Thursday, March 31, 2011

The South Berry Islands, Bahamas

Scott Free under full sail on the Banks
We left Bimini at 11 AM, close to high tide. The channel was exciting with waves breaking on the rocks and big swells on the side of our boat. We had talked to Chris Parker early that morning and knew that the weather would be calm for our night on the banks. He pointed out that the wind was going to be from the south this week so we might be better starting our tour of the Berrys in the south and going north (we had planned on doing the opposite). After a quick pow wow with the others we set a new course. Craola and Alice May went out ahead of us and radioed back that all was well exiting the channel. Anything Goes and Molly Bloom led us and Kevin on Vagabundo followed up behind.
Ron, Scott and Peter prepare to deal with a pile of conch
As soon as we were out in the ocean we put our pedal to the metal and took off. We were worried about a shallow area after the Gun Cay waypoint so wanted to be there before half tide. It turned out not to be a problem, but our concern for tides is never ending through the shallow water of the Bahamas.
We soon passed Fair Winds and No Name, but everyone decided to anchor near each other for the night. It is strange to be throw down your anchor in the middle of no where but soon we had a little village around us.

Ron, Scott, Peter, Heather and Julie
Scott and duck confrontation. The duck
got in a nip!
It was a lovely quiet evening and we were off early with the wind coming up from behind. The catamarins took off like a shot, passing all the single hulls. The wind was light and we're heavy so we were among the last. As we approached the end of the banks we put our motor on and pulled easily ahead. The channel into Fraser's Hog Cay showed shallow spots so we wanted to be there by half tide. Everyone took pictures of all the other boats as they passed and we later exchanged them. Fair Winds looked particularly beautiful with both jibs, their main and mizzen all up. We had our stay sail up for the first time in ages.
I was glad to radio back to the others that there were plenty of empty good looking moorings available. We had heard from our guide book and other that there were only 3 but now there are over 10.
The Berry Island Club, Fraser's Hog Cay
Catching a ride on the one road at Fraser's Cay!
We dinghied into the Berry Island Club to pay the $25 fee and then had a good walk down the lone road. The club is undergoing renovations and is quite pretty - no services at present and the docks were rudimentary. A restaurant and bar is under construction. It's not a marina.
The next day we all took a walk. Not far down the road a charming couple picked us up in their truck and took us down to the island store. They were going away for a few weeks and the store owner keeps their frozen food for them! From there we walked down to the south end of the island and explored the deserted beach bar. Our men managed to cut down some coconuts but not to open them. That was accomplished later.
After lunch we dinghied over to Bird Cay. I SO wish I had brought my camera. This was one of the most haunting places I've visited. Many years ago our guide book says this was "one of the most extensively developed in the Bahamas, has great stands of casuarina, citrus and cocnut groves with several luxurious homes, roadways, gardens, village green and public buildings". It is all deserted now and going back to nature. The largest mansion looks like the family just walked away one day. There are sheets and blankets on the beds. Books, sheet music, pots, pans, piano, pool table, stereo equipment etc. all just lie around. There's a can of turtle soup sitting on the table in the kitchen. Amazing and eerie. This would make a great photo shoot.
Julie, Peter, Scot, Ron and Marie, caught by surprise
eating cracked conch at Flo's

Huge piles of conch shells line the shores around Flo's.
We had cracked conch for lunch, very delicious and much
easier than hunting, cleaning, pounding and cooking them
Our next stop was Frozen Cay. On the way over Ron caught a king mackeral and invited us all over to share it. Everyone brought something to add to menu and it was all delicious! That night we were hit with a squall but the holding there was very good. Next day we all dingied over for lunch at Flo's Conch Bar. It is necessary to contact Chester on the VHF first on 68 and give him your food order in advance. We all chose cracked conch served with sides of french fries, cole slaw and peas and rice. The afternoon was spent on the beautiful beaches nearby. The men went out with spear guns and brought back conch (you don't need to shoot them!). Cleaning them was a real mess and pounding them a lot of work, but they tasted great! I made a conch chowder and a few days later had everyone over for dinner to share it.
Several hundred dollar bills were nailed up to the walls of
Flo's Bar along with mementos of all kinds from cruisers.
Chester and Lovely at Flo's Conch Bar on Little Harbor Cay
Just one beautiful beach after another and no one on them but us!
Peter in fighting mode
Ron with a good closeup of the lion fish
he speared. They are an invasive species
and poisonous. The spines can be cut
off and it is then good eating. No one felt
like testing that out!

Scott shows off that lion fish too

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