From Great Harbour our plan was to head south toward Nassau over a six-day period, stopping at a few secluded anchorages along the way.
If we had halcyon days during the trip, they were spent hopping down the Berry Island chain. “For those who seek unadulterated isolation, the small unfrequented anchorages behind the cays offer a great appeal for those seeking such a unique location,” says one of our guides.
Our first stop was in small bay protected on all sides by a necklace of limestone islands – White’s Cay, Devil’s Cay and Hoffman’s Cay. (Even now, a month later, Greg says this was the best snorkeling of the trip.) At one point we were surrounded by 8-10 eagle rays. If you haven’t seen one, google image search them. These crazy, bat-like creatures seem to peer at you as they glide by, and Greg swears they were circling him to get a better look. We were not successful in getting around to see the blue hole on Hoffman’s Cay, because we lacked a powerful enough dinghy to get through the strong currents at the southern end, but Greg’s newfound love of spearfishing paid off. He caught a 5-6 lb. margate on the reef and I pan-seared it and served it with rice and red curry for lunch.
When we dropped anchor there were only two other boats. By sunset there were four. The next day as we were leaving six other vessels showed up, our friends from Montreal among them. We waved good-bye as we headed off to the next anchorage – which we had entirely to ourselves.
Alone at Little Harbour
There is a note about Little Harbor in our guidebook from 1974. It says: “Ten years earlier when we visited Little Harbor, it could have been called a settlement, for there were several families with dogs and poultry living there, and even some industry – in the form of a fishing shack being crafted by an old gentleman. He worked from a pile of gnarled tree shapes which, if you knew what you were looking for and he did, would saw into rough but sound knees and frames. He is gone now, and so is old Mrs. Lightbourne, the only other inhabitant, when we were there in 1974, was in the hospital in Nassau.”
Today Little Harbour is known among sailors who travel in the Berrys for Flo’s Conch Bar. It’s possible that Flo is old Mrs. Lightbourne’s namesake and that the shacks here were crafted by that old gentleman. The more recent Dozier’s guide says that this settlement is now run by Chester Darville, “virtually a one-man enterprise, along with Lovely, his helper, they comprise the entire population of Little Harbour… Flo’s Place, is a quintessential island bar and restaurant. Mountains of conch shells line the shore at the Tiki Hut dock, and a menagerie of chickens, geese, peacocks, sheep, goats, dogs and cats greet you on the meandering pathways around the colorful bar and restaurant up on the hilltop.”
We had been trying to hail Flo’s Conch Bar on the radio for the last 24 hours, as we were told to do, but had gotten nowhere. After we dropped anchor Greg and I took the dinghy in to see what was up. We found the scene to be a strange recasting of the one in our yellowed guide from the 70s. The place had an air of languor, perhaps from the pink light of the setting sun. Dogs barked and chickens gawked at our arrival, but Flo’s was buttoned up tight and if Chester or Lovely were anywhere around, they were lying low. Greg and I got back in the dinghy and on the way back we meandered around Lizard Cay in water that was barely deeper than our 6-inch draft – we had to lift the engine up and I had to sit on the bow to make it though.
We had anchored in what the old book calls “the vestibule” beside Cabbage Cay and, just like our fore-sailors, “we lay to a strong current and rocked to a substantial swell that came in, only slightly moderated, over the bar.” The swell was so strong that the boat changed and faced different directions at least three times during the night. At one point Chris went on deck after dinner and we heard her exclaim, panicky, “Gabe, your [$$$$] pack raft is gone!” There was no way we would ever find an inflatable like that with those currents and an outgoing tide. Gabe scrambled topside, equally panicked, to discover that because of the horsey current, the raft had gotten stuck on the other side of the boat.
The next morning we headed south again and as we honed in on Nassau, and the conclusion of our time together, I had this feeling that it was happening too fast. All that time spent stationary in Bimini and then Great Harbour and now we were speeding irrevocably through these charmed cays. I wanted to stop, freeze time, freeze the wind, and just explore and play. And we did get a chance to do this, for a half-day, when we arrived at our next anchorage between two islands called Bird Cay and Whale Cay.