Spanish Wells to Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera
After a few nice days in Spanish Wells, it was time to get moving. We delayed our departure from Spanish Wells by one day because acquaintances of ours, Amy and David Alton of S/V Starry Horizons, were coming in for a couple of nights from George Town in the Exumas. David and Amy completed a circumnavigation on their catamaran a couple of years ago, and they’re still cruising. They have a very popular YouTube sailing channel “Out Chasing Stars”. We met them in Norfolk about two years ago. We knew they would be very tired after their overnight from George Town, so we invited them over to Ocean Song for sundowners, giving them time to catch up on their sleep. We had a good visit, but it was brief as they were busy getting Starry Horizons prepped to be left at a private dock for a week or so while they returned to the states. We’ve gotten lots of good ideas from Amy and David about living aboard. We told them they have helped us a great deal.
The next morning Starry Horizons passed by our anchoring spot on her way to the nearby private dock. Soon after, we upped anchor and headed for Current Cut. Current Cut is a very narrow cut that’s notorious for the strong currents it produces. It is said there can be currents up to 10 knots. There are two theories on how to safely navigate Current Cut on a sailboat:
- If heading west to east (our direction of travel) wait 90 minutes after high tide in Nassau so that you have a mild 1.5 – 2.0 knot current with you, or
- If heading east to west wait 90 minutes after low tide in Nassau so that you have a 1.5 – 2.0 knot current going with you.
To go through 90 minutes after high tide would have meant an early morning departure. We decided (after reading numerous reports from people who had navigated the cut) that going west to east 90 minutes after low tide would be best. For a sailboat Ocean Song has a lot of power, two 57HP Yanmar diesels. She can easily handle much stronger currents than 2 knots. Also, a manageable current on the nose gives better control than a following current that’s “pushing you” along. Winds were light and not a big factor. The strongest current we encountered was 1.6 knots and the cut was easily navigated.
Once through Current Cut we headed to The Glass Window for an overnight anchorage. We were in 8 -12 feet of water most of the way and it looked like we were sailing through a swimming pool.
The Glass Window is a section of the island where a storm broke through in 1991, creating a gap of perhaps 100 feet. When the road was repaired a bridge was constructed over the gap. Now, from the sound side where we were, one can see the roaring Atlantic in the gap under the bridge. It looks as though one is looking through a glass window. We ended up anchored there for two nights. There was a very heavy swell and Ocean Song was relatively comfortable, but it was too rough to put the dinghy into the water to go ashore. We did finally get the dinghy in on day two with the intention to go to The Glass Window. About ½ mile from the boat our outboard cut off. We couldn’t get it restarted so we paddled against the swell back to Ocean Song. We think it’s a clogged fuel line and we’re working on clearing it, but we didn’t ever make it to shore at that anchorage.
The next morning, we motored a few miles to Hatchet Bay, at Alice Town. The entrance to Hatchet Bay was the most intimidating to date.There was no issue with currents or tides, it’s just narrow, rocky, and provides no margin for error. At first, we questioned if the entrance was wide enough for our wide girl. The entrance is virtually impossible to see until you get within a couple hundred yards. We did a ride-by, became convinced it was “wide enough” and then motored through. Everything went smoothly. We anchored on the Alice Town side of the small bay, but our anchor dragged in the grassy, pudding-like sand (called scrabble by many). After monitoring our anchor for about an hour, we motored over to the other side of the bay and anchored in front of the bay’s lone waterfront cottage. I dove on the anchor but could not find it! It was so deeply buried that I couldn’t even find the anchor shank, only the chain disappearing in the sea floor. Hatchet Bay is very well protected, advertised as the Bahamas most protected anchorage, but the holding is suspect because of the grass and very, very soft bottom. Even a buried anchor can drag due to the softness of the sea floor. I did see lots of fish and 5 or 6 different types of jellyfish, literally hundreds of them. I don’t think any of them sting as I swam among them quite a bit and never felt anything.
Once we felt the anchor was set as well as it could be, we took the Yamaha outboard off Opus (our dinghy) and switched to our electric, E-propulsion, outboard. We have the electric outboard for two main reasons, a backup to our gas outboard, and as a quiet alternative when exploring for wildlife and sea life. Since it’s an alternative to gas, it’s a good option when dockside gasoline is hard to find or suspect. We went into Alice Town for a walk, had drinks and conch fritters at Twin Brothers.
Back onboard we still had concerns about our anchor holding so I (Jim) slept in the saloon and kept an anchor watch. There was little wind, we had a 200 ft. anchor alarm set, and I set a timer and checked our position every 90 minutes. I got pretty good sleep overall. Linda also got up a few times to check our position while I was asleep. Anchoring is a source of great stress for many cruisers. A true anchor watch is taking shifts and staying awake while monitoring the boat’s position. We felt that even if we dragged, we had enough chain out (lots of weight) combined with the weight of our anchor that we would drag slowly and only a few feet overnight. That’s why we did a modified anchor watch. Turned out everything was fine, and we maintained our position all night.
The next day a squall line came through with winds near 30 knots and hours of heavy rain. Hatchet Bay is well protected, but the squalls created whitecaps in the bay and tested our anchor set. Ocean Song’s anchor held, and we spent a rain-soaked day onboard. The bay has been quiet and only one boat has anchored near us, a 39-foot monohull, S/V Wayward.
We are contemplating leaving tomorrow for Rock Sound Harbor at the southern end of Eleuthera. Tomorrow looks like a good day to sail in that direction. We may spend a few days there and then sail to Cat Island, Sidney Poitier’s childhood home. We may pick up a friend, Sam Coleman, while at Cat Island to crew with us to St. Thomas. It might depend on our weather window timing to enable Sam to join us. Our plan is to make the passage to St. Thomas directly from Cat Island or from just a little farther south at Mayaguana Island. Weather will dictate our departure point. It will take between 4 and 5 days, nonstop to St. Thomas in the USVI. We have probably spent more time on St. Thomas than any other Caribbean Island, except Tortola. It will be fun arriving there on our boat rather than by plane or ferry.