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Cruising the Northernmost Bahamas with 5200 By Rebecca Burg


ingle-handed vessels Defiant, Bill Robinson’s Morgan ketch, and Angel, my Bayfield cutter, fled from the gray clouds. Earlier, we’d left Mangrove Cay on the Little Bahama Bank, and squally weather had quickly replaced the day’s benign beginnings. The Bank’s shallow expanse was generating wave patterns that were steep and choppy with irregular spacing between their misshapen crests. The winds gusted between 25 to 30 knots and were on the nose. Heavily reefed—and miserable with upwind work—Angel


June 2008


repeatedly griped (“gripe/griped” was a description of boat behavior that started in the old days of sail), peevishly jabbing her bowsprit at the offending waves. Like me, Angel is a connoisseur of fair weather and we didn’t see much use for the concepts of machismo or swashbuckling derring-do. Defiant looked equally as uncomfortable as she bounced ahead in bursts of cold spray. “Five miles to go,” Bill radioed, weariness evident in his voice. It wasn’t soon enough when two fatigued cruisers slipped into the welcome shelter of Great Sale Cay. Despite having an abundance of room, Defiant and Angel anchored nearly on top of each other in this uninhabited island rest stop. Beyond Great Sale, boats can explore the northernmost out islands of the Bahamas, from the remote Walkers Cay to the Carters Cays. Within this 30some-mile stretch, there are two tiny Bahamian settlements and oceanic vistas of exotic, tropical poetry to mesmerize one’s senses with. Here are some of the world’s remaining wild tropical isles that haven’t been completely spoiled by man. Lose yourself among the tree-coated islets of the Double Breasted Cays and you might just feel like a Robinson Crusoe. Sugar-white sand beaches are ringed with pure waters of a luminous, unearthly blue-green hue. Tropical fish and sea grasses swirl under the dinghy’s shadow and sand crabs scuttle along the beach. The northernmost out island is Walkers Cay. Its settlement is a port of entry with a marina, a runway for small planes and a reputation for quality dive trips. Another settlement is nestled in the Grand Cays. Dockage, homey Bahamian cooking and basic goods are available. Strangers Cay and most of the Carters Cays are wild with the occasional, secretive get-away cottage and pier. There’s an abundance of pristine Atlantic side beaches. The white sandbanks are shifty, and traveling in calm seas, in daylight, is necessary for successful navigation through serpentine passes and hidden anchorages. Defiant and Angel’s intimate anchoring practice started a trend. Sailboats, concerned about their drafts, often cue in on others to determine whether an area appears satisfactory or not. A small sloop wandered toward us, puzzled over our positions, then dropped anchor as close as she safely could. Amused, I watched a fourth newcomer join our small cluster. By the next day, we were in the midst of a