Welcome to the Bahamas, now leave?
December 23, 2018
We left at 4am from Fort Lauderdale heading to Bimini, Bahamas. Tossing the lines was easy. Navigating out of the channel was easy. Getting around the massive cruise ships, not so easy.
Me: “Honey, is that a cruise ship?”
Erik: “Yep, that be a cruise ship.”
Me: “Is it underway?”
Erik: “Not sure…”
It was. And it was going pretty slowly too. Interestingly, there were guests along the balcony as our catamaran motored quietly next to it, about 20 yards off their port side. Later, after we’d cleared the channel entrance into the Atlantic, our friends Lynne and Darryl on S/V Open Agenda hailed us on the radio asking if that was us dancing with the cruise ship.
With our buddy boat nearby, we began the sail across the Gulf Stream. The seas were decent at 2-3 feet with occasional 4’ rollers on our beam, and the west winds were pretty light, which of course, is exactly what you want for an eastbound passage across the stream. With our jib up, we made decent time and were pretty excited when we finally saw land a mere 10 hours later.
Our buddies approached the inlet before we did and we got to learn from their route what to avoid – and together, we made our way to the very end of North Bimini to anchor and begin the check in process with immigration and customs.
That was my birthday. I turned 53 in the Bahamas! As Erik took our papers and dinghy to get us settled, I pulled out the cigars and champagne. Not just any wine mind you, but a real bottle of champagne, one that I chose because a) it’s French, and 2) it had cute little anchors on it.
While waiting for Erik to return, I tidied up the boat, prepped our evening meal, and watched sunset. And then I listened to four episodes of 2 Dope Queens because he still wasn’t back. Champagne back in the fridge.
As twilight turned into night, I was getting really worried. We didn’t have any way to reach each other. Erik had his Google Fi phone, but my iPhone didn’t have an international plan. We hadn’t thought to have a hand-held radio with each of us, nor did either of us recall that we have unlimited text messaging with our satellite Iridium Go system. As Lynne returned to her boat, I kept my eyes peeled for Erik. It was a gorgeous sunset though…
Another episode of 2 Dope Queens and I finally saw the running lights on our old dinghy approach in the pitch dark. Sighing heavily with relief, and squealing with excitement, I greeted him and hugged him, and thanked God he made it back safe. Turns out, he lost power to the dinghy motor and was being swept west with the current. He’s a MacGyver though, so he used a shoestring and a sticky note to fix whatever problem he’d encountered.
We were officially ex-pats now. Six months here in the Bahamas. After drinking our champagne and smoking our cigars, we enjoyed a fantastic steak dinner and slept soundly.
The next morning, we had to go back to the immigration office for one small little left out detail, but instead of taking the dinghy back there, we decided to dock her nearby and walk the 40 minutes downtown. Get some exercise, see some local sights. Also, buy a Bahamas phone!
All in all, I’m pretty happy to say that I hit my 10k steps before my first meeting that day. Which, by the way, I took from a bench under the gorgeous Bahamas sun. It was surreal.
As we got back into our dinghy to get back to the boat, we idly chatted with a fisherman who was fileting his catch. With a nonchalant shrug he exclaims “time to feed the sharks” and tossed the remains right next to our dinghy. Which we were sitting in. And where we saw a bull shark swim toward us, snout out of the water, catching the fish.
North Bimini is home to some 16 bull sharks who apparently are pretty tame because the fishermen are so generous. The next day, I joined Open Agenda and we went to watch the sharks swim. It was pretty cool.
A sailor always watches the weather, and does so at various times repeatedly throughout the day. By Tuesday morning, the forecasts for the area were looking pretty bad. A wind storm was approaching and without good protection from the easterlies, we’d be incredibly uncomfortable. We decided to go wait out the storm in Great Harbor Cay, which is one of the best hurricane holes in the Bahamas. We left that afternoon with high tide, around 4p for the 16-hour sail south.
As you may know, I don’t care for night sails. With all the problems we’d had sailing from Virginia to Florida, I was getting incredibly anxious about this sail. But a funny thing happened: nothing. No drama as we made our way across the Bahama Bank. No engine issues. No loss of autopilot. There were fluffy clouds so close I could touch them, and a nice full moon to keep the seas lit up. I actually enjoyed that sail. Sunrise was beautiful as well. That helped!
The people who run the marina are incredible. They offered us use of their bicycles, offered us fresh baked coconut bread, and let us know that the fishermen would be back around 5p, in case we wanted to buy some fresh caught fish and lobster. In fact, they delivered the bread to us and reminded us when the fishermen got back so we could hurry down the dock in search of freshness. We ended up buying two big fat lobster tails (for just $20 total – which is expensive by Bahamas standards but worth every buttery dime!)
By Thursday, the winds were picking up quite a bit and we did our storm prep just in case, and we are thankful to say that inside the safe harbor of the marina, we didn’t see much in terms of high winds. Maybe low 30s. Then again, our Windex is on the fritz so who knows how much wind we really had.
Turns out a lot of folks we follow on Instagram were in this same hidey-hole. Shortly after we arrived, a couple came by to say hi and told us they follow us – it was HowNotToSailABoat. Very nice couple – hope we run into them again.
We also got to spend more time with Open Agenda, and new friends on S/V Bella Cay. After 5 nights on the dock, and $10 for one load of laundry, which by the way, I’m gonna tell you right now, washing your clothes by hand in a bucket isn’t that hard, I’ve done it and won’t pay $$ on laundry services again (well, at least for some time), it was time to make our way further south before the next front arrived.
On Sunday, we headed out for a 6-hour sail to Rose Island, where we thought we’d be protected from the high winds, swells, and surge. We were wrong. Very wrong.
Next: It’s a rock-and-roll Christmas