Time To Move South
We moved on from peaceful Lynyard Cay in the Abacos in a flotilla of 12 yachts. Like us, the others had been waiting for a weather window to head south, and to do so requires exiting through one of the reef passes into the Atlantic. 10 of the boats were able to take a shorter route and leave via the shallow but more sheltered Little Harbour Bar to the south, but Koza and Balvenie retraced their steps north and had quite an exciting exit back out North Bar Channel followed by a brisk sail south with steady winds on the beam and a big Atlantic swell rolling under us.
Royal Island – Shattered Dreams
64 miles later we dropped anchor in the sheltered harbour at Royal Island just on 5pm, it was very good to be back in flat water! Royal Island is just off the northwest tip of the large island of Eleuthera. Ashore was rather an interesting place, another failed developers dream of which we have seen many on our travels. This one was planned to have a large marina, five star hotel, Jack Nicklaus designed 18 hole golf course and several waterfront residential properties.
The porta-cabin offices remain, a calendar on the wall shows August 2008, pieces of phones and computers sit on office desks, the boardroom table still accommodates a dozen plush board chairs, wicker furniture is piled in a corner, all are covered in cobwebs and mould. Several artist impression drawings hang on the walls, depicting the dream that was. However rusted abandoned construction machinery, unwrapped water tanks and piles of yet to be installed piping along with faded “Lots For Sale” signs show the reality that is. It was very difficult to imagine just how anyone thought this rocky island with no good beaches would ever be transformed into the “artists impressions” and the developers vision.
Tranquil Lakes & Woodlands??
We moved on south in wonderful conditions, again we needed to take a long route around in order to find enough water to stay afloat, the exits out and back into the bank were uneventful, but even in near perfect conditions the currents through the cuts were fierce. After another long days sailing we motored through the man made entrance in the limestone cliffs, (which seriously did not look wide enough) into the completely deserted anchorage of Hatchet Pond at the sleepy settlement of Alice Town.
Both our Cruising Guides spoke quite highly of this area, one mentioning rolling hills, valleys and lakes reminiscent of Scotland, the other talked of rolling pastures similar to Texas cattle land. Then there were to be the extensive pineapple plantations and interesting limestone caves.
Definitely worth serious exploring so we took the bikes ashore one day and teamed up with a South African cruising couple on their bikes. We were rather underwhelmed by what we saw but had a great day out and it was excellent to get in some serious exercise. In fairness we did find a cave and took a short look into its gooey, smelly, dark depths then left before we got attacked by bats.
And yes, the countryside was rolling, certainly more up and downs than we are used to living at sea level but the grazed pastureland is long gone, reclaimed by scrub and bushes – the abandoned decaying silos the only reminder of the glory days when this island was farmed and prosperous. Oh the pineapples, our guide states they once shipped thousands of tons of the fruit to America and England yearly yet we didn’t see one pineapple.
We had a tasty conch lunch in the tiny harbour-side hamlet of Gregory Town before tackling the rolling countryside and peddling back to Alice Town.
The End of the Line
We spent New Year’s Eve in sleepy Alice Town, no fireworks or hooters went off, not even a solitary sky rocket but the timing wasn’t great with another cold front passing overhead. We waited a couple of days for the weather to settle then left with a 15knot easterly forecast expecting a comfortable sail just in front of the beam in flat water with the wind coming off the land.
The first half was rather ghastly, the seas were whipped up and it was very bouncy, then the tide changed and what a difference that made for the remaining 20 miles to Rock Sound. We spent two nights in this very shallow harbour anchored a long way offshore. A Sunday afternoon excursion ashore showed another worn out little town with not much happening, several buildings were derelict and looked like they belonged on the bombed out village film set from Saving Private Ryan!
There is supposed to be a large agricultural industry still present on this long sliver of land, and tourism has touched a few spots along the way, the rest just looks to be scraping to make ends meet. From what we saw Eleuthera has sadly seen better days.
Off To Find Palm Lined Sandy Beaches