Bimini / Great Harbor Cay /Nassau January 16 - 25, 2006

Click on the above thumbnail for a map of points visited during this time period.

The weather calls the shots...

We left Bimini at the first break in the weather and headed for Nassau.  The first day out was almost straight west over the shallow Great Bahama Bank.  It was pretty easy going with stabilizers, but departing from Bimini made for a long day (81 statute miles) and we could not make it to the anchorage near Chub Cay before dark that first night.   Instead we decided to anchor behind a shoal northwest of the Northwest Channel light where we would be protected from the southeast winds.  That worked out very well, but unfortunately, the wind increased overnight beyond weather predictions, and we were facing 20+ knot winds the next morning.  Further, to get to Nassau we would have to leave the shallow protected Great Bahama Bank and enter the very deep Tongue of the Ocean, where the seas would be much larger and we would be going directly into the strong southeast wind.  So it was time to consider alternatives.  We spent about 30 minutes the next morning discussing our options:  south to Andros or north to the Berry Islands.  We decided to head to the north end of the Berry Islands to Great Harbor Cay -- the largest island in the Berry Islands and one with an airport and marina.  One of the key factors for going there was that we would be able to sneak up the lee (west) side and stay on the Great Bahama Bank on our trip and would not have to fight the wind. 

Forgot to mention that there were four boats in our party leaving out of Bimini instead of three.   It turns out that there was an 83' Broward yacht (big boat!) named Northern C at our marina that was also heading for Nassau.  The owner, Trevor (an English man who recently brought his boat over from England), asked Ted on Seaclusion if he could tag along with us to Nassau.  He even offered to lead the way, but we didn't take him up on that.   He followed behind one or the other of our boats all day the first day and anchored near us that night.  As we pulled into the marina at Great Harbor Cay, he brought up the rear.  Each of us in turn pulled into our assigned slip and then jumped off to help the next one in.  Northern C was the last one to try to dock, and I mean try loosely.  His 100' slip required him to take a 90 degree turn to get into it.  No big thing.   The wind would tend to blow him off the finger pier, but he should have been able to slide right in, bow first.  He tried every kind of maneuver to get his boat turned including having his other two shipmates run the stern and bow thrusters at the same time he was gunning his engines.  It was a pretty scary experience to watch him get stuck on a coral bank as he attempted to negotiate the last turn before approaching the slip, and to then see him almost ram some of the other boats in the marina as he attempted to get into his slip.  Too much power forward.  To much backward.   Uncoordinated applications of multiple thrusters.   Smoke and noise.   Frantic jerks in this direction and then in that.   Obvious frustration and anger on his part. He finally declared the wind was too strong for him and he would come back after it died down.  If he had been listening to our discussions about weather he would have known the wind was not going to die down for many days or a week.  Anyway, he went storming out of the marina -- again having trouble making the turn  -- and anchored in the approach channel!  The dockmaster hailed him on the radio and told him that he was not allowed to anchor there, whereupon he offered to pay the slip fee if he could just remain in the channel.   Needless to say, this was not acceptable, so he went on out of the protected bays and anchored.   Later, as we ate delicious cheeseburgers at the Beach Club restaurant on the southeast side of the island, we observed him cruising south, presumably to Nassau.   We couldn't help but wonder how someone could even think of captaining an 83' foot boat when they didn't have the basic skills.  Unbelievable!

We were very pleased with the Great Harbor Cay.  For starters, there were the delicious burgers at The Beach Club, overlooking an awesome beach.  Pat was feeling under the weather, so she and Ted had rented a golf cart for the two miles to the restaurant while the rest of us rode bikes.  Along the way we discovered a golf course, a Fountain of Youth and a small airport.  On Wednesday we rode into  Bullocks Harbor (the island's settlement) and discovered that we had stumbled upon an interesting event.  The weekly mailboat had arrived along with the supplies for the residents, stores, and restaurants.  It was quite fun to watch the boat being unloaded -- mostly by hand -- and the boxes, mattresses, lumber, etc. being stacked into discrete piles (according to the intended recipient) and then, after inspection by the local customs official with his yellow legal pad, loaded into small pickups.  Wednesday is the only day deliveries are made, so everyone heads to town to get fresh produce.  The strawberries, bananas and eggs went like hotcakes.  Although it took hours before the supplies showed up in any of the stores.  The locals are on "island time" here and we are slowly learning to adapt to the slower pace. 

We rode bikes all over the island and discovered the beautiful Sugar Beach and its cave.  Also met the children and their visiting Russian grandmother who live in the lovely house perched on the cliff above the beach.  The kids have lived on the island their entire life and are being home schooled.  We enjoyed talking to them and their grandmother, who spoke some English.  We learned that their mother was an artist who was making a name for herself in the islands.   She will have an exhibit in April that we will attend if we are in the area then.

We also discovered the ruins of a resort on the extreme northeastern end of the island.   Learned later that when the resort was operational, the bartender was famous for performing his pouring duties completely in the nude!   Bottoms up!

The weather continued to be windy, so we ended up staying in Great Harbor Cay for almost a week.  We didn't mind though as it was a pleasant place, the cost was inexpensive, and we met a number of interesting folks.  Chuck spent two entire days washing and waxing the boat.  It looks pretty sharp!  Barb tackled the stainless steel but found time to go biking and kayaking with Pat and Karin. 

The marina itself is nestled down between two ridges, and is quiet protected.  In fact, some of the guide books describe it as perhaps the best hurricane hole in the Bahamas.   Speaking of hurricanes, ever since Ivan delivered a glancing blow a few years ago, the marina has been graced with a family of manatees!   Not what we expected on a Bahamian island!

On Saturday night the expat group had their weekly dinner at their Tamboo Club, which was near the marina.  A couple we met during one of our bike rides suggested we attend as boaters at the marina were eligible to attend.  Also this week's dinner party was to be "game night."   When we made reservations we were told that the men had to wear a collared shirt, but the women were fine dressed in capris or whatever.  Chuck considered wearing khakis and a dress shirt, but Barb talked him out of it.  She was sure sorry as all of the men wore sports coats and the women were quite dressed up also.  Despite the fact that all of boaters were dressed a bit too casually, the Tamboo Club members were very friendly and gracious hosts.  All have homes on the island and love the place.  They professed to hope that it continues to stay off the beaten path as they like it nice and quiet.  Being a member of the Tamboo Club also gives one unlimited privileges on their golf course.  Ted had his golf clubs along (a Whaleback Krogen has room for everything!), so he played golf the next morning with the folks we met at dinner.   

Sunday was a lazy day with everyone relaxing, biking and kayaking.  We kayaked out the entrance channel to the front of the island and saw two large spotted eagle rays glide underneath us. Barb almost capsized her kayak when a manatee came up under her kayak in the harbor and startled her.   Pat had us all over for a delicious spaghetti dinner and we agreed to have a pow-wow first thing in the morning to decide whether the weather conditions were good enough to leave.

Fortunately, all looked good for our passage to Nassau so we headed out Monday morning and anchored off Chub Cay (actually Frazier's Hog Cay) for the night before heading into Nassau Tuesday morning. 

The cruise to Nassau was calm and beautiful.  We put out our trolling lines and Chuck caught a beautiful dolphin fish (not a dolphin mammal, but a dolphin fish, also called "mahi mahi."  It was 53" long and had to be cleaned on the back deck while we were underway, as we didn't have a cooler big enough to put him in.  We had great fish sandwiches for lunch.  The weather is supposed to be good for another day, so we are going to spend the afternoon in Nassau provisioning and seeing the sights, but then head to the Exumas in the morning (1/25).


Lunch at the Beach Club on Great Harbor Cay

Some got there by golf cart

And some by bike

Beach house along highway to lunch

Manatee in our marina

Pizza party on Seaclusion

Weekly mailboat being unloaded in Great Harbor Cay

Unloading the boat

More unloading

A little automation involved

Local stores awaiting their supplies

Chuck exploring the island

Sugar Beach Cave sign

Beautiful Sugar Beach

Another view

Cave on Sugar Beach

Another view of cave

From inside cave

House above Sugar Beach

Children from house above beach playing during their break from home schooling

Cliff on north end of island

Ruins we discovered near north end

View from the ruins

The guys heading out for a fishing trip at Great Harbour

Pat after our kayak trip

Chuck waxing boat

Chuck kayaking outside of Great Harbour Cay

Chuck with his catch on trip to Nassau - a dolphin fish also called mahi mahi

Chuck cleaning his fish