DATES OF STAY: 12/26/2012-1/03/2013.
OF INTEREST: Gregory Town is a great place to get a feel of a real Bahamian village, with accompanying perfect anchorage. Rock Sound has the “ocean hole”, a blue hole over 600 feet deep and connected to the Atlantic through a series of limestone tunnels, which tropical fish swim through and greet snorklers at the hole.
Eleuthera barely had a mention in the Bahamas cruising guide I’m using, when compared to the Abacos and Exumas. I suspect the reason for this is because Eleuthera doesn’t have nearly the cruiser’s resources that the Abacos and Exumas have. If you’re looking for large resorts, shopping areas, and multiple marinas to choose from every few miles, then yes Eleuthera won’t have much for you. But this defeats the purpose of cruising in my mind. You need to meet the locals and see how they live instead of spending all your time with like-minded cruisers from the U.S. and Canada. I stopped first in Gregory Town. I anchored in a picture-perfect bight all to myself. I took the dinghy to shore, walked through someone’s back yard and down the dirt road into town. A few locals stopped me to chat me up, recognizing me as a newbie and welcoming me to their town, then I went to the local takeaway for some fried chicken and ice cream. Gregory Town is a real Bahamian village – tourism hasn’t taken hold and poverty reigns, but it’s a beautiful location and the people are absolutely welcoming, friendly, and enjoying life despite the hard times they’re experiencing. Americans could learn a thing or two from them.
The rental cottage on the beach I was using for access to the town was occupied by a restauranteur from Gulf Shores, Alabama. He and his family have been coming here for years. He’s waiting for his son to have the opportunity to play drums with Lenny Kravitz, whose grandmother is from here. He stops by every now and then to jam at Elvina’s Bar & Restaurant and bystanders are welcome to join in. The paradox that this restauranteur shared with me is a common theme in the “out islands”. He could bring a lot of infrastructure and jobs to the town, but at the cost of their traditions and way of life. What’s more valuable? More employment opportunities or the traditions and values that have held families together for decades? Gregory Town’s charm is its lack of hotels, large markets, and restaurants. But living is rough for the locals. All throughout the Out Islands, youth are leaving for jobs in bigger places like Nassau. The elderly are left as the only reminders of how life was in these islands. Once they’re gone, so will be the folklore that’s so important for local families and historians.
The story is a little brighter at the southern end of the island in Rock Sound, where 360-degree protection is provided to sailboats in a large harbor. Rock Sound has no marinas either, but it’s geography and location bring more sailboats in. There is a shopping center and a few places to eat to choose from. But a marina close to Rock Sound has been experiencing financial difficulty and fewer traffic has been going through the area as a result.
Still, no matter where you go, the locals are some of the most welcoming and friendly people I’ve ever met. They make the stops worth it even if there aren’t shopping areas and fancy marinas.