27 May 2012 | Man-O-War Cay, Abacos
We have always loved the Berry Islands. Last season we spent a few weeks there just before our crossing back to the states and absolutely fell head-over-heels. This season it was a must on the northern itinerary. And, it is no doubt that time of year now…time that we reluctantly make our way in the northern direction. From Nassau we sailed very, very slowly to Bird Cay along with our friends Good Trade and Imagine. Imagine was practicing their motor-boating skills and Good Trade is a catamaran so needless to say, we ended up in the anchorage dead last. But it was a great day nonetheless. Bright sunny skies, calm water and nowhere to be but where we were.
When we pulled out of Nassau Harbour we had forgotten to retrieve our spinnaker halyard from the top of the mast. During the previous sail to Nassau it had fouled and gone up to the masthead in the bad weather. I guess we just had so much fun at Atlantis that we forgot to get it while in the calm anchorage. The bad thing was that the sail to Bird Cay was definitely a spinnaker day. We tried really hard to make it work with the jib and main. Then just the jib, then just the main…nothing worked. We were seeing speeds lower than 2 knots at times. Uggh! I have never needed to go up the mast before while underway and never really ever wanted to try it either. The gentle rollers were fine at sea level but watching the pitch of the mast 56’ above the water was a different scenario all together.
We laid out the strategy of how to get me up there the fastest and back down in one piece so we could then throw up the main again to regain our stability. It wasn’t the easiest climb…normally I am able to help pull my weight against the shrouds as Maxwell takes up the slack with the winch but all I could do was hold on tightly as he cranked me almost all the way. A few times we had to pause while Anastasia pitched fore and aft and then go back at it. At the top I grabbed the shackle end of the halyard and down I went with my legs wrapped around the mast for stability. At the bottom we agreed that we both didn’t want to do that again any time soon. The reward was a bright and fun sail that kept us above 3 knots the rest of the way!
We zeroed in on the anchorage just after sunset with the sky still bright and at the edge of coming back on soundings we snagged a nice Blackfin Tuna. Thirty more minutes we had the hook down and fresh seared tuna on a nice salad. Happy to be there, happy to be fed and full.
The next week or so we made a few stops up the chain. Frozen Cay, Little Harbour, White Cay and Hoffmans. We harvested the absolute largest conch ever inside the Cays near White Cay. They were plentiful in about 15 feet of water. Needless to say, I do not care if I ever see, or have to clean, another conch for a long, long time.
The Berry Islands don’t seem to be on the list for many cruisers. Perhaps that is why it is so lovely, still sort of wild and free. Just be prepared for self sufficiency and reserve plenty of time for relaxation.