01/02/2010/6:31 am, Bimini, Bahamas
We've had more rain in the past couple of days than we've seen in months. But it has been warm rain! And we didn't have to shovel it!
All my grand plans for exploration of this community on Sunday washed away, and instead, we just tucked ourselves inside with our books for much of the day. (Jim is reading Steve Berry's "The Charlemagne Pursuit" - and really enjoying it - and I've got my nose in William Deverell's "Snow Job" - not my favourite of his but still entertaining.)
We spent part of the morning up at the covered picnic area chatting with Tom (Amity) and Alain and Judy (Ramha), and decided to get together in the evening for music. Despite the rain all afternoon, those hardy folks from the anchorage came dinghying in with instruments and food. Tom got out his concertina, Alain produced his guitar and it wasn't long before Guy (Arieta) came along with his harmonica. I brought a wooden spoon and my vitamin bottle which made a pretty good shaker! (Liam, remember OffBeat and your vitamin bottle??) More folks appeared to sing and clap. Plates of food kept appearing too and it turned into a very fine evening. Liz (Knot Pete) makes the most wonderful pickled "things" - asparagus, beans, jalapenos, dill pickles. Jim and I finished the evening at Whisper where we made short work of Vic's potato salad and ham. These are great folks and the best examples of legendary Newfoundland hospitality.
We rocked and shook all night and were so very glad to be at the dock. Madcap could rock all she wanted and we didn't have to get up to check anything. It is a luxury and we appreciate every minute of it.
Monday morning brought more rain so it was 10 o'clock before we set off down the road to the hardware store. Praise be, they had the right size drain, so we happily walked home again along the upper road with a detour to the beach where I found some bits of seaglass and one sea bean. I was amazed that they can be found this far east since I thought they came from Africa. Once I looked them up in my lovely book, "Florida's Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber" by Blair and Dawn Witherington, I discovered that the sea hearts and purses are from vines found in the Central and South American tropics, while the hamburger beans may come from there or Western Africa. The book says that the discovery of a sea heart in the eastern Atlantic helped inspire Columbus' explorations.
Jim repaired the sink (once again with a little help from his friends) while I did laundry. It's odd - the things that turn out to be satisfying in the cruising life. Fresh sheets are never so appreciated as on a boat, and the act of trundling the load off to the laundry in these communities is somehow very pleasing. I loaded the bag of clothes and bedding into my little cart and off I went down the road. Melinda runs an excellent laundry - spotlessly clean with lots of machines and she provides the tokens. The washers are front loaders of different sizes. A med and a small wash, and one large dryer cost me $12. It is a reminder of how precious water is on these cays. As I walked back, I met school children who had just been released from classes. They burst out in happy, giggling groups or cool and nonchalant groups depending on their ages, all dressed in their sparkling white shirts and blue skirts or pants. In fact, they sparked all over - from gleaming skin and shining eyes to friendly smiles and greetings. When I stopped in to a couple of shops to buy pigeon peas (for my first batch of peas'n'rice this trip) and to look for water shoes, that same friendliness was there.
Monday's evening entertainment was "sponsored" by Guy and Denis (Arieta) who brought us Karaoke! We had so much fun singing along in French and in English to all sorts of the old songs that a bunch of retired and semi-retired cruisers can remember.
We have enjoyed our stay here, but other destinations call to us and we will probably head out across the banks on Tuesday. It may be a few days until we find another internet connection. Of course if it is raining, or the wind isn't conducive to comfortable sailing, we might be easily persuaded to stay another day!
30/01/2010/10:59 am, North Bimini, Bahamas
We moved onto a dock on Saturday - but it was for a couple of good reasons - it always is!
Jim was up many times on Friday night (and me - just a couple), checking the anchor that seemed to be holding through the tide changes and the wind. When we traced it with the lookey bucket, the chain was curled all around in a u-shape past some rocks and chunks of unknown debris so we weren't entirely confident when we crawled into our berth. A night of poor sleep (although with no dragging), the need to do some plumbing, and the attractive figure of $1. per foot at the marina enticed us in.
The galley sink has sprung a leak and when Jim tried tightening hoses and clamps, the problem got worse. He took it apart yesterday and found that the drain had disintegrated completely and a more extensive fix is in order. He and Vic checked it over and took a walk to the hardware store, but in good Bahamian fashion, it closed at 2 on Saturday. (I can remember when stores in Amherst did that too - except they switched to Wed afternoon closures during tourist season.) The result of all this, is that Monday will be fixit day, allowing us to just hang out and have fun till then.
On Saturday, Marilyn and I dinghied over to a couple of little islands across the channel. We successfully anchored the dinghy in the mud flats and waded around picking up beautiful pink conch shells that had been abandoned once the meat was removed. (This year I am going to learn how to harvest, pound and cook those tasty pieces of shellfish myself.) One job today is to make a conch horn so that we can exercise our lungs with the traditional (at least among tourists) conch horn at sunset ritual.
In the evening, we joined a number of cruisers for a BBQ potluck on the dock. Marilyn and Vic - the unofficial marina hosts - have arranged a couple of these evenings and we were so glad to be here for this one. We bought some crawfish tails from a passing fisherman ($20. for 8 med ones) and grilled those. The shared dishes included a couple of good rice and bean mixtures, a delicious pea and corn in vinaigrette salad and my standard broccoli salad contribution. Tom, (Amity) our slip mate, brought out his concertina and we ended the evening with a good old sing-along.
Out in the anchorage, we met Alain and Judy (Ramha) with a homeport of Shelburne, NS and enjoyed a visit on their terrific lobsterboat/trawler. Those boats must make wonderful cruising vessels with their high bows and spacious interiors.
I must add a note to our crossing report now that we've talked to a couple of other cruisers and read other reports. Jim set a course for 20 miles south of Bimini when we left Port Everglades and we came in almost exactly on the Bimini waypoint. We adjusted it about 5 degrees near the end, but the Gulf Stream carried us along the rest of the way. It took about an hour longer than we expected, but the combination of motor and sail worked fine. One other item of note was that we passed close by a large floating "rafty type" piece of debris at one point. I was really glad it was daytime!
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.