While Kestrel stayed anchored off of Meeks Patch, we went into Spanish Wells twice by dinghy.
The approach into Spanish Wells through the entrance channel. The first aqua building is Spanish Wells Marine and Hardware. The second one to the right is Pinder’s Grocery, where the free dinghy dock is located.
Spanish Wells could not have been more different from Nassau, and I was utterly charmed by the whole town. It was clean and neat, and everyone we met was very friendly and open.
Many of the homes were reminiscent of Cape Code style houses, and most were painted in lovely pastels.
The town itself is about two miles long and a half mile wide, so walking the entire thing is very doable. There were golf carts for rent for those less inclined to walk, and it was clear that golf cart is the transportation mode of choice there.
Because the island is so narrow, it’s tough to look out without seeing water somewhere.
Spanish Wells has a small population of about 1500 full time residents, and its predominant industry is fishing. We noticed right away that everyone looked similar and spoke with a unique accent that we hadn’t heard anywhere else in the Bahamas; to the Captain, it sounded vaguely Irish. A little research turned up the fascinating history of Spanish Wells, which was founded by the survivors of the 1760-ish shipwreck of the Spanish Wells.
This red flowering bush (not sure what it is) was in most yards.
In a Montreal Gazette article from 1975, the population was listed as about 1000 people, descendants from the shipwreck survivors, exiles from the American Revolution, and a few Irish immigrants. Among the shipwreck survivors were Ridley Pinder, his wife, and three children. In 1975, 3/5 of the population of Spanish Wells had the surname “Pinder,” and the other 2/5 were reportedly married to or descended from Pinders. At the time of the article, there were only 11 other surnames on the island. My favorite line of the article reads: “On election days, there are two polling booths, one designated ‘Pinders’, the other designated ‘All Other Surnames’.”
We saw the name “Pinder” everywhere, particularly on house signs. There’s Leo Pinder Main Street. There’s Pinder’s Grocery, Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School, Pinder’s Taxi Service, and the list goes on.
About the only building in town that didn’t say “Pinder” was the police station.
The town itself has virtually everything one would need, and we had a great time popping into the shops and meeting people. I almost fainted with pleasure upon discovering name brand quilting fabric in the Islander Shop, and the Captain was able to find collectible Bahamian coins at Manuel’s Dive station, a dive store also carrying gardening supplies and numismatic supplies. Go figure.
From a cruiser’s perspective, this is a good provisioning stop. We dinghied over to Ronald’s Servicentre and got diesel ($4.40/gallon + VAT) in our jerry jug as well as RO water ($0.54/gallon + VAT) in our jerry jug. We were also able to dump a bag of trash there. Pinder’s Grocery has a free dinghy dock right out front, and between Pinder’s Grocery and the Food Fair farther in town, food is easy to find and not outrageously expensive.
The dinghy dock has room for plenty of dinghies.
Kathy’s Bakery turns out amazing bread and johnny cakes, and she is across the street from the Food Fair.
Kathy’s Bakery, with Kathy hard at work. She had loaves of bread cooling on the oven to the left, and johnny cakes are cooling on the counter to the right. Her johnny cake batter is in the large blue bowl, and she is cooking johnny cakes in an iron skillet on the stove.
R&B Boat Yard and Spanish Wells Marine and Hardware both had top quality marine supplies at prices far below those in Nassau.
We had an excellent and inexpensive breakfast at Eagle’s Landing, next to Food Fair. We also had a phenomenal lunch at Budda’s Snack Shack; while at the adjoining liquor store, we had a long conversation with Budda himself, who is quite a character.
You can’t really miss Budda’s. He has signs all over town, and as you walk up the hill towards the restaurant, there is this rather arresting landmark.
All in all, I loved Spanish Wells. It was as quiet and charming as it had been described, and I truly enjoyed meeting the people that we did. No one was in a hurry, and shop keepers took the time to chat with us just because they wanted to. The shops were a mix of imported goods and locally made goods; at the large and modern Food Fair, there was a prominent display of home-baked goods marked with the makers’ names.
The home-baked goods at the Food Fair included loves of bread, dinner rolls, hamburger rolls, johnny cakes, pies, cakes, muffins, sweet breads, and candies.
The town felt open and welcoming but at the same time insulated. It was a fascinating dichotomy.
This house had an incredibly well-painted mural of sea life running all the way around it. It was so neat.