At Last’s First Mate Nick Riebe is doing a sort of “bull shark” dance, taking the 30' Intrepid At Last in a series of tight circles in the deep blue water of Danger Reef. Bait of bologna and shrimp goes overboard and soon a swarm of fish rises up from the bottom, like giant helium-filled balloons released from the hand of Poseidon. A bull shark, then two, then three and pretty soon too many to count, chase away the giant grouper that first appeared. Guests aboard the tender shriek as the awesome creatures skim the surface inches away from their downcast faces. A few hands reach out for the fins, delighting in the unexpected contact with rugged sharkskin. On the starboard side, someone has spotted a giant loggerhead turtle swimming a few feet away, probably stirred by the commotion. All rush to the other side pointing cameras with the hope of capturing more than a brownish stain on top of water. A giant head rises revealing a wise old face, but the ancient creature chooses a prudent retreat into the aquamarine depths. We’ve only been in the Exumas a few hours after an overnight in Nassau, docked near the sprawling Atlantis resort (named after the sunken island of the Greek legend, said to be the dwelling of Poseidon) and already everyone in our group has fallen under some kind of a spell.
That is exactly what the organizers of the “Bahamas Flotilla” were hoping for. We are in the Bahamas’ famed Exumas chain courtesy of International Yacht Collection, Robert J. Cury & Associates and Churchill Yacht Partners. All three companies manage yachts that frequently take charter guests to the Bahamian island chain. They invited European charter brokers, unfamiliar with the Exumas, hoping to encourage more of them to suggest the destination to their clients. From the looks of it, this amazing five-day familiarization trip should reach its goals. The deep turquoise water that never fails to stir and its colorful inhabitants have left a more than favorable impression. Toss in a few swimming pigs, affable nurse sharks so tame they’ve been deemed pets, giant rays and colorful reefs growing around a sunken airplane, and you have the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable adventure.
The Florida Yacht Brokers Association had in mind to organize such a trip for a while, and it finally materialized with five yachts and their crews joining in: At Last, Big City, Hooter Patrol 4, Independence 2 and Tuscan Sun.
Each of the yachts followed a slightly different itinerary, making accommodations for their draft and speed, but all of their crew, well versed in the destination, delighted guests with stunning vistas, cave diving, snorkeling, fishing (nothing much was caught but a close encounter with pilot whales more than made up for the lack of fresh catch) and, of course, delicious meals with plenty of fine wines.
Stay tuned for a more detailed piece on cruising the Exumas in an upcoming issue of Yachts International.