Sailing The Great Bahama Bank

Have you ever dreamt of an infinite underwater desert?

 

Have you ever seen in your sleep the bottom of the sea stretching for miles and miles beneath you, abandoned, all life gone someplace else, only you floating like a sleepy butterfly with your white wings spread just a few feet above it, always in the center of a vast blue circle formed around you by the unbroken horizon, for miles and miles, for hours and hours; and even at night under the sad cold light of the full moon you still see the underneath, this time not a flooded desert of sand but of snow (because the moon does this trick especially in dreams), for miles and miles?

Yes?

You had a Bahamian dream.

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You dreamt you were sailing across the Great Bahama Bank, this unique vast stretch of sand submerged in just a few feet of crystal turquoise waters, which explains the origin of the region’s name: Bahamas-Baja Mar-Shallow Sea.

The Great Bahama Bank in the west portion of the Bahamas stretches for more than 300 miles from north to southeast and 100 miles across from west to east, some 30,000 square miles of shallow tropical sea. The depths here vary from 6 to 30 feet and the water is so clear, so transparent, many times when you look down you doubt it is there at all. As if you are hovering in the air above sand dunes.

We sail from Bimini to the Berry Islands, some 80 miles to the east, across the great Bahama Bank starting around four in the afternoon. All night the winds are from south-southeast, light, and the full moon is out to watch over us. We sail on a close reach doing 6 to 7 knots, a couple of long tacks. Early the next morning we approach the first Berry Islands and cays.

The dawn reveals a strange view: a gathering of giants, silent, dreamy, floating in the sea. It is a cruise ship anchorage, here the giants sleep.  Fata Morgana gently, very quietly, passes between them, not to disturb their slumber. How big they are, completely deserted ghost towns. Where have all the people gone? One wakes up, makes a grand unhurried turn and heads east to Nassau. Another arrives with the same royal movement, and becomes still. We sail on.

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Half an hour later we arrive in Great Harbor, Berry Islands and drop anchor in a broad bay in front of a spectacular white-sand beach.

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