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French Wells, "Out Islands" Bahamas

December 8, 2015

French Wells is named for a Well. Go figure. We didn’t look for this old well, instead chose to explore the shore by dinghy. 

Crooked Island is quite remote and the guide books tell you so. “Don’t go unless you are self sufficient and don’t count on any help if you get yourself into trouble.” Not the most reassuring notes on a place we were destined to see. 

Why destined…? Well the wind and the waves dictate much of our lives. Which way we can go or at the least, which way we can go and be comfortable. Remember the hours of pounding into the waves in my previous post?

There is a book I may have referred to in past, written by Bruce VanSant and aptly called “The Thorny Path” it describes in detail what to expect as you make you way by boat from the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands where the Trade Winds finally show themselves and the sailing gets immensely better. Until then, as Bruce says in his book, the wind is on the nose and so are the waves making the long and numerous passages uncomfortable. He advises to wait for the weather you want and then to go, but caveat here is that the weather you want often takes a long time to arrive, you can be stuck waiting for many days in places you might rather not.

We had been taken the northern route but the wind and the waves out of the NE were on the nose, so leaving at almost midnight from Clarence town in the dark again, we headed South looking for French Wells. 

The guide/chart book describes French Wells as a Paradise and it's remoteness contributes to this Paradise. Conch are said to be plentiful, the fishing amazing, and the beaches incredibly beautiful and deserted. We were really excited to see it and it meant not having to slog into the wind and the waves of the Northern route. As we headed South, the Island would eventually protect us from the E-NE wind and waves. 

It took awhile to feel the protection Crooked Island provided, somewhere close to 6 hours, during this time we were surrounded by lightning storms as we motor sailed towards our destination.

Arriving near dawn French Wells was gorgeous but in rough shape. Hurricane Joaquin had done some terrible damage here too.

We anchored in 10 feet, in a channel with about 5 knots or more of current. Anchoring in a channel full of current isn’t very comforting, but we had done it before and the chart book said it would be good holding and the only anchorage marked on the chart. The sand bottom usually good for anchoring had been quite scoured. The hurricane had done damage both above and below the sea.

Our anchor was holding but as tired as we were we wouldn’t be spending the night on the hook here. I knew that with much probability we would wake up in the middle of the night to a dragging anchor, dealing with that in the dark with groggy sleepy brains was not going to be a good thing. We would have to leave French Wells and find a better anchorage. That said we all jumped into the dinghy and set off to explore!

 

An old cannon was reported to be sitting on a low level spot ready to fire at invaders of the past. We found it, rusty and interesting. What would have been so serious a threat that it would be mounted here on the West side of Crooked Island…

 

French Wells anchored in the channel and full of current as the tide changes

 

 Remote Fench Wells had the most amazinginly clear and turquoise blue water we have seen so far!

 

We knew this Island held inland mangrove waterways like other islands we had visited but on a much larger scale. The entrance was a few miles away so we opted to explore the gorgeous beach and sand spits instead. 

One other boat was here, a trimaran with a gentlemen named Dick. He hailed us on VHF 16 and we had a nice long chat about the area and the weather. He had been coming here for 15 years and had good advice for us newbies, basically what I touched on above, "don’t anchor here tonight instead get going!"

About this time our buddy boat from Vancouver Island, “Sapphire” a Catamaran as well, came within radio range and hailed us. They too had chosen this easier route that took them to French Wells. After explaining all we knew about French Wells and they too decided to keep going, about 25 miles further South (5 hours) to the next anchorage. It was almost 4pm, we would arrive after dark but it was not going to be a difficult spot to drop the anchor and the winds were forecast to be 5-10, nothing to worry about, if the forecast stayed true.

 

We anchored at Datum Bay on the South end of Crooked Island and awoke to calm seas and gorgeous scenery. These remote Islands are spectacular.

This end of the Isand took the biggest beating from Hurricane Joaquin than that of any other Island. 

When Joaquin hit, it was a “Perfect Storm” so to speak. The lunar eclipse was occurring and the moon was closer to the Earth than it had been in 15 years. The tides were enormous and that made the storm surge massive! The shoreline of Datum Bay looked like an excavator had made a 5 foot high breakwater sea wall 20 feet up from the water’s edge and the whole length of the bay. Rocks and coral had been lifted from the sea floor and tossed up above the shore line making the most amazing coal sea wall. Crooked Island will never be the same, this wall will be here forever. The sea floor was scoured, our anchors had nothing to hold in, the sand bottom had literally been removed and almost nothing was alive below, instead it had all been thrown onto the shore, part of natures new massive sea wall.

With everything from the bottom of the sea being thrown onto land, the beach combing here was incredible! 

 

Datum Bay Light house, Crooked Island 

 

 Cole on a scoured shoreline after Hurricane Joaquin, at Datum Bay, Crooked Island

Beach combing the shoreline at Datum Bay. This was a sandy beach a year ago, now notice the coral, the rocks and more thrown into a manmade looking Sea Wall far up from the shoreline. 

 

We walked and walked along the shoreline or along the coral sea wall stumbling upon many beautiful treasures you would never find on a normal shore. We were hoping Pirate Treasure might have been tossed up onto shore in the storm too… alas, no pieces of 8 we’re found. lol! 

 

Well time to go, it was 11 am and leaving near noon we would arrive in Turks and Caicos close to 9 am the next day… another overnight passage.

 

Thank for reading!

 

 

 

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