Highbourne to Bimini via the Berrys: 3/29 – 4/4

Traveling Soul heading north, the tour boat heading south

As Lorraine Rolle would say, “A pleasant good morning to you.” Yes, it sure was. Calm and pleasant and better yet you get to learn about BBB.

One of those Bs stands for Buddy. Gasp! Oh no, we do not do the buddy boat thing; in fact it’s a topic we like to laugh about, especially after the overheard conversation a few years ago that boat #2 would be ready once they brushed their teeth. Really. However, we do understand that at times boats do travel together. I mean what do you say to a boat friend, “you can’t take the same route as I because we don’t do the buddy boat thing”? Of course not.

Traveling Soul hadn’t ventured to the Berrys and as luck would have it we were both headed there after Highbourne. On AIS all the other AIS vessels look alike- black triangles, but if you code a boat as “buddy” (I know, it’s a fine line we walk), some blue color is added so you can pick them out from the crowd. We’ve traveled before with “the other TS” and set them as an AIS buddy. So there you have it, BBB is Blue Boat Buddies… to the Berrys.

Blue boat buddies to Berries

Our path would take us past New Providence (Nassau) and Paradise Island.

Paradise Island- what most people think of when we say “Bahamas”

The Berrys cover, at most, 35miles top (the Stirrup Cays) to bottom (Chub Cay) and lie roughly 30miles NW of New Providence; not far at all. The first half of the day would find us crossing the Banks, but the important fact is it’s too shallow to fish. Once north of New Providence you are in the Northwest Providence Channel (a very, very wide channel to be sure), the water deepens to thousands of feet and that’s where you get that line in. Maybe take a fish out, maybe not.

New Providence (island) Nassau(capital) to Berry Islands chart

Compared to the Abacos or even the Exumas, the Berrys are, well, barren. Chub Cay offers a large well protected marina with fuel and a restaurant but goes in and out of bankruptcy and ownership changes faster than you can say, “Fish on.” Add hurricane troubles and you’d better check before to get the scoop. The next cay up is Frazers Hog Cay and that’s got the Berry Island Club- or not-or yes, or no- you get the picture. But we heard that it will be open again any day now with moorings, etc.

Next cays up are Whale Cay and her tiny neighbor Little Whale Cay. Both are private so you can’t land your dinghy. Whale Cay has a fascinating history which I will link you to HERE. Little Whale, with an airstrip as long as the cay itself, is, according to the Explorer Guidebook, able to be chartered/rented.

Next up is Bonds Cay, behind which we’d be anchored for a couple of nights. It offers good protection due to length and shape and you know we don’t like to be bounced around. You can go ashore at Bonds, but it’s so rocky with minimal beach access that you almost don’t even care to.

The lure on right used to look like one on left- attached to the Cuban yoyo on way to Bonds Cay. That and an unwanted barracuda, was our catch for the day.

Thursday 3/29, while more windy than Wed, would be less than forecasted for Friday. Explore now, or else. Someone who anchored between the Whales, wrote a review about sea biscuits and how you could see them moving slowly and dining on various small mollusks. We took the looky-bucket thing for viewing assist, but not a biscuit was found- in any depth.

We did get to watch the below fuel barge come in and anchor. They’d be bringing in a long large diameter hose to the docks at Little Whale. This was the first time I’d take a photo with the iPad; felt so silly holding up that large flat screen. We brought it so we could see where we were, since the distance from the boat was over a mile. It felt like more because the middle section was very wavy opposite the cut even though we 1/2 mile in.

Fuel barge at anchor to send a hose in to Little Whale Cay

Friday we’d hoped to lunch at Flo’s but a phone call told us they’d not be open today. The forecast indicated that we’d have a short stay in the Berrys unless Great Harbor Cay Marina came through with a slip for an upcoming windy spell. For our boat, the Berry’s are best explored in very calm conditions.

Sand bar very visible at high tide at Comfort Cay

Flo’s is located on Little Harbor Cay and Comfort Cay sits close by just on the west side. We got decent protection from S – SW wind on the extreme northeast tip of Comfort Cay. After I took the above photo, I turned around and surprise!!…….

Look who snuck in!

I mean, there’s maybe 10 boats in the Berrys now, not including those at marinas and look who we see. Not unexpected, knowing how they like to be far from the crowds. Yes, their freezer is full and yes, they offered us Mahi. It’s tradition mon.

White Cay- the beginning of my Sea Glass hunting

During our only other Berry’s visit, Benj was with us and thanks to settled weather we hit many of the highlights. One surprise was sea glass. Benj had climbed over a short rise between the rocks (just next to that lone palm) and found what has become the sea glass that started it all. Sooooo, not my fault, but thankful and happy that even now both Benj and Russ are willing participants in the hunt.

Click here to read about our first time in the Berrys.

The morning of the shallow route trip up to Great Harbor Cay, we took the dinghy (haven’t really named this one) to White Cay, climbed over the crumbly rocks and collected a solid handful of SG. Happy that this trip wasn’t a wild goose chase like those biscuits and I even climbed up to the top in an effort to scope out other collection spots, to no avail.

Shortly after 10:30 we headed off on the shallow route up to GHC. Best done on a rising tide, we discussed at length just when that important high tide might be. Tide times in the Bahamas are based on Nassau tide; so many mins before or after. Berrys appeared to be 30-40 after, but the tricky part was the statement way in the bottom of the chart about “tides in this area being 2 hours after Nassau- generally”.

Shoal draft inside route

For those familiar with charts you know that all that yellow color means shallow with a sandy bottom. The dashed lines show the route you should take through all that shallow stuff; ideally near high tide and with a draft less than 4.5’. Ours is 3’.

We started at a spot you can’t quite see, over to the right of the BER 4 on the chart. 19 nm and 3 hours of traveling in shades of light blue; just exquisite. Far shorter distance than going out up all the around and over the top of GHC. No fishing as you can imagine, but a couple of dolphins wandered over for a look-see.

Locals from an island house head north too

 

Lunch- yum. Hard to imagine a prettier setting; all that’s missing a lone palm on a white sand beach

 

Chart view of where we are. The below photo shows how it looked live.

It’s difficult to tell from the chart view above, but we were heading into a “deeper” section, which is the white part. On either side of the deeper section the water is very shallow. In real life you could easily know where you needed to be. The deeper water is darker and the shallow waters are on each side; avoid those.  Now, you might ask why the chart shows deeper water in white rather than shades of blue which would mimic real life. Sorry I have no answer, but feel free to offer suggestions.

One half hour before the end of the route. Deep water between shallow sections left and right

The GHC Marina is popular this time of year but also because the anchoring nearby just sucks big time, as in way too much grass. However, we had Berry good luck 🙂 and  day and night were to be such low winds that not a ripple would be found on the water. This means no pull on your anchor chain nor your anchor, except what you do to set it. We picked a spot near the channel that leads into the marina where the grass was less concentrated and yet the anchor looked more lopsided than ever. Like I said….

Checked out the settlement and visited Traveling Soul in their slip. Did we see available slips? Of course. But we already had a plan, or two, and would head to Bimini the next day to wait a few days to cross back to FL. At one point we considered Lucaya or West End, (on Grand Bahama Island) but for several reasons we chose Bimini. I was disappointed to miss the two HUGE crescent beaches on GHCs eastern/ocean side, but the Captain promises “next fall on our way down.”

Right under the boat proved interesting enough. As the wind died down to nothing during the late afternoon you could see the bottom very clearly in the 6ft of depth we sat in at low tide. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a …oh wait, no, ok not that, but real live sea biscuits with discarded shells on them. How odd, but true. Call me a kid in the candy shop of sea biscuits, but this was what I’d read about before. I took many photos; not easy without an underwater camera.

As the water stilled to nothingness and the setting sun cast her glow just right, I realized we could scoop up a biscuit with our fishing net for a close-up look.

Great Harbor- living biscuit with mollusk shells on top- so so weird. Pic taken from the stern at 7:30pm

95% of all the living biscuits we saw had these yucky white-ish shells resting on top, so hey I figured what I read in that review (mentioned above) must be right. Nah. I just Goggled sea biscuits and there’s not much and what there is, is very technical. They are related to Sand Dollars- who get all the attention- and sea urchins and star fish. But what they eat seems to be detritus material found on grains of sand. In the photo below you can see the mouth in the middle. But why the shells? Maybe they stick to the spines, but fall off easily when the biscuit comes up out of the water.

Living sea biscuit- the shells on top are maybe decoration? and they stay around until disturbed

The below photo shows two sea urchins and a sea biscuit I found on White Cay on the “inside” beach that faces west. The biscuit still needs a great deal more sun time to become white, but at least it’s no longer fuzzy. I’ve never seen a deceased biscuit with its spines still on; not sure why. Maybe they fall off quickly, unlike the urchin that often washes up with anywhere from a full brown set to dried up green bristles that look like rosemary.

White Cay finds

 

Reflecting

Sunset showed Nature at her best and we were (ok, me especially) thrilled to witness such a lovely show before leaving the Berry Islands.

The Natural Look- untouched by any editing.

Cruise ship, Bahamian fishing vessel,  a second cruise ship hiding to the far right

Sunday- anchor up before 7am, breakfast underway as we bid the Berrys good-bye. If you are keeping track you will realize it was a quickie indeed: arrive Wed, depart Sunday. This trip would have us heading WNW across the banks, but if we went a few miles out of our way, we could fish for a couple of hours. Right. Another unwanted barracuda. Sorry, Barry. Twin Sisters only wants Mahi.

Resorts World Bimini

Our route took us by North Rock and down the west side of North Bimini where we got a good look at the expansive World Resorts-Bimini and the fast ferry that runs between Miami and Bimini. Not our cup of tea and not really very attractive.

Bimini is a two-part deal- creatively named North and South. North has several marinas, town stuff, the Big Game Club and was where we crossed to January 2016. South has the airport and one good-sized well protected marina called Bimini Sands Resort. New management is taking over- surprise!- so things were in flux. A few boats occupied a slip here and there, but we were the only cruisers until s/v Two Fish showed up the next day. You’d better be on your “A” docking game as the guys sitting around in the office don’t respond to your VHF hail. Took us a couple of tries but mostly because we needed to find a slip with cleats !

Looking in to Bimini Sands. The opening couldn’t be seen until you were straight on to it. Gulp.

My hopes of getting laundry done, were dashed. The wi-fi was near useless- even under the antenna.

A sorry state indeed

The to-do list for crossing back to the States is almost as long as when come over to the Bahamas and we worked away at all that. Found time to join Two Fish for pizza at the VERY LOUD local establishment nearby. Wednesday was shaping up to be THE day, which we hoped would hold up as another opportunity didn’t look likely for at least another week. Will we, won’t we? Wait and see.

 

 

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