Crossing the Great Bahama Bank
13 December 2006 | The Banks
We are fair weather sailors. The problem is that fair weather doesn't always come from the right direction. We had been waiting, enjoying, but waiting, in Bimini for over a week for something we could sail into the Berrys with. My most recent 7 day outlook combined with the NOAA Offshore Forecast had me convinced that if we didn't reduce our weather requirements we would be in Bimini for some time. This time of year fronts tend to show up about every three to four days. Fronts can be squally with high speed wind gusts, rain and overcast skies. Not fun to sail in. On the other hand, fronts create a break in the ever present Easterly trades. You can ride the clocking wind in front of the front, or you can take the north east wind behind the front. The week we were in Bimini both of these types of opportunities came along but always with 20 knots plus and big seas. Big seas translates to "choppy and no fun to anchor in" on the banks.
Needing to get to Nassau by around the 20th and wanting to get some time in cruising the Berrys before that, we needed to find a window within a week. We selected the lesser of evils within the 7 day forecast, a diminishing East wind with reasonable seas. The wind doesn't always blow your way, that's why the lord gave us motors. We were heading from Bimini around North Rock to Bullocks Harbor on Great Harbor Cay. All in all it was about an 80 mile jump. We left before first light in order to ensure that we could make the entire run in daylight. We rounded the North shore of Bimini at about 7AM with a spectacular sunrise in the East and didn't even bother raising the main. The wind was coming from 92 degrees and we were heading 92 degrees. The banks were choppy and it was a rough ride but Swingin' on a Star did over 8 knots the entire way. She would have done more if asked but the crew could only take so much of the seas on the nose so we settled in at 8.
It was a pretty eventless trip. We did a small service on both diesels before leaving Bimini, emptying quite a bit of water from the Starboard Racor. Everything ran smooth for the 10 hours we motored. We did see two skiffs (small open boats with an outboard) 20 miles from anywhere. We wondered how they got out there and how they were going to get back. Each had two guys aboard, one on the motor and one in a wet suit standing on the bow. Later Steve on Shanty informed us that they were probably Lobster hunting and were likely working from a larger boat anchored on the banks.
We hit the Bullocks Harbor way point at 4PM as planned and made our way to the anchorage just south of the entrance to the Great Harbor Cay Harbor. Hideko and I got greedy and went way too far into a long shallow grassy bottomed shelf. We were trying to get right up on this nice white sand beach. We ended up anchored with about an inch of water under the keel at low tide. Some would say that's perfect other would say something else. I was a little concerned about getting out later.
It was our first time using the Rocna. It was overcast all afternoon and started to sprinkle while we were anchoring. The Rocna took a while to set in the tough grassy bottom (one of the less preferable bottom types to anchor in). We had to back down quite a ways before the anchor finally bit. Once set it held like a champ all night in fairly strong winds. The water was beautiful so we ran the water maker for three hours to fill the tanks up a bit. Our Spectra Newport 400 was making 15 gallons an hour in the clear water.
This was our longest passage yet and all motoring into the wind at that. After the Gulf Stream crossing this was not such a big deal but still tiring. Roq, however, managed to sleep the whole way. Once we were settled at anchor Hideko cooked up a nice warm meal and we both hit the hay early.