26:35.9N 77:00.8W Man 'O War Cay

Madeleine and Martin
Sun 2 Jun 2013 15:56
We are at anchor on the west side of Man ‘O War Cay in the Abacos – the north end of the Bahamas. Abacos, as it turns out, is the plural of Abaco, the main Island of the group and does not therefore rhyme with a lettuce. But what of Eleuthera we hear you cry? Well in a sense least said, soonest mended!
Eleuthera is an island shaped like a string bean with split ends, or like that drawing of a chromosome; ninety miles long and at best three miles wide. We arrived off the south west corner on a grey and rainy evening, tracked our way over shallow ground to an open equally shallow anchorage. The word, “shallow” gets used a lot around here and therefore deserves a bit of elucidation. We have 2.3 metres (or a fraction short of 7’ 6” if you prefer) hanging down in the water. So, if there’s 4m of water – quite a luxury in the Bahamas – we have 1.7 m (5’ 6”) under the keel. Most of the West side of Eleuthera is a shallow, generally sandy, bank. For shallow sailing you need:
a. a well surveyed accurate chart;
b. overhead sunshine – to see the change in water colour as it gets shallower and or the odd rock;
c. a rising tide;
d. few hard sticky up bits;
e. a baseless belief that all will be well.
Only bits of the Eleuthera bank have been surveyed; apart from a brief interlude at Governors Bay there was no sunshine; it will not have escaped your attention that the tides only rise half of the time; but despite all the odds we only touched the bottom once!
In the middle of Eleuthera sits the capital, Governors Harbour. We dropped anchor off the beach and the sun came out! We needed some prescription medicine for a gyppy tummy so we phoned the Government Clinic to find out where it was. “It’s the old building that used to be pink” (!) she said. “You can see it from your boat” Err......  “I’m waving at you from the steps.” Gotcha. Now, Bahamian ladies are often big, - and I mean Big – and Nurse Cooper was no exception. When we met up she asked us about September. She mused that she would love to undertake such an adventure but volunteered that she would not be able to fit on board! Could not really argue with that.
Waiting a couple of hours in the Doctors on a Monday is hardly unusual and would not be worthy of further comment were it not for the TV. Apart from the odd irrelevant advert, this showed a seemingly endless diet of “in memoriams”and funeral notices or similar announcements. The connection between the Doctor’s waiting room and the Grim Reaper was inescapable. Good job neither of us was seriously ill.
We would have liked to move on to Spanish Wells on the north end of Eleuthera but without good weather it was too shallow to risk. With a gale plus deluge forecast for the next couple of days we set off for the little anchorage on Royal Island. This was an uneventful journey save that we notched up our first 10,000 miles! Our reward was a safe anchorage to sit out the next two days – and boy, did it rain. Somehow, because it is warm, because it is the Bahamas, you don’t expect bad weather. But truth to tell, “the season” is over and we are just late heading North. So the sooner we get going the better. We are heading off for the marina at Marsh Harbour today, Sunday, and tomorrow will be dedicated to refuelling, victualing and negotiating our exit from the Bahamas with Customs and Immigration. If the weather is decent we aim to set off on the 700 mile passage to the Chesapeake on Tuesday 4th June. At least it will be deep water all the way; but what’s this? The pilot book says the Chesapeake is notorious for being – you guessed it - “Shallow”.