Thursday, March 13, 2008

Picturesque Villages

March 8-13, Royal Island-Spanish Wells
We sailed to Royal Island on Saturday afternoon and within an hour-and-a-half of anchoring, a weather front moved in with rain and wind. It has been windy ever since. Keith really wanted to snorkel by Royal Island. A very long reef stretches for miles along the northern side of several islands, including Royal. But the property is under development and it’s forbidden to go ashore and cross the narrow island now. To get to the outer reefs, he would have to dinghy around the island to the north side, a two-mile ride, and the seas have been rough for snorkeling. We decided to move on to Spanish Wells.

Every day, a high-speed ferry leaves Nassau and stops at Spanish Wells on its way to Harbour Island just east of Eleuthera. Tuesday we spent the day there enjoying the historic wooden cottages with shutters painted in bright, contrasting tones. Many of the homes are similar in style to the cottages built in the late 1700s by British Loyalists who left the United States after the Revolutionary War. Beachside hotels and restaurants that accommodate tourists abound. Gorgeous bougainvillea in glorious hues wind around arbors and trail over walls, lifting their blooms to the God who made them. We walked on the famous pink sand, soft and powdery between our toes, and then ate lunch in town on a restaurant terrace overlooking the water. Harbour Island was picturesque from every angle.

Spanish Wells has its share of cute seaside cottages and flowering archways. And the town has its own special charm: it’s extremely neat and clean, the people hard-working and welcoming. As the center for the lobster fishing industry in the Bahamas, it caters less to tourists. Young men who grow up in Spanish Wells tend to leave school early, and nine of ten become lobster men, a highly profitable line of work. While we were anchored near Spanish Wells, around ten lobster boats came into port. As we walked on the wharf, Miss Londa was being unloaded. We talked to a young, friendly lobster man named Nicholas. He couldn’t reveal the weight of their catch but said they had been out for five weeks and would leave again in three days to fish until the season ends March 31. Fifty-pound bags of frozen tails were transferred to four dumpster-size crates and then to refrigerated semi-trailers, all destined for Nassau and beyond. Someone told us that Spanish Wells supplies the entire Red Lobster chain. Whether that’s true or not, it’s ironic that there’s no lobster on the menu at the sole wharf-side restaurant in town.

Spanish Wells is unlike any other town we have visited in the Bahamas. And it’s easily among our favorites.

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