07/02/2010/10:00 pm, Frazer's Hog Cay, Berry Islands
We have had a nice time meeting locals and crusiers in and around the Berry Islands Club.
At the request of Rick (Sea Language) we tracked down Estelle and Don - former cruisers who live near here now. Estelle had hurt her foot, but after a trip to Nassau, is back home and healing nicely. As we took our leave after a very pleasant meeting, Don asked if we wanted some lemons and bitter oranges. I never turn down gifts like that so we followed him into his garden as he picked both Ponderosa lemons and the bitter oranges (used in conch salads) from the trees. The lemons are big and rough textured with a slightly sweeter taste. The oranges are - well - bitter! Both of them are excellent for marinating fish or pork or chicken.
Back at the boat, a local fisherman, Neville, came along and we bought some conch and lobster from him. We had to make that conch salad! As Neville sat in his lime green boat, cleaning the conch, he told us that although he came from Andros, he lives now on a little island up the way - one that he used to fly over and think, "I want to own one of those one day" and now he does! Neville has been around a bit I think. He talked of escorting Eisinger's children around when they come to visit Chub Cay, and of Mrs Bush (Sr) collecting shells in the area ... and also of his many children and "sugars" scattered through the islands! He gave us samples of his bush tonic - 21 gun salute. He promised Jim that the milky drink with 21 local herbs would do wonders for everything that might need a pick-up, but he decided to take a pass on that one!
The next day, Neville arrived back with a lovely conch shell and a tulip shell for me - gifts from his heart because he didn't have change for the $10 we gave him for the conch (he asked $8).
Lincoln, at the clubhouse, acts as chef along with being dockmaster and we made reservations for the four crews of boats in the mooring field to go in for lunch. Lys and Michael (m/v Lys), tony and Cat (s/v Cheyenne) Judi and Alain (Ramha) and Jim and I (Madcap) all trooped ashore for chicken or cracked conch served with peas'n'rice, corn, and potato salad. It was good basic Bahamian food - not highly seasoned or unusual or exciting, but a nice chance to support the business and get to know our neighbours a little better. We're all headed for the Bahamas (and Cheyenne is going on to Central America) so we'll probably meet again in some harbour.
Jim and I dinghied up along the Cay and took a walk on another beach. We found the most interesting creature - a Spotted Seahare - that looks kind of like a shell-less snail crossed with snakeskin! Very curious - but Jim looked it up in our guide to Reef Creatures - and there it was! I picked up an old grey coloured, grass-encrusted conch shell and turned it over to see the most glorious deep rose colour on the inside - like a sunrise in a shell. It was a reminder to look beyond the surface of things, and I brought it back to remind me of that as well as to admire it. (Now that's an essay waiting to happen!)
We had a good stay at the Berry Island Club. It is a good place to wait out weather - and the moorings are strong - especially since Alain and Jim have now tightened the shackles on most of the balls! Lincoln kept saying he'd take care of it, but we never saw him do it. He also said he'd get a diver to come and put a zinc anode on our prop shaft, but although we talked with a guy at the bar who was willing to do it, Lincoln never seemed to find time to go get him. Friends tried to come over from Chub Cay for lunch one day, but the staff here didn't seem interested in having that happen - ("No, we can't arrange transportation" and when they found their own, "No we're not serving lunch today!") It's too bad because it is a nice spot with excellent protection, and with a little more spirit and promotion, could be more enticing to cruisers.
We recommend it anyway as a good stopover for a day or a few! Just don't expect too much from the folks at the Club. Now the visiting locals are another story entirely and we'd urge you to look for Neville!
05/02/2010/12:00 pm, Frazer's Hog Cay, Berry Islands
With some significant weather coming our way we, along with Ramha, decided to motor 5 miles around the corner to the mooring balls at the Berry Islands Club - up the channel to the east of Frazer's Hog Cay. Once again, we chose high tide as our time to go and met with no difficulties with depth. The dark water channel between the shore and the shoal off to starboard allowed lots of room to travel safely.
En route, we met a boat leaving (they were worried about the quality of the moorings) but we opted to check them out and we are very glad we did. This is a lovely little area, well protected from the west, and not bad from every other angle except south because of the shoal areas and Whale Island on the East. Ramha and Madcap are the only two boats here (at noon) although we hear on the radio that others are joining us today. The wind just howled around us last night, and we had some bounce but it was nothing too alarming, and the security of being on a $15. mooring ball is delightful. Our good friend, Alain, got out his trusty wrench and some ties and tightened and secured the shackles in both his and our mooring balls last evening. They are all new - there are 8 or 10 of them with new floating lines. Madcap weighs almost 2000 lbs and with the wind over 20 knots all last night we are putting a mighty strain on it - with no trouble (so far, at least!) Yeah!
Lincoln, at the Berry Islands Club, is our genial host and, when asked about registering, said, "No worries man". So we are here till Sunday at least, and maybe Monday.
We took a walk down the road yesterday, finding an area to wade in the water on the west side. The water is lovely for swimming right off the boat - except right now I'd need to hang onto a line to keep from being swept too far away in the current - and there is a little sandy beach just down the channel a bit that begs exploration when the wind moves to the west and it is not such a wet ride to get there. The four of us had an enjoyable chat with Harry - a caretaker on Whale Cay - who invited us to come over there some time and he'll show us around.
Judy caught a fish last night; Jim has been trying with no success yet so I took some pork out of the freezer just in case. I'll make a pot of Bahamian Peas'n'Rice and we'll have a feast tonight.
Other than the attractive but simple building here, there is not much happening on Frazer's Hog Cay. No nightclubs, shops, tourist traps. Just rocks and mangroves and blue-green water and nice folks. Mmmmmm, Bahamas!
04/02/2010/11:42 am, Chub Cay, Berry Islands
We left Bimini just before high tide on Tuesday, waving good bye to all our new friends there, and gathering in the docklines handed over by Vic, Marilyn and Nigel. This time we headed out into deep water at the lone green marker - off South Bimini. Ramha left earlier, headed for Gun Cay Cut and a stop on the banks. Amity was leaving later, headed for North Rock and an overnight trip across the banks. We had been thinking of Gun Cay Cut, but in the end decided to take the longer but less challenging route through North Rock.
We motor sailed for that first bit and then once through the cut, shut off the motor and sailed all the rest of the day. We had some discussions about destination based on angle of the wind, but in the end, held to our plan to end up at Chub Cay. The result of that was that we sailed at about 3 knots! A slow sail like that meant it was a day for lounging around on the foredeck, reading, napping, and generally relaxing. We knew we'd be spending the night on the banks and it didn't really matter where. What a relaxing way to travel! We were just shy of Mackie Shoal at sunset so we steered south of the rhumb line and dropped the anchor. (For non-sailors, the rhumb line is a bit like a highway. Marked on charts, it is the most direct route from one point to another and is where boats tend to travel.) Locals travel all over the place, but it reduces the chance of being run into at night if we stay a mile or so off the "line" and keep not only an anchor light, but some other lights on to increase our chance of being noticed.
We heard Oz on the radio and contacted them, to find that they and Star of the Sea were making a marathon crossing from Miami all the way to Nassau so we assume they were one of the parade of boats we saw going by sometime after 10pm. (Hope you made it safely!) We rolled quite a lot in the swell overnight but the anchor held despite numerous alarms going off whenever we swung this way and that way. We set off again around 7 since we figured there was no point in sitting there rolling.
Once again, we had a sailing day, but this one was much different. A squall came through around 9, with winds increasing to N 15-20 and gusts to 23, and a heavy rain shower. We rolled our yankee in, put the staysail out and kept the main up - and sailed through it all. About 45 minutes later, the rain was over and the wind had settled to a more consistent 15-20 knots, resulting in an average speed of 6.8 knots for us. (That's a high average for Madcap!) We roared along, moving through Northwest Shoal and Northwest Channel waypoints with no worries, and into the deep water of Northwest Providence channel. Once in water 1600 feet deep, the chop changed to more of a swell and was a little smoother travelling.
We had been debating the anchoring possibilities at Chub Cay (enough protection? depth of channel?) and called for information on the marina. The guy said there was 12 feet in the channel and room in the marina - but no wonder. They charge $2.75 per foot with a 40 foot minimum!) We quickly abandoned that idea and were pleased to find lots of room in the anchorage just to the west of the approach channel when we arrived at 3:30. Ramha was there along with a couple of other boats, and there must have been another 7 or 8 come in before dark.
Judy and Alain had been ashore exploring and scored some conch, so they invited us over for Alain's premier preparation of conch salad. It was delicious, and we spent a most enjoyable evening with them. We rocked a bit during the night on anchor but it was nothing like the night before, and our Bruce held again. :-)
On Thursday morning, we took a run into the marina in our dinghy just to see the place, and found many, many empty slips, some large houses and a number of sport fishing boats. We discovered that the place went bankrupt 3 months ago. The slips are privately owned - by part time residents? It seems such a shame. This place is ideally situated on the route from Bimini to Nassau, and one would think it could be packed with boats and activity if the price was less - and maybe it wouldn't be bankrupt? One lone sailboat was tucked in at the back and of course we went over to say hello! It was Southern Vectis with Mary and Bill on board. We had chatted with them as we travelled and were glad to have a brief chance to see them before they went off to the airport to check in. I have since discovered that they, along with Carole and Bob were the folks who called out to us in the New River! Cruisers do tend to find each other!