Our Current Location on the Map: RobinLeigh
Our trip to the Bahamas was fast and pleasant, thanks to our engine and a good weather forecast predicting light winds just off the starboard bow.
We spotted Bimini from around 10 miles out and as we made our final approach we were hailed by, of all things, a US Coast Guard cutter. We were ready for their call having heard them hail every boat approaching the islands for the last few hours. They asked us who we were, the name of our boat and our purpose for visiting the Bahamas then wished us a safe passage.
As we approached South Bimini, we called the marina with our VHF to ask for current navigation information. The sand banks change frequently and your charts do not always reflect reality.
The Bimini Sands marina answered us directly and asked what our draft was. We told him 5 1/2 feet and the fellow said, "No problem man - you will have plenty of depth coming in. Head for the red marker and turn right before you get to it, then head straight for the harbor entrance."
The water looked shallow but we trusted the harbor guy and began inching our way in. Depths were good until we were about 50 yards from the entrance. We inched in as best we could as the onshore wave pattern pushed us along as well. We had a foot under the keel when suddenly a wave picked us up and took us forward onto a sand bar. We were stuck -100 feet from the harbor entrance.
It was close to low tide so we thought we might power away backwards, anchor off and wait a few hours to try again. We reversed the engine and tried to back off the bar. The waves were coming in behind us and we quickly figured out we would not be backing away but instead, would be powering our way over the sand bar one small wave at a time. We kept the engine revved and the rudder straight and every wave took us a foot closer to the breakwater and the deeper water of the inside channel. The final push happened when Charles dropped the dingy into the water relieving our back end of 200 pounds and allowing us to hop over the bar with the next wave.
Once we tied up to the marina the harbor guy said, "I need to check the depths out there, we just dredged the entrance last month."
We just shook our heads - "Really? You think? Mind if we charge you for dredging the entrance to your harbor?"
No harm to the boat and a memorable arrival to the Bahamas. It's a great reminder to be extra careful from now on with tides and sand bars for the next few months!