A megayacht adventure in the Bahamas' Exuma chain of islands
Truth in Advertising
It Is Better In The Bahamas.
At the tail end of an endless northern winter, the catchy jingle of a well-timed Bahamian marketing campaign was stuck in my head. Advertising images of bright sun, white beaches, and clear-blue waters seemed to mock New York City’s perpetual winter. When offered the opportunity to participate in the first-ever megayacht flotilla in those possibly exaggerated waters, my answer was obvious: Even if the marketing oversold reality, at least I’d be warm.
This time, the advertising wasn’t hype—especially in the Exumas, an outlying string of isolated islands in The Bahamas riven with hidden coves, cays, and beaches where a boater can escape to a secluded anchorage. At the end of March, a group of five megayachts would dominate the skyline of the cays they visited.
Sponsored by the charter agencies IYC, RJC, and Churchill Partners to promote the Bahamas as a charter destination to European brokers, the megayacht flotilla brought together the brokers and yachts for six days of eating, snorkeling, scuba diving, eating, relaxing, and more eating.
The yachts and crews waited in the marina at Atlantis, an all-inclusive Nassau resort dedicated to the myth of its namesake. A shuttle bus whisked guests from the airport to the marina, giving brokers time to introduce themselves and exchange yacht assignments like excited campers. At the marina, deckhands from each yacht led the way to our assigned homes. For me, that would be the largest of the five—Tuscan Sun, captained by the friendly and professional Capt. Gui Garcia.
Brokers from around the world soon converged on the marina. Friends greeted each other, but soon everyone was getting ready for that night’s cocktail yacht hop that included the debut of Trinity’s 191-foot Carpe Diem. The brokers mingled until it was time for dinner, when golf carts whisked us to our assigned yachts.
My first meal, in the relaxed atmosphere of At Last, was highlighted by a spiny-tail lobster slow roasted and finished with butter, white wine, and soy sauce. It was the first in an endless parade of three-course meals.
The next day, I rode onboard At Last during the cruise over the coral bank while Tuscan Sun, with her deeper draft, went around. (Her steel hull draws 8'2", which would constrain her anchoring options in the Bahamas’ notoriously skinny waters, but it would prove to be a benefit that night when the wind shook the lighter yachts.)
At Shoal Cay the next morning, Tuscan Sun’s crew launched the two Sea-Doo PWCs for a morning cruise through the mangroves to the beach for our first swim in the electric-blue Kool-Aid waters. All the fresh air and activity was enough to work up an appetite.
Fortunately, we had a 2½hour cruise along Cambridge Cay. The blue seascape provided a perfect backdrop for a three-course lunch with a panko-crusted mahi-mahi over ginger rice. The light lunch wouldn’t weigh us down for our afternoon activity—swimming with sharks. I have a strong sense of self-preservation and no desire to make myself easier to catch than I already am.
When Tuscan Sun anchored, we piled back into the tender to head into Compass Cay. As the tender pulled into the marina, I had no idea what to expect. We tied up alongside a worn-wood shack covered with debris signed by visitors from a hundred boats that had come before us, and Capt. Gui jumped in. I had imagined the sharks would be pointy-toothed and flesh-hungry, but these nurse sharks looked and behaved more like overgrown catfish. Still, they had a rather disconcerting habit of vanishing, only to reappear directly behind me as their rough prehistoric skin scratched past my leg.
The yachts had regrouped at Rocky Dundas, a small cove that could barely fit all five. But proximity was necessary for the dinner mixer. Guests dispersed to other yachts to taste a different chef’s masterwork. Tenders were bouncing back and forth, creating a chaotic ballet. I hopped aboard the 37-foot Hooter Calendar, the Midnight Express that serves as tender to the freewheeling Hooter Patrol 4, and we were to dinner before Bob Marley’s first song faded from the speakers. An intimate party of seven gathered around the aft deck dining table for a four-course spectacular. Chef Mark McGraw presented a beautiful rare-seared Ahi tuna over papaya coconut rice, enhanced by a light ponzo miso broth for a burst of Asian-inspired flavor.
This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.