A Travellerspoint blog

The Berry Islands

We spent eleven days in Bimini, about six too many. Bimini has some charm but it is not enduring. It is, more or less, somewhere between a 2d and a 3d world country. But, we enjoyed the first few days.

Carol discovered a new delicacy, for her anyway: conch. Being an omnivore, she loved it. I put conch in the same grouping as octopus and sea urchin sushi: the mere fact that something can be eaten doesn’t mean that it should be eaten. Regardless, a guy came by the boat selling fresh conch and she bought several and has eaten most of them by herself …. no need to share! The rest I’m going to use for bait. So, the fish get to cast the deciding vote on conch: eat it or ignore it. For one of the few times in 40 odd years I’m hoping that Carol gets the best of this contest; trading conch for fresh fish sounds like a good deal to me.

The last week was frustrating. The Berry Islands are due east of Bimini and for a week the wind blew from the east between 15 and 25 knots; it was unrelenting. I charted, recharted, plotted anew, and ran every possible set of numbers. The short answer was, as the farmer said, “You cain’t get there from here,” at least in a safe and responsible manner. Sometimes I wonder whether we’re being prudent or weather wimps. I did notice, though, that no sailboats left Bimini for the east while this weather held.

So, Tuesday, 04/19, I awoke at 0400 and something was majorly different … silence. The wind was not slapping water against the boat; it was not stressing the mooring lines which creak as they stretch and then creak again as the return to size; it was not rubbing the boat against the fenders and the dock; it was not shrieking through the wire rigging and it was not turning the wind generator at destructive speeds. It was a good day to leave, so we did, getting underway at 0630.

We had 93 miles, a two day trip, to get to our goal: Frazer’s Hog Cay. We don’t know who Mr. Frazer was; he probably had a Scotsman somewhere in his past. His pig is a mystery to one and all. The hope was to get about 2/3’s of the way across and to anchor near the NW channel. In fact we only made about ½ of the way and, since there were not good anchoring options, we stayed at MacKie shoal.

A shoal just ought to be sand and, in fact, as we crossed the pellucid water we saw lots of sand mixed with rock. Down goes the anchor and the game began. We had a lot of trouble getting the thing to set firmly. Finally, thinking that it had, we shut everything down. For a pre-shower rinse off, I decided to put on mask and fins to check out the anchor, always a good idea. All the sand we had seen was collected in hollows on the rock. The anchor had about six inches of sand covering it in a small depression. With no prospect of doing any better, we left it there, the expensive, 45-lb. anchor little more than a paper weight, contributing less than the several hundred ponds of chain we had put out.

I was pretty sure that the wind would be mild that night; it was. And we had anchored in anticipation of a wind shift; it did. Despite the shoal, we had lots of room to move if the anchor were to drag. Regardless of all this, I stood an all night anchor watch, up every hour to check to see if it was dragging. It never budged an inch and was difficult to raise the next morning. My guess is that the point must have caught in some crack or crevice.

Having over 50 miles to do the next day, we got underway at 0430. Carol made her contribution and then told me that she was going back to sleep. Captains used to keelhaul crew for less than that. But, then, those captains were not married to their crews. A captaincy just isn’t what it used to be in these modern times.


Regardless, I saw this sunrise and we had a good day sailing and motor sailing to get to the mooring field, making the 50 nm in about ten hours. After very little sleep the night before we were both zombies and didn’t make it much past 2100.


Update on conch: one night I put out a chuck of conch on our rod & reel. Carol called me to the cockpit to tell me that something was going on with the rod. In fact, something had a mouthful of conch and was stripping line off the reel faster than I could tighten the drag. Net result: no fish. But when I was stowing the rig the next day I saw that whatever it was had chewed the black coating of the wire leader. Very Interesting.

Carol and I had a walkabout on the island, Frazer’s Hog Cay, today. No scenery to speak of, but interesting none the less. The interior of the island has no, none, zip, nada, scenic interest. The island itself appears to be limestone; we lived in Illinois and it looks about the same. If it’s not limestone then it’s some sort of sedimentary analog of limestone. We had not seen native plant life on Bimini … too developed and too inhabited. Here, everything, except the Australian pines, was native. There’s not much soil over the rock and nothing grows taller than 12 to 15 feet again, except those Aussie pines. The vegetation here is incredibly dense, branches and leaves each intertwining with their neighbors to create an impenetrable mass of green. This appears to be the survival adaptation: with shallow roots, the greenery has a mass that hurricane winds can barely penetrate at the edge and cannot reach the center. If nothing stands above the mass the winds can only damage the periphery and plant life goes on.

We did find a great beach, just on the west side of Texaco Point, where we entered the channel to the mooring field. This area can also be used as an anchorage in the right winds. It is down on the list of things to do the next trip.


When we had been in Bimini for a day or two I made the usual inspection of the motor compartment. On the deck, under the motor, was a huge bolt, 17mm, along with a lock washer. I thought about it that night and decided, since there was no nut, that it may have come from a part of the motor mount. In the event, that was exactly right; I found the empty threaded hole and put it back. About a week later I got to thinking about causes and symptoms and wondered if the loose bolt might be an indicator of a larger issue. So today, Thursday, I decided to check the other bolts. Long story short: of ten bolts in the front, eight needed to be tightened; the ones in the back seemed OK, but the rear layout is more complicated. Anyway, I hope that this reduces the motor vibration; it cannot hurt.

On Friday, 04/23, we are off for Devil’s Cay, still in the Berry Islands. It is remote and completely uninhabited. A guy we met in Bimini had been there and said that he liked it very much. We will see for ourselves.

Posted by sailziveli 03:39

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: