The Berry Islands are just 70 miles east north-east of Bimini and 120 miles from Miami, but it seemed like a world away. In part because we work in Bimini and Florida and we’re always on the fly, where Great Harbor Cay allowed total relaxation and exploration. Our one hour flight landed us for a weekend getaway on a fairly unknown island. A marina townhouse, boat and car rental awaited. The locals were very accommodating, friendly and helpful from the time we landed in our single-engine plane.
Our first day driving the seven-mile island took us to secluded untouched beaches. We got a glimpse of the cruise ships offshore. We hung out at a local beach club for drinks and conversation. I felt like wild boar or elephants should be roaming. It was a bit of an expedition without the wildlife, although I did see dead snakes in the road when I ran the following morning.
An abandoned golf course, beach resort and pool littered the landscape. Not necessarily in a bad way as time stood still, the remnants of a glamorous era forgotten. I longed for the clubs and golfing, although I wasn’t into the sport. A random dilapidated bridge, and a once happening lodge sat as a skeleton.
But the island had a vibe, a strong one of resilience. It brought out the explorer in me, and shall I say a pirate in a good sense.
Saturday we explored by land while Sunday was reserved for sea. We rented a boat, conveniently docked under our rental townhouse. We set out with our iPad for navigation, Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches for lunch, and then quickly stopped by government dock to grab a six-pack of beer. I jumped off our small boat, passed a church holding Sunday service, and found my way to a local bar selling beer on Sunday. “Wasted Time,” was its name and empty except for a few local young men skipping mass.
As I passed back I heard singing. A man of a cloth preached and sang loud from the open door, it made me smile. I loved Sunday’s I remembered from my past, my young church-going youth attending mass with my grandmother.
We ran the boat to the cruise ship islands, Coco and Stirrup Cay. They are private but the large ships drew our attention. A dolphin swam off our bow. The water temped us with its colophon hue, but we knew the recent cold front left behind freezing water for our tropical blood. We pulled into Coco Cay, hoping to dock for some shopping and a picnic stop. We were turned away with a “What the hell,” look from a harbor master. I think he hollered and gave a few signals that only my husband recognized. We left the harbor and continued onward.
Strirrup Cay seemed much more relaxed. No customs agents monitoring, cruise ship employees paying attention, or anyone tending the docks. We figured we’d circle around eating lunch, and then docked when we realized nobody noticed us.
I went onshore to use the restrooms where staff greeted me and asked, “How do you like the cruise so far?”
“Oh, it’s been lovely,” I fibbed. “I’m glad the sun decided to come out.” This I knew because it was cloudy until about an hour prior.
I decided to check out some temporary shops set up in the sand. I peeked over at my husband on the boat, he seemed fine. I bought a Stirrup Cay shirt as a souvenir. I passed by an empty taco bar, and found myself in line for cocktails.
“Anyone else for a strawberry daiquiri?” The bartender called out.
I raised my hand at the back of the line, passing ten or so others waiting for different drinks, and was handed a daiquiri.
“Do you have your ship card?” He asked.
“No, I have cash. My husband has my card,” I feigned again.
“Only ship cards. Take the drink and bring your card when you come back.” With his busy schedule he waved me on.
I would have ordered a Miami Vice, but considering I got a free drink on an island where I wasn’t supposed to be… I fully enjoyed it.
“Honey, I could have gotten you a taco or a drink.” I teased my husband as we pulled away from the dock.
He was a good captain staying with our rental boat somewhat satisfied with his PB&J and beer, although he showed interest in a taco.
We passed back by the lifeguard on the rock, watching over tourists. Perhaps one of the most boring jobs in the world. But as my husband pointed out, “He’s probably making sure no sharks swim from the deep water just beyond the rock into the shallow waters to feast on tourists.”
It was a fun stop, a brief adventure before continuing on for our own private cruise in the shallow waters around the islands. Not quite fifty-shades of blue, but pretty close. We left the Berry Islands the following day to head to Nassau.