observes a satellite photo of Earth, one can see a very distinct region of sapphire-blue unlike any other area on the planet. That little patch of
paradise is the Bahamas, and the reason for that beautiful hue is a vast expanse of crystal clear,
shallow waters known as the Little and the Great Bahama Bank.
Knowing we had about 80 nautical miles to our next destination,
we departed Bimini as early as the high tide allowed. Our plan was to follow the upper edge of the Great
Bahama Bank, so that Don could troll through the North West Providence Channel. When night descended, we planned
to tuck ourselves over the shallow bank and drop the anchor in 20 or so feet of water, thus arriving to our
new port in daylight. We’d made several inquires about the viability of this strategy, and were
led to understand it to be a tactic commonly taken.
Fishing with a Cuban Yo-Yo
Poised on the edge of the channel’s abyss with innumerable fathoms of water
to port and but 30 feet of water to starboard, these pristine waters were perfect for catching pelagics. Don rigged up his Cuban yo-yo on the windward side of Re Metau, strung the 400lb fishing line around a winch, then ran the leader and lure
about 200’ aft. A shock cord attached between the trolling end and an all bronze block caused a rather
loud ‘thump’ whenever something took the bait.
~ Smilin' Don and ‘Cudda ~
Before long it was 'Fish On!' and the yo-yo was wound fast and furious. There was
no dropping sails to slow down and a catch could quickly become shark bait. As with our sail through the Gulf
Stream, Don successfully landed his customary 2 ½ barracuda. Not palate pleasing prizes but no matter;
the captain relished the sport. All were released, though I felt bad for the fractional fish
who didn’t seem to know he was missing most of his fins.
Night on the Bank
As the sun set, the breeze kicked up to 15-20 knots and the Bank
began to roil like a washing machine. We both had erroneously imagined a solitary anchorage
and serene slumber on placid seas. Alas we were in for another agitated evening as wave after wave rolled
under us. Re Metau turned into a bucking bronco when tied to her tether in turbulent seas, and on this
particular night I’d begun to notice a very distinct, yet vexing pattern.
round-bellied hull caused her to rock back and forth as well as side to side, and the momentum of this
ragged gyration grew until it felt like she was about to throw a violent tantrum. And then…she
just STOPPED. As if she’d had enough of the oceans antics, all movement abruptly halted and for
a brief moment, we’d float firmly balanced and still. But slowly and rhythmically,
she’d be drawn back into the motion and the whole erratic hula dance would begin anew. Thus,
it was somewhat of a torturous night and the sun could not rise soon enough.
arrived to the northern tip of the Berry Islands and headed southeast toward Great Harbour Cay. Though
the chart indicated anchorage on the western shore, this near comatose crew sought tranquil waters for
much needed sleep. Around 4:30 PM, we approached the jagged island embankment, desperately seeking
some sign of an inlet to said harbor.
Aids to Navigation
Here is another fun fact for those unfamiliar with our watery ways. One of the seven
wonders of the ancient world is the Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria. Built in the 3rd century BC, the existence of this
monumental edifice was evidence that mariners have relied on aids to navigation for centuries.
Most aquatic-centric countries
have some sort of standardized system. In the U.S., channels are dotted with red and green nuns and buoys, daymarkers and
cans, gongs and flashing lights; all intended to guide navigators along safe passage. They may seem rare, they're often rusted,
they may be ramshackled, sometimes run over, but thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, they always, ALWAYS existed. With 6’
of keel below us and 50' of mast above us, a confirmed course and depth was crucial for calm composure.
however were remiss in providing these maritime ministrations, and lacked subsidy to survey their seas. The cruising guides
and charts promised well-spaced markers into Bullock Harbour, but all we ever saw was a bare wooden pole prodigiously poking
out of the water some 10 nautical miles away from any plot of land. Though closely following a carefully charted route, from
our viewpoint we were on a collision course with the craggy coast.
At last, a power boat crossed our path, turned sharply,
and disappeared behind the cliff. Thus, confirmation of the cut came just in the nick of time. Diametric to our direction,
the entrance into the harbor ran from south to north between a high bluff. It was long, narrow, and completely disguised
by thick foliage on both sides.
~ Channel to Great Harbour Cay ~
Great Harbour Cay Channel
50' from the mouth of the corridor prominently stood a big, brightly colored reflective channel marker. Completely
obscured until we were thoroughly committed to the course, this navigational aid was about as helpful as a lead-filled life
Once inside, the channel to the Great Harbour Cay Marina was more conspicuously defined, though the chart indicated all surrounding waters as “Not Surveyed” leaving
us to divine the depths. But the entire harbor was completely vacated so we had the pick of the place to plop our plow.
Anxiety riddled, we inched our way out into the unknown. With the sounder showing less than 3 feet under our keel, it was
skinny water indeed but we were finally secured on a smooth surface. Don launched Dinky Duck and dropped a sounding led to
ensure that tide, current, or wind change wouldn’t leave us high and dry.
Certain our little puddle would keep us
afloat, the tired crew was fed and ready for bed. Safely tucked away in that great sanctuary of a harbor so securely sheltered
by the Berries, relief was the only wave that washed over our ship, and the night was spent in sound slumber.