We made it to sunny and warm Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands! Our sail over was not the most fabulous, but compared to earlier sails not that bad either.
Crossing the Gulf Stream
Based on the weather forecast, we elected to set sail last Friday night around 10pm. The sail across the gulf stream was actually quite pleasant until we got almost to the other side, and then it was back to bashing into a head wind…ugh. The wind ended up being more SE than S which limited our ability to correct our drift north in the stream. We ultimately found ourselves about 15nm north of our intended course because we just couldn’t point upwind any more than what we had. Once we cleared the stream, we had to fire up the engines, bring in the genoa, and motor sail with the main the rest of the way. The wind also picked up a bit more by this time, so it was kind of miserable to bash through the waves for the final 12 hours. The sea state at least wasn’t completely awful, but it is tiresome to get bounced around for that long.
I also fared much better on this trip because I had a magic little sea sickness patch that worked wonderfully! I had a couple of moments of getting a little queasy, but I was able to either lay down for a nap, or sit at the helm and have it quickly pass. At least I was a more functional crew member this time.
If we had it to do over again, I think we would have picked a different and closer port to clear customs in. The wind direction also made it a battle to get to a more southerly port. We really should have gone to Freeport or West End. We have also figured out that jumping to the Exumas from Great Harbour Cay is kind of a navigational challenge. There just doesn’t really seem to be a good way to do it. We kind of boxed ourselves in a little bit by parking ourselves at Great Harbour Cay (GHC), but Ed and I have settled on a plan to work our way over. It’ll just take a little more time.
Next time, I think we will be a little better versed in picking ports to make our way around a little better. We kind of fouled it up on this round.
Before we embarked on our sail, Ed and I made the decision we would stay at GHC for at least five days so we could get our second Covid test done before sailing to our next point. As the week went on, we saw that the pesky cold front that’s been causing so much winter weather in the U.S. would finally make its way here tonight. We then made the decision to just wait for that to pass as well (too windy for a nice sail). Next Tuesday looks like our next good weather window to work our way south, but as I’ve been scouring over charts and cruising guides, I’ve discovered there is just no simple way to get our boat from point A to point B. Many of the areas we have to navigate through require day light because of shallow depths. The deeper areas are also relatively short which makes overnighting in those spots untenable unless we poke along or heave to for some of the trip. Finding good anchorages along the way has also been problematic. When the wind is good for us to sail, the wind is wrong to anchor where we’d need to, and vis a versa.
Ed and I finally had to take a step back and pull our brains out of “destination mode” and “real sailors don’t go to marinas mode.” We are doing this to have FUN, and racking my brain on an unnecessary navigation/weather problem wasn’t fun. Rushing through a few small repairs before the next sail also wasn’t fun. We don’t have to rough it for the purpose of getting bragging rights. We don’t need bragging rights. We bought our boat through our hard work and we will do as we please with it. We can afford to make the more “comfortable” decision really anytime we want, so we don’t need stress ourselves out about being in marinas too much. Our next planned hop is to Chub Cay at the south end of the Berry’s, which appears to have a nice marina! We will stay there until the mood moves us, and weather allows us, to move onto the next stop which we will figure out after we get there!
Seeing the Sights at Great Harbour Cay
We mostly just hung out on the boat for the first couple of days and also got ourselves wrapped up in boat work perhaps a little more than we should have. We have since decided that most days we shouldn’t work on the boat more than half the day, unless there is some pressing need to go longer. Our first field trip involved a dinghy ride to the south end of the cay where there was reported to be a dinghy channel short cut to the east side called shark creek. We got down to the entrance, and it just looked too shallow…even for the dinghy. Well, maybe the dinghy channel is meant for a smaller dinghy with no motor. Oh well. Later that night we had happy hour with some of our boat neighbors, and some of them said they had traversed shark creek. They had dinghies just like ours…I guess it could be done! We tried a second time a couple of days later, but the chop leaving the harbor was so awful we bagged it. Attempt two: fail.
We decided to do some more land-based exploration instead. The marina has old, rusty beach cruiser bicycles that we can just take to get around. It’s super nice that we have free transportation, but any amount of uphill is almost impossible to do (no gear shift). My legs have definitely been getting a workout. Our first order of business was getting some local sim cards so we can access the cell network here for data. The marina has Wifi, but it is not very reliable and painfully slow. That errand took up the better part of the afternoon as we went searching around for where to get sim cards. Unlike most developed countries where one can buy sim cards in a variety of stores, here, you have to actually go to the phone company office (BaTelCo)…which is like two miles out of town (by road).
I also found an old abandoned building while on a walk when we first arrived. Ed and I went back to go explore it and we found out it used to be this huge club and resort called the Sugar Beach Hotel. Apparently, it was built in the 1960s and was a favorite hangout of the Rat Pack. It was abandoned in the late ‘70s after many problems with drug trafficking. I did not have my camera with me, but I plan to circle back in the next couple days to take some pictures. Wednesday, we got our second Covid test done here at the marina. A nurse from the local clinic comes here every morning and administers tests to whoever needs them. It’s really quite an efficient setup. While we waited, Walter, the manatee, came by to say hi. Some of the kids immediately grabbed a wash-water (non-potable fresh water) hose and sprinkled it on Walter. He immediately turned around, they gave him the hose, and he drank his fill of fresh water. I had no idea manatees were such connoisseurs of water!
We also found a nice little lunch joint and bar called the Beach Club on the east side of the island. We’ve made it over there a couple of times, and the view is just so amazing.
This is the kind of beach on thinks of when talking about the Caribbean. We also ate out at a local restaurant in town called Coolie Mays. It’s a really charming restaurant and they had good food. Unfortunately, with Covid, we were their only guests that night.
Last night the marina hosted a “grill and chill” for guests. I got out of cooking duty twice in a row!! It was nice to congregate with some of the other boats. The subject of Shark Creek came up again. Two more boats got through there! There must be a way! They were just raving about how fun it was to do and how cool it was to see all the sea turtles. As I had never seen one in the wild, it got added to our “must do” list.
Shark Creek, Round Three
Today found Ed and me determined to figure out this Shark Creek business. We left about three hours before high tide, knowing that we would not be able to do it near low tide. We got to what we were sure was the mouth, and ran into depth problems again. We pushed a little harder, and actually hit bottom. After backing the dinghy out with the oars, we returned back to the marina to make double sure we were in the right place. We figured out that the mouth was where we thought it was, and we would just have to do it really close to high tide. We topped off the dinghy with gas and went back.
We FINALLY successfully made it through and back again…although it was pretty dicey in spots.
It was a fun little adventure, and I got to see my fill of sea turtles. Unfortunately, they swam away too quickly for me to take their picture!