|Don’t Worry, Be Happy|
3: Bahamas continued
By Capt. Bill Pike — July 2001
We arrived at Bullocks Harbor on Great Harbor Cay in the Berrys Saturday morning, amid rain squalls that made it hard to find the PVC pipes that mark the channel. True to Hack's prognostications, smooth seas had prevailed as we'd logged the 45 nautical miles it took to cross the Stream. But upon reaching North Rock Light and the Great Bahama Bank, an east wind piped up, slamming us on the nose with four- to six footers the rest of the night. Despite the reliability of our Compaq, I'd plotted hourly positions on paper all the way, just in case. The worrywart strikes again.
After clearing customs at an empty Great Harbor Cay Marina, we began a desultory wait on weather, checking periodically with Hack on our Qualcomm satphone and hobnobbing with the locals. Although we were just 120 miles from America, we soon discovered that the isolation of the Berrys make them a quirky, conchy destination. Our marina stay culminated with a whopping party Sunday night. At its height a dozen exotic souls were onboard, drinking and feasting on deep-fried snapper, black beans, and yellow rice, all whooped up in Nordy's galley by two wild-and-crazy free divers.
"What's the biggest fish you ever put an arm-lock on?" a barefoot lady lawyer from Kentucky inquired of one of these guys around midnight. She was wearing scruffy cutoffs, a Guy Harvey T-shirt, and a diamond ring the size of an 8D battery.
"Lemmeeeeseeee," he replied, proffering a Kendall Jackson refill, "about 366 pounds... brought him up from 50 feet."
"Cool," she drawled.
Over the next few days, the livin' got even easier. On Monday, after a 35-mile run from Great Harbor along the Berrys' wild, unspoiled Atlantic coastline, we dropped the hook at the foot of Little Harbor Cay, with vast, empty flats to the west, protective rock to the east, and to the north, accessed via a tricky channel loaded with bonefish, rays, and sharks, the most middle-of-nowhere restaurant any of us had ever seen--Flo's Conch Bar, operated by Chester Darville, his wife Marina, and his mother Flo. Customers being both rare and undivinable, a three-hour notice via VHF is required, so Chester can crank up the genset and Marina can crack up the conch.
And do not address Marina as Flo. "You be callin' me Flo?" she scolded mois. "You sayin' I look like Chester's mama?"
On Tuesday we headed back north to anchor in Hoffman's Cove, retracing a portion of the previous day's route, The next afternoon we took the RIB ashore and hiked to a "blue hole," a huge, cold, natural swimming pool. Later a couple of guys--Lloyd and Presley--fell by Nordy in an old skiff with some "fresh Spanish mackerel" to trade for rum.
"Don't have any," Thiel said, a bombshell that engendered such obvious despair he was compelled to offer them four bottles of beer instead--free.
"I'll get an opener," said Shuler, passing the booty over. "They're not twist-offs and..."
But before he could finish, Presley bit the cap off one bottle, Lloyd wrenched the cap off another barehanded, and a split-second chug fest ensued. Then the whole startling phenomenon replayed instantly.
"Whoooooa," exclaimed Nordy's crew, as if they'd just witnessed a miracle.
A more modest epiphany came on the final evening of our trip. I was lying in a hammock in front of the Berry Island Club, on the eastern end of Frazers Hog Cay, our last stop before making the jump to Nassau. The sun was setting. Jenny, a pointer pup with a penchant for chasing leopard rays, was working the nearby shallows, and Nordy nodded on a distant mooring.
"Sometimes," I sighed happily, "being a worrywart ain't all that bad."
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.