If You Build It, Will They Come?

We’ve been battened up here at Cape Eleuthera for 3 nights now, riding out the latest cold front and waiting for a 2-day window that will allow us to cross to the Abacos.

005 - Choppy West Side

The normally placid west side of the island is all chopped up due to westerly winds.

Cape Eleuthera is a perfectly nice and comfortable marina, with decent amenities and fair prices.  What’s interesting here is not what is, but what isn’t.  The developers certainly had grand ambitions.


The marina is largely empty — we’re hanging out here with just 3 other transient boats.

The marina slips are high quality, yet no one really stays here.  The resort buildings are new and attractive, yet only a fraction of them are built out.  Foundations for homes have been poured, and roads built, but they’ve been languishing.


The developers have posted a highly optimistic plan for the area.  Yet, after years and years, most of it is “Coming Soon.”


Dozens of foundations for residences have been poured all over the Cape Eleuthera property.

A satellite image of the site shows that the marina basin currently in use is just one of the channels dredged, at likely great expense.

Cape Eleuthera

Only the top left basin is in use.  The others have been dredged in hopes of what?

It’s not just Cape Eleuthera.  All over the island, there is evidence of development thwarted.

007 006 006 - Road to Nowhere

Everywhere, there are “For Sale” signs for what might be attractive waterfront — even beachfront — properties.  Yet gridded roads lead to nowhere, or at most, sparse residential development.

And it’s certainly not just Eleuthera.  All over the Out Islands that we’ve visited, there are tantalizing artist’s renderings of high-end communities, marina basins dug, roads laid out, power lines installed, and airport runways built.  Even though these projects have big money and big (often celebrity) names backing them, most seem to go nowhere.

It’s not as if these islands don’t have much to offer.  In the days that Rick and I have been in Eleuthera, we’ve rented a car and explored the 80-mile long island from top to bottom, including one of its tiny satellites, Spanish Wells.  Compared to many Out Islands, Eleuthera has some decent infrastructure.  We’ve been reveling in cell and WiFi, and a supermarket that had decent selection — including the first avocados I’ve seen since we left the U.S. (yes, this is the kind of stuff that thrills cruisers….).

We spent some quality time in Governor’s Harbour, established in the 17th century, and it maintains its charm.

013 014

Our tour of Eleuthera has been part-exploration, and part trip down Memory Lane.  In Governor’s Harbour, we had lunch at the Buccaneer Club, where our friends Mary and Dick Cowley stood us lunch when we visited here 24 years ago.  (I think the menu hasn’t changed since then.)

020 031

The narrow streets cascade down to the harbour, and are lined with white block and picket fences, festooned with flowers.

026 027 029

Attractive homes line the streets, and are available for purchase and for rent by vacationers.

Nowhere on Eleuthera are you far from it’s biggest attraction — the sea.

053 052

The ocean beaches on Eleuthera are not just your run-of-the-mill amazing Bahamian beaches; they are truly pink.

At the northern end of the Eleuthera, there is a spot where the island has eroded to a point where a tiny strip of rock separates Exuma Sound from the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s called Glass Window, and it highlights the contrast between the bodies of water.

011 - Glass Window East 012 - Glass Window West 013

The Atlantic Ocean on the left, and Exuma Sound on the right, with an aerial image below showing the entire site.  Even on a stormy day, the two bodies of water couldn’t be more different.

And, of course, the sunsets can be stunning.


I can’t help but do a bit of comparing of mainland Eleuthera to Spanish Wells — which we reached after a 2.5 hour drive and 7 minute ferry ride.  There are many similarities.

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Spanish Wells has the same charming cottages lining the similarly flower-festooned streets.


And, yes, Spanish Wells’ beaches are pink as well.

But Spanish Wells (and I imagine its tonier sister, Harbour Island) has a level of sophistication, and higher per-acre level of tourism, that exceeds the “mainland.”

018 - Shipyard Stone Crab Claw

We had our first “modern” meal since leaving the Abacos at the Shipyard in Spanish Wells.  This delicious stone crab claw — as big as my hand — was enough of an appetizer for both of us.

Perhaps it’s Spanish Well’s development of non-tourism industry that paradoxically makes it more attractive to tourism and development.

039 - Workboats Spanish Wells

Spanish Wells accounts for 70% of the Bahamas’ exported fishing product, as a result of which it is one of the wealthier communities in the entire island nation.  At one time, most if not all of Spanish Wells’ lobster catch was sold to Red Lobster.

Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying that second marriages are “[t]he triumph of hope over experience.”  That much can probably be also said about every would-be developer in the Bahamas.

2 thoughts on “If You Build It, Will They Come?

    1. Berwick

      Moondance crossed to the Abacos today. Got our asses kicked with about 20 sailboats. You guys travel in packs! Anchored at Lynyard Cay tonight and putting boat back together. Call us on VHF when you arrive. We will try to get into Sea Spray Marina in a few nights.


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