We made it!
09 January 2010 | West End, Grand Bahama Island
EVS: rainy and windy
January 9, 2010
Greetings from The Islands of The Bahamas (and specifically from West End on Grand Bahama Island, the Abacos)! We finally were able to make the passage across the Stream yesterday (Friday) in a short weather window. But, let me go back a few days to recap and then bring you up to date.
We thoroughly enjoyed being in Miami, despite our initial misgivings and misperceptions of what we would find. We expected a commercial/industrial port in a major city, dirty water, a lot of noise, etc. Instead, while big city and commercial, we found the anchorages to be delightful, quiet, and the water really quite clean. We walked five miles the first day, exercising, doing errands, and exploring South Beach - or at least a small part of it. At the hardware store, we asked a Cuban man for recommendations for lunch. He suggested Jimmy'z (yes, that's correct). When we found it a few blocks south, we were hestitant to enter because of its outward appearance, but what food! We had seared tuna, rice, and an avocado and tomato salad with a subtle vinaigrette. For desert, we had coconut flan - expecting a small upside down custard with coconut flakes in it. Instead, it was like a coconut cake with flan on top and heavenly. It seems Jimmy's mother makes the deserts and this is a family recipe. We asked but did not get the recipe, so we have been searching ever since for something even close that we could doctor.
The next day was spent on board (to give Lauren's leg a rest) and some shorter excursions. That evening, we had our friends Dick and Tony (from s/v Penobscot), Sue and Mac (from s/v Sumac), and Sam and Kayda (from s/v Solstice) on board for dinner. We all had a wonderful time, great food and conversation, and a lot of laughter. Of course, a lot of the discussion was on weather, the crossing, where to go, when to go, etc. Much like surgery, everyone has his or her own opinion, so we needed to take some time away to make our own choice.
On Wednesday, we moved slightly south to Coconut Grove, Dinner Key Marina, to take on fuel, water, do laundry, and get ready to cross. We invited Barry Berger, and his wife Hildy, aboard for dinner. Barry was the broker who found Gratitude for us and we wanted to thank him, again. He was pleased to see the boat, remarked at how beautiful she is, and we chatted until about 10:00 pm when they parted ways.
Thursday saw us move to No Name Harbor on the SW tip of Key Biscayne. After anchoring, we went ashore to walk the mile or so to Cape Florida and the restored lighthouse. While en route, we saw our sister ship, Magic, motoring in; we waved from on shore, but they did not see us. The lighthouse was neat; climbed to the top for a view of the Atlantic and the Miami skyline, and headed back to Gratitude, having pretty much made up our minds to try to cross on Friday. All the weather data showed a pretty light air day (5-15 knots) with wind from the S or SW, a favorable quarter. We got the dinghy aboard and stowed, the sail covers off, the jack lines (safety clip-on lines) rigged, the life raft and ditch kit out, and plotted our course. We hit the rack early, expecting to get up and leave by 2:00 AM.
The alarm did not go off, so we were a bit delayed; departed No Name at 2:30 and proceeded out into the ocean. Surprisingly, the winds were from the NW, but light, so we elected to keep going. We motor sailed as we had to cover 90 miles and wanted (needed) to get to West End before dark. The seas were calm (1-2 foot) and the day became progressively warmer - the first time we could strip down to T-shirts in a couple of weeks - and sunny. Lauren, who had taken an anti-nausea pill out of precaution, could not stay awake, and so napped twice during the day. The sun came up, and we enjoyed an easy passage.
Once settled in en route, Van rigged the fishing line, with a cedar plug, and within 2 minutes of setting it, we had caught a fish that proceeded to take all the line off the reel. Luckily, the knot held and a half hour of reeling commenced, with Lauren bringing the boat up into the wind to slow her down. (Even though the boat was not moving much through the water, our speed over ground was 4+ knots - The Gulf Stream!) The fish was a yellowtail snapper, maybe 3-4 pounds, which Van filleted and put straight to the chiller. (Given the cost of the fishing gear, we need to catch a lot more to beat the market!) We resumed course and arrived at the waypoint off West End at 3:00 pm. The winds were building by then and up to 15 knots. Because of the broad expanse of water, seas had increased to 3-4 feet. Lauren held the boat into the wind, while Van doused the sails. Lauren said it was quite dramatic, watching the bow go way up then down and the spray being thrown about. Van was otherwise occupied, harnessed in all the while. We entered the Old Bahama Bay Marina, took on fuel, and Van, as Captain, cleared the vessel and crew through customs and immigration. (What forms! One even asked if the mice and rats on board exhibited any sign of illness or whether anyone died while en route from the last port. Luckily, Van could answer no to all.) While others have been complaining of getting only a 30 day license to enter (which has to be renewed before expiry) we were granted 100 days, including for fishing and lobstering.
We moved to our assigned dock space and there tied up for the night (or more because of a pending weather front). Just before we entered, several other boats, including a 100+ foot motor yacht named Magic (the font looks like Disney, but Van was informed no relation; the owner simply likes the name), worked their ways in, so we knew where to go. (Van exclaimed to the dockmaster, while outside the entrance, that it looked narrow, to which she replied "No, Captain, it is plenty wide." She proved right, at least in the day and with relatively calm conditions.)
Today, Saturday, the winds are howling (approaching 30 knots in here, with white caps in this tiny harbor) and we are having our first real rain shower in weeks. We are grateful to be safe across and in a secure harbor, checked in and ready (when the seas abate) to start up and over the Lttle Bahama Banks to the Sea of Abaco!