Hunkered Down... Again -April 3, 2003
Anchored across from Rock Sound, in the calm before the storm
Rock Sound is the name of both an enclosed bay near the south end of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, and the town on the bay's northwest side. We first visited Rock Sound a little over three years ago. It was blowing hard and the bay offered one of the few secure all-weather anchorages on the island. We had also heard that the people of Rock Sound were very welcoming and that it was a good place to get supplies. Eleuthera is one of the only islands in the Bahamas where there's a semblance of commercial agriculture. For years, it was famous for its pineapples.
On that first visit to Rock Sound, however, we didn't get a chance to sample the pineapples. In fact, we didn't go ashore. The island had been swept by hurricanes the summer before and was still being rebuilt. The docks in front of the town had been reduced to piles of broken concrete and jagged re-bar. We looked at the wind-driven breakers crashing along the waterfront and decided not to risk a dinghy landing. Instead, we took "Little Gidding" over to more protected waters on the opposite side of the bay. We anchored in the company of a couple of other cruising boats and left two days later after the wind subsided.
We arrived in Rock Sound for the second time a few days ago after a blustery sail from Little San Salvador (see last week's log entry). We entered the harbour shortly before sunset. The winds had calmed down and we dropped the anchor in front of town. The conditions the next day were beguiling - clear skies and only a light breeze. The weather forecast, however, warned of a nasty cold front coming off the Florida coast and headed our way.
We took the dinghy to shore and tied up at a brand new wooden dock. Stories of Eleuthera's hospitality hadn't been exaggerated - everyone we met in town greeted us and many inquired if they could assist us with anything. We asked some school kids for directions to the "famous Rock Sound Water Hole Park", which had been written up in one of our guide books. It's pretty difficult to get lost in a place as small as Rock Sound, but they followed us to their community's contribution to the wonders of the world, just to make sure we didn't stray off course. It was a nice swimming hole, but not quite in the same league as the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest as far as natural spectacles go.
We bought ice at Dingle's service station and asked Chris, the proprietor, about the Eleuthera Pineapple Festival which, according to our Bahamian calendar, was supposed to be happening around now. "Well," he said, "you don't see too many pineapples growing down this way, but you might check the grocery store."
We didn't find any pineapples in the grocery store, but managed to buy some Florida oranges and Washington apples. David walked across the street and picked up a bottle of rum at the liquor store. "We need to be adequately provisioned in case we get stuck on the boat again," he explained.
By the time we got back to the boat, most of the other cruisers in the harbour had crossed over to the opposite side of the bay. They had been listening to the same weather reports. With a sense of deja vu, we followed and set two anchors, anticipating a wind shift with the pending frontal passage.
Now it's a well known fact that nasty weather rarely strikes during daylight hours. Sure enough, the front arrived with a vengeance at three o'clock in the morning. The boat shuddered with each gust and the wind powered generator screamed like a banshee, but our anchors held firm. David stuffed a towel under the hatch that was dripping on his side of the berth and swore that he would replace the gasket, something he has been threatening to do for at least six months whenever it rains hard.
The grey morning light revealed a bay full of angry white caps. It just happened to be the last day of lobster season. Eileen got a book out while David - forever an optimist - assembled his snorkelling gear. He spent the remainder of the day glumly watching the dinghy dancing wildly at the end of its painter behind the boat. Finally, at five in the afternoon, he sighed, put his spear pole away, and turned on the radio. The offshore weather report promised at least two more days of strong winds and big seas. David got out the rum and ice. "Well, at least this time we managed to go ashore and see the town, even if it was only for a few hours," he said.
Eileen looked up from her book. "And the next time we visit, we might even get some pineapples," she added.