Having spent my four hour watch in the night watching the wind slowly drop and the boat get slower, it was with some relief that we arrived in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. Watching the Plotter next to the helm was a little like the opposite of playing beat the satnav – the closer we got, the slower we went. Fortunately I had a good book on my kindle (ah, they joys of autohelm!) and an active imagination to keep me going. It took me a while to realise that the noise coming from behind me was actually the dinghy and not, amongst many things that my brain came up with, a whale following us. It is random the train that your thoughts take when you are on your own and slightly sleepy. I had thought about writing a book, ‘Ramblings from the Helm’……. It was also a massive relief that Stewart managed to be on watch with the squally winds as I am not entirely sure what I would have done – apart from yelling ‘STEWART!!!!’
Anyway, we arrived just before 8am, pulled alongside at the marine centre and filled up with diesel (slightly more expensive than the US at over $5 a gallon!). Stewart also asked advice about our outboard motor that had decided to give up the ghost for no apparent reason, but with noone available to look at it for three days, we decided to try a little more self help. We then booked into the marina and resort, which was currently undergoing some extensive renovations and so was a lot like a building site and not so much a ‘resort’ but at least there was a (cold) shower.
Eleuthera is made up of a series of islands stretching more than 90 miles N to S. Spainish Wells is the island at the top of the Eleuthera chain and is, conveniently, home of one of six supermarkets in the whole of the Caribbean.
Following the rather chilly shower, we all set out to explore the island. At two miles long and less than a mile wide, it wasn’t going to take long – a golf cart (the popular mode of transport in the Bahamas) was going to cost $50 a day so we decided to save that money for a marina at a later date and get some exercise instead. For such a small island there were a surprising amount of cars , and quite nice ones at that. What we noticed immediately, though, was the difference to Bimini. Spanish Wells is a prosperous fishing community which supplies well over half of the Bahamas’ commercial crop of lobster, conch and fish.
The houses are well maintained and there is plenty to see wandering round the streets. It is an extremely friendly community and we regularly got a wave from drivers of golf carts as they passed. The locals are also generally forthcoming in offering lifts, as Stewart discovered once we ascertained that aforementioned outboard was most definitely beyond our repair. He and Eleanor managed to get a lift to the boatyard and back whilst carrying the outboard. The outboard engine is essentially the ‘family car’ for all live-aboards and without it you are severely restricted in what you can do and explore , we faced a choice. We either threw money and time at attempting to repair the engine (a month to get parts before we started to find the fault), or we made the decision there and then to purchase a new one. We called a Mercury dealer in Nassau. We expected the price to be exorbitant but in fact it was pretty reasonable, even with ‘express’ delivery on the boat leaving Nassau the following morning . The only issue was then having to use the one Mercury dealer on the island and whether they would try to charge us a higher price as we really had to do business through them. Following a bit of negotiations on collection, Stewart managed to get the engine at the quoted price and ensure that they prepared and serviced it ready for our use.
After a night in the marina, we chose to go for much cheaper lodgings on a mooring at the east end of the harbour. Managed by Jock Morgan, aka Bandit, they are ideally placed and priced (at $20 a night) for hopping onto the island in a dinghy (with a shiny new outboard!).
It was on said mooring that I started the celebrations for my 40th birthday. Awoken at the usual early hour that is associated with birthdays, I then got to relax in bed while coffee and pancakes were made as apparently the present could not be opened until breakfast. Stewart and the girls had bought me a Pandora necklace and a lovely silver shell charm with a small starfish on. I also managed to remember (and find) all those cards/presents that family and friends (all much more organised than myself!) managed to get to me before we left. They were all massively appreciated!
Following breakfast, we took out our newly purchased inflatable paddle board. Conditions were perfect in terms of little wind and no great chop on the water. I tentatively tried it out first balancing on my knees and in my shortie wet suit (water was looking way too chilly if I were to fall in). Surprisingly it was relatively easy to balance and so I braved standing up. Steering was another thing entirely and with Stewart trying to direct me from the boat, I felt like someone was trying to explain the offside rule to me and my brain would not just not engage but I am sure I will eventually get it! Naturally Stewart picked it up straight away and Eleanor headed off with Stewart on the back happily yelling instructions at her. She did particularly well. We spent the rest of my birthday on the gorgeous pink sand beach to the north of the island. The sand was amazingly golden (or pink if you look closely), the water was less than waist high out beyond 300m, the beach was deserted and so we had a lovely relaxing afternoon of swimming, building sand structures and reading books.
Whilst wandering back along the beach, we were again offered a lift and so headed to the East end of the island and ‘The Shipyard Restaurant’ that overlooks the mainland. There is a delight at finding somewhere that has free wifi and a happy hour with two for one cocktails (with serious measures) at $6! To say I had an awesome birthday and a sore head the following day is a little of an understatement.