Paradise Next Door - Bahamas Cruise
Icons/LFlorish.gif 2011 Icons/RFlorish.gif
Icons/BD21315_.GIF
Cruise Ships off Stirrup Cays
~ Cruise Ships off Stirrup Cays ~
BahamasIcon/BahamasIcon.gifSoldiering On
April 7th, 2011
 
Deciding Where to Go Next
Foul weather kept us in our secure harbor for many more days than we’d planned, but Don and I made do. We returned to the Sugar Beach caves, where I spent a very meditative day building sand castles, then invited some gastropod guests, hoping they would find my little scallop shell sofas comfortable accommodations. The snails, however all vacated the premises at break-neck speeds (for snails, anyway).

Though the foul weather continued, we’d explored most every corner of the 7 by 1.5 mile island and began to get antsy to move along. Don proposed several options for our next destination. One was Slaughter Harbor (doesn’t THAT sound like an enticing place!) located to the north between Little Stirrup and Big Stirrup Cays. The Berrys Bank on the western side of Great Harbour Cay was far too shallow to continue south, so we’d have to head north and go around via the Atlantic in any event.

Both the Stirrup Cays were owned by cruise lines, and had faux Bahamian villages selling faux Bahamian souvenirs to faux cruisers. Even Little Stirrup Cay was given the faux name of 'Coco Cay'.  But the leasing of these two cays, and the work they provided was a boon for the Berry Islanders. Each morning that one of the ships were scheduled to arrive, ferries, parasailing vessels, and tour boats began their commute from every nook and creek around our ‘Bay of Five Seven ½ Pirates’, zooming past with a boat jarring wake on their way to playing their role for the tourists.  But the idea of departing the authentic for the artificial was not appealing to us.

Neptune in the Onions
~ Neptune in the Onions ~

Don also suggested the eastern side of Great Harbour Cay, in a nice little cove by Hawksnest Cay, facing out toward open ocean. However that anchorage was exposed to the winds that were blowing, and we’d already experienced the one, lone feature of that locale, the ‘Beach Club’, so we nixed that idea as well.

The First Mate Prepares to Leave
Our third option was the Market Fish Cays, an often circumnavigated, uninhabited group of atolls that provided wonderful shelter and blissful seclusion. Having paid $5.75 per gallon for diesel at the fuel dock, $9 for fresh water, and finding no produce worth investing in at the market, the boat was prepared to depart. We were getting pretty good at working as a team to quickly battening down loose ends, and Neptune was getting pretty good at figuring out that we were going to be on the move.

He’d combatively receive a dose of stress-reducing syrup, then search for a spot to cower. He tried to take refuge in his window, but then reconsidered and, much to my trepidation, relocated to a dark corner of the berth. I threatened him about keeping his kibble down, but when seasickness got the better of him, he’d usually spew on my shoe.

We left Great Harbour Key at 8:15 am for the 25 nautical mile loop to the outside of the Berry chain, and by 8:30, all on board was in the buff, thus reducing both tan lines and dirty laundry!  Billowing, black rainclouds hung over the colossal cruise liners anchored off each of their respective cays, but everywhere else was clear, blue sky.  We scooted by the fabricated adventure in full sun and sail, making 6 knots on fairly calm seas.  But when we hit open ocean on the east side of the Berrys, the seas got very roily.

Don and the Toothy One
~ Don and the Toothy One ~

I went below to find out how the first mate was faring, but curiously had difficulty locating him.  He wasn’t on the berth where I'd last seen him, nor was he curled up on his window ledge.   I checked my shoes, but there was no sign of him there.  The spot Neptune had most frequently retreated to before was the far corner under the salon table, but being the coolest, darkest place onboard, I’d filled that niche with stacked baskets of root vegetables.  I knelt down into the shadows and found a fairly resigned First Mate safely nestled amongst the onions. From that point on, anytime any member of the crew was feeling ill at ease, we’d refer to it as "Going to the Onions".

The Captain Prepares to Fish
The moment the depth sounder registered triple digits, Don went into a flurry of motion. There were great fish that needed to be yanked out of those waters! Deep sea fishing from a sailboat in motion isn’t as easy as one might imagine. Sailboats such as ours lacked several, key features that fishing boats had – such as quick maneuverability for wrestling in a 40 pound beast battling for its life, gallons of fresh water for cleaning up massive quantities of blood splatter, space for filleting a 5 foot catch, and availability of ice on which to keep the catch fresh.

But none of those issues deterred Don. He rigged up the Cuban Yoyo, got the gaff up from down below, and sat back expectantly. Before long, a sizable, very toothy 'cuda took the hook and Don was in for a fight; one from the barracuda and one from the bride who was very concerned about the dangly parts on the buck naked fisherman.

Market Fish Cays Anchorage
We turned into the Market Fish Cays passage at around 1:00, and in a completely deserted little harbor off Soldiers Cay, dropped the hook in 15 feet of water.  The surface over the bank was virtually flat and crystal clear all the way down to the sandy bottom.  I could literally see our anchor and chain sitting on the sand.  As soon as we shut off the engine, I hung the swim ladder off the starboard side and jumped into that cool aquamarine pool.  The water was so amazingly beautiful I couldn’t keep myself out of it!
The Mermaid
~ The Mermaid ~
The moment the captain heard the splash, he followed suit. After cooling off, we climbed back onboard to get our mask and fins and snorkeled toward the shore, freediving for little treasures all along the way. Don came up with a beautiful horse conch, but unsure as to whether it was endangered or edible, we allowed it to gallop away.

We emerged on a thin strip of soft, white sand, but the ocean side had a craggy, moon-like surface that would easily shred bare feet – it might even have cut through shoes!  Basically formed from the remains of coral reefs and mollusks, these Bahamian islets eroded like Swiss cheese, full of crevices, crannies, and shallow caves.  We’d have to return with footwear if we were going to wander much beyond the beach.

Brain Coral
~ Perfect Specimen of Brain Coral ~
Oh, but the beautiful water called like a siren song, so we returned to the sea. All along the inner edge of the island offered little submerged pockets of patch reef communities. There were giant triggerfish, scrawled filefish, queen angelfish, and spotlight parrotfish all flashing neon yellow, brilliant amethyst, and midnight blue; colors so riotous the camera couldn’t clarify them.

Not to mention the labyrinthine brain coral, huge elkhorn coral, great purple fans, and palmer’s sea rods waving slowly.  Each hollow was like an organic aquarium, and we were a part of the sealife, bobbing up and down like fish tank bubblers. 

Our day was drawing to a close, so we reluctantly swam back to the boat. After a fine meal, we spent the remainder of the evening cocooned in the hammock until the chill of the night sea breezes forced us down below. A lovely sail, witnessing Don’s fishing joy, uninterrupted liberating seclusion, bathing in warm emerald seas, encountering astonishingly gorgeous sea life, a belly full of tasty fare, then cuddling and swaying with the one I loved under a star-spattered sky; I regarded that day as perhaps one of the best I’d ever had!

Icons/BD21315_.GIF
Copyright © 2015 Diana E Reynolds - SV Re Metau.  All rights reserved.

"I keep sailing on in this middle passage. I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full." ~ Arthur Ashe