Monthly Archives: March 2015

First crossing to get to the Abacos

Cross Harbour, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: 25 56.314N, 77 17.517W
Posted by Bill

We had a fantastic 3 day weather window of light winds and fairly calm seas, so we left at dawn and motored up the west side of the Berry Islands, rounded the top and headed almost due east for an anchorage on Great Abaco Island in the Abacos. You can see all of us motoring in a line and see how calm it was:

At the top of the Berrys is a key called Coco Cay that the cruise ships use as a destination, with shore side excursions that serves as the primary source of jobs on the Berrys. We passed this ship as we rounded the top of the Berrys:

By the way, all of the keys in the Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean are spelled Cay, but pronounced “key”, and the difference between a cay (or key) and an island is that an island has it’s own source of fresh water. Most of the water in the Bahamas is made through a process called “reverse osmosis” where the sea water is pushed through a very fine filter at high pressure, thus leaving the salt and elements behind.

We crossed a part of the ocean that is called the Northwest Passage, and most of the passage was well over 1,000 feet deep. I think the deepest part we crossed was over 21,000 feet deep. It is actually kind of creepy to think about. The depth sounder on the boat just read DEEP, as if to say, “don’t even worry about it”:

At 4:30 we arrived at Cross Harbour and anchored in about 8 feet of water. We were the only people around for miles. The water was so typically clear you could see sand dollars on the bottom:
They were everywhere. We ate, had a few sundowners, and watched the sunset:

Mark and Jan on their boat Island Bound, departed from the group after we reached the top of the Berrys, as they are headed for Nassau and the Exuma island chain further south. We will miss them and look forward to getting together again next year.

Getting ready to move on up the cays

Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Posted by Bill

Saaturday, we ended up going to the festival in town. It was a fund raiser for the school here on Great Harbour Cay, and they do it once a year. There was a food booth, a tent for activities for the kids, and bingo. As we were standing in line for the food, we struck up a conversation with a man that happened to be a teacher. He was very articulate and had a zest for what they were doing at the school. He invited us to walk up the road and check it out. When we walked up to the school later that afternoon, Dirk (the teacher) was there with his son. He gave us a personal tour, and it was really interesting. They have around 170 students and are the only school in the Berry Islands. The total population in the Berrys is around 700, so that is a lot of kids. They are promoting healthy life styles and encouraging the kids to be producers and not just consumers. One of the ways they are doing this is by teaching them to grow their own food. They have a compost pile and a garden, and just recently added a green house. They encourage the kids to take seedlings home and maintain a garden there too. Their programs are designed to start at the school but permeate the town, hoping to shape the culture…way cool! We were very impressed. Here are some pictures courtesy of Sofia Jeanne:


For dinner, Tricia made 2 batches of pizza dough and all of the people we are cruising with brought toppings. We sat in our cockpit and made pizzas on the grill, ate and drank until late in the evening. It was really good pizza, and as always, we had a great time with our friends.

Yesterday, we took the dinghies up to Shark Creek again. It was chilly and windy, and we didn’t see as much sea life as we did the last time. We landed on a small cay and did some shelling, and Tricia found some cool conch shells.

Picture from the cay:

Negotiating Shark Creek in the narrow part:

Tricia caught a turtle surfacing:
and also a large stingray:

The wind picked up and we got completely soaked on the dinghy ride back. Everyone was cold and took hot showers.

Today we prep to leave for the Abacos, the northern chain of cays and islands in the Bahamas. We will anchor off of the southwest tip tomorrow night and then sail up to the Little Harbour entrance on Wednesday, where we will go inside the barrier cays and work our way through the chain.

Still chillin’ in Great Harbour Cay

Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Posted by Bill

It’s been a few days since my last post, but not much new is going on here for the last couple of days. The weather has been hot and humid, but the winds have picked up. We tried to go back to Shark Creek again but it was too rough in the banks for the dinghy trip over. Instead we have been doing some boat maintenance, washing the boat, defrosting the refrigerator, and stuff like that each morning. Then in the afternoon we have been wallowing at the beach. We are becoming professional wallowers! Last night a front came through bringing 36 knot winds and some rain, which we haven’t seen in a long, long time. We really hadn’t planned to stay here this long, but I am glad we were here last night. This harbor is very protected and a good place to ride out bad weather. We heard from friends in the Abacos that they had over 52 knot winds and 4 foot waves in their anchorage…not a fun time at all.

We tried to participate in the weekly event called Grill and Chill. You pay $10 per person and get a traditional Bahamian meal from the grill. They had ribs, chicken, steak and conch, with peas and rice, mac and cheese, and corn on the cob. We were 3rd in line to get our order in, but they filled the orders randomly and by the time ours came up, there were no more ribs, which was what we ordered. We got our money back, but then Tricia was having to cook at the last minute and late at night. Not cool. All of the events organized by the locals are very disorganized and sometimes get cancelled at the last minute. You need patience and a backup plan for everything.

That being said, you will always find the people here to be very friendly and open. Today is an annual fair that the island puts on, with Bahamian food and music. The locals made sure to invite us and I think we will go check it out, especially since it is really windy and chilly (72 degrees…funny how you get used to the heat, and get cold in a really comfortable temperature). I’ll report back if we attend.

Exploring Shark Creek

Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Posted by Bill

Here are the directions we got:
1. Go out the cut and go left
2. Stay to the right of the little island or you will run aground
3. Look for a boat fender in the trees and then take the first cove on the left
4. Go into the mangroves and when you see a fork with another boat fender in the trees, go left
5. The creek will open up and a branch right has turtles and rays, the branch straight will take you to the beach
6. Go 1 hour before high tide and don’t stay longer than 2 hours or you won’t be able to get back

We gladly accepted Gary’s offer to follow him and he would lead us in for our first time. This was a good move. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the open area and it was well worth it! It is very, very shallow working through the mangroves, and it is only wide enough to fit a dinghy. The tidal current was pushing us around and several times we clipped the mangrove trees on either side. Pics:

The first fender in the trees (it’s the white thing near the center of the picture). I never would have seen this if Gary hadn’t pointed it out:

Working through the mangroves:

In this open area we saw turtles, rays and fish:
We couldn’t get a good picture of the turtles and rays. They are so fast! I thought turtles were slow, but these guys can crank. Kurt and Matt did some spear fishing and caught a couple of lobsters, more lion fish and some snapper. Then we motored over the to beach area:
Here we saw a couple of sharks. One was about 5-6 feet long and was in about 2 feet of water, fins protruding above the surface. It’s a good thing that the water is so clear so you can see them!

We made it back to the banks before we ran out of water in Shark Creek, made a short trip to a beach for some wallowing, and then snorkeled the sunken car for more fishing. No luck. When we got back to the marina, they were organizing a weekly event called “drink and drift”. A bunch of people go out on the banks in their dinghies, tie all of the dinghies together and drift and drink to watch the sunset. The wind had picked up and almost everyone thought it was too rough, so we went back inside the cut and drifted in the lagoon. It was fun.

Great day!

Snorkeling, fishing and wallowing…oh my

Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Posted by Bill

We really hadn’t intended on staying in a marina much here in the Bahamas, but when we got here, the forecast showed 2 periods of heavy wind that we figured we would ride out here versus be at anchor. The marina is really nice, and so are the people. The slip rates are much better than in Florida, and we found out from one of the residents that we can explore most of the Berry Islands by dinghy here or by renting a small power boat for a day. As it turns out, the forecast improved, so we didn’t need to seek a more comfortable place to stay, but now that we are here we will go with it.

Yesterday we took the dinghies out of the harbor and on to the banks. A couple of miles from the harbor entrance there is a plane wreck in about 10 feet of water which was pretty good snorkeling. Then we landed on a small remote beach to wallow for awhile. Not nearly as pretty as the big one, but we had the place to ourselves. Matt and Kurt have fishing and spearing gear, so on the way back we looked for some coral heads to snorkel and fish. I am not sure who found it, but there was a small patch of sand (most of the bottom around us is thick grass) with the remains of a car where Kurt and Matt speared 8 lion fish. Lion fish are an invasive species that have no natural predator, and they will kill all the fish on a reef, eventually affecting the health of the ecosystem. When you see them, you are encouraged to kill as many as you can. They have spines all over them that are venomous. With the help of a neighbor, the guys filleted them and Matt cooked them up for appetizers. They had a buttery taste and were delicious. Here they are before they were cleaned and filleted:

Today we got the clown bikes out of storage and taking our snorkeling gear, we rode over to the point of that lovely crescent beach on the ocean side of the cay. We learned that it is really good snorkeling at low tide. It was a long ride and there wasn’t much snorkeling to do as the tide was too high. We started back and stopped at The Beach Club, which is a beach bar with great spicy chicken wings and rum drinks. Then we went to the Monday night pot luck at the marina, and ended up playing Cards Against Humanity (a really fun card game) till after 10.

Wallowing at Great Harbor Cay

Great Harbor Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Position: 25 44.866N, 77 51.597W
Posted by Bill

Yesterday we left our anchorage at dawn and motor sailed the rest of the way to the Berry Islands. We took a slip at Great Harbor Cay marina on Great Harbor Cay. We were surprised at how friendly the people were here and how well kept the marina was. The rest rooms are modern, well maintained and clean. It was a distinct contrast from Bimini. The Berry Islands are pretty remote, so there are not a lot of places to go eat, but the beach on the Atlantic side is gorgeous:

Shortly after arriving, we saw a small manatee next to our boat. This diver was cleaning the bottom of the boat next to us and the manatee just came up to him. He played with the manatee for quite some time.

One of the first things we did was check out the beach. Then we ate a big seafood feast and finished off the crab claws we got in Bimini, and the lobsters Kurt bought. It was good!

Today we got up early to go to the grocery store. There are 2 grocery stores on the island, and we learned that one of them got fresh produce delivered on the day we arrived here. On the small islands and cays, food is delivered on the mail boat, and produce comes every 2 weeks. If you want it fresh you need to get there early…and they run out quickly. So we all jumped in the dinghies and motored to the other side of the lagoon, tied our dinghies to a tree and walked into town. We checked out both grocery stores, and bought a dozen eggs and 2 heads of romaine lettuce…just under $10…wow!

With the light winds and the hot sun, it gets really warm unless you stay in the shade. When we got back from the store we were ready for a swim and some wallowing. Wallowing is where you just hang out in the water and shoot the shit, usually enjoying cool beverages. We mixed up a batch of Painkillers, walked to the beach, and wallowed the afternoon away. Here is a group selfie:
Later Matt volunteered to make a Mexican feast for our dining pleasure, and it was delicious! We all went back to our boats early, as we were tired from sun, sea and rum. I think the neighboring boats are getting jealous. They have seen our food feasts (which have been fantastic) and see how much fun we are having together. Every day they want to know what we are going to do next.

We have seen several buildings that look like condos, both along the beach and in the marina. This area is very remote, but if you like to hang at the beach, this is a good option. We have heard that the condos are very affordable.

Across the Bahama Banks to the Berry Islands

Great Harbor Cay, Bahamas
Position: 25 32.838N, 078 11.918W
Posted by Bill

We left at dawn to cross the Great Bahama Banks to the Berry Islands. The banks have a depth that is pretty much 15 feet for 60 some miles east and west. You need good weather to have a comfortable passage and the next week is going to be perfect as weather windows go. There is a large high pressure system sitting in the Atlantic that is keeping winds below 10 knots. The wind was light and was off the port beam so we motor sailed as usual. 61 nautical miles later, we are getting close to the Northwest Passage where the Tongue of the Ocean meets the banks on the south side of the Berry Islands. We weren’t sure how the sea state would be at this juncture, so we aimed a little north where we would be out of the potential boat traffic, and in the lee of shoal areas which we figured would protect us from rough water at the junction of the Tongue and the banks. It was a long 12 hour day and we only went 62 miles. Pics:

Tricia manning the main sail:
Island Bound underway on the banks:
Along the way, a fishing boat cruised by and offered some fresh lobster…5 tails for $25, and Kurt bought some.
We would have bought some too but they skipped us.

Tricia made a great dinner and we crashed pretty early. Up early tomorrow to go to Great Harbor Cay.

On to Gun Cay and Cat Cay

Gun Cay, Bahamas
Position: 25 34.99N, 079 17.805W
Posted by Bill

Yesterday we hit up Radio Beach again, looking for more sea glass and sea beans. Sea beans are things that look like small stones but are beans that float over from across the Atlantic. They come in several distinct shapes, purse beans that look like a purse, hamburger beans that look like a hamburger, heart beans, and kidney shaped beans. The heart beans are rare and Tricia found one on her second day on the beach! We then jumped in the dinghies and all cruised up the inside of North Bimini (the eastern side and also the channel) to check out the north end where the casino was built. There is also a really nice marina and condos that can be rented. We talked to some people that said you could rent a 2 bedroom condo for $250 a night…pretty good deal. Along the way we saw a sea star in the water.
It had a very hard exterior.

Then we went out for dinner for our last night at North Bimini.

Today we left about mid morning and motored a couple of hours south to Gun Cay and Cat Cay. We anchored off of Gun Cay and went ashore to a beach called Honeymoon Beach. It was beautiful.

Along the southern point we had sting rays come right up to us and swim around our feet, touching our legs and feet.
Very cool. We also saw a shark swim by. We staged here to cross the Great Bahama Banks, the shallows that stretch across a good portion of the islands. Here was the sunset:

More on the crossing and North Bimini

Bimini, Bahamas – Blue Water Marina
Position: 25 43.492N, 079 17.865W
Posted by Bill

I finally got some time to devote to the blog. We crossed over the Atlantic Ocean on the 15th. We started at around 7:30 AM and went from just outside No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. The Gulf Stream current runs north between 1 and 3 knots, weaker on the edges and stronger in the middle. The direct route from where we started to North Bimini in the Bahamas is about an 87 degree heading and less than 55 nautical miles. To compensate for the Gulf Stream, you need to take a heading of 120 degrees. This is calculated based on your planned speed which we assumed would be 6 knots average. The stream was so strong, we only did around 5 knots, so we ended up a bit north of where we wanted to be, but not too bad. Also, it took us all day (arriving around 5:30 PM) to go 55 miles…long day! The ocean was really calm, thank goodness!

North Bimini was an interesting place. From our marina we could walk about 100 yards over to Radio Beach, which was gorgeous.
We walked the beach and collected sea glass, glass pieces that resulted from trash and get smoothed over by the sea. We got some pretty cool pieces. Not sure what we will do with them, but we have read where people make Christmas ornaments or jewelry. Tricia was thinking about making stepping stones or a counter top with it when we become dirt dwellers again…pretty good idea!

The restaurants, shops, bars and grocery stores are in buildings that look like or are small homes. There is not much to choose from in the grocery stores. Most of the businesses and restaurants are within a 5 to 10 minute walk. We ate at a restaurant called The Anchorage when we got here yesterday, and it was pretty good. We had the cracked conch which is conch fried like calamari would be back home. It was pretty good. Today we had lunch at CJs Deli which is right on Radio Beach. You can see that the view is amazing. The food was ok. The flies are really bad though! I got my food and went out to sit at the picnic table and a swarm of flies descended on me like a plague! I had to stand down by the ocean to keep away from them. Here are some pics of the streets:

There is a lot of trash in the streets and you get the impression that the people of Bimini have given up to some extent. Many of the people we talked to that have been coming there for years have told us that it didn’t used to be that way, and that it has gone far down hill.

In the afternoon, all of us jumped in our dinghies and went over to Radio Beach. There we snorkeled around the rocks and swam. We saw quite a few fish around the rocks. The dogs, Grady and Bart, had a blast as well. The water clarity is just like a swimming pool…amazing. We ran into a guy on the street by the marina that was selling stone crab claws and lobster tails. For $40 we got a bag of 6 lobster tails and close to 3 dozen crab claws! Each couple bought a bag. An incredible deal! We cooked some of that up for dinner and ate at a picnic table at the marina, drank and had a good time.

It was a really fun day!

Crossing to Bimini

Bimini, Bahamas – Blue Water Marina
Position: 25 43.492N, 079 17.865W
Posted by Bill

We have been so active that I just haven’t had time to do the blog…sorry folks. We made the 52 NM crossing, leaving Miami at 7:30 AM, and arriving at Bimini around 5:30 PM. I will be a few days, but I will compose more detailed posts and post more pictures, I promise. We crossed with 3 other boats: Matt and Shirley on Sofia Jeanne, Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher, and Mark and Jan on Island Bound (yes another Island Bound…quite confusing over radio conversations…lol). The weather was great and the seas were calm and it was a good crossing. The water here is unbelievable. As clear as a swimming pool. Here are a few pics:

The color of the ocean in the middle of the Gulf Stream (over 2000 feet deep):
Tricia, Shirley and Grady on Radio Beach:
The live aquarium at our dock:

I’ll post more as soon as I can. We are leaving today to anchor off of Cat Cay and will cross the Bimini Banks to the Berry Islands the next day. We will be in some remote areas without internet access so there won’t be much activity on the blog over the next few days unless I can find some. Stay tuned…we are having a good time and the pictures are coming out pretty good.

Also, the best way to communicate with us is FaceBook messenger (when we have access).