12/09/2006, North Bimini
Even in the Bahamas, winter exists. Last night we had another cold front come our way and had wind blowing over 20 knots. You could hear the wind all night long. This weather will continue until the beginning of next week so we will be here in Bimini for a while. At least the temperature never goes below 70.
Randy and I rented a golf cart yesterday and explored the entire island. We had a lot of fun investigating the tide pools in the reefs and sand at the North point. We also took a look at the huge new casino/marina/resort/condo complex going in at the North end of the harbor. When the construction is done, it should bring additional business and jobs to the island. It will be very nice if they can keep the channel clear all the way up there too.
Bimini has seen a lot of changes over the last year. The Complete Angler, famous Hemingway hangout with lots of memorabilia, burned down last year, taking the son of the owner and all of the tradition with it. The Chalks seaplane port is now closed because a plane crashed last year killing several residents. On the positive side the drug runners were gone as far as we could tell due to the Bahamian partnership with the USCG and the new channel is a blessing to all boats interested in entering the harbor. Who knows, maybe the marinas will even have Wifi access to the Internet by next year with all of this BTC activity.
We are getting one front after another here. The winds have been north-ish at over 20 knots for a few days and are planning to stay that way until Monday.
A group of young hard core exchange students from Germany were sailing and diving Bimini in a 50 foot mono hull over the past few days. It looked like they were having a lot of fun. They were planning to head back to Fort Lauderdale with a broken VHF radio tonight. NWS predicted winds 25-30 knots from the North with gusts to Gale force and seas over 20 feet. I hate to butt into other people's business, but I walked over and handed the skipper a weather print out anyway, just to make sure that he knew what was going on out there. I was glad to see that they stayed the night at the dock. They did leave early the next morning though, which was only a little better. On the plus side they had their VHF working at that point.
The Dock Master came by late in the afternoon to inform us that the fuel tanker was coming in and that we couldn't stay on the dock where we were. Apparently the tanker was a couple of days early. We were on the North end of the dock and all of the fuel dock gear was on the South end. I asked if the Fuel barge couldn't just tie up on the South end of the dock. The Dock Master looked at me for a second and said, "no mon, this one takes up the whole dock".
He wasn't kidding. I saw the thing at that point, making its way into the harbor. It was like a mini oil tanker. Having minimal docking experience with our 50' long, 26' wide boat I was not excited about trying to get out of the way as the steel behemoth bore down on us. Even more interesting was the shoal directly in front of our current position, the crazy current, the 20 knot wind and the fact that the inside slip he wanted me to pull into had a foot and a half of clearance on each side. It's times like these that you're glad you have rub rails.
As luck would have it the operation went without a hitch. A great crew on Cat's Paw helps us from the dock. Hideko got us all tied down and I didn't plough through any pilings. We now have shore power for the first time in a month. Time for a cold Kalik...
All of our friends have left. Meridian, Edelweiss and Red Leopard are all on the other side of the banks. It kind of makes you feel left behind. It's not like we were headed to the same places or anything, you just get a certain feeling when you see friends sail off. Perhaps our friends felt this way when we left California. Everyday is an adventure when you are cruising to new places but you have to get used to missing people you've become fond of.
The weather has closed in so it will be a week before we can expect a nice sail to the Berrys. We could go anyway without any danger on several different days but I prefer to sail when the sailing is fun if possible.
Hideko and I are getting a lot of reading in. I'm really enjoying the weather and island effects stuff in Van Zandt's Gentlemans's Guide to Passages South. Also, after coveting everyone else's Explorer charts we finally bought a set. The last set in Bimini at that (I was surprised to find them at all). The Explorer charts are certainly the charts you should have for the Bahamas. I started planning a more detailed version of our cruise in the Berrys today.
12/05/2006, Bimini Harbor
We unfortunately did not go to bed as early as we like to the night before a passage. Since the boat is tied to the dock, we decided to swap the anchor, then laundry and cooking and so forth. By the time everything was done, it was almost midnight; not a preferable time to go to bed before an all day crossing of the Great Bahama Bank. We woke up at 6AM. We were both tired. The weather wasn't great. Can we have fun staying in Bimini for a while? The answer was yes! So we decided to stay. This is the great thing about not being on a schedule.
Randy helped Edelweiss leave the dock, and Roque went for a short walk and we went back to sleep.
12/04/2006, Bimini Blue Water Marina
It was another beautiful day in the warm, transparent waters 100 yards off of the beach on North Bimini. We spent a lot of the day looking over weather and our route across the banks. I have finally figured out how to get specific weather information on a request basis over SailMail. Very cool that. My Weather Fax application tends to crash before copying an entire Fax at night for some reason. It works much better in the morning hours.
Red Leopard and Two Tops both set out across the banks today. We hope to run across them down island.
The front looming over Florida finally arrived in the afternoon. We re-anchored farther off shore in anticipation of its passage. As usual it was a little stronger than predicted, and a bit more squally. The biggest problem was that it was blowing from West of North, not North Northeast as advertised. This pressed us back toward the Bimini Harbor entrance reef and the beach, which incidentally has the rusting remains of a cargo ship right where we would have ended up if the anchor broke out. Ominous.
So after a bit of that we hauled up and went in to tie up where Red Leopard had been at the Bimini Blue Water Marina. BBWM is sleepy but the folks are nice, they have fuel and a swimming pool, at $0.75 a foot it is the cheapest, and it is quiet off season. There's a sand bar in the middle of what looks like the channel running a third of the way up the BBWM dock from deeper in the harbor. Stay near the docks or have less than 4 foot draft if it isn't high tide when approaching from sea. I've seen two mono-hulls ground here.
We're going to try to get things prepped for a passage across the Great Bahama Bank tomorrow.
12/03/2006, North Bimini
On the night of the 1st and during the day on the 2nd a few other boats came across the Gulf Stream to Bimini. None of them had fun. One of them was Red Leopard with Rick and Myrna aboard. Rick and Myrna were commissioning their brand new Leopard 40 at Lauderdale Marine Center while we were there. It was great to see them and catch up. We went to lunch with Edelweiss, Two Tops and Red Leopard today at the Bimini Big Game Club, one of the better spots in town.
Some charts mark the anchorage West of the North Bimini Beach as a pilot boarding area. Being from southern California this brought to mind images of the oil tanker field off of El Segundo. With the new channel in place I doubt you could get someone to talk you in here, much less come out to drive your boat to the dock. The anchorage was idyllic and we went to the beach with Roq a few times. Some dolphins came by to say hi and a large Barracuda took up residence under our boat. I think that if you look under all of the sailboats in the Caribbean half of them will have a Barracuda underneath sheltering from the sun.