We're off to the Bahamas!
05 April 2008 | December 5, 2007 Wednesday Lake Sylvia to West End, Grand Bahamas
December 5, 2007
Lake Sylvia to West End, Grand Bahamas
Kelly and I are up at 4:30 with great anticipation of making our first crossing on the Gulf Stream. With the sun just rising we get underway at around 6:15 AM. We head out of Lake Sylvia moving towards the 17th Avenue Bridge. We have to wait for the 7:00AM bridge opening. We pass through the bridge and enter the Port Everglades Inlet. We awake the girls sleeping in the v-berth so they don't get nauseous from the motion caused by the big rolling waves coming down the inlet. The girls reluctantly get up and join us in the cockpit. We head out of the inlet and get the sails up right away; we are heading for the Bahamas! We have a good sail over to the Bahamas Bank averaging over 7 knots speed. The Gulf Stream current pushed us northward at a maximum of 3.2 knots while the seas averaged about 6 feet with occasional 10 foot rollers. The intervals between wave peaks were spaced far enough apart so we were able to establish a good rhythm riding the waves while still maintaining our course the harbor called West End on the Grand Bahamas Island. We crossed depths exceeding 2500 feet. Our depth instrument does not read these extreme depths; we knew the depth only from our charting equipment.
Our autopilot stopped working just as we got underway. Our new autopilot pump motor draws more current than the old one and this was overlooked. We didn't have the larger amperage fuses required onboard so we had to hand steer the boat. The boat handled the crossing quit well. We selected a good day to cross and it really wasn't a big deal at all. We are all excited to see the Bahamas just around 3:00PM. We have our quarantine flag up, and we decide to take a slip at the West End to just get settled. As we enter the harbor we see the dockhand at the slip waiting for us. We get the boat tied in the slip and when everything is squared away on the boat we change into our bathing suits. We head to the heated outdoor pool and jump in. The air is quite cool but the water in the pool is actually warm! There are two pools, one circular pool spilling down 5 feet into a larger kidney shaped pool. Kelly, Danielle, and Kristen each take turns rolling off the top pool into the bottom pool. After an hour of swimming under the stars we quickly dry off and run as fast as we can back to the boat since the air feels like it is freezing. We have a quick supper and call it an early night.
December 6, 2007 Thursday West End to Mangrove Cay
We awake just before 6:30 to listen to Chris Parker, and we find we have another beautiful day ahead of us. Kelly and I complete all of the forms and he brings them to customs. Only the captain is allowed to go. The girls want to go to the beach that is near our boat but we can not get off the boat until we clear customs. Kelly returns and we change our flags from quarantine to the Bahamas flag. The girls want to see the stamp in their passport, and then we go to the beach. I take the girls to the beach while Kelly stays and talks with another boater. The girls collect a few shells and see a big crab. The big crab kicked up a small white crab that we watch burrow itself back into the sand in the water. How cool! We then head back to the boat so we can get out of the slip before we are charged for another day. We head out with hopes of making it to Great Sale Cay. We leave and there is very little wind. We are all amazed by the beautiful water. We average around 12 feet of water and it is crystal clear. We found that leaving here we have to head north beyond Memory Rock since it can be too shallow for us to cross south of it. As we travel the engine dies, and the primary fuel filter is clogged. We switched over to the other filter and we are on our way once again. When we finally reach Memory Rock to our North we turn ESE to head to Great Sale Cay. We look at our information and it puts us there after 10PM. We decide to alter our plans and go to Mangrove Cay, which is half way to Great Sale. At this point we will arrive to Mangrove Cay after dark. We make our arrival around 6PM. There is only one other boat anchored here. We set the anchor rather easily and have small rollers to contend with. The girls end up sleeping midship due to the rollers. We have some dinner and then get some sleep.
December 7, 2007 Friday Mangrove Cay to Great Sale Cay
We again awake early to hear Chris Parker's forecast. You become to rely on his information since there is no NOAAVHF weather channel as we have in the states. We get the forecast and decide to go to Great Sale Cay later today. Mangrove Cay is a small uninhabited cay. This is where all three routes along the northern half of the Bahamas Bank meet. Boats anchor in the lee of the land. The island is made up of just mangroves. One of our books tells us that there is a small plane wreck on the southern shore that is interesting to explore. This sounded interesting so we got in our bathing suits and jumped in the dinghy with our snorkeling gear and off we went to explore. We never found the small plane, but we believe we found a small piece of it. We pulled our dinghy into a sandy area just to say we were in the water. We all walked around the dinghy in the shallow water. There is not much to see snorkeling so we just take a quick dip and then head back to the boat. We pulled up anchor just before lunchtime and headed to Great Sale Cay. We have a 21-mile trip and it takes about 3 hours to get there.
We arrive just after 2PM. There are no other boats in sight. We think this is strange, back home there are always boats in sight. We set the anchor. Great Sale Cay is a popular anchorage on the Little Bahamas Bank. This island is also uninhabited, but it states you can go ashore here. There is only brush on the island. Boats use this spot as a stop when entering and leaving the Bahamas. We get the dinghy out and go exploring. Kelly takes us about 5-6 miles away from our boat to try and find a blue hole (underwater cave entrance). We could not locate it so we meander back to and along the island shoreline. The edges are made up of oolitic limestone. The Bahamas are built on a block of the ocean floor, ridged with fossil sand dunes and fringed in corals. About 130 million years ago layer after layer of tiny marine organisms filtered to the floor of shallow tropical seas. The shells decomposed into tiny round grains called oolites, which cemented into calcium carbonate, or limestone - the building blocks of the Bahamas. We passed along the edges of the oolitic limestone and saw numerous snails of different sizes. We also saw large crabs running along the stone, and even tiny birds going into the holes within the limestone. This was interesting to watch. We went close by it and touched it. It was very hard like a rock. As we drifted along we saw a couple turtles, small fish, sea urchins, and starfish. The girls really enjoyed this. Since there was no sandy area we decided to forgo swimming here. We headed back to the boat, and Kelly cleans the boat's waterline, while the girls and I shower. Kelly checks the prop and finds line wrapped around it. He dives under and manages to take it off without cutting it. We think this line has been there since we hooked the trap in the Albermar Sound! Kelly finishes up and showers. We have dinner and Kelly reads the book "Grayson" to us. It is about a woman swimmer that trains to swim channels. During one of her workouts a baby whale follows her. Kelly gets through a third of the book and we call it a night.