At last year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans, I got to meet the members of one of my favorite bands, Better Than Ezra, after their show. As we chit-chatted, I mentioned that I’d also seen them at my first Jazz Fest in the 90s, which had also been one of their earliest (if not first) Jazz Fest appearances. When bassist Tom Drummond asked me which was better, I replied, “Oh, you never forget your first.”
And so it is with me and my very first Out Island – Eleuthera – which Rick and I visited in 1990 as young marrieds, while I was still in law school. It made for a heck of a spring break, and was an eye-opening experience. We may not have loved Eleuthera enough to return until now, but it taught us a lot about the Out Islands in general.
From visiting Eleuthera, I learned that:
– There are still places on this planet where the people are trustworthy enough that your hotel room won’t have a key. And you won’t need one.
– There are places where people are trusting enough that if you haven’t thought to make a rental car reservation, the rental car company owner will lend you his personal wheels until he can get another one. And he’ll give it to you without a credit card or cash deposit, but will find you later.
– There are places where you can find yourself the only person on a glorious miles-long pink sand beach utterly alone.
– Picking up hitchhikers is the polite thing to do.
– It’s worth the trouble to seek out and get to places like this.
And getting here has not been easy. Back in 1990, we found a now-defunct commuter airline to get us here in a tiny plane. Getting to Cape Eleuthera yesterday took 2 long days of sailing.
From Lynyard Cay in the Abacos, we left around 6:30 – just after the sunrise, and the first time I’ve had to set an alarm in weeks – and rode 6 foot swells for 63 miles (over 8 hours), motor-sailing. We led a small pack of 9 boats from the Abacos, but all but us and a boat named Lucia peeled off and headed for safe harbor in either Spanish Wells or Royal Island at the north end of Eleuthera. We stopped next to Current Cut, off a pretty beach, and rode out a swell-y night. (Alas, not beach time for us, since we’d deflated and stowed our dinghy and all of our water toys for these passages.)
We may not have been able to enjoy this beach, but the sand bottom made our anchor happy. And when our anchor is happy — especially in strong breeze and a swell — we’re very happy.
Yesterday, we had a shorter trip (40 miles), but it took longer as we sailed upwind. We started just as early again, at just about sunrise.
Sunrise from where we anchored off the Current Settlement on Eleuthera.
Our first step was negotiating the aptly named Current Cut, which has tidal flows at times which are strong enough to impede a boat’s progress; we only battled 3 knots of current at the end of the tide.
This is sunrise over Current Cut. These are the very few sunrise photos which you’ll be seeing, because I don’t have much interest in waking up early enough to take them….
The sea inside the crook of Eleuthera is shallow, and the 18-22 knot winds had kicked up a chop that was as steep and nasty as the Chesapeake when it is feeling surly. Except the water is turquoise. (We discovered new leaks on the boat, but at least found the ones Rick had sealed from our last rough sail had stayed dry.) The last 7 miles of the trip were in a channel through vast sand flats, until we finally entered Exuma Sound and the marina at Cape Eleuthera.
Last night, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, then drinks and dinner at the marina’s Conch House café with Paul and Kathy from Lucia.
Sunsets I can do again and again.
We’re using today to do some boat chores (Rick is changing engine oil and belts as I write, and I’m about to do laundry) before heading off to the Exumas tomorrow. But not before some quality ‘Lutran beach time.
Actually, the beach at Cape Eleuthera is not that great. But a little judicious framing of photos makes it look good.
Like many Bahamian beaches, this one is bordered by ironshore. But interestingly, it also has an ocean hole, or “blue hole” — where sinkholes in the limestone collapse and create a hole of great depth — just off the beach. Note the darker water in the upper right photo.
Finally, what is a beach day without Rick building one of his cairns?