Drug Ruins & Riding Out The Blow – Berry Islands Bahamas
Being surrounded by sandy beaches and sunshine, it’s easy to forget it’s winter in the Bahamas. That is until a blow comes. A week of 30-40 knot winds, rain and clouds remind us this is indeed the off-season here in paradise.
Its not a bad thing. We like visiting places in the off, or shoulder season because it means less crowds and the locals are often more relaxed. So, we think the perks are worth it and don’t mind embracing the seasonal weather. In fact, the crazy weather can be more fun sometimes. Because “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. Kind of like the blizzard we hiked in at Denali National Park or the giant slip n slide the Badlands turned into during a rainstorm.
Our time in the Berry Islands turned into one of those wild weather visits.
Before we go on, I just want to point out that the camera never captures the true size of the seas. It’s very deceiving and there should be an automatic pop up or something similar to the sticker on the side view mirror of a car (objects in mirror may be closer than they appear). Because let me tell you…those waves heading out to the ocean side reef were gnarly! On the way out, our dinghy was banging like a bongo and when we turned back we were surfing like a Hawaiian big wave champ.
Ok, back to the Berrys. This rugged island is remote and quiet, which explains part of the drug smuggling appeal. Seems most of the Bahamian 1980’s drug trade can be linked back to the Colombian “king of cocaine” Carlos Lehder. If you want some fascinating reading, just google that man’s name. It leads to a rabbit hole of connections, DEA reports and stories. I couldn’t find any major scandals that happened at these drug houses on Cistern Cay but my imagination is running wild with possibilities.
Our foul weather explorations had us itching to continue south down the chain of islands. We were hoping the winds would calm down enough so we could venture on, but it never happened. There was a short two-day window coming followed by another blow. That weather window was our opportunity to make the crossing to Nassau and we didn’t want to pass it up. So, we moseyed on but as usual, the unexplored territory gives us a reason to come back.
Great Harbour Cay, What Once Was
We didn’t film our quick jaunt around this town but we probably should have. It’s incredible how many of these islands in the Bahamas have similar rise and fall stories. The Berry Islands, specifically Great Harbour Cay are more of the same. Big investors dropped $38 million into a development (hotel and golf course) during the 1960’s expecting this island to be the next luxury hang out for the rich and famous. Some Hollywood celebrities did show up (Cary Grant, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Nicklaus…) but then what? There is a blip about what once was on the Great Harbour Cay Marina website but it doesn’t say what happened next. We went in search of the fancy hotel and designer golf course but all we found were these ruins.
Great Harbour Cay felt like a rundown and dilapidated version of what’s left standing. It still has our minds reeling with curiosity! There is a book about the history of the island called One Particular Harbour by William Hunt that we are going to have to download. Maybe it will fill in the gaps. Or perhaps one of you knows the scoop?
To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map
Dates: January 8-16, 2017
Anchorage: Based on the winds we anchored a few days at Rat Cay (lovely name isn’t it) and Cistern Cay (looking out at the drug houses). Both were great spots with good holding.
Cell & WiFi: Our BTC signal was in and out here and better with our booster on.
Gear Used In This Video
- Dinghy: gonewiththewynns.com/dinghy-swap-ab-highfield
- iPad Pro using Garmin Bluecharts App (and Active Captain): http://amzn.to/2d9Oopf
- Iridium Go and Predict Wind App: bit.ly/PredictWindIridium
- Portable Floating VHF w/GPS: http://amzn.to/2hwEoK7
Cameras Used to Capture This Video:
- Sony RX100: gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-dsc-rx100m-iii-cyber-shot-digital-still-camera
- Sony A7ii: http://bit.ly/a7rii-sony
- Sony Zoom Mic: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-gun-zoom-microphone-black
- Sony 24 – 70mm f4 lens: http://bit.ly/2470-zeiss
- Sony Action Cam: http://bit.ly/sony-as300
- SJ Action Cam: gonewiththewynns.com/action-cam-underwater-test
- All of our up to date photo and editing gear: gonewiththewynns.com/best-travel-camera-video-photography
Hi Nikki and Jason, I’ve been watching your videos and want to thank you for sharing your experiences. As future full-time cruisers looking to buy a catamaran in 2019, my husband and I was wondering, one year after your Feb 2017 comment, whether you have decided on health insurance, and if so, are you able to share that information?
Are you planning to visit the west coast? Lot of neat places to see and things to do
Have just found your YouTube Channel, and love it. I have only, until now, watched the sailing parts. I have to say one thing though! If you are transporting the cats in the carriers, over water, tie a PFD to the carrier? I’m not a crazy cat guy, but couldn’t imagine dropping the carrier and loosing a cat that way.
Had the same thought. I am more of a dog person but hate to see a wave or slip up getting on/off the boat. Easy to armchair from my Midwest home. Hope you don’t mind and take it in the spirit of love and friendship that is the intent.
Accidents will happen.
We had to get Singa used to the dinghy in a safe environment first. Now we just put the leash on him and he rides right up front.
What a very cool place to visit. As you said, it would be really neat to know the history of the place.
Nikki, when you picked up that cone shaped shell on the island it reminded me of something. You might (or might not) know that many types of live cone shells have a poisonous barb that can extend 3/4 the length of the shell. Some of which can be fatal. Never pick these up from the pointed end, only from the open end. I realize that shell was dead and probably had a hermit living in it but I’m thinking of you two when you’re snorkelling.
Enjoy your adventure and I look forward to your future posts.
I didn’t know that so good tip. Thanks for sharing and looking out for us, we always appreciate it!
Steve from London
Hi,love the content, the food Nikki prepares (yes I know you probably do some too Jason!) looks reallly good,what about a high seas cookery vlog, showcasing Nikki,s culinary skills. And one or two favourite recipes. Allso isn’t about time the cat,s had there own show?. Take care,
My husband and I enjoy your videos. We can’t wait to buy our first catamaran hopefully this year!! We have a cat as well and I am glad to see people out there (on the water) with their kitties. Thanks for allowing us to travel with you guys from our living room. We have been planning this for four years and with my husband retiring we finally get to “live the dream”.
I look forward to each of your new video adventures. I loved the Berry Islands, which was so interesting and was so nice seeing how the cats reacted on dry land. They are also having “the time of their lives”. I never did much traveling so picture myself watching the sunset, with the waves gently splashing around. Feel like I am traveling with you.
I want to take a minute and tell you, “Thank you….” My wife and I have a small organization that’s works with children and adults with developmental disabilities. We also work with school districts as they struggle with behavior and communication issues with their students that struggle with special needs. We have been looking at catamarans which are exactly like yours which is one of the reasons we follow your blog. The other reason is that we enjoy the upbeat and positive energy. I’m sure your in box is stuffed with people wanting to learn more and talk, talk, and talk. I just wanted to send a simple note to say, “Thank you,” from a couple in Springfield, Illinois. You inspire us to keep the course and follow our dreams, but most of all you make us smile. Smooth sailing and stay safe…… Mike and Jen Frakes at behaviorresource.com
Good luck on the catamaran search. I can imagine with your jobs (lots of emotional tugs), a little escape and adventure is much needed. There is nothing better than hearing we were a happy spot in someones day that resulted in a smile! So thank you, your comment made my day!
What a great video! I just love the exploring of abandoned places. I’m one of those who can’t get enough of that. What neat sites you found. (Thanks to Cynthia Cusack for the background info, too.)
You guys don’t seem to do a log of beach-combing. Isn’t that your thing? Or isn’t it much interesting in the islands?
And those cats are still the best.
Thanks very much.
I got excited when you pulled out the drone. Maybe next time. Sorry that you had bad weather.
Thanks for the Canada plug, but it’s only -20.
We look forward to your videos and enjoy your writing style on the blog content. You make us feel like we are right there with you. Love the cats!
Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to your next video. I especially liked the part at 15:40 on this video as you were riding the waves. I used to fish often in the bays and inlets of New Jersey when I was young and that portion reminded me of Beach Haven inlet.do you have long term plans of sailing up the east coast? Please be safe and enjoy your time and efforts.
Glad to see all got their legs stretched except home body Cleo. Singa does so well on the lead. The blue water is amazing but those clouds look scary. Always enjoy watching you two explore.
Every once in a while I feel bad for leaving Cleo behind…but then I think how nice it must be to have the whole boat quiet and to herself for a few hours.
I too love just hanging out and following what you do. And you are such good cat parents. Singa is amazing. Even in the rain, those are some cool locations.
Love watching the videos. I binge watched the RV videos and youtube videos, then the sailing vids. Dang, I should have paced myself, now I get antsy waiting for your next one. Fantastic job J & N. Best wishes and be safe.
Look up Lion Fish, They are great eating Just watch a few Youtube videos on care in cleaning.them
We do know they are edible but the ones we found were super tiny, we couldn’t even spear them they were so small.
Cistern Cay is a private area (for sale) so perhaps that’s why you saw all the No Trespassing signs ? Hoffmanns Cay has the real blue hole of the Berry Islands and you can jump into it from a cliff plus beautiful secluded beaches (although Disney cruise lines has apparently purchased it so who knows for how long you can access it) Devils Cay offers some of the nicest snorkelling on the reef side and Little Harbour Cay is outstanding. Although Chubb Cay was destroyed by hurricane Matthew, its neighbour Bird Cay is home to wild peacocks and amazing beaches. Back in its day, Great Harbour Cay was the playground for the rich and famous, including Jack Nicklaus who built an 18 hole golf course. HIstory says it was abandoned after the Bahamian government did not grant a casino license that was promised in exchange for the infrastructure, ie roads, airport, electric, sewer, hotels, golf course, Marina etc that the Hollywood elite built. It is not a co-incidence that the Bahamian people also gained their independence from the British Crown at the same time the license was denied. A book called ‘The Weed Man’ the story of Jimmy Divine, who is still alive today living on Harbour Island is an excellent account, first hand, of the drug trade through the Bahamas. I enjoyed watching your blog.
That drug house looked really cool. And…what kind of car was that???
Awesome pictures, love that turquoise water against the steel-blue cloudy sky! Cool adventure-all those ruins! Love your cats 🙂
Cheers! We’ve been tasting all kinds of great beer today, you would have loved most of them Cass got us the hook up, the beer tender made sure to impress her. Missing you!!
We want to know more about the 120 foot hole.
Once again a great video! Keep them coming. One question, what is the waterproof bag you took the iPad out of on the video? Thanks and cheers.
If you do a web search for waterproof iPad case a bunch will come up. You’ll need to look for one for your specific model of iPad though, because they come in all sizes.
Nikki your smile is so infectious. You are a doll and Jason is one lucky guy. I love watching your videos they make me forget my own misery for a few moments! Keep up the good work and continue the great work.
Good vid…brought back some fond memories of my years as a yacht captain. You two have really approached your new adventure with respect and excitement. I do have a suggestion (of course!). The dingy hanging out there by only its somewhat spindly looking lifting harness and those two little “D” rings makes me a bit nervous. I’d want to come up with a couple of additional safety straps to use while under way. Fair winds to you!
Thanks Bob! We’re enjoying the challenges, learning and of course the benefits of the lifestyle. You will be so glad to hear that the line holding up our dinghy is spectra line so it is thin in comparison to others but incredibly strong. And, we do have extra straps that we use while underway to keep it extra secure. 🙂
Great to be keeping up with you two, even though long-distance. Looks like life is treating you well. After having flown our plane to the Abacos a couple of times, and all the way down the Exuma chain, that plane in the water gave us the willies! We knew going in that an engine failure would result in a ditching. That’s not necessarily a difficult landing to survive (especially in calm water with retractable landing gear kept stowed), but it does mean certain total loss of the plane, especially down in the islands, where a recovery operation is pretty much out of the question, even in shallow water. Miss you both – Peter & John
Hello Peter and John! We have been thinking of you two and how cool it must have been to fly over all these islands and clear blue waters. So interesting to hear your take as a pilot on the plane crash. It’s similar with boats, if you run aground and can’t get yourself floating again, the boat will most likely be a permanent installment. Yikes!
I spent a lot of time in the Bahamas in the past year, but it never ceases to amaze me all the beauty and hidden treasures within. I wish I’d had more time and freedom to explore. Lovely pictures 🙂
It is amazing the stories one can discover on these islands. So many abandoned resorts, homes, planes, boats…. While they are not all huge attractions they are still very interesting. Add in some sandy beaches, clear blue water and reefs for snorkeling…perfecto!
It was really nice watching Singa out for a walk and then of course Cleo enjoying her grass. I don’t know what it is about your videos but no matter what the content, we love watching. Thanks for taking us exploring! Look forward to the next video
Awe, you just like hanging out with us, which is a huge compliment! Yes, we have to give the cats their love and camera time too. Don’t want them secretly deflating the dinghy or cutting any lines out of spite. 😉 Thanks so much coming over to hang with us and joining in on the conversation.
I know this is off-subject from the topic of your video (which was AWESOME by the way) but with all your adventures I’m curious. What type of health insurance do you carry as a freelancer? We are in your exact situation; cruising sailboat, freelance, SCUBA. … I wonder if you’s can share your knowledge of options. Thx! B.
Oh my, that is a tricky one. RVing we had catastrophe insurance as it was affordable and made the most sense for our lifestyle, current health and age. We haven’t decided yet on what we are going to do going forward. Some cruisers don’t have any (because it only works if you are in your home country), some have travelers insurance and who knows yet what we will end up doing.