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2011 - Bahamas
Paradise Next Door
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Paradise Next Door
Bahamas Cruise
2011
Flo's Restaurant on Little Harbour Cay
~ Flo's Restaurant on Little Harbour Cay ~
Little Harbour Cay, Berry Islands
Barry and the Beguiling Bay
Don and I pulled anchor around 10:00 in the morning, and glided through the Market Fish Cay passage into a windless day of smooth motoring. Our course to Little Harbour Cay was a mere 6 nautical miles to the south, and our last destination in the Berry Island chain.

Little Harbour Cay's entire population consisted of Chester Darville, his menagerie of farm animals, and a few staff members that worked at Flo's Place, a quintessential island Bar and Restaurant that was our cause for the pause. Flo, Chester's mom, had recently passed away, but Chester kept the legacy going and the cruising guide stated this little bistro was not to be missed. It promised meals made to order using the freshest ingredients, rum punches that were out of this world, and yarns spun late into the evening hours – all of which we craved. Besides, who could've resisted the opportunity to patronize an obscure beach bistro that was inaccessible by any other means and thus exclusive to a select few?

Per instructions, we hailed Chester via the VHF radio to make our dinner reservations. Chester promptly answered and just as promptly requested that we choose between fish, lobster, or conch. Breakfast was still digesting, so dinner menu options were far from the forefront of our appetites. Moreover fish and conch were something we had in abundance, so paying for these options seemed inane.

Re Metau at Anchor
~ Re Metau at Anchor ~

But we anticipated that this little bar might be just the place to encounter other cruisers and enjoy some lively repartee. Though Don and I still savored our solitude, for close to three weeks we'd only each other with which to converse and were feeling a bit deprived on that front.

We'd also hoped to partake in some refreshments that had become extinct this far into our journey; fresh bread, a crisp, green salad, and crunchy veggies. Even after factoring in the remoteness of the restaurant, and our ignorance of our meal's accompaniments and price tag, our desires overwhelmed our instincts, so we apprehensively proceeded with the plan.

By 1:30 we passed through Little Harbour Cut and dropped the hook in completely tranquil, crystalline waters just west of Cabbage Cay. With nary a ripple to define where the vast empty sea met the clear, cerulean sky, it appeared as if we were floating in space. Re Metau wasn't even relying on her anchor; the chain rode laid in a lazy 'S' on the sandy bottom.

Freedom for a Brave Queen Conch
We donned our snorkel gear straightaway, and went to investigate the warm, shallow pool. The area was a veritable royal courtyard full of large, beautiful queen conches. I plucked one up but rather than cower in her catacombs, the noble little snail inside defiantly stared me down, so I let her continue on her quest. She lumbered away at an impressive pace, hauling her extremely heavy but magnificent shield along.
Friendly Barracuda
Soon after, a large barracuda swam over to inquire if he might team up with us. In the Florida Keys we'd often dove with schools of sergeant-major damselfish, gangs of grunts, packs of porkfish, or troops of blue tangs in tow. During one of our Bonaire dives, a large, lone yellowtail snapper swam alongside the entire time, often checking to ensure we were keeping up. Whenever we stopped to more closely inspect a coral head or colorful anemone, our little marine guide would swim over to scrutinize the specimen as well. I realized the relationship was symbiotic, in that these aquatic pets hoped to scavenge anything edible that might be kicked up during our exploration. Nevertheless it was always enchanting to be accepted by these amphibious attendants – to blend in with the natives as it were.
Barry – My 'Cudda Snorkel Buddy
~ Barry – My 'Cudda Snorkel Buddy ~

However, I'd never had a large, fearsomely fanged predator try to fraternize with me during one of my underwater forays! I consented to the escort, as long as he kept his distance but stayed where I could see him. We made each other's wishes known with some tenacious persistence on his part, and some lunging, intimidation, and domineering behavior on mine. Once the boundaries were set, I rather enjoyed snorkeling with my barracuda bodyguard.

The three of us started to fin our way into an invisible, yet rather strong current that ran around the clump of islets. Amongst the sparse grassy seafloor, we spied a splendid spotted sea hare grazing away undisturbed. This fist-sized slug derived its name from the long, rabbit-eared tentacles waving around on top of its head. The barracuda wasn't nearly as engaged by the gastropod as I was; fully knowing its arsenal of defenses included leathery, toxic skin under those moss colored rings, and pernicious purple ink spray from its frilly tail.

Spotted Sea Hare
~ Spotted Sea Hare ~
Dangerous Sea Creatures
Nearby, a long-spined sea urchin with a bright orange star on its orb was pulsing along, its spiky hairdo undulating with each movement. In all the diving and snorkeling we'd done in the past, I'd never witnessed one of these in such a hurry. Though considered a highly prized and high priced delicacy known as 'uni' in Japanese cuisine, this living pincushion with foot-long, venomous barbed needles was also of no interest to Barry, my 'cudda buddy.

The regal snail with her indestructible suit of armor, the baneful bunny with pernicious spray, the glowing globe of piercing pain; no wonder the barracuda was looking for easy pickings because everything in the immediate area was armed and dangerous! Though bestowed with huge brains, complex communication skills, and the ability to manipulate all manner of materials to our advantage, Don and I were probably the most benign thing in the bay.

I was able to capture a short video of an elegant stingray gracefully gliding over to inquire about the goings on in the bay. But that was considered an intrusion to Barry, who jealously ran the winged sea creature off and quickly returned to photo-bomb my cinematic achievement, flashing a proud, toothy grin. I hadn't the heart to tell him I'd stopped filming.

Flo's Conch Bar
We drifted back to our little ship via the current, where we waved Barry off, climbed out of this beguiling bay, and prepared for our dubious dinner. While Don was shaving, I sat in the cockpit to dry my hair in the sun, just when a pair of large, crevalle jacks decided to stop by and welcome us to the pond. Following my every move, I felt like the engaging creature on exhibit behind the transparent wall, confined in my little atmospheric bubble while the aquatic creatures freely peered in with patent interest.
Long-Spined Urchin
~ Long-Spined Urchin ~

It was a brief, but lovely dinghy ride over to the restaurant, wending through a captivating narrow maze that flowed between the scattering of verdant, nameless atolls surrounding Chester's mooring field. Flo's Place, a squat, pink shack stood on the edge of the island, exclaiming 'You Welcome' in huge black letters across the metal roof. The shore was lined with high piles of queen conch shells. No wonder the mollusk I released earlier was so possessed in her escape; the mountains of pink skeletons were ominous! We learned that Chester farmed his conch in underwater corrals, and this refugee was intent on a full life in the wilds. I'm glad I let her go.

A flock of chickens and one large brown goose met us at the end of the dock, but before we had the opportunity to stretch our legs amongst the terrestrial ranks, our hostess appeared in the doorway and invited us to enter the vacant bungalow. We both ordered up a rum punch, and before long, heard someone banging around in the kitchen. The young woman/bartender/server disappeared as soon as our drinks were delivered, returning only once to turn on the TV. Great! We sailed 200 miles to this remote paradise to have ESPN served up as company.

After our meal, Chester stopped by to chat with us for a bit, but soon excused himself stating he had to get ready for a big party coming in from Frozen Cay, the private island resort nearby. Alas, we'd arrived too soon for lively exchange with other boaters and the enticement to stick around was never extended; rather Chester gave us a papaya from one of his trees as a parting gift. Sadly, we couldn't rave on about our restaurant fare; nothing on our plates satisfied the diet deficiencies we coveted, no remarkable rum punches passed our lips, no chance for delightful discussions were initiated. But fresh fruit after two weeks out was very much appreciated.

Little Harbour Cay Sunset
~ Little Harbour Cay Sunset ~
Sunset and Moonrise
Don and I closed out the day as we often did, hanging side by side in the hammock, gazing out over a tranquil azure sea. Re Metau was facing due west, and we watched the brilliant halo of the sun complete its decent over the horizon, bathing the western sky in watercolor shades of radiant orange, warm fuchsia, deep lavender, and inky indigo. And then one of the most memorable events I'd ever witnessed in my life occurred.

As if on cue, the tidal current slowly and silently swung us around to show us a gloriously luminous quarter moon rising in the dusky cobalt sky. The light of our waking hours had come to a close, but the ebb of that silvery orb, that ruler of the aquatic realm had physically turned our world toward her dreamy, ethereal visage making her comforting, seductive presence known.

I think this planet would be a far more peaceful place if everyone ended their day hanging in a hammock with someone they love, floating over crystal clear waters under a blanket of stars, contemplating all the little dramas and immense miracles that occur in all the beguiling dominions of this interconnected world between each and every sunrise and moonset.