders. That wasn t his real name, which was foreign, and nobody could say it, so they just called him Mr. Saunders. He had been sailing from Abacos Cays when his ship was chased by Blackbeard or Bluebeard or one of them boys, and he was comin down the coast at nightfall when he found the entrance to the Cove and managed to slip in, thinking that it might be a good hiding place. The pirates ship went by and missed him, so he escaped them and when morning came he looked around and decided he would settle there. The story goes on that Mr. Saunders formed his own little pirate company using the Cove as a base. According to the teller of the tale, George Thompson, thieves from Nassau came years later and relieved Saunders heirs of their pirate booty. Anyway, that s the story.Back to the cove. This place looked like a magnificent anchorage. Not only could we hide from the pirates, but it was in kind of a U-Shape, open only to the south, which we figured would provide protection from the winds and currents coming from the north, east and west. It had a sandy bottom, so we figured the anchor would hold well, and it was over ten feet deep as close as 200 feet from shore. It had everything we were looking for. In fact, I kayaked the cove and took several pictures, but none of them quite captured the magnificence of the anchorage. Then came the night.
Remember when I said the cove was only open to winds and current from the south? Well, that night the wind shifted and winds and current came from the south. I mean it was like a washing machine in there. I woke up at about 0100 from the booming crash of the waves on the shore and the rolling of the and couldn t get back to sleep, so I went up into the salon. There was just as much roll up there, but a whole lot less noise as our stateroom is connected t the swim platform. Moreover, when I was in the salon, it was much easier to check the chartplotter and make sure our anchor wasn t dragging. I knew Bertha (the name of our anchor) was set pretty well, but I also knew that any anchor can drag just about any time. Besides, I am a worry-wart. Ann? She slept away and only awoke when I came to make sure she was still asleep.
Needless to say we left the following day and headed to Governor s Harbor, the former capital of Eleuthera and of the Bahamas. Our goal was to get out of the Washing Machineand get to a location just a little more comfortable. I will say that in these southerly winds no place in Eleuthera is very comfortable, but Governors Harbor was good enough. We had spent three days here two years ago so we really weren t that interested in touring the area. Now people say that Governor s Harbor does not have good holding for your anchor. Ok, but then I remember that Governor s Harbor as been holding ships at anchor since about 1650. And during parts of the eighteenth century when Eleuthera was exporting pineapples, there were 40 or more ships at a time. If you look around, you don t see too many of them broken to pieces up on the rocks. So, while I will agree that it does not have the best holding in the world, if you are careful, you can anchor here.
It was in Governor’s Harbor that we discovered that our watermaker has given up the ghost. You may remember that we had the watermaker “repaired” before we left Florida. At the time I was pretty sure we needed a new membrane (the piece that kind of “filters” the salt out of the water). The repairman, however, didn’t think so. Since they cost about $500, I was more than happy to take the expert’s suggestion. Obviously he — and therefore I — were wrong. So, I called the States and found someone who will order the part from California, fly it into the Bahamas, handle the customs and get the part to me in Staniel Cay — I hope. I am pretty sure there will be more to follow on the watermaker.What had really captured our interest in Governor s Harbor was a restaurant that was closed the last time we were in town, but had since re-opened its door The French Leave. We had heard that, while pricey, it was excellent. In keeping with our new culinary habits, we thought we would try it for lunch rather than dinner because, frankly, lunch is typically less expensive.
We ordered a lobster roll and lobster pizza. The lobster roll was okay; we have had better. (As most of you know, Ann is a connoisseur of lobster rolls.) But the pizza wow! Now that was something. We finished the lobster roll at lunch, but only half of the pizza. So when I tell you that the bill (we also had one cocktail each) was $87.13 (FOR LUNCH!) at least I can say we got two meals out of it. Oh Well, we have now dined at the famous French Leave Restaurant and Resort.