Sailing Marathon, FL to Chub Cay, Bahamas

I’m recovered from my first experience of a bit of the yachtie life, helping with the shakedown sail of a 45′ Irwin 43 Mark III sailboat.  We jumped ship in Nassau, the Bahama… but here’s some of the good parts of the month of sailing adventures.

First, there were the last minute repairs – apparently there are always the last-minute repairs and additions. That took about 2 weeks. A couple of small disasters accompanied our first attempts to leave, one quickly caught where some friendly neighbors roped us back to the slip, and one where we rested on a sandbar until high tide and a tow boat got us free. These lead to first installing new transmission linkages, and eventually tightening the propeller screw.  Identifying the problem was much more frustrating than actually fixing it, something of a universal truth.

One tightened propeller later, the Carpe Manana was off! A day sail from Marathon, Florida up to Rodriguez Key(near Key Largo) was our first test. Highlights included the boat working smoothly, and dolphins off to starboard for awhile. We anchored overnight and checked the weather and departed across the Gulf Stream the next day, next stop Bimini, Bahamas. The Gulf Stream was intimidating, but the day we crossed was smooth and easy – we navigated into the somewhat narrow channel of the Bimini Sands Marina, and the captain headed off to Customs and got us officially into the new country.

IMG_0321

Bimini is a spot out of time – no credit cards taken, a fishing economy and bread only available when the bakery is open or a delivery boat has recently come through. There are new cars, but golf carts seem to outnumber them greatly. 2 streets wide, and quite long, North Bimini is the urban center with two towns “Alice Town” and “Bailey Town”.  Together they have maybe 30 shops? Judging by the greetings thrown around the streets, it’s a close-knit community with most locals knowing one another, and happy to stop for a chat. We spent 2 nights in the Marina in South Bimini, taking the frequent very-short ferry ride across the channel when we needed anything from North Bimini or just felt like exploring. The End of the World Saloon aka ‘Sand Bar’ was my favorite spot – an intentional dive, we only saw the new location after the previous one was condemned by the Health Inspectors. Dominos sat at a card table in the backroom, friendly bartenders provided quick cold beers and didn’t seem to care how long you nursed one. The floor was covered in sand, and the back deck looked interesting for some day drinking too. We spent another night anchored off of the North end of Bimini, and snorkeled and explored our own deserted beaches. We attempted to snorkel the Bimini Road, but it wasn’t in the cards. Unfortunately, that involved something of a misadventure, where we got stranded and had to hike along disappearing beaches for several hours in the noonday sun with no water or sunblock.. or pants in my case. FYI bathing suits are not made for hiking.  Kevin joined the boat in Bimini, and he wrote about it over on his blog.

Now, we were off to the Berry Islands. First stop, Chub Cay(pronouned “Key” in all cases). Chub has a Bahamanian community somewhere on it, but I never found it. We anchored between Mama Rhoda Rock, Chub Cay Harbor and another small Cay(island) within dinghy range of the Chub Cay Club & Marina. This was something like a country club, and next to it was the Berry Islands Club, another of the same. I explored a bit and saw beautiful white sand beaches, beautiful landscaping, abundant coconut palms and the occasional colorful rooster. The marina was full of expensive fishing boats, many complete with American fishermen cleaning the boat after the days excursion – these are sports fishermen, and there was definitely something of the boys club to the place. It’s being fixed up as a more resort atmosphere, but you must get there by private or chartered plane or boat, so I believe it’ll manage to avoid any tourist crowds anytime soon.

swimming below
Shark! video also available(see below)

Shark video.

We snorkeled from our boat out towards Mama Rhoda, and here we had several of the most enjoyable moments of the trip. The first morning we attempted to snorkel to Mama Rhoda Rock. I found a conch on the seafloor early in the trip and with a few tries we managed to get it off the bottom. It made a tasty lunch the next day, and was a bit of an adventure to learn how to get the conch from its shell. I saw a large shark(bigger than me) several times as I snorkeled around. I don’t know who was more scared: me seeing a shark swim by below me(in maybe 15 feet of water) or Kevin hearing me call out “Shark!” and not being able to see him. We named him Karl. After floating in our little plastic rafts for a bit, it was back to snorkeling, where we saw more small reefs among the sand and eventually got chased off by a territorial barracuda that was following a little too closely for a little too long. As we cleaned the conch the next day several small sharks(3 feet?) showed up, and our boat was circled by the seagulls and sharks as they wanted all the little tasty bits. We stayed at Chub Cay several days, and the next day we decided to take the dinghy directly to the reefs by Mama Rhoda, which was very worth it. There were a couple more barracuda, but they were smaller and didn’t seem as interested in chasing us off although there were a few moments of challenging postures. The reef had abundant fish and corals and fans, and was colorful and beautiful and in about 15 feet of water. It was very nice to be able to explore without getting out all the scuba dive gear, another bonus is when snorkeling we could legally grab any full-size conch we saw.

Kevin documented a bit about the next step of the trip here, although I might also write it up when I next am alone with my computer… so to tide you over…   Head on over to http://kevinraos.com/blog/2014/04/29/under-the-night-sky-at-cabbage-cay-bahamas/