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The next morning, we headed out at first light and slack tide, about 6:15 a.m.  Another boat was preparing to leave and we called them on the radio.  Larry and Sharon on Epiphany decided to go along with us.  We three boats headed south, passing the lighthouse we had visited the day before.  The ocean was calm, with only gentle movement.  There was also little wind so we again had to motor.  We crossed the Northwest Providence Channel and encountered five or six freighters headed out to open sea.  Otherwise, the trip was uneventful.  We raised the sails but couldn't honestly say we sailed since the winds were light and variable.  We used our two GPS systems to check each other and be certain of our location since we were out of sight of land.  After about seven hours, we caught our first glimpse of tree line on Eleuthra's Royal Island.  As we approached, we also sighted reefs with waves breaking.  Our course was to go around the right point of land to avoid the reefs and then go between Egg Island and Little Egg Island.  As we headed through the cut, the fishing reel began to sing.  Bob was excited at the prospect of catching a fish since we had not had a bite all day.  We were changing course, going through the cut, trying to bring in the sail, and reel in the fish.  Too much.  By the time Bob got him in, there was only a head on the hook.  This was the first fish we have lost to a shark. 

We motored on and arrived at Royal Island well before dark.  Royal Island was bought and developed  by a man from Florida in the 1920's.  He built buildings, paved little one-lane roads for his Model T Ford pickup truck, and planted citrus trees and exotic fruits and plants.  After his death, his family inherited the property but took no interest.  At first there were caretakers but now there is only vandalism and ruins.  As you visit the site and see hand-painted tiles on the floors and the once-solid construction of the now crumbling buildings, your mind fantasizes about what once must have been.  If only walls could talk….   The asking price is 13 million.  The family has reportedly turned down 7 million.

The next day we walked to the ocean side of the island with snorkel, fishing equipment, and lunch.  Hurricane Andrew destroyed part of the road along the jetty so, in places, we were wading along the coral.  The wind was calm, the water cool, and the sun hot.  Only small brim-size fish were biting.  Bob tried out his spear and stabbed a fish which blew up like a volleyball covered with one-inch long spines, a porcupine or puffer fish!  Jerry caught a cowfish, flat on the bottom with a triangular-shaped body and a hard surface like a lobster yet a regular fish tail.  Very strange creatures and not edible.  Both fish were thrown back.  An interesting note…while on Harbor Island, we saw a porcupine fish blown up and dried in that condition. The woman selling it said you could put a light bulb in it and use it for a lamp.  We have since learned that the fish can be eaten if prepared properly; if not properly prepared, it is poisonous.  The cowfish is edible and prized for its enlarged liver.  A picture of this fish is in the Margarita section of the web site.

Another day at Royal and then we headed to
Spanish Wells, about 5 miles away.  Legend is that the name came from the Spanish who filled their barrels with the sweet water from the local wells.  On this prosperous island, 75% of the Bahamian lobster was processed along with much fish.  There were many cars (way too many), newly painted houses, and beautifully cultivated gardens, unlike many of the other Bahamian islands where the lackadaisical attitude was, "No problem, mon."  In Spanish Wells, the lifestyle was very traditional with men fishing and women running the houses, very sexist but utilitarian.  There were no liquor stores and little drinking.  The men were very industrious, always working on something.

Late one afternoon, Bob and I were doing several loads of laundry in one washer and one dryer located in an unlocked alcove behind a little store.  In between the cycles, we walked along the beach and came to an all-age school, i.e., twelve grades in one building.    Although it was about 4:00 p.m., a woman was still there.  Bob went up and started talking to her.  Her name was Phillipa.  Her mother had been born on Spanish Wells but Phillipa was born in the West Indies.  She had taught in Nassau and Harbor Island and this school year returned to Spanish Wells where her mother lived. She taught third grade and was very bright and enthusiastic.  She told us about Harbor Island and showed us the maps her students had made of Eleuthera.  We invited her to the boat the next afternoon for cocktails.  We also invited Rainbow's End and Epiphany, a delightful visit.  Phillipa and a friend had just bought a sailboat and she was intrigued by our adventures.  She shared with us information about Harbor Island and certain areas in the Exumas.

We also met the principal of the school, a native of Eleuthera. We asked if she knew where we could get e-mail and she offered her home computer.   A couple of days later, Bob and I walked to her house at her lunch break.  The school at Spanish Wells closed from noon to 1:00 p.m. as did most of the town.  People went home for lunch then returned to work or school. 

The next day we hired a guide and headed to
Harbor Island.  Our guidebook and also Phillipa said you should not attempt the Devil's Backbone without a guide.  The two-hour trip took us around many reefs, often very close to shore and the breaking waves, other times out close to the reefs.  When clouds passed overhead, the water looked dark and you couldn't tell whether the dark area was due to clouds or a reef.  Even when we arrived at the Harbor Island entrance, there were expansive shallow areas.  It was a much more enjoyable and less stressful trip with a guide.

Before airplanes, Harbor Island was a very exclusive spot, available as a vacation destination for only the very rich.   Now, common folk can get there by way of the Eleuthera airport, a taxi, and then a ferry or water taxi.  Harbor Island exists for tourism without other product or service.  Here, there are people with lots of money and people with next to nothing, a very clear contrast.  On Saturday night, the lower economic class began drinking early and singing hymns.  Quite a combination.  They also played music so loudly that we could hear them from our anchorage about ½ mile out in the harbor.   Sound travels amazingly well over water.

As we approached the anchorage, we looked for one of the large marinas described in the guidebook.  We saw a lot of pilings in the water as if it were a marina, but no boats.  We also smelled creosote, like burning tar.  Charred pieces of wood were floating in the water along with traces of oil.  Valentine's Marina had caught fire in the wee hours of the morning and the walkway to the docks and the harbormaster's office had burned and were still smoking.    Three days later, the remnants were still smoldering.

Sunday we took our snorkel gear to the beach but the tide was in and the reefs were too far out.  We walked along the beach and then ate lunch. The beach here was undoubtedly the most beautiful beach we've seen.  The water was crystal clear and a light aquamarine color just behind the breakers and out to the reefs. The texture of the sand was so fine that it was is almost like powder.  It had a pinkish tinge due to tiny flecks of red coral.   The sky was blue with a few white puffy clouds and the sun bright and warm.  Another beautiful day in paradise.

Monday was another story.  Out of nowhere came high winds, blowing in the high teens and gusting to the high 20's in the protected anchorage.  The boat was rocking and bobbing and tugging on the anchor rode.  Given Viking Rose's length and weight, we did not have as rough a ride as some others, but it was still a very active ride.  Knowing the forecast and anticipating conditions are very important so we're trying to learn about the weather.  Jerry on Rainbow's End was a meteorologist in a former life; he's helping us learn to read the charts we're getting off the weather fax.  The laptop computer and the Yacht Boy [a single side-band (SSB), receiver only]  talk to each other and pick up satellite transmissions and weather charts.  Just amazing!  Even after you get the charts, you have to read them.  There is a never-ending list of new things to study.

Tuesday we took the bikes in and made the island ours by riding most of the roads.  We also walked through all of the resorts described in the guidebooks.  By far, the most impressive was Pink Sands.  A very unpretentious entrance was misleading.  The floors of the reception area were tiled and cool.  A porch-type swing was suspended from a free-standing frame.  Both swing and frame were ornately carved and stained a dark wood.  Multi-colored cushions provided  touches of color.  The chain supporting the swing was hand-carved. A small pond with water lilies and other plants was spanned by a  tiled walking bridge.  The furnishings of the bar had an Indian motif with much dark carved wood, batik pillows, and tablecloths for the small tables.  In unusual contrast to the dark furnishings, there was an overlay of bright Caribbean colors, sky blue, muted red, pale violet, orange and green.  These sherbet colors were used alone as trim and then mingled together as if they had been sponged over each other (or antiqued) in combinations such as red and blue resulting in pale purple.  Hanging over the pool table was a light with a rectangular pierced-tin fixture.  Ornate screens and tapestries were trimmed in gold.  There was no traditional lighting; pierced-tin light fixtures of various sizes were hanging from the high ceiling.  A few floor lamps were sitting around with their light bulbs shaded by rattan circles about 30 inches in diameter, standing on end like a coin, not flat like a hat.  There were two wrought iron candlestick holders five feet tall with five large round candles, the wax of whose predecessors had been allowed to melt and fall to the floor, mounding upwards.   The library was decorated in the same style but with less Caribbean color, presenting a cooler, darker refuge from the brightness of the sun.  The room's nod to modern convenience was a large television.  A terraced bar with another decorative pool was furnished with wooden tables and chairs painted a purplish shade of blue.  The entire resort was paved with pathways for the guests to use electric golf carts.  We walked along the path and saw the swimming pool, tennis courts, and then the beach bar and restaurant.  We didn't see any of the rooms or cottages, but one of the guidebooks reported that rooms cost $300-500 a night.  As we approached the restaurant, two men and a dog were leaving.  Jerry was adamant that one of the men was James Caan.  When we returned to the entrance, he was in the gift shop, trying on bathing suits.  The man with the dog was calling him Jimmy.  Bob and Sam waited around to see Caan and verified that it was he.  Bob said Caan was shorter than he thought.

Rumors were rampant that Jimmy Buffet was on the island.  A huge 100 foot mega-yacht was anchored in the harbor, Brown Eyed Girl.  Bob was convinced that it was Jimmy Buffet's but the guide who piloted us here said it was not.   Bob's other thrill was to see a Sports Illustrated photo-shoot on the beach with Heidi Kloom, one of those super skinny super models in super skimpy bikinis.   Each of the islands we've visited has its own uniqueness, but this one would more likely be host to "the rich and famous."

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