So: We’re in the Berry Islands! Grand Bahama was fun, but now we’re in an area that’s truly like what the brochures advertise: tiny, low islands with superfine white sand beaches and shockingly clear water, whose colors go from deep blue to a pale aquamarine. You can see the bottom distinctly through more than twenty feet of water. It’s unbelievable.
The crossing was an easy one. We left before dawn, with just enough pink light on the horizon to see our way past the Lucaya lighthouse and back out the channel. The seas were calm with very little wind, so we kept the motor running after we put up the sails. (Needed to arrive at our anchorage when the sun was still fairly high in the sky, so we could see the colors of the water and steer clear of the shallow bits.) At some point midmorning, Drew realized that this was the first passage we’d made in t-shirts and shorts. No more rain or cold!
Shortly after lunch it was finally windy enough to cut the engine. It’s such a relief to turn it off; after being enveloped by a low drone for hours, suddenly all we hear is the rush and hiss of the ocean, like a long exhale.
With no engine propulsion our speed slowed a tad, so Drew suggested we trawl for fish — our first attempt. He set the pole in its holder and let out about 100 feet of line with a hula skirt lure. Nothing happened, of course.
But soon we saw land, and the kids had fun shouting “land ho!” as loudly and lustily as they could. Shortly afterwards some strange, rectangular shapes began to protrude on the horizon, and after staring at them for a bit through binoculars we realized they were cruise ships. (At least two cruise lines have purchased islands here in the Berrys and built little tiki villages on them for their passengers.)
Then, just a couple of miles before the turn into our inlet, WHIZZZZZZZZZZZZ. “Fish on!” I shouted. Drew came running back from the bow, grabbed the fishing pole and started tugging and reeling. The kids helped me furl the Genoa to slow us down further. After fifteen minutes or so we could see our catch jumping out of the water — it was bright green and pretty big. Elsa ran below to get our fish identification card and yep, no doubt about it, we’d hooked a mahi mahi.
Drew managed to land it before we got too close to shore. It measured 42″. That night we had grilled mahi for dinner, as sweet as could be. The next night was fish tacos, which we liked even more.
Just to balance out the day’s experiences, our generator that night decided to stop working. Drew diagnosed a disintegrated impeller, which he was able to replace after some digging for manuals and parts. Kept us all humble. 🙂
We’ve been settled in this area now for close to a week, moving anchorages a couple of times (which, happily, are never more than an hour or two away). The weather is still weirdly stormy but never cold, so whenever it’s calm we’ve been swimming and snorkeling and exploring beaches with the dinghy. We’re not near coral reefs yet, but there are still lots of little fish, as well as some huge rays that streak across the inlets at astonishing speed. And there are conch everywhere.
Most of the little islands are uninhabited, but at least one still has ruins of an old settlement. After the Revolutionary War, the British government offered loyalists the opportunity of resettling here in the Bahamas. Families were granted their own tiny islands, where they could try farming as they had in the Colonies. The ruins of this particular home — roofless stone walls forming a single room with a hearth, which now held a massive termite’s nest — were enveloped by palm trees and other plants. It was hard to picture someone in a tricorn hat lugging those stones up the hill and then clearing land to farm. These islands are all formed from limestone, with very little soil, so about the only things that grow well are mangroves, palms and a shrubby little tree called “poisonwood” (don’t touch its bark). Cotton? Not so much.
Another sailboat family organized a beach party one afternoon. We lit a bonfire that the kids tended with fallen palm fronds, while the adults shared drinks and stories. (There were three boats anchored nearby that night.) As usual, everyone was friendly as could be.
And then we moved even further south to hide from some squalls and try a meal at Flo’s Conch Bar, a fabled institution in these parts. More about that from Drew next….