This Eletter with all the links to fabulous life-sized photos is at:
After our stay in the Bimini Islands was complete, the weather turned just enough to allow us to head off across the Great Bahamas Bank. We still needed to use the engine for the first section of our route, but the seas were kind and the depths across the Bank were not as scary as some would have you think. Although making a “pass” at night (that is an entry to- or exit from- the Banks) for a novice would be unwise, traversing commonly used routes can easily be done at a moderate speed in the dark. [More at the end in the “Cruisers Notes”]
We arrived at the Northwest Channel Light at daybreak, and entered Chub Cay Harbour at noon. Chub Cay has the closest full-service marina to the northern Tongue-of-the-Ocean. Along with (and alongside) Exuma Sound, these two strips of very deep water are unique in the world and they attract fishermen and divers from everywhere. Leaving the Banks, the depth drops from 10 feet to a thousand feet in a distance of 1000 yards; we sailed over mile-deep ocean to arrive at Chub Cay. Very pretty water color!
The Character Of The Land.
Chub Cay is as different as it can be from Bimini. It is part of the Berry Islands: a smattering of tiny islands and good-sized rocks across the north-central Bahamas. Many of these are “private”, and that label means different things to different islands here. Some Bahamian islands are actually owned by "a guy" who doesn't wanna see anybody else on 'his' island. Enough said = NOT INVITED.
Some are owned by a particular cruise line, and two or three days a week they get invaded by 2000 tourists that enjoy all the beaches, restaurants, pools, and other man-made and natural attractions as part of their cruise package. Although not invited to dinner, us cruisers are 'allowed' to anchor (out of the way) and visit natural sites on our own (but it should be done on an 'off' day).
Some seem a little more inviting; to a degree Chub Cay is one of those. It is not owned by The Man, but The Men, as it is kind of a co-op. many LARGE houses are going up simultaneously and the marina is full of 100’ yachts.
Cruisers are allowed to process customs and immigration there at the marina, but it'll cost $100 to use the dock (the Government Dock in Bimini is free, as it is most places). We are even allowed to go to the stores [BOTH of them-poorly stocked], restaurant, fuel at the dock [$3.44/gallon for diesel] & water [at 42¢/gallon, we passed] and whatever else there, too. One can roam the streets, as Karin made the two-mile trek to the airport often (yes, the road IS the runway for a mile!). It is not cheap to patronize a 'private' island that allows outsiders.
The beach in front of those homes is CLEARLY marked = NOT INVITED. But the rest of the island is sparse and desolate. The swamp between Chub Cay and Frazer’s Hog Cay has long ago silted in so the road goes right across. We made the bike ride to the north tip of Frazer’s Hog seeing the few (very nice) older homes along the coast. I was struck by the resemblance to the landscape of Arizona which I was oh-so-familiar with 30 years ago. [Who would name an island after a pig?]
As you will read, we enjoyed our stay at Chub Cay, but will probably not make any other Berry Islands a destination (unless personally invited to dinner by the wealthy owner); only using them for strategic anchorages on our way to other places.
The Good Peoples Endure.
Didn’t chat with the natives too much as they were working on the mansions pretty much 24/7. The dock guy at the fuel dock was nice and the two Batelco dudes in the truck admired our bikes; but for the most part our friends here were strictly the other cruisers at anchor in the harbour.
Our favorite time here was camping on Crab Cay (a hundred yards from Chub Cay and the only trace of peoples here was the abandon house (small fire caused them to flee) and the millions of conch shells harvested by modern fishermen and even the ancient Lucayans (there were a LOT of shells!).
Karin stumbled upon a panther on one of her walks to the airport. I wasn’t there to photograph or confirm, but it was a fairly large gray cat with big ears and a powerful, graceful stride. It was drinking from a rain puddle on the trail and nonchalantly trotted off when she came around the bend. We saw cat tracks on other deserted islands.
In the last eletter I asked for assistance in figuring out the trilobite animal I found all over the rocks on Cat Cay. They are Polyplacophora and I now remember something from grade school, but a Travelogue reader and Moulton rider from Austria, Peter Ludwig, came up with details:
The Polyplacophora are a class of mollusks (sometimes called 'coat-of-mail shells' or Amphineura or simply chitons). There are many species both on the shore and sub-tidally. They are grazers & scrape algal films off the rock surface. The shell is a series of plates and the 'moss-like fringe' is the girdle, which is generally tough, & leathery covered by tiny spicules. If you pry them off, their undersurface is easier to recognize & looks like that of a limpet.
I didn’t have the heart to rip one off the rock, as they were too small to eat.
And yes, the pellets in the photo are probably poop.
I mentioned camping and you all think, “how nice” but we were sort of forced to get off Windigo . . .
We were done at our last stop [Cat Cay] and had a narrow weather window to cross the Great Bahamas Bank and took it. But immediately upon our arrival to Chub Cay the wind began to veer and intensify. The harbour is open from the SW to NW so to keep from getting our butts kicked we set three anchors and abandoned ship. [Cat Cay was an ‘open’ anchorage and although tolerable, it was not the picture of calm – we were a bit weary of that.]
Taking our tent and as many supplies as we could carry we dashed over to Crab Cay and set up camp complete with bonfire. VERY calm sea conditions there! We slept right through the thunderstorms the first night. It took 2½ days for the wind to do its thing and we made the most of the vacation with backgammon, nature hikes, animal training, treasure hunting, and Karin even cooked! Well o.k., I stuck the fork in her hand while I was cooking and took the pictures ;-]
Along with the woodpecker, there were quite a few snakes on the island, so Karin asked me how to safely walk through the woods. So I said that they don't like low frequency noise so she started stomping hard when she walked. It struck me as quite funny, so I crook an eyebrow and say, “They also hate the sound of Barry Manilow.” I’m still laughing at the site of her goose-stepping around singing, “Oh Mandy, you came and gave without taking; And I sent you away, Oh Mandy . . . .”.
It was not only an uninhabited island, it was an UNINHIBITED island!
This new section is NOT a substitute for cruising guides; I’ll just try to supplement their information with up-to-date local knowledge and some tidbits a book publisher may hesitate to print.
Remember: this advice is FREE, is well worth the price, and there’s a money-back guarantee.
Stay close to Gun Cay when entering the Banks there; but then head SE to avoid the shallows behind Gun Cay. With our seven-foot draft, we swung south to about a mile north of Sylvia Beacon, and then headed straight east along 26º 30’. We hove to above Russell Light, but then continued straight for the Northwest Channel Light during the night, arriving there at daybreak.
A half-mile past the NW Channel light, we
were in 1000 feet of water, and heading straight for Chub Cay. The entrance to
Chub Cay is very short and well-marked. Anchoring is done in that little indent
to the south of the marina entrance. If you draw four feet or less, the “creek”
is another choice; it is the strip of water between Chub and Crab cays. Two
anchors are required in there as the current rips through, changing direction
four times a day. Very calm unless the wind is blowing exactly down the creek.
Access to Chub Cay is made through the marina. The fuel dock is to the right at the basin entrance. Everyone used the floating dock at the “Fish Cleaning House” to park their dinghies. There is a trash can there (don’t ASK about trash or they will feel as though they have to charge you).
One store is between the dinghy dock and fuel dock, and the laundry is right next to that store. The other store (more liquor) is in the Chub Cay Club main building around the other side of the basin. Mail may be sent at the main office there, too. Wireless internet access was available everywhere around the basin.
See where Windigo
Enter Windigo's callsign: W3IGO
Where we are right now:
Our permanent and EXACT address:
Capt.KL & Karin Hughes
S/V WindigoIII • PMB 365
88005 Overseas Hwy. #9
Islamorada, FL 36033-3087
Text-only Email addresses aboard Windigo, checked daily:
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(infrequently, but good for attachments):
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