Narrow Ways Through Skinny Water

The Island of Eleuthera is a really skinny piece of paradise, and the adjective isn’t just descriptive of the landmass. “Skinny water” refers to shallow depth and is commonly used to describe the extremely shallow Bahamian waters. It’s not uncommon for us to have only three or four feet under the keel during significant portions of a sail, and we’ve had less than a foot at times! … which illustrates why, in the Bahamas, there are those who have run aground and those who will run aground. See our last post for more on that.

See Maureen for all of your fishing needs on Spanish Wells! Enter her garage to trip the bell.

Before we move the narrative away from Spanish Wells, I thought I’d mention two establishments that made our stay there fun – Island Custom Rod & Tackle and Budda’s Snack Shack. Maureen, at Island Tackle, sold us some squid and ballyhoo for bait, but she also refreshed the ice in our drinks for a very nice customer service touch, and Budda’s appears to be the Island’s most popular tourist hangout. It has a fun, ecclectic atmosphere, great food (the fish tacos … OMG … they use grouper), tasty drinks and a pretty well-stocked liquor store. What’s not to love? I had one very deceptively smooth and fruity drink called a “Dizzy Budda” … and was glad it was just one.

The Current Situation

After our adventures in the small islands West of Eleuthera, we were more than ready to start running South down the coast of the main island. We made one more trip into town for a filter wrench and a few provisioning items, then returned to La Vie Dansante to discover the wind had shifted to the South, making our previously comfy Spanish Wells anchorage a little more turbulent than we liked, so we decided to motor the short distance to North Beach, an anchorage just North of Current Cut – the sporty short cut into the shallow sound we’d take to begin our journey south along Eleuthera’s West coast. We spent a rolly night on the hook, then awoke to prepare for our Current Cut transit.

As the name implies Current Cut’s sportiness derives from the rapid flow of water east and west through the constricted space. Catch it at the wrong time, and you’re pushing a 6 knot boat against 10 knots of water flowing in the opposite direction – a losing proposition! For this reason, we planned our timing for the cut, carefully considering local conditions – for which information was difficult to find! Most advice was “the tide at Current Cut is an hour or two behind Nassau” … really? Was it an hour behind Nassau or two hours behind Nassau … or an hour and a half behind Nassau? Online tide resources were no help either, providing tide times that varied all over the place and no two agreed. Ideally, we’d hit the Cut at slack tide, when the water was just between rushing in and flowing out and basically still for just a few minutes … if we could just find out when the hell that was.

Ultimately, we planned to enter the Cut precisely at 11:40 am, averaging all the decently reliable inputs and hoping for the best.

Popping out the East side of Current Cut

At 10:00 am or so, while we were doing boat chores ’til go time, I saw a sailboat heading into the cut and tried to contact her for some intel on the current. She didn’t respond, but a small trawler was right behind her and that Captain agreed to pass along info on observed current in the Cut. His report was pretty anticlimactic, though. “I’d come across now. We have about 3 knots of current at our backs, and it’s really smooth out here.” I thanked him for the report and took it in. Man, I sweated this cut way too much. “Barbara, I’m about to light off the engines. Let’s go!” As it turned out, passage through Current Cut was a non-event. We saw no more than 2 knots of current gently pushing us through. Of course, given our recent history, I was more than happy for a non-event.

The Most Secure Bay on Eleuthera

Once through the Cut, we left the mainsail in the bag and unfurled our Genoa (headsail) for a lazy sail across Eleuthera Sound to our chosen anchorage at Hatchet Bay Harbor and it’s very narrow, rocky entrance.

We’re really feeling the benefit of how streamlined our hull is with our new Gori folding props. On this sail, for example, we got 4 knots of speed out of 9 to 10 knots of wind using only our Genoa. Before, we’d have written off less than 11 knots of wind as unusable.

Of course, maybe some of this is just that sailing without a schedule means you really don’t care if you’re not going that fast. Yeah, come to think of it, that’s probably a lot of it.

Big boat, little inlet!

The inlet at Hatchet Bay Harbor seemed about as wide as our 25 foot beam, so we pushed through, being careful to stay in the center, since the edges of the cut are very unforgiving rocks!

After squeezing through the tight inlet, we discovered what the locals call “the most secure anchorage on Eleuthera”, surrounded by land high enough to brake wind from just about any direction. We set the anchor, spent the first night aboard (as is now our SOP to ensure the anchor is holding), then went ashore the next morning to meet the Harbor’s proprietor and explore the shore.

We had read about Emmitt in anchorage reviews on Active Captain – He’s the local entrepreneur who provides provisions, trash service, drinks, a convenience store, rental cars, travel advice and music (yes, he serenades new arrivals!) to boaters who choose to drop the hook in Hatchet Bay and we were anxious to meet him. Tying up the dinghy at the dock, I found two Bahamian men reclining under a couple of palm trees.

“I’m looking for Emmitt” I offered up.
The older of the two pointed to the younger and said “He can help you find Emmitt”
At which point the younger pointed back and said “Here he is!”
We all enjoyed the good natured start to our Hatchet Bay adventure.

After exchanging pleasantries, Barbara and I deployed our folding bikes and made the 21-mile round trip to Glass Window – where the stark contrast between the calm shallow sound and the crashing waves of the Atlantic are within feet of each other, and The Queen’s Baths – incredible tide pools sculpted into the rock by those crashing waves. The scenery is stunning and definitely worth the long ride to get there from Hatchet Bay.

But The Queen’s Highway in that part of Eleuthera is maintained like a Louisiana highway and Barbara took a spill on a speed bump approaching Hatchet Bay near the end of our journey. Her shin and her camera lens took a hit and, while her leg is healing nicely, her lens wasn’t as lucky so we’re experiencing our first try at shipping to the Bahamas. The new lens should arrive at Rock Sound in a couple of weeks.

Our last night in Hatchet Bay proved to be a memorable one! Barbara and I got word from a Canadian sailor in the anchorage that a local fisherman had stone crab claws for sale at the Harbor’s commercial dock, so we took a break from securing La Vie Dansante for yet another round of winds to run the dinghy over and procure some! The fisherman, Charles, was a friendly sort with a lot of military service in his family, so he gave us a few extra claws when he discovered I was retired Navy!

Barbara cooked up the HUGE claws, complete with Old Bay & vinegar and cilantro garlic butter! The first claw I laid into was the size of a baseball!

Stone crabs regrow their claws, so local fishermen snap off only one from each crab they catch! We’re pretty happy they came back with these beauties!

We’ve stayed in Hatchet Bay for 6 days, choosing to stay put for the protection as more wind continued to blow through the Central Bahamas.

As a sailor in the Bahamas during wintertime, you develop a love-hate relationship with the wind. You need it to propel you on your journey, but you also have to secure the boat from too much of it.

But we’ll likely head down-island to Alabaster Bay in the morning. It’s supposed to be home to an abandoned Navy base and a beautiful pink beach.

Then again, we really don’t have an agenda so who knows where we’ll end up? 🌴🍹🍹⛵🌅

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