Party at the Beach Club

The Beach Club is “just up the road a’ways” from the marina. On Friday the marina was buzzing about a party at the Beach Club. The restaurant typically serves breakfast, lunch, and yet to be determined the best rum punch in the Berry Islands (we’ve heard Flo’s may actually have the best rum punch but only taste will tell). On occasion the Beach Club opens in the evening to serve up dinner with a side of DJ. The marina arranged transportation for cruisers who wanted to attend. And so we stayed “just one more night” so that we could enjoy the festivities.

Our driver arrived promptly at 7:00pm; he was actually the owner of the Beach Club who in addition to transporting cruisers and owning a restaurant was also bar tending and waiting tables. The Beach Club was bustling with a full bar and several full tables. Brian and I spotted our friend, Andrea, dining with her family and said hello. Our group from the marina found a table that would accommodate us all. Once comfortable we ordered drinks and dinner. Tonight’s menu surf & turf. Brian ordered ribs and I chose the fish.

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What a wonderful evening! We had three generations of cruisers together, sharing our stories and experiences with one another. Here’s our rowdy bunch: Jim, Nancy, Jon, and Arline

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As the night progressed we moved toward the bonfire on the beach.

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So much fun and so far the best rum punch we’ve had in the Bahamas!

Kayaking to the Grass Lake – January 25, 2013

Today we spent several hours exploring in our kayaks as we had a great opportunity to paddle through the tidal flats. We exited the Great Harbor Cay Marina and paddled across the harbor where we had entered with Rode Trip. There was a narrow bridge on the opposite end of the harbor, under the main road. At the time we were headed out the tide was heading in, so we picked up the kayaks and walked them across the road to get to the other side.

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On the other side of the bridge we found ourselves in crystal clear water of varying depths. The bottom was white sand and/or grass and scattered throughout were mangroves. We learned how to read the water and seek out the deeper spots so that we wouldn’t bottom out in the sand.

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It was beautiful, calm, and quiet. The waters seemed to weave for miles and miles. In the shallow, sandy spots we found bonefish. It was so shallow their fins stuck out of the water. They minded their own business and darted away as we floated by.

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We continued exploring and as we rounded the next bend we found ourselves in a wide open space. After referencing the map we’ve determined that we kayaked to Grass Lake. The edges here were lined with old coral reefs topped with mangroves. The water remained shallow, about 3-feet deep, and the bottom was grassy.

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We found a cut back across to our previous route. There was a bit of current rushing through an opening between the coral lining. Here we turned to cut through and the bottom dropped down, deep, nearly 20-feet! We could see all the way to the bottom of this pool. We paddled through to the other side where the pool abruptly ended, banking upward to another white sandy bottom. Along this pool we spotted a school of fish swimming through the roots of the mangroves. We hovered over the fish for a while just watching, like our own private aquarium.

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On the way back, we had slightly less water than we started with. My trusty steed pulled us through the shallowest part.

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Brian had to carefully watch his step to avoid squishing sea slugs.

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We kayaked back, and this time got to ride the rapids down under the little bridge. Wheee!

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Welcome to the Berry Islands, Bahamas! January 24, 2013

Ahhhh, well rested on Thursday morning we awoke to sunshine and cool breezes. We’d made it! Brian got our day started by listening to the weather on our Single Sideband (SSB) receiver. This will become our new morning routine as forecaster, Chris Parker, provides wind reports each morning at 6:30am. Boy, that’s early! What about this so-called “island time?”

Our goal for the day was to safely get ourselves to the Great Harbor Cay Marina and clear customs. After breakfast, Brian called the dockmaster on the VHF. “We’d like to come into the harbor for fuel and customs,” he stated. “Fuel is on the right as you come in, marina is around the corner take the first empty slip,” was the reply. Ok, that sounds simple. Again using the charts and depth sounder we kept to the channel. As the guidebook forewarned there were missing navigational markers, but our chart seemed to be dead-on. We were quickly getting acclimated to the clear view of the bottom through the water. We entered the harbor through a rock wall lined channel and peeking around the corner we spotted the fuel dock. Hmm, how exactly do we dock? There was a long, high dock extending out between several pilings. It seemed logical to just tie up along the end of the dock, so that is what we did. The gentleman helping us informed us that people usually pull into the slips, now visible on either side of that long dock. “This is ok,” he reassured us. We must have made an entertaining morning for him! The fuel dock is also the fuel station for cars, it is open daily until 12:00pm.

After fueling, we made our way into the harbor and found the Great Harbor Cay Marina. Two gentlemen were waiting at the slip to assist us. While docking, I got a quick lesson on how to rig a spring line (Brian usually does this but of course he cannot drive and rig lines simultaneously). Settled at the dock, the dockmaster provided customs paperwork and I got down to business completing multiple copies with our information. I think I now have our documentation number memorized as well as our gross tonnage (8), net tonnage (7), length (32), width (11), and engine horsepower (55). Once completed we waited for customs to arrive. They came and reviewed our paperwork and took our fee of $300 (still being debated whether boats 35ft and under are $150 or $300). All clear!

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Next we found internet access at the marina office and sent off messages to our parents letting them know we were docked, cleared, and A-OK. We returned the iPad to the boat before we set out exploring and were treated to three manatees swimming by. They were so strange! Their tails reminded me of a beaver tail and they barely moved as they floated by. I was able to capture them just in the knick of time.

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Brian and I set out walking in search of the Beach Club with only spoken directions from one of the marina staff, James. It was great to stretch our legs after another four days on the boat. It was warm, but not too hot, and we took in our new scenery. Along the way a car stopped and a very friendly woman, Andrea, offered us a ride with her to the Flats. “Great, thanks!” We hopped into the car and got acquainted with Andrea. She and her family have been wintering at the Bahamas since the 80’s; this year she is here with her parents and her siblings and nieces and nephews come and go as they are able. They have a condo that is exactly across from our boat’s slip at the marina. We arrived at the Flats, a beautiful stretch of sandbar at low tide. We walked in the warm water and searched the beach for sea shells and sand dollars. Andrea was a pro at finding sand dollars.

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Afterward, Andrea drove us to the Beach Club and then into town to show us where the grocery store, liquor store, and hardware store are. She drove us back to the marina and we welcomed her aboard Rode Trip. What a great start to our Berry Island explorations!