Great Harbor and the Berry Islands, Bahamas

Our late arrival meant an overnight anchorage off Cistern Cay, just north of the channel entrance into the inner harbor near Great Harbor Cay Marina and Bullocks Harbor. The night was not too bad, but the winds shifted to the south and the wavelets bounced off the hull, making the annoying "slap, slap" sound that wakes you up every 30 minutes. It seemed that a few rogue waves would work their way in about every 20 minutes. Early the following morning, after we'd listened to the latest weather reports on the HF radio, we motored into the narrow channel that has been virtually cut through rock, into the piece and tranquility of this protected harbor. The Wavey Line charts showed good depths, but other chart sources showed the bottom as grass with poor holding. We found that our Manson Supreme set right away in the grass and held. We didn't expect any bad weather.



The inner basin is wide, but certain areas are very shallow, so we nosed in slowly to find a good spot. This is the entrance channel to Great Harbor Cay Marina, and we didn't want to be in the channel. That turned out to be a mistake later on. What a major difference from the lumpy conditions outside to the calm and tranquility we experienced in the basin. Our friends anchored directly behind us and launched their dinghy. After coffee and breakfast it was decided that the settlement needed some investigation. The down side was that it was Sunday so everything was going to be closed. Getting to the settlement of Bullocks Harbor from our anchorage meant going back out the cut and skirting the shoreline until we reached the concrete wall of the Government Dock. Dinghies can be tied up inside a small basin at the far end of the dock out of the way of any supply boats that might arrive. The wall is pretty rough, and rusty nails protrude from the concrete. It's not friendly to inflatables and probably not a good idea in rougher weather. As we expected, everything was closed for the day. The settlement has several small restaurants, a few small grocery stores and a hardware store that carries electrical and building supplies. It's a small but friendly town. More than a few times someone would stop to ask us if we needed a ride.


The rest of the day was spent just resting and relaxing. Everyone had a good night's sleep in the calm and quiet of the harbor. After the long day crossing the Banks everyone needed the rest. But the tranquility ended rather abruptly. At about 8:00 AM the next morning, a boat pulled along side us and called out to get our attention. We were told that we were anchored in the channel, which we were not, and if we did not move in one hour, the "authorities" would be coming out. To say we were surprised is an understatement. Even our insistence that we were not in the channel didn't seem to dissuade them. There wasn't much we could do so moving was a must. This is their country, but we have never experienced this anywhere in the Bahamas in the past. But not wanting to create a problem we didn't argue the point. Bad weather was approaching so we didn't have much of a choice but to go into the marina or go out to a more exposed anchorage. We wondered if that might have been the purpose of the exercise to begin with - to get us into the marina. We would have to examine the issue later. By this time, there were three of us at anchor. Two of us moved in to the marina and the third boat just left the harbor.


The marina was almost empty with the exception of a couple of sportfishing boats and some local vessels for tours and parasailing. The docks are all fixed concrete and surrounded by condos with parking for small boats under the condos. It is very well protected from pretty much any kind of weather. The marina has restroom with showers, electric and water at the dock and free wifi. Dockage was $1.50 per foot and electricity is metered at .70 per KW hour. Water is metered at .50 per gallon but the RO system was not working so we didn't use any. There is water at the dock for washing the boat, etc., but it's brackish and very salty. Usually the marina charges $10.00 for the washdown water, but because the RO system was not working, they didn't charge us for any water. We had a discussion with the marina manager about the anchoring situation and he contacted the developer in the U.S. that actually owns the basin in which we were anchored. After some further discussion and phone calls, the marina manager apologized for the situation and explained that the developer didn't mind if anyone anchors in the inner harbor as long as there were no complaints of boats blocking the channel. They don't want to seem unfriendly toward boaters, even if they don't use the marina.


The next couple of days were spent roaming around and exploring all that the Berrys have to offer. The settlement at Bullocks Harbor is the only town in the Berrys. The marina offers a very expensive restaurant called the Pool Bar, next to the pool and there was the Beach Club out near the airport that we just had to check out. On the day we were there they had very few items on the menu because a big celebration a couple of days earlier cleaned them out of everything but hamburgers and club sandwiches. It was worth it though because the view was spectacular and the white sand beach went on forever. The sand is so white the locals call it "Sugar Beach."


We have often wondered why so many cruisers bypass this area and go down to Chub Cay for a quick stop before moving on. This is pristine cruising grounds with anchorages that rival any tropical islands anywhere on the planet. There are dozens and dozens of anchorages, each more spectacular than the previous one. Protection from weather coming from almost any direction can be found amongst the Cays, and the beautiful beaches are some of the best the Bahamas have to offer. Because they have been bypassed, there is always lots of room and many of these anchorages can be enjoyed in solitude. We could have spent weeks here but had to press on. The Exumas were calling.





6 comments:

  1. Hi Chuck & Susan,

    Looking at a map of the Bahamas recently, I realized that out of all of the Bahamas cruising blogs I have read, I have never heard mention of stopping at Andros Island. Will you be stopping there? If not, why not? I find it curious that there seems to be so little interest in the largest land mass in the Bahamas. Any information would be appreciated. Enjoy your trip.

    Rob

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    1. Rob, The problem is one of depths. All around Andros is very shallow waters with many reefs to navigate. Deeper draft boats avoid it altogether. The ports are somewhat commercial and the prevailing winds make some of the easier access harbors uncomfortable. We don't have any plans to visit this time but may on another trip. The weather has kept us harbor bound too often so we will run out of time before spending time in some areas. The Bahamas will always be here so maybe we'll come back next winter if we don't go north to do the Great Loop this Summer. Chuck

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  2. We would love to avoid anchoring in grass. Not only because of the environmental affects but because it's just not good holding. But then that would eliminate most anchorages anywhere in south Florida and most of them in the Bahamas. Chuck

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  3. Great detail and THANKS Capt Chuck.. Regarding Andros, I can say from experience that even though it is large, there is little in the way of a civilian boat to see or do. Andros Island is home to the US Navy east coast torpedo training range. The Toungue of the Ocean is deep and Submarines and Anti-submarine aircraft practice torpedo drops in this area. It is closed to civilian traffic.

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    1. Thanks for the info Jeff. We do know a couple of boats that spent 2 months cruising Andros. We haven't talk to them recently to ask how their experience was. It will be interesting to hear.

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