We hadn’t really planned on spending New Year’s anchored off an uninhabited island with a glorious white sand beach in the Bahamas. But we got lucky. The original plan was to celebrate a land-based new year with a large group of friends in Nassau, but as soon as I found out that some cruising friends had anchored their 50-foot cruising cat only a short fast ferry ride away in Harbour Island, Eleuthera, and that they’d love to spend New Year’s with my wife Caroline and our friend Roberta, we jumped at the chance to leave the relative hustle and bustle of the Nassau party scene in our wake. Boy was that the right call.
After enduring several chilly days (a cold front had blown in) and late nights in Nassau, the peace and quiet of spending a night at anchor off Harbour Island was fantastic. And we got a special treat when the pilot came aboard to lead us out through the coral-ridden Devil’s Backbone channel between Harbour Island and Spanish Wells the next morning. Even with a chart plotter, hiring a pilot is essential to ensure safe passage through that tricky stretch of water, but we also got a good dose of local color (along with local knowledge) when A-1 (his name was A-1) came aboard with a wide smile and more one liners than David Letterman. When asked if he grew up in Harbour Island, he quipped, “Does Jimmy Carter like toothpaste?” When I pointed to the chart and asked if the fishing was any good there he said, “Is a bullfrog waterproof?” The stand-up routine (along with a discussion of island history and various other random thoughts) went on for the entire passage through the coral. He seemed to concentrate more on holding court than paying attention to the channel, but he got us through. After we’d made our way over to Spanish Wells, A-1 shared his last bit of local knowledge with a smile and a wink: “Nine times out of two, if you stay in the channel, you’ll be just fine.” Now, can any of you explain that one?
Once we’d said goodbye to A-1, we wound our way past the fishing town of Spanish Wells, set our sails in a following breeze, and plotted a course towards the small islands to the west. The cruising guide offered little info about where we were headed, but that’s what made discovering the perfect anchorage and the white sand beach on the North side of the island we found so special. I’ve been on countless charters and cruises all over the world, but there was something special about our little piece of Bahamian heaven. We were the only people there. It was the last day of 2010. The water was crystal clear. The cold front was on it’s way out. The sun shone in beams through the dissipating cloud cover. The beach beaconed.
After swimming the short distance into the beach (and discovering plenty of dry firewood) it was obvious how our impromptu new year’s eve celebration was going to play out, and it was going to be a whole lot different than celebrating in the crowded streets of Nassau. We got the fire on the beach going just as the sun was setting during the last hours of 2010 and we basked in the warmth of the fire and friendship under a blanket of stars. If the rest of this year is anything like the first days we spent anchored off that special island in the Bahamas, it’ll be a very good year indeed.
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