29/01/2010/1:10 pm, Bimini, Bahamas
Approaching the Bahamas this way makes a cruiser wait a long time to see this special turquoise water. When we came over last time,(via Great Sale Cay) we got on the banks long before we ever saw land, and were able to ooh and aah for miles and miles. This time, we were within a mile of land before we saw the depth sounder go from last known depth (really over 2000 feet) to 500 and rapidly down to 20 when that colour really appears, and then we were concentrating on finding a safe anchorage.
We had a rollicking ride across the Gulf Stream on Thursday, with E wind consistently blowing 15 -20 knots. We were headed SE but it still didn't give us quite the lift we needed to really sail, and the seas were at least 6 ft most of the trip, dropping to about 4 when we got closer to Bimini. Every few waves, we'd catch one that would skew us sideways and the speed would drop to 3 kn, then we'd go along at 5.5 till the next twist.
I managed to keep my stomach at "uncomfortable" instead of "miserable" so although it wasn't a really pleasant ride, it was nowhere near awful!
We got here around 4:30, after Steve helped us cast off from Cooley's Landing at 6:45 ( oh - a little aside here - it was right after one of those mega yachts got towed upstream - this time with a helicopter on top! Quite the sea toy!)) and exiting Port Everglades Inlet around 7:30.
As we neared South Bimini, a US Coast Guard Cutter call came in on the radio: "White hulled sailing vessel approaching Bimini, this is the US Coastguard boat on your port quarter." Jim called back and a polite conversation ensued. They requested the boat name, number of persons on board, home port, boat licence #, last port of call and intended port of call. Once supplied with all this, the officer wished us a pleasant day, but they have boarded numerous other vessels just off the shores here - mostly American Flag vessels.
We decided we were too tired to wind our way in the narrow channel to the anchorage off Alicetown in North Bimini. Besides, the wind was still strong out of the East and it didn't look to us like there was much protection in there. We made the decision to anchor off the west side of South Bimini where there were no other boats to drag into and what we hoped would be a bit of protection. Well, we didn't drag (thank goodness) and there was some wind protection, but there was also a fair bit of surge, so after a roly day, we also had a roly night! It was so quiet though, and the moon and stars were so bright that it didn't seem much of a hardship.
We headed along the route inside Henry Bank, following the range in and then the shoreline of South Bimini past the Green marker and toward the Red at the entrance to the harbour at North Bimini. The depths were getting shallower and shallower even though we were trying to follow the Explorer chart book and not the chartplotter (which is suspect in the Bahamas). When we hit 6 inches below the keel, we did a quick U turn and headed back out. Fortunately a Mail Boat was coming in so we made another U-turn and followed it. It kept really close to the shore almost until the Red so that's what we did too and it worked much better.
(I really think that, while it entails an overnight trip, the crossing to Great Sale Cay and onward from there is a much more benign way to enter the Bahamas. No tricky navigating and (at least for us last time) a gentle pace to Green Turtle Cay and a pleasant checkin.)
Once in, we were just passing the Bimini Bluewater marina when a call came on the radio from Marilyn (Whisper) who said, "I just saw you go by!"
We dropped the hook, lowered the dinghy and headed over to Whisper to say hello to Marilyn and Vic. They hail from St. John's Nfld, and we met briefly in Warderick Wells 2 years ago. It turns out they had been warned of our arrival by Steve and Sandi and were expecting us yesterday. Sorry if we had folks worried!
We soon headed along the road to the Immigration and Customs offices to "get legal". Although the Customs officer informed us rather gruffly that we should have tied up at the marina or the government dock to clear in, by the time Jim apologized profusely and we had filled out the forms, her happy self had taken over and she was most pleasant for the rest of the procedure. With our $300 paid for our cruising permit and fishing licence, and our passports stamped and clearance given for 130 days in the Bahamas, we were done. Next stop was back to Whisper where Marilyn kindly allowed me to use her computer for my short posting letting you know we got here, then a short jaunt up the hill to CJ's for our first conch and fish sandwiches of the trip, and back to the boat.
We'll stay on anchor for the night, and perhaps stay another day or two here while we see what is happening weatherwise.
29/01/2010/11:13 am, Bimini
Yee haw! We are here. We anchored off South Bimini last night and came into the harbour this morning. We are currently anchored and will plan to stay here 2 or 3 days I think.
We've met up with Marilyn and Vic (Whisper) fellow Canadians and are having a grand time already.
I'll send more info later!
27/01/2010/9:43 pm, Fort Lauderdale, FL
We are off across the Gulf Stream in the morning (Thurs, Jan 28). At least that's the plan! We intend to leave Cooley's Landing on slack tide - about 6:45 - in time to get through the bridges before they close for morning rush hour at 7:30. Once we're out Port Everglades inlet we'll set our course for Bimini if the wind is right. If not, we'll head a little further south for Gun Cay Cut (both in the Bahamas), and if that doesn't work either, we'll point even further south to No Name Harbour (still in Florida). This is such a change from the last trip when we were much more definite about landfall. Timing was always an issue, but this trip we are trying to keep open about both time and destination. How is that for being laid back??
Jim, Steve and I took the bus yesterday to Sailorman, stopping along the way to have BIG breakfasts at Lester's Diner. The # 6 bus picked us up near Walgreen's on 7th Ave and dropped us off at the corner of 84th (St, I think). It was just a short walk - right past Lester's - from there. ($1.50 unless you are a geezer, only $.75 then, and we could have gotten a day pass for $3.50). What a fun place Sailorman's is - like a good old NS Frenchy's for mariners. There were racks and shelves of everything imaginable - absolutely worth a trip even if there is nothing one wants - because there just might be something irresistible! Our purchases were pretty tame - a floatable cushion, some glue, a dinghy anchor, but we could have gotten motor parts or line or a life raft or seats or fishing gear or fuel filters. Boater's Warehouse is on 84th too so it is a 2 for 1 trip!
On Wednesday morning, Jim, Steve, Marc and I headed out to National Liquidators to check out the boats for sale. (Sandra is still feeling yucky and keeps close to the boat to see if she can shake this cold bug). We went on a few boats - including a 73 foot motor yacht that we could have gotten for less than a million! None of us was quite willing to put the money down.
A trip to Publix to restock the larder took part of the afternoon, and then it was a matter of loading water, hoisting the dinghy on the davits, stowing the things we've had spread all over the cabin while we've been stationary so they won't go flying if we manage to get heeling nicely on our crossing.
We had one final happy hour in Madcap's cockpit with Steve and Sandi (Princess), Ben (Loon) and Shel (Rainbow). It feels very weird to be going off tomorrow and leaving our good friends, but we'll meet up again and have new stories to share.
We will probably be away from internet and phones for a couple of days. I'll put up a posting as soon as I can. In the meantime, you may assume we are enjoying fair winds and finding that blue Bahama water!