Bahamian Jazz takes center stage this spring.
At Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, from March 29th to April 2nd, the annual All That Jazz festival will bring together jazz artists from across The Bahamas. They will be joined by prestigious international artists in a series of concerts and events in Governor’s Harbour and the surrounding area. All profits from the event will go to support the Haynes Library downtown (facebook.com/hayneslibraryeleuthera) in its mission to promote literacy and research for the residents of Eleuthera. For details and tickets visit the jazz festival website at eleutheraallthatjazz.com.
The Devil’s Backbone is a sprawling, jagged reef system spread along the northern shore of Eleuthera. Extending from close to shore well into the Atlantic, it links two of the premier destinations in the area—Spanish Wells in the west and Harbour Island off the northeast corner of Eleuthera. On shore along this route lies an important site in the history of Eleuthera and The Bahamas—Preacher’s Cave.
In 1647, a group of Christians seeking new lands and religious freedom from Bermuda shipwrecked on the Devil’s Backbone reef and came ashore. Led by William Sayles, the shipwrecked sailors made their way to safety and took refuge in a cave. They used a large rock, now known as Pulpit Rock, as their altar and are said to have held church services here for 100 years to commemorate their deliverance from the reef. These were the first Europeans to settle in The Bahamas, and their descendants still make up much of the population of Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and Harbour Island. What became known as Preacher’s Cave is also an important window into the pre-European history of the islands. Archeological excavations have identified a number of Lucayan grave sites here, as well as evidence of everyday life in the period ranging from the 8th to 17th centuries. Genetic links have been found between these graves and current residents of Spanish Wells.
The Devil’s Backbone route offers good water and is transited daily by the high-speed ferry Bo Hengy III, but it is a convoluted passage strewn with shallow coral heads. Grass beds make it difficult to read the deep water, and some of the passages between reef patches are quite narrow. Any cloud cover, a poor sun angle or breaking waves from a northerly swell will obscure the passage, and swirling currents may push you off line making it extremely dangerous. Only those cruisers with extensive experience reading the water should attempt this passage and then only in perfect conditions.
If you don’t want to risk your own boat, the high-speed ferry runs every day from Spanish Wells to Harbour Island in the morning and returns in the afternoon. It is quite an experience to watch from the top deck as the ferry hits speeds of up to 30 knots with reefs clearly visible just off her beam. If you do want to take your own boat, there are a number of experienced pilots available in Spanish Wells. Try hailing “Little Woody”, “A1 Broadshad” or “Bandit” on VHF 16, or inquire locally for other options. The pilot fee generally starts at $100 one way.
Fishing tournament schedule
Many tournaments are held in The Bahamas in the winter months. While the following is certainly not a complete list, it gives some idea of the possibilities.
• February 1-5: Resorts World Bimini Wahoo Tournament, North Bimini. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit resortsworldoceansports.com.
• February 5-7: Hawk’s Nest Annual Wahoo Championship. Contact email@example.com or visit hawks-nest.com.
• February 9-11: Sea Spray Abaco Challenge; seasprayabacochallenge.com
• March 26-29: Hawk’s Nest 6th Annual Hang ‘Em High Tournament; hawks-nest.com
In mid-November, a cruising boat reported surprisingly shallow water depths in the passage from Spanish Cay south to Green Turtle Cay. Depths of 6-7 feet were reported in an area open to ocean waters and charted at 12-15 feet. There was visual evidence of new sand washed in from the cut. This is probably not a widespread problem but may occur in isolated spots throughout the Abacos and Exumas after Hurricane Matthew.
Spanish Wells Yacht Haven has completed their major two-year-long renovation. New docks are in place with power and reverse osmosis water, a new swimming pool, laundry, and showers. A new restaurant, Wreckers, opened in April. Marina management also reported that some dredging was done in their entrance channel area providing improved access to their slips.
Chub Cay Marina in The Berry Islands remained closed at press time due to damage from Hurricane Matthew. The resort itself and many private homes were also extensively damaged. Repairs are underway but the specialized contractors needed for the marina infrastructure are in short supply at this time. In the northern Berrys, Great Harbor Cay Marina fared much better. Despite some land-side damage, the marina is in full operation and the community is recovering quickly.
By Rex Noel, Southern Boating Magazine February 2017