We planned to drop the hook in Alabaster Bay for two reasons – an abandoned US Navy base with a direct link to my military career and what were reportedly the most beautiful pink sand beaches in the Bahamas. It’s also a remote bay, without a lot of other boats or tourists, which was a draw for us. Anxious to get started, we weighed anchor in Hatchet Bay after coffee and morning colors, making the 2-hour trip to Alabaster Bay under engines since the slight wind, while usable in terms of speed, was right on our bow.
Morning Colors – At 0800, or 8:00 am, every morning while docked, anchored or moored, the US flag is unfurled at the stern until sunset. The flag is always flying aboard La Vie Dansante when she’s underway.
The Bay’s sandy bottom made for good holding, and our anchor bit on the first try. We backed down hard on it to test it, and were satisfied enough in our anchor security to take down the Eclipses, paddle to the beach and make the 15-minute walk to the abandoned Navy base.
We took the long way to the base, figuring we could use the walk and it would be fun to make a loop and take in some different scenery. This led us to approach the base from the beach side after walking about a half mile on the sand. Wow! This beach was spectacular! But more on that in a bit. First, the base.
The Red Menace
It was pretty cool to discover the base was an early SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) monitoring station! As a young officer, I cut my teeth on hunting Soviet submarines. We trained to search, localize, track and attack specific types of subs. To prevent us drilling even more holes in the sky in “cold” open ocean searches, we’d usually launch on some type heads-up, or “cueing”, like intelligence information or a hit on the ocean-wide system of hydrophones (underwater microphones) that make up SOSUS.
For any Millenials and “Gen Z”ers reading this on your mobile devices, the Russians were classically great bad guys when they were the lead dogs of the “Soviet Union” (aka The Red Menace and the Evil Empire). We were engaged in a “Cold War” with the Soviets for decades, but it all came to an end after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism.Since they don’t teach this kind of American history in school anymore, stream The Hunt for Red October to learn more! 🙂
The base was constructed in the 50s and closed in 1980 – the year I entered the Naval Academy. One kind of interesting aspect that remains is the large sloping concrete pad that channeled rainwater – the base’s only supply of fresh water – into large storage tanks for use by the 150 or so sailors and civilians who lived and worked on the installation. This pad is where Barbara and I accessed the base off the incredible pink sand beach.
Wow. the water here is crystal, beautiful and kinetic. The sand is breathtakingly colorful and soft, feeling more like powdered sugar under your feet. The best part though – our two sets of footprints were the only ones on the beach this day! We liked this beach so much, we came back the next day and spent the daylight hours working on tans and reducing blood pressure.
Had we not continued to Governor’s Harbor that evening, I would say this section of the Eleuthera beach was the most beautiful I’d seen in my life.
But, anxious to do some provisioning and make a rum run, we bid farewell to the Great Barracuda hanging out under our boat and made the quick run down the coast to Governor’s Harbor that evening.
In stark contrast to anchoring in Alabaster Bay, holding in Governor’s Harbor is notoriously bad. However, most people who’ve anchored here said they stuck after dragging a little, and that’s exactly how it worked out for us. I dove the anchor to make sure we were set and found we were hung on a rock – great for holding, but maybe a problem for leaving! Anyway, now convinced of the security of our ground tackle, we went ashore and did the first of our provisioning runs.
Governor’s Harbor is nothing special compared to other places along Eleuthera, but it was pleasant and we’d be sticking around for the Friday Fish Fry – cooked fish, “rice and peas” (rice and beans) and dancing in the streets ’till 1:00 am!
In the meantime, we spent a day hiking to the renowned French Leave Beach on the other side of the island. It was here we found the most incredible beach either of us has ever been too!
French Leave Beach was much like the beach we’d seen at Alabaster Bay – just as colorful and vacant, only wider and cleaner. As the waves came ashore in perfectly crystal cylinders, they looked like prisms rolling over the pink tinted sand beneath. Neither of us had ever seen anything quite like it.
We spent way too little time there. Telling ourselves we’d find many more of these beaches in the Islands, we made our way back to town and the dinghy landing, ferrying back to La Vie Dansante to get ready for a night on the town!
Fish or Chicken?
As it turned out, the Fish Fry was just OK. I liked it fine, but Barbara liked neither the fish, nor the rice & peas, nor the conch salad we bought as an appetizer! I think she’d have eaten the chicken, though.
We did meet a nice couple from Michigan who own a beautiful home on the island, and we got to hang out a while with Crystal, a hometown friend’s cousin who lives in Governor’s Harbor, so it wasn’t a total loss. Besides, the whole show benefits a local church, whose parishioners do all the setup, cooking and sales. I’ll eat fish for a great cause any day!
As the dancing was cranking up and the crowd was shifting from tourists to locals, the wind in the harbor shifted 180 degrees and picked up significantly, so Barbara and I took the dinghy back to check on our holding. Just as we tied up to La Vie Dansante the skies opened and quenched the Fish Fry, so we stayed aboard and prepared to depart the next morning for our next stop – Rock Sound.