B A H A M A S ! ! ! ! ! ! J
10 November 2008 | North Bimini, Bahamas
We finally made it!
Friday night we anchored in the Florida Keys & had a good sleep, after a thirty some hour voyage from Fort Myers. In the morning, we took some time to stow things around the boat, putting things away and cleaning up a bit.turning Seawing back into our home, from a construction zone. Beginning to think about lunch, we cruised over to Gilbert's Marina (about three hours away) for some sweet potato fries.
We'd been planning to head north to Miami or Fort Lauderdale & take a slip in a Marina (or anchor), do some last minute shopping & look for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. The stretch of water between Florida and the Bahamas known as the Gulf Stream should be approached with caution and an eye to the weather. The very deep & warm waters of the Gulf Stream move north at 4 to 4.5 knots (in the middle). If there is wind opposing the current, the waves can be rather unruly & even quite unsafe.
Sitting at Gilbert's we began to really look at the current and forecast weather for the next week. It began to be clear that we would go that night, or wait almost a week..and we were running out of time to be across to the Bahamas (explain why another time). We took an hour or so to really tie things down and prepare the boat for a crossing, filled with diesel and water and headed out.
We were planning to leave through Angelfish Creek, through the reef and across..but decided against it. We thought we'd probably make it through, but there appears to be shoaling at the entrance..also, we figured we'd arrive before dawn in the Bahamas. We didn't want to arrive before dawn in the Bahamas as the Bimini harbor entrance is shallow, ringed with sandbars and sparsely marked. So..we headed north for Miami, then left through Government Cut at the Port of Miami for Bimini.
Around midnight we cleared the Port of Miami and headed out to sea. Our new buddy (the autopilot) took control of the helm as we cleared the approach channel and controlled our course without assistance for the next seven and half hours..when I began to adjust course for arrival in Bimini. Crossing the Gulfstream is a bit different; one cannot simply enter a waypoint in the GPS and have the autopilot follow the GPS directions across, because of the current (well, you can.but it takes much longer). Instead, one calculates the number of hours in the stream & using the average speed of the current estimate how far north the current will carry us as we cross & set a course for that number of miles south of our target, thus (in theory) we should arrive directly at our target..worked pretty well, but some adjustments in the last couple of hours.
The entrance to North Bimini's harbor is interesting. We approached our waypoint and adjusted course for another tentative waypoint and posted Sue and the kids on the bow to look in the water. The sandbars shift regularly, so entering by waypoints alone is ill advised. We pick out ashore a couple of orange and white post that, when lined up one behind the other, show the correct course to steer to safely get inside the row of sandbars. You would simply not believe the clarity of the water in the Bahamas..the color is amazing!
Slowly we picked our way into the harbor..finding Bimini very sleepy at 9am on a Sunday morning. The whole town pretty much shuts down on Sunday.very quiet..different from Florida for sure...more later!