Desirable Destination: Berry Islands, Bahamas
Bahama Mama | March
Chester," I yelled in order to be heard above the static of a bad cellphone connection. It crackled all the way to Little Harbor Cay, an ocean-washed coral postage stamp Chester and his mother Florence Darville call home, halfway down the remote, crescent-shape chain of Bahamian islets called the Berry Islands. "Is Flo's Conch Bar still goin' strong?"
"Oh yeah, mon," he yelled back. "We open for business righ' now."
The sound of Chester's voice brought back lovely memories. Several years ago I paid a visit to Flo's in mid-March while navigating a Nordhavn through the Berrys from Great Harbor Cay to Nassau, a visit that was special on two counts.
First, it featured seafood meals of epic freshness. Flo fills orders for her authentic, home-cooked Bahamian cuisine directly from the local waters; no refrigerators involved. And second, the palm-shaded ambiance of her remote little operation, which is accessible by boat only (from either Chub Cay to the south or Great Harbor to the north), simply rocks in March, mostly because days are warm and clear, nights are cool, and the breezes keep fanged insects at bay.
Things haven't changed much since my time at Flo's, apparently. Chester reports that the giant white letters painted on the roof still shout: YOU WELCOME. Nonindigenous foodstuffs, like beer, flour, salad fixings, and spices, still come on the mail boat from Nassau to Great Harbor, the major settlement in the Berrys, and from thence across a vast waste of neon-green shallows to Flo's in Chester's Carolina skiff.
And the process whereby diners actually dine is unchanged as well. It starts with a decent weather window to make the trip from either Great Harbor or Chub, a journey exposed to open ocean for much of its length. Next comes a careful entry through the narrow cut at the bottom of Little Harbour into a deep aquamarine pool. And then, once the hook's on the bottom and reservations have been made, a dinghy ride to the restaurant puts the finishing touches on the extravaganza.
Since Flo doesn't have a telephone and cellphone service is spotty, you need to call on VHF channel 68 to work out menu choices and other specifics. Moreover, you need to call at least three hours ahead because cracking fresh conch at the end of the dinghy dock's time-consuming for Chester.
"Chow still as good as I remember?" I yelled, still fighting static.
"Yeah, Bill," Chester yelled back, "'specially my mama's rice and peas."
January: British Virgin Islands
February: Great Abaco Island / Bahamas
March: Little Harbor Cay / Bahamas
April: Los Sueños / Costa Rica
July: Washington, D.C.
August: British Columbia
September: Montauk, Long Island
October: Hudson River, New York
November: Half Moon Cay / Belize
December: St. Barts
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.