Wow. It’s been a while since our last post which ended with a description of our first week at Great Harbour Cay Marina (GHC) in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas. We ended up spending five more fantastic weeks there. GHC is an exquisite island that we had fun exploring but it was the people that made our time there so special. We developed a very close friendship with Gary and Christelle Donovan (Queen Bee) and shared a lot of great times with them and also with Christelle’s brother Vic, his wife Iren, and also Pat and Celine and their cute pup Lexie. All Canadians!!!
Check out this film a young couple took with their drone while we were there. It really highlights the beauty of the island and will give you some idea of why we enjoyed it so much.
Conch is not only yummy to eat, especially conch fritters, but there is a tradition in the Bahamas to blow a conch shell horn as the sun sets. Our friend Gary is a master at both blowing and making conch horns and after hearing him blow his horn at sunset I had to have one. However, Tim and I didn’t just want our conch horns to be made from one of the many empty shells that could be found around the marina. We wanted to search the surrounding seas and “hunt” for our own conch, eat them, and then Gary would show Tim how to make the shells into conch horns!!!
On the first day when the seas outside the harbor were calm Gary, Christelle, Tim and I set out in our dinghies on our quest to for conch and also to explore Shark Creek. Shark Creek is a narrow and very shallow creek that weaves through the mangroves on the south side of the island and splits Great Harbour Cay from Anderson and Haines Cays. In order to explore the length of the creek you need to take the dinghy about 2 miles down to the south side of the island on a rising tide and return well before it gets too shallow to pass on the falling tide.
We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day for our Conch Hunting / Shark Creek adventure. There was barely any wind and there wasn’t a ripple on the ocean. It was nearly impossible to tell the sky from the sea when looking at the horizon. The water itself is that beautiful Bahama swimming pool blue and is so clear you can easily see the bottom even in deep water. Tim and Christelle waded in the water while Gary and I stood in the dinghies trying to spot conch. We each harvested about 4 good size conch and enjoyed spotting other sea life in the process. Tim and I used his GoPro camera to make this film of a sting ray. The water was so clear and so calm the ray’s image is reflected on the surface of the water as he swims away.
The following day Gary and Christelle showed us how to clean our conch. I pulled them out of their shells (not easy) and cut off all the stuff that isn’t edible, including their eye stalks (imagine a snails eyes that stick way up off their body) which made me feel terrible. Tim would then finish cleaning up the part of conch that we were going to eat. The Bahamian men eat the conch’s pistel while cleaning them. It basically looks like a long slimy tube and is supposed to be a natural form of Viagra!! Gross! Tim passed the ones we pulled out of our conchs on to a few guys who were watching us clean the conch. I don’t know who the first person was who ate conch but they must have been really, really hungry. They are slimy, ugly, alien like little creatures. If I didn’t know how good they tasted there was no way I would have put any part of one in my mouth. I cooked up some cracked conch the following day. It turned out pretty good.
We had a lot of fun learning some new games while we were at GHC. Neither of us ever played dominos before but were invited for a night of playing “Mexican Train Dominos” with Gary, Christelle, Vic and Iren. What fun! Tim and I have since downloaded the game onto our tablets and play frequently. We are practicing so we will be ready to challenge Christelle, the champion, next time we see them! Dominos seems to be a fairly popular game in the Bahamas. Ramone who is one of the dock hands at the marina is the champ at a game called “Fives”. It was amazing to watch him play. He would announce he would win as soon as he picked up his tiles and sure enough he did. It also seems that slamming their domino tiles down on the table is part of the tradition of playing dominos but damned if any of us know why!
Gary and Christelle also taught us to play cribbage. A game I have always wanted to learn. Again a very fun night! Gary was the master of the cribbage table. We will be buying both a set of Mexican Train dominos and a cribbage board as soon as we get a chance.
In return Tim and I taught Gary, Christelle, Vic and Iren how to play UNO.
Pétanque (pronounced pa-tonk) is a game where each player throws hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (pronounced coosh-a-nay) (literally "piglet"). It is very similar to bocce except it is played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass, sand or other surfaces. Pétanque is played at the marina on Wednesday nights. Ruth Ann and a couple other people who live on the island bring all equipment needed for everyone to play Pétanque. Cruisers join in, and many of the local Bahamians show up to play as well. It is great fun and Hans, the marina manager, provides rum punch for the players – winners served first!! It may be a game that Tim and I teach our friends in Maine. It will be a blast to play when we have our lobster bakes and island happy hours!!
Tim and I enjoyed spending time at the Beach Club. We met Malesto the owner and her husband Terry the day after we arrived. As its name implies the Beach Club sits right on the shore of the Beach.
We enjoyed riding our bikes over to the Beach Club on hot days and swimming in the ocean to cool off and then enjoying a Kalik (a brand of Bahamian beer that is similar to Corona) and chatting with people at the bar. It was a fascinating place to meet people as we met folks who had vacation homes on the island, spent time with other cruisers there, and had a chance to meet a lot of the Bahamians who live on GHC.
Swimming at the Beach Club beach was fabulous. Typically there was no one else on the beach except us or our friends who came with us. The water color and clarity was amazing. We even spotted a couple of small sharks from shore. The temperature was in the 70’s and it was great to just wade in and relax. Some days it was as calm as a swimming pool and other days there were small waves which were fun to try and body surf.
We walked the entire circumference of Hawks Nest Key. There is a small but beautiful limestone bridge that has been cut out by the wind and the waves and a beautiful beach runs the length of the side of the Cay exposed to the sea.
My brother Kevin and I and Summer all came back carrying various treasures she had found along the hike. We tried to find her a conch we could make a horn out of but no luck there. We were all impressed and amazed when she picked up my conch horn their first night there and blew the thing like a champ on her first try!
When conditions were deemed suitable to venture out of the harbor we often went exploring and snorkeling in our dinghies with Gary and Christelle and her brother Vic. Tim borrowed a spear gun from a fellow cruiser and tried his skill spearing fish. He got a couple snappers but in general they were only big enough to feed Gary and Christelle’s cats Josie and Jacob who both love fresh fish!
Snorkeling was fun. We explored a plane wreck that is home to tons of fish, skirted the edges of a blue hole where we saw some good sized sting rays, and searched for lobster, fish and conch off the shores of a couple neighboring keys. On one trip Tim when Tim was fishing he saw a huge moray eel under a ledge while looking for some lobster to spear. A few days later Gary, Christelle, Vic, Tim and I guided several other cruisers in their dinghies to snorkel the sights where we had seen some nice fish. We returned to the sight were Tim had seen the moray eel. This time he was armed with our GoPro camera rather than his spear. He dropped down to see if he could film the moray but instead saw what he thought was a very large fish. After a couple more dives down he realized he was looking at a nurse shark who had tucked in under the ledge for a nap. Click on the attached link to see the video he took of the shark. When we viewed the footage he took we realized he did end up capturing footage of the moray eel and the shark. The moray is right up near the sharks head. Tim was pretty close to it while taking the video of the shark and never even realized it was there. Tim took more than one film and the moray makes an appearance in each of them. Thankfully, the moray kept it’s teeth to itself!! Also you will catch a glimpse of a lion fish in the footage of the shark. They are an invasive species and you are encouraged to kill them if possible. We understand that they are quite tasty but you must be careful when cleaning them as they are poisonous and you can easily contaminate the meat.
The Social Life / Kathy’s Drink & Drift
The marina has weekly events for its guests to attend if they want to. For example every Monday there is the cruisers pot luck, Wednesday is Pétanque with complimentary rum punch, and every Friday night there is the Chill and Grill that is hosted and prepared by a local couple and attended by islanders as well as cruisers. My biggest contribution to the social life at the marina was the Tuesday evening booze cruise which Christelle re-christened to “Kathy’s Drink & Drift.” It didn’t start out as a scheduled social event. One afternoon I suggested to my fellow cruisers that we take our dinghies out, raft up and just drift around the harbor chatting and having drinks and watching the sun set. Anyway we all had a great time. The following week Christelle suggested we do it again and this time we ended up with an even bigger flotilla of dinghies. Since all dogs like dinghy rides our friends Celine and Pat had brought their dog Lexie, and Tim and I brought Shamus and then so did everyone else who had pups on board – so it also became a dog party! Anyway since the marinas Tuesday evening event of Bahamian / Great Harbour Cay Trivial Pursuit and Bingo was ill attended they replaced it with the more popularly attended Drink & Drift.
Tim and I had a great time at all the different social events we attended whether it was a big organized event, or just small get-togethers with a couple friends. However, Christelle’s 50th Birthday party was perhaps the best party I have ever been too. Christelle entered her 5th decade with a bang and we all had a blast celebrating it with her!
The party was to be held on the outside porch of the Tamboo Club which is right at the marina so transporting marina guests wouldn’t be an issue. Besides, the price was right. Hector the owner of the Tamboo Club was letting us use it for free. Quite frankly when Christelle and I first looked at the place she was nearly in tears. It was a round area, half of which was enclosed by a large cement wall on one side and a white but rickety woven fence on the other. Neither of us could see the potential in it. However, Gary cleaned the place up and with Tim and Pat’s help strung up some Christmas lights and hung a huge sign that when lit up said Happy 50th Birthday Christelle. Christelle’s friend Ruth Ann showed up and supervised the rest of the decorating. By the time everything was done the place looked beautiful. The rickety fence was completely covered up by palm fronds and Christmas lights. At Tim’s suggestion palm fronds were put in front of the wall sconces on the cement wall. It softened their glare and along with more Christmas lights really dressed it up. Tables with white tablecloths and beautiful centerpieces that Ruth Ann found in a closet in the Tamboo looked great and there were the balloons and party hats and party favors that Christelle’s sister-in-law Iren brought with her from Canada.
Queen Bee showed up at her birthday ball wearing a beautiful woven grass and shell Tiara. It was a gift from Pat and Celine and handmade by some of the island ladies. Honestly with my little pin head it is not a look I could pull off but Christelle looks great in a Tiara.
All boaters from the marina were invited and they showed up in force and contributed lots of goodies to the evening meal. Christelle had several friends from the island there as well. Hans and Gary set off fireworks and we all danced the night away. Christelle and I hit the dance floor shortly after the party started and other than a brief respite for food, and cake, and opening presents we stayed out there until the party was over. After a couple Tequila shots with Gary, Tim got his groove on and danced most of the night with us! My favorite was our friend Sam, a beautiful Bahamian woman and the DJ’s wife tried giving Tim some dance pointers by putting his hands on her hips to show him how to move. He had fun trying but am not sure he picked up any new moves. Bahamian people really know how to dance. Quite frankly I am amazed that their butts seem like separate appendages that they move at will. I would pay good money to learn to move my little white butt the way those beautiful woman move theirs. It’s amazing. Iren, Sandra, myself and a few other women watched them dance with envy! Alas none of us has the faintest idea how to move our butts independently from the rest of our body and weren’t stupid enough to embarrass ourselves trying. We just stared in wonder!!
March 6- Time To Head for Home
We had delayed our departure from the Berry’s to stay for Christelle’s birthday party but we left a couple days later when the first weather window allowed. We were going to try to go to the Abaco Islands but we want to be back in Maine by mid to late May and that wasn’t going to work out. Besides, when the first weather window to leave opened up it was better to set a course back to Bimini and cross over to Florida from there.
Celine and Pat are living on their boat while Pat renovates one of the townhouses they recently bought. A night or so before we left they invited us along with Shamus over where we spent a nice relaxing evening with them on Pat’s new “deck” with, Vic and Iren, Gary and Christelle, Frenchie and a few other people we had the pleasure of meeting.
The afternoon before we left we went over to the Beach Club and took a swim and then had a couple drinks with Gary, Christelle, Vic and Iren. We said goodbye to the other friends we had made at the marina at docktails! Randy, Sherry, Sharon and Jim, Rick and Sandra, and of course Meco, and Debra and Tom who arrived a couple days before we left who I wished we had the time to get to know better!
We were sad to leave but glad to be moving towards home. We miss Maine. Tim and I felt like we put some roots down in Great Harbour Cay and we will miss the friends we made especially Gary and Christelle. We love you guys!
Jim and Sharon: Thanks for lending Tim one of your Hawaiian Slings to fish with. Celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary with style. Still love the story about how you met!!
Rick and Sandra: So much fun to meet you. Tim and I still think you are both lying about your age. We hope to see you in Maine.
Thank you to all the hard working staff at the marina. You make it a very a special place to visit. We will be back! Be well until we meet again!
· Kimberly: It was a pleasure to become your friend. Stay well and thanks for the delicious conch fritters. They were the best we had. Good luck with your cake mix business.
· Ramone: You are one of the sweetest people we met while there EXCEPT the night I saw you play dominos. You show no mercy!!
· Sam: So fun meeting you and James. My feet hurt from all the music you played at the parties Tim and I attended.
· Conseulo: Good luck with your restaurant. I hope to eat there on a return trip. Keep those dresses. You may prefer to wear t-shirt, hat and jeans most of the time, as do I, but you looked amazing at Christelle’s party!
· Meco: There are no words. Thank you for everything. Shamus misses you and all the treats you snuck him.
When we arrived in Bimini we picked up a slip at the Blue Water Marina to wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream back to Florida. We hoped to avoid Southern Florida and enter back into the states via the Lake Worth Inlet which is near Palm Beach.
We woke up Sunday morning to a see that our friends Alex and Alexa and their dogs Piper and Luna had arrived in their boat during the wee hours of the morning. We were excited to see them and after they took a nice long nap we had a good time exchanging stories with them. Alex had caught a large Wahoo while crossing the banks and since they had more fish to eat than they knew what to do with offered to make us dinner. Neither Tim nor I eat a lot of fish but that fresh Wahoo was delicious! Yum.
They are going to leave their boat in Florida and they will be back in Maine before we are. They work and live on the Isle of Shoals and we hope to stop there on the way home to see them and since they don’t have a boat in Maine we have invited them to come sailing with us this summer. We hope they take us up on it!
A good weather window opened and we left Bimini under sail for the Lake Worth Inlet. 10 hours later were back in the USA at a slip in the North Palm Beach Marina. We were able to sail nearly 85 miles in just under 10 hours thanks to the 2-3 knot northward current of the gulfstream. The seas were not too bad with a 3-4 foot swell on the beam. This made for very comfortable sailing. As we neared the inlet the seas became more choppy and confused but nothing Carina or us could not handle.
We arrived at the North Palm Beach marina and got a slip a few away from our friends, Wally and Pam, on Pastaio which is an 85 ft. luxury motor yacht. Wally is the captain and Pam is the chef/boss! They were nice enough to drive us around to customs and to re-provision. The next afternoon we went out cruising along the ICW and drinking beer on Wallys Renegade center console fishing boat. They also hosted a wonderful party that night on Pastaio. Thanks again guys for all your help and fun times both at GHC and Palm Beach.