The settlement of Spanish Wells is a tight-knit and proudly maintained community founded in the late 1600’s by a group seeking religious freedom that shipwrecked on the nearby reefs, but includes some descendants of the British Loyalist that re-settled here from the American colonies after the our War for Independence.
It occupies both St. George’s Cay and Russell Islands at the north end of Eleuthera, and draws its name from the Spanish explorers when they declared that the water from the wells here was among the sweetest in the Bahamas. They now draw their water from community wells 2 miles away on the main island or from cisterns, but still maintain their own power generation cooperative independent of the outside world.
When we first arrived we met Bandit (we never got his real name) who is a sea captain and one of several pilots who guides boaters along the treacherous path around Eleuthera’s northern reefs known as the Devil’s Backbone. He also manages the moorings in the harbor, and recommended a restaurant the locals like called Buddah’s, where the kitchen is set up inside an old school bus. The food was excellent, and we were lucky enough to be joined there by Martin and David of S/V Genevieve, whom we met by radio while transiting down from the Abacos.
Later that day, while walking to an auto repair shop on the other side of the settlement to get a propane tank filled, I passed a cemetery with numerous headstones bearing similar names like Pinder and Russell, names that we also saw on various businesses around town. While getting our tank filled at Pinder’s Tune-up I met George Russell, part of another large family on the island, along with a friendly high school senior performing his 1 week apprenticeship at the garage that is a school requirement.
We spent two wonderful nights on a mooring there, getting some supplies and fuel and also taking a highly recommended side trip to Dunmore Town on Harbour Island out on the east coast of Eleuthera’s main island. We joined up with some Canadian cruisers we met on the moorings next to us for a day of walking among the beautiful homes, shops, and along the pink sand beaches, and enjoyed lunch with our new Quebecer friends who have sailed the US East Coast and the Bahamas for several years.
On our trip to Dunmore Town we met Captain Gurney Pinder, born and raised in Spanish Wells with family blood lines that go back several generations. He picked us up at our boats, ferried us over to the main island, and then drove us to the docks for another short boat ride to Harbour Island. It was a short conversation but I came to instantly like this tall, burly man with weathered skin who seems fiercely proud of his life and his home. I could have talked with him all morning about life in the area.
We enjoyed meeting several other long-time residents during our short stay. While trying to pay for fuel I couldn’t use my credit card because the power in this part of town was out while running new wiring to the local marina, so Lonnie (the proprietor) gladly drove me over to the bank in his golf cart so I could withdraw enough cash to pay for the fuel. Talking with him found he was raised in Cherokee Sound on Great Abaco Island, but, in his words, he “met a girl from Spanish Wells and that was that.”
While waiting in line at the bank I met an American couple from Rhode Island who own a house and small boat in Spanish Wells where they live over the winter months. Hearing their stories gave me a very strong feeling of pride in their community.
We didn’t spend long here but had a very enjoyable stay. After fueling up and taking on fresh water made by a small business that makes drinking water for the island and boaters, we said goodbye to Spanish Wells and started making our way south along the outlying Bahamian island towards the Caribbean.