Friday, August 03, 2007

The Berry Islands, Bahamas

Thirty-five miles northwest of Nassau lie the Berry Islands. There are 30 mostly uninhabited islands and cays with the largest being Chub Cay which is 10 miles long and 1 mile wide. Birds outnumber humans in this string of islands and cays and many are privately owned by individuals or cruise ship companies.
Bond Cay is one of the privately owned islands and is now a bird sanctuary so we were not allowed to go ashore and had to settle for a dinghy ride to get a closer view. The waters were beautiful and we saw many stingrays swim by, boy are they fast. We also saw a variety of fish and some turtles but no sharks here.
We did see some interesting stuff happening here. First a water plane landed and a power boat met them at a little cove along the shore and in the same spot the next day a helicopter landed on the island and was met by a power boat. Hmmmmmmmm............We don't know what was going on.....what do you think?
Alder Cay is also privately owned. Mike and his friend Tim McCurdy had been here 19 years ago and Mike says this was their favorite anchorage. Mike said it was much prettier back then having more beach area. We're thinking maybe some bad storms washed a lot of the sand away. We saw three houses on Alder Cay and Frozen Cay, which is right next to it, hiding in the palms and trees and not much else.

We left Bond Cay Friday, April 27, 2007 and sailed to Hoffman's Cay. This was an anchorage that Mike and Tim had also visited. We had an extremely difficult time setting the anchor because the ground was as hard as a rock or covered with turtle grass, neither of which our anchor holds well in. For the first time we ran the boat aground, err, rather Kim did, argggghhhh, very briefly we touched bottom, it was very shallow, very, very shallow, it could of happened to anyone :)))) To move past that subject we finally threw out our 25 pound danforth in the turtle grass. Twenty-five pounds is not a lot of anchor for our 18 ton boat, our CQR anchors are 45 pounds. We were sitting there watching the anchor feeling very insecure when Richard from another boat came over to talk with us. They were anchored on the other side of Fowl Cay about 200 yards from us. He was traveling with his wife and twin, 13 year old daughters. He suggested that we try to anchor over where they were. He said they had a nice sand patch and there were other sand patches that way. We did move over there and we saw sand patches, but those sand patches were hard as a rock!!! We drug all over the place, but the danforth held us on a rock, then the current switched and the danforth let go, but caught another rock and held us, etc, etc.......aaaaaayyyyy....we had a sleepless night. We did go see a blue hole on one of the cays that Mike had been to 19 years ago, we didn't get a picture, but here's what it looked like back then, yep that's a much younger, thrillseeking and yes more skinny, Mike. Well we wanted to stay and explore more, but we just couldn't get a good anchor hold so we left the next day for Great Harbour Cay.
Along the way we passed Great Stirrup and Little Stirrup which are now owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. They bring their passengers for a day of play. This is where Mike and Tim, 19 years ago, anchored and would go over to the island where the Cruise ship passengers were, and got in the chow line to eat and drink for free. Those were the days, huh. They would even get the leftover hamburgers, Cokes and Rum Punch mix. We had wanted to anchor in their old spot and try to get in the chow line again but our draft (the depth of our boat) was to much and Kim wasn't going aground again! As we motored by there were lots and lots of people on the beaches and in the water on jet skies and taking paragliding rides. We had to sail pretty close to the ship so we didn't get too far off course, so the waters got pretty crowded. There was absolutely zero wind and we ended up motoring all day, but look how calm.

Once we passed the cruise ship and rounded the corner we entered the shallows that led to the anchorage at Great Harbour Cay. Mike took the wheel, Kim didn't know why and didn't let it go easily. The only markings to show the shallows were poles that have long since lost their green or red coloring, so we did a lot of eyeball navigation. Thank goodness for the Bahamas crystal clear waters. We found some great sand to anchor in and had ourselves a nice sunset. In the 1960's Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and others made Great Harbour Cay their stomping grounds and created the Great Harbour Cay Club, complete with golf courses, marinas and ocean front homes. The rich and famous such as Brigitte Bardot, Cary Grant, the Rockefeller family and reportedly mob guy Meyer Lansky were frequent visitors. The club was finally closed and ransacked in the mid '70s.
We checked out the marina and the inner harbor where the Great Harbour Cay Club used to be, not much to see. We found more interesting things on the outside anchorage where we were anchored. Lots of sting rays and spotted eagle rays, another wrecked single engine plan, beautiful houses, broken docks and thrashed houses. We left Great Harbour Cay .....heading for Mackie Shoal to spend the night then head to Bimini.
Mackie Shoal light marks Mackie Shoal which is located at 25.40.55 N, 078.39.27 W. It's just a light marker in the middle of the Bahama Banks. We tucked in at dusk behind the Shoal as far away from the shipping lanes as we could get. We tucked behind the bank so anyone not paying attention would hit the shoal before they hit us. The seas on the Banks that night were about 4-5 feet, so it was somewhat uncomfortable. There is no protection from wind or seas out there. It is an eerie feeling anchoring out in the middle of the ocean. We wanted to get an early start so it was still quiet dark when we got up. We saw a lot of traffic out in the water when we went up on deck. BIG ships and lots of them in the shipping lanes...great....There was also a Mega yacht anchored not too far from us, so it was tricky getting out of there in the dark. Off we went, next stop Bimini, more on that later.

Cheers Mike and Kim on Ka'imi

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