High temp 82 degrees; water temp 81 degrees – NE wind at 10-12 knots; inside seas a light chop
While sitting in the cockpit, listening to the weather forecast, I glance out toward the narrow, rocky entrance to Hatchet Bay and am startled to see a small ship entering the harbour. It a coastal tanker named Sea Trader and is delivering gasoline to Hatchet Bay. She carefully clears the tight harbour entrance and follows the deep water channel to the long concrete seawall, where she makes a slow U turn and ties up. It’s pretty remarkable how these cargo and tanker vessels manage to navigate into such tight quarters.
Today we’ll rent a car and explore Eleuthra by road. It’s beginning to rain as we dinghy in past Sea Trader and tie up inside the main dock. We walk over to the small store where we’ll pick up our rental car. The business owner greets us there and tells his store clerk to give us the jeep, which happens to be a small Ford. He asks if I can drive a standard shift. I say yes, but tell him I don’t know how to drive on the left side of the road. He jokingly tells his clerk to cancel the rental.
The car is in fairly good shape, but has its quirks. The gear shift handle has lost its diagram of gear location, and I have trouble locating reverse. Next, I discover that the tilt steering wheel refuses to lock in position. It’s disconcerting to be driving on the wrong side of the road, approaching a curve with oncoming traffic, and have the wheel tilt up as I’m trying to avoid both a head on collision and swerving into the ditch.
We bravely head north, picking up a hitchhiker along the way. I figure we’ll be thumbing starting tomorrow, and it’s only fair that I offer the same help we’ll be looking for when we hitchhike. Our rider is heading for work in Gegory Town, a few miles up the road. He thanks us for the lift, and we continue on our way. We go all the way to the northern tip of the island, in search of the Preachers Cave. This cave is located near the treacherous inshore passage between Spanish Wells and Harbour Island known as The Devils Backbone. The cruising guides highly recommend employing a local pilot before attempting this passage. At Preachers Cave a ship wrecked on the reef, and the survivors took shelter in the nearby cave. It’s a dramatic cave with high, vaulted ceiling and several “skylight” openings in the ceiling which admit light into the main chamber. We don’t linger here, however, because the mosquitoes here are thick and hungry. We retreat to the windswept beach and watch a large sportfishing boat pound its way through the swells of The Devils Backbone, with pilot boat leading the way.
Next, we backtrack down the island, stopping at a place CaSandra mentioned yesterday. It’s called Queens Bathtub, and is a place which Queen Elizabeth reputedly visited and bathed in during a visit to Eleuthra many years ago. We park the car and walk toward the ocean side, and discover a cove which the waves have carved into the rocky bluff. Waves crash into this cove and splash up over rock shelves, filling large, round pools. These pools seem to be scour holes, formed by boulders rolling around in the tidal surge. It’s a stunning place, and barely even marked along the main road.
We continue south, with a brief stop at Hatchet Bay Cave, a limestone cavern with stalactite and stalagmite formations. We poke into the entrance but, without flashlights or a guide, don’t proceed beyond the first chamber. I step awkwardly into a hole hidden in the shadows and scrape my leg. Sadly, this place has been badly defaced with graffitti, broken cave features and litter.
We drive on to Governor’s Harbour, in search of a place to stop for lunch. This town was the first center of government for the Bahamas, and was originally settled by The Eleutherian Adventurers in 1637. It’s an attractively sited community, with graceful old buildings fronting on a sheltered bay. A few cruising sailboats ride at anchor a short distance off the beach. We drive around past the Customs and Immigration Offices, and order lunch at a waterfront cafe across from the ferry dock. Sandy thinks she sees the man who rented us the car, but I’m not sure and so don’t call to him.
After lunch we drive over to the historic old library building, where we get out and walk around. We wander past an interesting old Anglican Church, and view headstones in the adjacent cemetery. Some of the markers are for people born in the late 1700’s. We return to the car, and I drive back along the bayside street. I glance over to an unusual looking dark gray colored dinghy, which is hauled up on the beach. I’ve only seen one other like it, and it belonged to our friends Christina and Maciek. I glance out in the bay and, sure enough, Calypso is one of the boats anchored here. We can’t believe our luck at finding their boat. But how to find them. Sandy figures they’ve likely come ashore for groceries. We drive up the street and pull over so she can study our tourist map and hopefully learn where the nearest grocery is. While so engaged, a car pulls up and we see our Hatchet Bay friend who rented us the car. It’s the same guy we’d seen while eating lunch. We roll down the window and he cheerily greets us and asks how we’re getting along. We tell him we’re having a fine time, and ask him where the closest grocery is. He points out a store less than a block away. We thank him and he drives off with a smile. We pull over to the small grocery store and walk inside. Sandy immediately spots Maciek, loudly clears her throat, and the surprising reunion begins. The chain of circumstances which has enabled us to cross paths once again is nothing short of amazing. Some may call it remarkably good luck, but we all chose to credit the Lord’s grace.
We offer to take Chris and Maciek with us on a short road tour around the Governor’s Harbour area, and they eagerly accept. We drive out in search of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a recently developed Bahamian botanical reserve which we learned about while eating lunch. It’s very new, and extremely well done, with a beautiful water feature, a couple miles of winding trails, a viewing tower, and attractive signs pointing out native plants with medicinal properties. Numerous species of birds have been attracted to this area. We are fortunate to spot the Great Lizard-Cuckoo, perched in the brush.
We continue our drive past a district of luxury waterfront homes, and then swing west, through Palmetto Point. We stop at a local wholesale produce store, where I’m surprised to find Red Delicious apples with the hometown Stemilt Warehouse sticker on them. We return Christina and Maciek to their dinghy where we say proper farewells and hoping that we’ll be able to renew this friendship in the years to come. We drive on as they motor out in their dinghy toward their Calypso.
It’s now approaching the dinner hour. We drive back north and stop at The Rainbow Inn, a seaside restaurant and motel just south of Hatchet Bay. We’ve read that they serve excellent food here, and we’re not disappointed. We enjoy a delightful dinner on their screen enclosed veranda. Sandy has Mahi Mahi and I try their cracked conch. Both are delicious. We enjoy chatting with our waitress as well as with the owner. It’s past sunset when we drive out to the dock. I unload the car near the dinghy and then drive the car back to the little store. The owner who had given us directions to the grocery was there (this guy shows up everywhere) to refill the gas tank. I walk back to the dock and find Sandy chatting with a guy who is seated on the seawall, fishing. He’s from Freeport and came here on a construction job. The job just shut down for lack of funds and he’s stuck here. He’s fishing so he’ll have something for dinner. We wish him luck, and dinghy back out to the boat as darkness settles in.