Swimming with Stingrays

Last week I was in a tough place, mentally and emotionally, after all the drama with our passage back to the Bahamas and our engine troubles and the approaching storm. So Andy suggested a mental-health field trip – something fun, to remind us why we wanted to take this sailing journey in the first place.

We were anchored in a beautiful cove off of Cat Cay, in the Biminis. Cat is a small private island, frequented by Jimmy Buffett and Jeff Bezos, and outsiders are not particularly welcome ashore. But just north of Cat Cay is the unpopulated Gun Cay, and at the top of Gun Cay is Honeymoon Harbor – a popular beach and snorkeling spot. We had anchored there once overnight, after an all-night passage, but we did not go exploring then. So Andy did a little research and found that Honeymoon Harbor is the home of stingrays and turtles. A worthy candidate for a field trip!

So we loaded up the dinghy with towels, water, and snorkel gear, and motored about a mile to Honeymoon. The sea was calm, almost placid, making the ride smooth and enjoyable. As we approached the beach, we saw them – a large school of rays!

Stingrays at Honeymoon Harbor, Bimini

We drifted toward a dock and found a spot to tie on, eager to get closer to the stingrays. We knew from previous experiences that stingrays are gentle creatures that only sting you when you step on them. As long as you shuffle your feet along the sand, they will hear you coming and get out of your way, so there’s little risk of either of you getting hurt. Several families with kids and dogs were already in the water feeding the rays – it’s a common practice here, and Andy had brought a small bag of bait fish from the stock he keeps in our freezer. (Mr. Project Manager plans ahead.)

We carefully climbed out of the boat and eased into the water. It was cool and clear, and about ten rays swam immediately to us. They were so beautiful – gray, with some blue tones up close, varying sizes, gliding smoothly over the sand and each other. At first we just put the bait in the water and watched the rays race each other to it. But we soon found that we could just hold a piece of fish in our fingers, and let the rays swim over and “Hoover” it up directly from our hands. These rays have “teeth” that are more like sandpaper, and they simply suck the food up from the surface of your hand. We both tried it, but only Andy was bold enough to hang on to the bait long enough for the ray to suck it up.

A word on the color of the water here – WOW! After our bait was eaten up and the rays moved on to some nearby little kids with a full bucket, we took some time to walk on the beach and gaze out over the glorious water. Every shade of turquoise – Who knew there were so many? Eventually we struck up a conversation with a dad supervising his kids and dog in the water; he was very friendly and told us a little about his experiences living and boating in the Bahamas. His dog, a pure-bred Corgi rescue, was the most water-happy dog I have ever met. He was neither spooked by nor aggressive towards the rays; he just stood there and let them swim around him. Such a sweet pooch.

Feeding the rays in Honeymoon Harbor

This little field trip did indeed help my mood, and I was grateful Andy thought of it. It’s easy to get tunnel-vision on all the tasks and projects that keep our vessel afloat. “Stop and swim with the rays” is going to be my new “Take time to smell the roses.”

P.S. After Cat Cay we motorsailed to Chub Cay, in the Berry Islands. We waited out a big storm at the marina there, which is SO nice – a pool, restaurant, bar, and places to run. (We both logged a couple miles). We met a receptionist who had heard of Kennesaw because she will be enrolled at KSU next fall – small world! We also met Ben and Nancy who were in the slip across from us on Mimosa, their Leopard 45, and we had fun comparing features and layouts on our boat before hanging out at the Nauti Rooster. They were headed back to Florida, but that encounter did bode well for the new-friends potential of our continued journey.

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