To the Bahamas
14 March 2014 | Nassau, Bahamas
When last we spoke we were on our way to Biscayne Bay - moving pretty quickly - by cruising standards that is. We made it in pretty good shape but we did have a bit of engine problem while we were outside of Miami. Cruising along at about 7.5 knots our RPMs started to drop off for no reason - and then the engine stopped, for no apparent reason. Diesel engines are pretty dependable. Feed them good fuel, change the fuel filters, change the oil every 100 hours or so and you are in pretty good shape. I thought I had been pretty good about changing the fuel filters but apparently not - either that or we had received some bad fuel along the way. Adrift about 5 miles off of Miami, I was able to get both of the filters changed and the engine started again and we were on our way. Now we just needed to wait to see if it would happen again - meaning that we had bad fuel.
Fortunately, the engine has been humming for the last few days without issue meaning that Roger probably forgot to change the fuel filters the last time he changed the oil filters - oops.
Our trip to Biscayne Bay was a long one and with our little fuel issue we made it into the anchorage just before sunset. Tuesday we got up early to get Casey to shore - we are going to cross the Gulf Stream today. The Gulf Stream is a northbound current that is about 4 to 5 degrees warmer than the surrounding ocean. One of the dangers with the stream is that any wind heading to the south opposing the current going north can create very steep waves. At best these are uncomfortable;at worst, they can be very dangerous. The weather in the stream can also be a bit unpredictable as the warm water flowing through cooler ocean water and surrounding air can create squalls. Our weather was basically perfect. The wind was out of the east and not too strong and we had a pretty strong high pressure system that would keep the squalls at bay.
So up at 6 am and moved from the anchorage about a half hour before sunrise. The strategy for crossing the stream is to start out by heading south before you get into the stream and then once you enter the stream hit it at a right angle or better yet, ride it north as you cross. We set up a few waypoints to pull this off but didn't do any fancy trigonometry calculations. With the calm conditions we were able to use the autopilot basically for the whole trip. Once we entered the stream near Miami we didn't have to touch the autopilot until we were about a mile off our destination of Cat Cay. Pretty nice!
Speaking of being a mile off of Cat Cay - after having two and a half months to get all of out forms together to bring Casey into the Bahamas - with exactly a mile to go before we enter the harbor where we are to clear customs - Chrisy came up from down below to announce that we didn't complete the most important form - the Veterinary Health Certificate - just sounds important. Massive panic ensues! Well the short story is that we invent a vet in Miami and fill out the forms. Roger gets the job of taking them into the Customs Office to commit my little white lie. Fortunately, we're in the Bahamas and the guy stamps the form basically as I'm handing it to him. I love the Bahamas! When I get back to Sanderling it takes Chrisy about an hour to settle down.
Wednesday is another long day. Seems like we are making a habit of this but we are pretty late and want to get to the Exumas - quickly. This could be our longest day. Up at 5:30 am, off by 6:30 am for our 75 mile trip across the Great Bahama Bank and down the Northwest Channel to Chub Cay. The Bank is basically 1,500 square miles of ocean that is consistently 10 feet deep. Pretty impressive. (Fourteen years ago we came right through Cat Cay and anchored in the middle of the Bank for the night.) The winds were out of the south and we were heading east so we had a really nice beam reach the whole way to the Channel. Once in the Channel, the depths go to 2,000 feet and the seas get quite a bit steeper. Fortunately, we only had 15 miles before we made it to Chub Cay.
On approach, we had a decision to make about anchoring in some pretty exposed anchorages, some anchorages that didn't have very good holding, or going into the marina and paying a king's ransom for a dock space. After a long day and expecting some bad weather the decision pretty much made itself - we paid up. We were pretty glad we did as the weather did in fact get nasty and the only boat that was in the anchorage came into the marina.
Yesterday, Thursday, we crossed the Channel and came down to Nassau. The winds were really strong - steady 25 gusts to 30 and the seas were 6-8 feet. This might have been our roughest sail of the trip, but Sanderling seems to enjoy these conditions. She handles them so well. It was nice to duck behind the break wall of Nassau harbor and head to a marina - at one third of the rate of Chub Cay. Today, Friday, is a well deserved rest day.