By: David Lawn
Location: Grand Bahama Cay, Northern Berry island group.
Sea Angel left Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA on Wednesday, November 24th for its first international destination.
New to me was the power and speed of the north bound Gulf Stream that passes very close to the coast of Florida. In addition we had left about 4AM in the morning darkness and entered the gulf stream just as 50 or 60 gigantic cruise ships were inbound (actually 5 or 6, but it seemed like way too many). It was a game of nighttime cat and mouse that had me perplexed. Our small boat was crabbing kind-of sideways in the strong current, with the direction traveled much different than the direction of the bow of the boat. It made it challenging figuring out why a ship I saw off to the port was actually passing on the starboard. We made it fine and powered through the stream passing the islands of Bimini to our south. We sailed the great Bahama bank through the afternoon and through the night, and arrived at the northern end of the Berry Islands just before dawn.
We took safe harbor at Grand Bahama Key marina where we later enjoyed Thanksgiving with the crews of a couple boats that arrived with us.
Yesterday we rented a “jeep” and toured the small island. Great Bahama Cay has a population of about 700 people and it is the largest of the Berry islands. It has a fascinating and at times a sordid history. We heard about an old lodge (now in ruins) that was built by the “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop). It was their playground in the mid to late 1960’s, entertaining the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Bridget Bordeaux, and other beautiful women. I had to find it. We succeeded at the remote north end of the island.
|The exterior of the Rat Pack playground of the 1950's. Per Weston's observation,
many locals did not know who the Rat Pack were, making it an even more
attractive getaway for the famous friends.
The lodge foundation overlooks the beautiful Sugar beach, but today sits in ruin and is totally overgrown. Long after the jazz, cigars, and card playing days of the Rat Pack, the lodge was taken up by a drug cartel who used it for their private escapades, of which there are interesting stories as well. I admit it was tempting to take a couple of bathroom wall tiles for coasters, wondering what those tiles might have seen in their time.
|The view from the Rat Pack Playground, enjoyed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
The most memorable and reflective moment in Grand Bahama Cay was when we chatted with a fisherman that gave us a ride into the original town settlement on Thursday. I had asked him if he was from this island and he said no, that he was from a smaller island to the south. When he explained his bone fishing business and his life journey, he said, “No, I’m from the smaller Hoffman Cay to the south, I just moved here, in 1984.” That is a pretty good indication of island time here.
|Sailing the Grand Bahama Cay, Berry Islands
So after a few days of exploring we are ready to get the wind back in our sails. This morning Sea Angel departed a comfortable anchorage at Little Harbor Cay in the central Berry Islands and are heading the short run farther south to Chub Cay at the southern end of the islands. We are just in front of a strong cold front pressing in. A high is behind it so the wind gradient is high and increasing over the next few days. It is blowing a strong 22+ out of the NNE with seas about 8'. As the saying goes, may you always have the wind at your back! Sea Angel and the crew are doing great. DL