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Club has big plans for Bahamian getaway

Chub Cay Club, a Bahamian sportfishing getaway for 40 years, is embarking on a $100 million first-phase makeover that its new owners say will vastly improve its amenities while retaining its atmosphere as a rustic, family-oriented island fishing destination.

The first phase of the master plan — already approved by the Bahamian government — includes a new and expanded 200-slip marina, a two-story, manor-style clubhouse and 57 Bahamian colonial-styled villas ranging in price from $800,000 to $2.5 million.

The marina will have a 12-foot depth, between 100 and 200 slips with concrete floating docks, and megayacht dockage for vessels up to 175 feet. Sixty of the slips will be offered with a 99-year lease. These long-term leasehold slips will sell for between $6,000 and $8,000 a foot, said Kaye Pearson, chairman of Chub Cay Club Associates Ltd.

Pearson expects megayachts en route to Nassau to make the club a regular stopover, so it will have a megayacht hospitality center.

The 950-acre Chub Cay is at the south end of the Berry Islands, 35 miles northwest of Nassau, 120 miles from Miami and 70 miles across the north end of the Great Bahamas Bank from Bimini.

The club has long been a hideaway for wealthy anglers and their families. “It has been a very special place for a half-century,” said Walt McCrory, the club’s new president and CEO. The Rockefellers, DuPonts and Bushes used to fish out of Chub Cay in the 1950s and ’60s, when it was a comfortable but unpretentious fish camp for the well-to-do.

Chub’s location along the divide between the mouth of the deepwater Tongue of the Ocean and the Great Bahamas Bank gives anglers the unique opportunity to fish 2- and 3-foot-deep flats for snook on one side and troll for blue marlin in 6,000 feet of water on the other.

“You get some of the best fishing in the Bahamas there,” said the club’s executive vice president, Bob Moss.

Five Texans bought the island 27 years ago, built a members-only club there and ran exclusive tournaments out of it. The club facilities have changed little over the years, though it has gone public and now is a getaway not only for anglers, but also for divers, boaters and cruisers.

The only access to the island has been by charter aircraft or private boat, but the new owners are hoping to put the island on a scheduled commercial aircraft route so it can be opened to non-boaters, and those who don’t want to take their boat across the Gulf Stream. The island has a small customs office and 5,000-foot paved runway.

“It’s been like in a time warp,” said Wayne Goettsche, one of the former owners, who also has a private estate — Point Nirvana — on Chub Cay.

The Chub Cay Club owns 870 acres of the island; the rest is private villas. Goettsche said he and his partners could never agree where to take the club, so the island stayed pretty much undeveloped.

The investors — 35 of them, including Fort Lauderdale boat show impresario Pearson, South Florida construction manager Moss and Florida real estate developer McCrory — want to keep much of the island pristine. “One of the criteria for becoming an investor was you had to love the Bahamas and Chub in particular,” McCrory said.

The resort will have no hotel per se, but the villas will have lockout rooms so owners can rent out 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom suites — each with its own entrance — when they are not using the villa themselves.

Hurricane Andrew destroyed many of the club facilities in 1992, and they were never rebuilt. The investors bought Chub Cay Club in July 2004. They moved all of the club’s remaining villas and cottages in April and use them for worker housing. Early plans also call for building new water, power and wastewater systems, followed by the villas, the 1,700-square-foot clubhouse and the marina. The marina closed in July to all for damming up the mouth of the basin, emptying the water out and bulldozing the hard rock bottom to deepen and enlarge it.

The marina and nine or 10 villas are scheduled to open in March 2006. The first phase should be finished by 2007. Less-expensive townhouses and a dry-stack barn for smaller boats are scheduled to come later, Moss said.

Bahamian officials said they were pleased with the redevelopment and the jobs it will bring to the Andros-Berry Island region. “We are restoring the Berry Islands to their former luster so they can become a vital part of the Bahamas’ success story of tourism development,” said Baltron B. Bethel, now managing director of the Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas and the nation’s tourism minister for many years.

Pearson says the new Chub Cay Club will be quite comfortable, but not stuffy, and a good place to fish and hang out with the family. “You’ll be able to put the kids in a 13-foot Whaler and let them go fishing and diving,” he said. “There’s nowhere for them to get into trouble here.”