Birthday Celebrations at Bonds Cay
After a 10 day trip back to the states to be with my family, I arrived back in Nassau Thursday evening to my man, my pooch and a fresh cracked conch and cheese grit dinner. Welcome back to Paradise, right?!
I return to the Floridian with a heavy heart. A weight I didn’t know even existed until now. Eleven days earlier we were returning from an exciting dive in the middle of paradise to a text message (the only way to reach me) that my brother in law had died. I took the next flight out to be home with my sister and her kids. I was in a fog those days and probably still am. It’s hard to process a loss such as this when your heart is trying to absorb it but at the same time reject it as possible. This time last year, all of my family was happy and healthy. We were unprepared for the losses that lie ahead and the repercussions that would follow. The loss of Gavin will sound out forever, through the lives of my sister and their kids. I am back on the boat with the only positivity I can pull from this new reality: a renewed sense of how short this life really is and how important it is to live life to the fullest while we can. I cherish this life of mine. These past few months have been extraordinary, beyond any words or pictures we can attempt to share in a post. My hope is that every person can say the same about their own journey.
You could say Nassau is not our favorite place. To anchor near a store you have to endure wake after wake of passing traffic through the channel. It’s more of a place we stop by in our travels. Paul stayed anchored here for 5 days waiting for me to get back. A test in patience, I can promise you that. Our friends Chris and Kelly are set to fly into Great Harbour Cay (in the Berry Islands) in 5 days and we are excited to leave for the Berry’s the day after I returned. We wake Friday morning to get ready for the 33 mile sail to the Berry Islands. After the usual engine check, Paul comes to the realization that our oil leak is back and dripping pretty rapidly. He makes the hard decision to hold off leaving Nassau until the leak was fixed. We needed 6-8 hours of sunlight to make it the 33 miles to the Berry Islands. Being that it was already 9am, the race to fix the leak was on!
Paul decided to remove the oil filter extension and place the filter how it’s originally built, directly on the engine. The extension had been in place since before he bought the Floridian and it worked well. It allowed easy access to the filter, however a convenience is only a convenience if it works….so out it came. Running the engine tested successful with no leaks. It was just after 1 pm (just enough time to still leave!). We were so eager to leave Nassau that we took off. Persistent Paul once again!
We planned on anchoring at Bonds Cay but as we enter the cut, we see the most beautiful beaches to the north at Alder’s Cay. These areas aren’t charted well so we had to maneuver cautiously but we had no problems. The island seems empty other than a bridge to connect a couple of beaches so we tie up to it and explore. The beach is lined with coconut palms which we drink from and a harbor is just feet away on the other side.
On Saturday we wake up and return back to the beach to gather more coconuts (we stopped at 12 coconuts), a sprouting palm we now have onboard in a bucket (we named Palm Tree Pete after Paul’s cousin), and swim in the shallows. We happen upon 4 conch just walking Foxy along the shore and are really excited about using to make our first conch salad.
Midday we take the dinghy outside of the cut where Paul shoots a big Hogfish and a Mangrove Snapper within 10 minutes. I didn’t dive in here but he said there were lots of big fish below. We had plenty of fish in the cooler once again so decided to turn off the engine and drift dive together. We crossed over grassy patches, sand, gathered some more conch and saw tons of low reef which was full of life. Paul added a delicious Strawberry Grouper to the cooler. We are happy sailors, together again, exploring new territory and fully stocked with fresh fish.
After making own very own conch salad (so good!), we move the boat just a bit south to Bonds Cay. As we approach, I can see a boat washed ashore through the binoculars so we decide to check it out by dinghy. As we get close we realize that the boat is stuck in a little harbor just outside of a local development of cabins and an open air bar. Three dogs appear at the shoreline barking ferociously at us as they hop along the coral wall past the “no trespassing, private property” sign. A man emerges on the deck and Paul kills the engine and to say “hi”. Picket is his name. He invites us to anchor the dinghy and come ashore.
Our times on Bonds Cay are hard to believe, even to us who witnessed first hand. Picket shows us the grounds: the old slave house where he lives, the kitchen where he cooks and the freezers that house their massive amounts of fish, the new outhouses and cabins for future guests, the generator covered with plywood out back and the reverse osmosis system they have put together. He offers us a drink but because we thought the island was empty, left our cash on the boat. Even still, he insists. The bar is completely stocked and the sign overhead reads “on your own” which Picket points at explaining that we make our own drinks and whatever we like. He offers us conch salad he already had made. I look around seeing not a soul when I realize he makes conch salad every day just in case. Paul and I can’t believe this guy or this place! We ask him what’s the name for this development and how people will find them online and he just shrugs. No name, no plan. Later we meet a couple other guys who pull up to the dock, returning from Chub Cay. “Amigo” also lives here with Picket and is familiar with Coconut Grove and Miami Beach. He also offers us drink and conch salad. We are overwhelmed by their generosity. Where are we?! All the while, a Lemon Shark circles the water below the bar. The sun begins to lower so we take off but promise to return the next day.
Sunday is Paul’s 2nd birthday he gets to spend on his sailboat in the Bahamas. I would call Paul a “lucky” guy which is true but “ambitious and passionate” are more fitting. Captain can’t settle for that which is contagious, I must say. We start the day drinking from coconuts and eating pancakes and bacon. We round the south tip of Bonds Cay to drift dive together again. We see large snapper, mackerel and grouper everywhere. Paul gets a nice Cubera Snapper and as he takes it to the dinghy, I spot a big grouper in the water. Paul dives back in and gets the Yellowfin Grouper!
After lunch aboard the boat we take a couple conch back to Picket and Amigo’s to learn how to clean them. Once again we are greeted like old friends, handed a drink and some conch salad. Paul has been collecting license plates from all the islands we visit. We have a Florida tag onboard and have been looking for a place to leave our mark and this is the perfect place, Bonds Cay, at the bar. Picket is happy to put it up, maybe the first of many to come? Or maybe we will be the only ones. We also give him a bag of Cubera Snapper as a thank you. I think Paul had an amazing birthday.
When it’s time to head north from Bonds Cay, we anchor a night in Little Harbor Cay. It’s another little piece of paradise. We arrive in the afternoon and I immediately start cutting Foxy’s hair. It’s midday, sun is out and we’re in new territory so Paul says he’s taking the dinghy just a few minutes out to check it out. He pulls back up to the boat and tells me to turn around. When I do, he’s holding a hog fish! I didn’t even know he had taken his spear! Clearly it was a “just in case” measure because he also didn’t have gloves or his top shirt. Little scrapes and pokes but that didn’t stop him.
Today is Wednesday. We just got in to the Great Harbor Marina. The last time we docked was back in Eleuthera at Davis Harbor almost 2 months ago. We’ll be here a night maybe two depending on this weather, get some water and maybe do a load of laundry. It’s been raining all day so we’re crossing our fingers that Chris and Kelly’s flights are all on time. Just as important, we are hoping this rain passes sooner rather than later. We have so much to show them!
Eric (Sonny Son) Visits, and Long Island to Nassau Journey Next Post »
The Mitchems Take Great Harbour Cay!