Monday, March 21, 2016

Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas March 17-20, 2016

Our crossing of the Bahama bank from Bimini to Great Harbour (97 statute miles) was again just perfect.  Flat seas, partly cloudy skies and no issues. Patience was the key....waiting for a favorable day paid off. We like "boring" cruising days like that! 
Here we are leaving early

We cruised at 8.5 - 9 knots with our buddy boats Job Site and Putz'n Around except for a brief "blow out the turbochargers" 10-15 minutes so it took a little over 9 hours. Most of the way the waters were 15-20 feet deep and we could clearly see bottom.  I saw a large barracuda at one point.  A little later, Scott was dragging a couple fishing lines and caught one about 2-1/2 feet long. 

Arriving at Great Harbour Cay Marina:

It was nice to arrive at the marina and especially to receive this greeting from all our friends at the long time annual St Patrick's Day party hosted by Pat and Vickie.  We miss you all!

The marina here (Great Harbour Cay Marina) is very protected with a number of turns coming through a rock cut.  The staff is very friendly and helpful.  The marina is completely booked and we will have to move slips perhaps a number of times in the 10 days we are going to spend here. 
Carole and DeVere aboard Job Site have to be in Nassau for a guest drop off and pick up on 3/24.  Given the wind and wave forecast for the next week, they wisely decided to leave on the 20th to be sure they are there.  They will then continue on to the Exumas and we will hopefully rendezvous with them again in the Abacos in a few weeks.  Thanks for all the "tour guiding" on dinghies DeVere!
A shot of Job Site leaving:

We had all originally planned to do the Exumas with them but have decided to explore the Berry Islands, cross to Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and then on up to the Abacos with Scott and Brigitte on Putz'n Around. We'll just take it a few days at a time and see what develops. We do have a month booked in Marsh Harbor, Abacos starting April 15 where we will welcome Denise and Dave (Julie's cousin and husband) from the Seattle area aboard! We look forward to having them aboard and exploring the Abacos for a week with them. We'll hit Nassau and the Exumas next year if we come back to the Bahamas.
On Thursday we dinghyed north toward the cruise ship "private island" (Little Stirrup Cay also known as Cayo Costa I believe) but the waves got too big to make it all the way there.  So we enjoyed the sights along the way and stopped at a small beach for a while.  The water is so clear it is invisible.  So unspoiled!

In the afternoon we dinghyed south and on high tide went through Shark Creek a winding cut through the mangroves which is mud at low tide (about a three foot tide here).  One shark was seen by Scott and Brigitte.  We hope to go back and take another cut into Turtle Creek to see, you guessed it, turtles.  Again this has to be timed with high tide and the winds need to be favorable for the western side of the island.
Had to take the bimini top down to get through!
The other side.

The island began to be developed in the 1960's and had a championship 18 hole golf course, clubhouse (now in ruins) a beach house, and the marina and townhouses, etc.  All the "rich and famous" came here and the realty company had a DC-3 to fly prospective buyers in for the sales pitch.  The 70's brought the drug trade unfortunately. We observed a drug plane wreck from the 70's in a few feet of water. 

From what we have been able to find on the internet, this island had a pretty sophisticated operation for "square grouper" (marijuana bales) in the 70's. Planes would drop them in the ocean then Cigarette style "go fast" boats would run the stash to the mainland Florida.  In fact one of the drug lords, Harry "Rock" Hoffman, was wanted in Michigan they say. He settled here with his wife and children. Trade shifted over the years to cocaine and didn't really end until convictions in 1991.  One yacht and her owner and passenger was stolen and neither the yacht nor occupants were ever found.  Clearly the law abiding home owners were troubled by all this, but couldn't really do anything.
Today the golf course is sort of open but not well maintained (and only 9 holes I think).
On Friday night they had what they called "chill and grill" where you could order chicken, ribs, steak or lobster and a choice of two sides for $10-15 per plate.  It was all grilled on site by locals and was delicious.  The marina tries to put some sort of social event into each day.  They have really increased their occupancy over the past couple years from what we hear on the docks.  It is definitely the only game in town. 
We took dinghy rides on Sat and Sun too just exploring.  Not sure what this creature is but we found him crawling along in the shallow beach waters. 

We also walked over to the other side of the island to see the beach there, probably only 3/4 mile or so one way.  Wow!!  It is white powdery sand and 3 miles or so long. We will be going back there for sure! 
The weather has been really hot hitting the high 80's and even 90 on one day.  Monday, the winds are expected to be up and temps will cool to the high 70's for a few days it appears. 
More later when we move to another marina although we are not sure where that will be.  We will not be moving until the winds die down, probably next Saturday.  We will be anchoring for a few days then so we will not likely post again for a couple weeks (unless the marina fixes the slow internet here).

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