02 December 2006 | Bimini Harbour
We woke up facing an East wind in a beam swell flowing North from the Gulf Stream. A little rolley on a catamaran, but no big deal, especially given the great location and wonderful holding. Then I went outside and saw the spar on Edelweiss swinging like the pendulum on a coo-coo-clock. The inside of that boat must have been like a fun house. Lowell and Jane confirmed said affect later in the day after moving to an end tie at Bimini Blue Water Marina in the harbor. I felt bad about telling them this was a nice anchorage, one must keep in mind the differences between catamarans and mono-hulls when making anchorage recommendations.
Meridian picked us up to clear customs early in the morning and then they set off across the banks. They were meeting family in the BVI and needed to stay on the go while conditions were favorable. So there we sat alone in the anchorage. This is a great feeling when you're in a protected lagoon. It is a little ominous when you are in a well traveled area fully exposed to the open ocean on what could quickly turn into a lee shore. The weather forecast gave me no reason to be overly concerned but we feel better about leaving our boat when there are other cruisers around and we wanted to see Bimini.
So off we went into Bimini harbor even though none of the marinas had an end tie for us. Now the word harbor brings to mind a certain amount of maritime organization, structure and security. The use of the word here is a stretch. First let me correct the various cruising guides and charts, there is no place to anchor in North Bimini harbor that you could justly refer to as a proper anchorage. No place. The so called anchorage just past the Big Game Marina has room for one shoal draft boat, the skipper of whom must be adept at deploying a very tight Bahamian moor. Just off shore from the noisy power plant, Dock to the South, Grassy Bank in 4 feet of water to the West, Busy channel to the East and a three to four knot tidal current that swaps 180 degrees every 6 hours having no acquaintance with the word, "slack". What anchorage?
So we anchored there. One nonexistent slot down from the guy in the good spot.
The water here is crystal clear and 86 degrees. It's beautiful even though you can see the Coke bottles and beer cans on the bottom. Most are blended into the sea floor so it's not too appalling. I dove on our anchor for the first time and had a blast in the water. I'll let you know if I grow a third arm or anything from the power plant effluent. The tide was a foot above soundings and after letting out a tight scope on the bow we were about 6 inches above the bottom at the keel. Not optimal, especially considering the likelihood of a 360 degree swing here.
As the tide began to really get going I found that it was all I could do to swim up current with fins. The boat completely ignored the 18 knot wind and faced the current. You're anchor can do some weird things in this situation. The boat is almost completely controlled by the current, but unlike the wind, the current is not uniform and as the speed and pattern change, ebb and flood, your boat will move to different positions above or to the side of the anchor. There were a few times when we could not even figure out which rules of physics were applying.
Unfortunately we didn't have our second bow anchor set up yet (Rocna still in the cockpit). The only thing I could think of to keep us from swinging into something or turning 180 degrees and dragging into one of the several hazards was to set the stern anchor. So I dutifully deployed our shinny new Fortress FX-37, dove on it to ensure that it was well set, and got on with other tasks.
Rick from Two Tops, a very clean Prout, came by on his dinghy on his way to customs. He mentioned that he had never had any luck bow and stern in Bimini. When he returned from customs he looked over at us, hauled anchor and left the harbor. Ominous.
11PM. I'm standing on the swim step watching an incredible amount of water flowing aft to fore, splashing and whirling across the transom. Ever gone 5 knots in reverse? Boats aren't supposed to do this. I was wondering how long our's would. The stern anchor rode was tuned to G sharp.
11:30PM. It was near peak current when we heard a loud pop and the boat swung wildly out into the channel. Hideko and I ran outside and started both auxiliaries as we careened back toward the guy with the one good anchoring spot. Would our 66 pound Claw hold? Could I stop the boat in this current with the diesels in time? These and 50,000 more thoughts crossed my mind as we reached the end of the arc. Perhaps concurrently the Fortress grabbed hold at a 90 degree angle to the boat keeping us a bit into the channel and the Claw, which had tripped reburied and, no doubt grabbing various tires and car batteries, took hold with a vengeance. We stuck. Not far from the boat off of the Big Game dock but just far enough to live with.
At this point we had a ships meeting. Hideko, Roq and I had to decide whether to haul anchor and leave the harbor, re-anchor at a safer distance, or stay put with a watch on duty for the tide swap at 1AM. Navigating into Bimini harbor is harrowing on your first pass and I wasn't excited about trying my first exit at night. Re-anchoring in this current in the dark with the poor bottom didn't seem like a high success operation either. We were set and holding, so we stayed. We left the port diesel running as a provision. Now what about this stern anchor?
The Fortress was hooked, and good. Nothing I tried would budge it and it was set out in a spot where the current was even worse. I set a sharp knife out in the cockpit and tabled the decision until later in the morning.
1AM. Hideko and I napped with one eye on the boat to our stern and a tight anchor alarm setup on the chart plotter. As the current began to subside for an ever so brief slack before the swap, I made one last attempt to retrieve the Fortress before cutting it loose. Surprisingly, with some serious effort, it came up. Even more surprisingly a third of one of the flukes was sheered off. This gives you some idea of the load that must have been on the anchor with the current flowing from the stern. I can only assume that it was hooked on a rock under the sand.
Now we were at least in a reasonable anchoring situation. The current was running in and we were set on a reliable bow anchor facing it. We didn't get much sleep over the next 6 hour tide cycle. When morning came we left the harbor and anchored off to the West of North Bimini in nice sand 12 feet deep along with four other boats that already knew better.
I hear Fortress will replace a broken anchor under warrantee. Although ours broke on the first use, I have a lot of respect for the thing given how long it held up. Maybe an FX55 will fit in my lazarette?