Well we finally did it! After months of preparing the boat, provisioning, and then re-provisioning and Michael working we finally left the States and crossed the gulf stream for Bimini.
We had been anchored in the Venetian Causeway Basin for a month after the boat show – where we worked for Defender.com and had a BLAST!!! – by the way they are having their annual clearance sale this weekend! – while finishing up some things and getting Michael’s curriculum written for school. While there we met several other cruisers who were waiting for a weather window to cross to Bahamas for April and May. These folks, Paula and Normand on Madame’ and Mr. and Mrs. Kincaid aboard Aviator took us under their wing as first time crossers. These folks have crossed over twenty times and are “experts” if there is such a thing. We decided we wanted to go with them and so the last minute prepping began.
On Tuesday March 22 we hauled anchor, waved goodbye to our “home’ for a month and made way south to no name harbour, a little anchorage on Biscayne Bay right next to the channel for the gulf stream. It is a favorite jumping off point, and with a perfect weather window for crossing it was quite full, Aviator and Madame were leaving at 300am, so we set the alarms, but didn’t sleep, and made way out the channel at 3;05 wednesday morning.
We got out of Biscayne Bay and Hawks channel by 5:00am and were headed toward the gulf stream. We actually made excellent time, we had calm seas, not much wind but motored cross (like our friends told us to) and we spotted land ho by 12 noon! Bimini is a low Island but with the calm seas we spotted it well offshore, James and Michael raised the Q flag.
It was our first time sailing in Bahamian waters- there is a saying about the color of the water in Bahama, “brown brown run aground, blue blue go on thru, white white you might be right”
We were quite nervous entering the channel, but the saying is right, blue water is deep water. We tied up to Sea Crest marina by 2:20, filled out the paperwork, Michael went ashore to customs and immigration and because of my very through paperwork was back with our one year cruising permit and freshly stamped for the first time passports in 15 minutes!!! Now THAT is efficient!!! Immigration only gave us 3 months on our visa but they said we could get three more months from another island.
We stowed everything on the boat, cleaned up, took showers and went for a walk, but not before James got a look at all of the fish swimming under the boat! The water is crystal clear! !
We spent five glorious days there, fishing and hunting for conch, we got a great lesson on how to get conch out and clean them from Mr. Woodrow, one of the workers at the marina, Mr. Pat kept pointing out the sharks to James, always a thrill and Mr. Bulla showed James how to clean a mahi and a grouper. These men make it look so easy, it is some of the hardest work I have ever seen.
There is a dialect in Bahama called Broken English, it is very hard to understand, even after four days there I still had to ask people to repeat themselves.
We found delicious Sweet coconut bread at the bread and slause house (not kidding), and the sisters market in Alicetown was was actually well provisioned with produce and other staples and quite inexpensive.
Shame on us for not realizing that everything was closed on Sunday! Oops! No bread for our passage! Bahamas is a predominantly Christian settlement. In every business there is a sign that says, no drinking, no smoking, no swearing. We did find one sign extremely amusing, it said No Pot Smoking, as if people needed the reminder…
I wasn’t going to write about this, but it is part of my experience, and I want to remember it, so here goes, I apologize if it makes people uncomfortable. I was surprised at the disparity between blacks and whites in the Bahamas. Clearly the whites are the business owners and property owners, and the blacks are the workers. There were shacks that I would classify as squalor, right next to big mansions, I mean ten feet away! It was shocking! The entire culture has a very Colonial feel still. One of the business owners I was speaking to referred to the black Bahamians as “the natives”…hmmmm…
anyways, just an observation, I think it made me a little uncomfortable, but everyone seemed ok with the status quo, so there you have it. I’m a visitor and will keep my mouth shut.
We met some great new friends, Brian and Nicole aboard starfish, starfish.blogspot.com, shared a great meal wit them and their doggies Dexter and Shrimpy,
We left Monday morning, the 28th to cross the Great Bahama Banks making way toward the Berry Islands. Again, leaving at 530 navigating the chanel in the dark, ad made way north around North Rock and east across the banks. The banks are boring, I wish in hindsight we had crossed them at night, but then James would not have caught the 36” Barracuda!!!! Great going James!!!! we are so happy the boy finally caught a fish! No eating of the barracuda though, but it was great fun catching him.
We anchored that night on the banks because we could see a storm brewing and didn’t want to be in the Tongue of the ocean (google this) during a storm. It was a rough night, lightning all around, 40 knot winds, seas were ok, but the anchor dragged and we had to motor into the wind all night Poor Michael! But he is such a trooper, and is so willing to be at the helm during times like this, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. The banks are quite shallow and we did not want to run aground.
Bouncing around in 10 feet of water with a dragging anchor , lightning and 40 knot winds for five hours is not fun. Michael said to me the next morning he wasn’t worried because lightning doesn’t strike twice!
Needless to say we made it through, the boat handled it like a charm, and so did we. There was a gorgeous rainbow the next morning., we hauled anchor and headed through northwest channel and over towards Berry Islands, we picked up a mooring at the Berry Island Club on Frazer Hog cay by noontime and promptly took a nap. We were exhausted. For other cruisers wanting to stop here, the club has increased the nightly mooring fee to $25.00 per night, wifi is 10$ an hour (!) and there is no laundry, but there are hot showers beachside!!!! They just replaced and supplemented all new moorings, 8000 lb concrete blocks.
And we made it here just in time, picked up our mooring and Tuesday night the winds started blowing from the east at about 30 knots steady!!! They have not stopped!!! Thank goodness for brand new 8000 lb mooring blocks! Our battery bank is loving all of this juice. Between the 2 solar panels and the wind we are keeping our 4 house batteries topped off all day and night running everything in our boat including the inverter!!!
James so far has caught a blue runner (a type of jack), barracuda and porgy. We had the blue runner for dinner last night, it was delicious!!!!
My internet access is spotty at best here, even with the Bahamian blackberry (no minutes on the phone though, too expensive) we bought one in Bimini and it has unlimited data and we can tether it but the Batelco tower is on the other side of the island and reception is bad. So for my friends expecting calls from me I will have a better connection in Nassau.
Our love to all, and more pics to come soon 🙂