Friday, April 10, 2015

The Berry Islands and Beyond

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Simple Life's anchorage in Devils Hoffman Cay
  The most recurring comment among cruisers transiting the Bahamas this spring has been, "This sure was a rough winter weather wise in south Florida and the Bahamas." During prior years, there were more opportunities for Gulf Stream crossings in early January. The crossing opportunities this season were few and far between. In late February some boaters who managed to cross chose to head south, but several like us decided to skip the Exumas Island chain since the season was shortened in favor of remaining north in the Berrys and Abacos.                                                          

A ray transiting the shallow banks surrounding the anchorage

Joe enjoying the view of the Blue Hole in the Berry Islands

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Showering aboard Simple Life with 2.5 gallon Sun Shower
           The end result happened to be a positive one for the Simple Life. It was our first visit to the Berrys and we enjoyed the isolation and fishing in Devils Hoffman Cays. The islands also provided adequate protection from numerous days of strong easterly winds in the 30+ knot range while offering an unspoiled scenic anchorage; a pristine marine environment unscathed by development. The resident four foot barracuda seemed to enjoy the shade Simple Life provided and we were treated to a tribe of Green turtles who frequented the anchorage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
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The triggerfish that almost got away!
     When planning a few days in this area provisioning becomes imperative. There are no stores, pharmacies, clinics or settlements nearby. In other words the boat needs to be well stocked with food, drinking water, adult beverages and a crew familiar with self reliance. Weather kept us anchored in nearly total isolation for over a week since the cut from the ocean to the cays became treacherous and impassible due to high winds from the east. While there we caught more than enough fish enabling us to save food supplies we'd brought along.
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Triggerfish filets for grilling.

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Jim Austin & Bentley Smith enjoying the sunset
aboard Salty Paws
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The winds eventually abated, the cut became negotiable and we headed across the Northeast Providence Channel to Royal Island and Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. During transit we landed a Mahi Mahi, spotted two pods of dozing dolphins, a school of tuna and two bull Mahis leaping out of the water as if competing in the long jump!

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Sunset at Meeks Patch with Salty Paws
     After arriving in Meeks Patch and spending a few days with friends Jim and Bentley from Salty Paws we continued sailing north across the Northeast Providence Channel to the Abacos with plans of devoting  a month to visiting areas we'd hurriedly bypassed on previous return trips to the States.