Friday, February 25, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Yesterday afternoon we arrived in the Exumas after a wonderful 33 hour sail from Bimini. We left Bimini at dawn and motored south straight into 15 knots of wind. The waves were steep and right on the nose, but fortunately this was just for a few miles as we made our way to Gun Cay where we would turn East onto the shallow waters of the Great Bahamas Bank.
Once on the shallow smooth waters of the Great Bahamas Bank, we had wind on our beam. We shut off the motors and blew across the banks at 7-8.5 knots. It was a fantastic sailing day. With only 3 to 15 feet of water under our keel, I kept a close eye out for coral heads, but never had to change course to avoid them. We were following a route from the Explorer Chart Book and this is well traveled route we found it to be carefully plotted to avoid the hazards. I saw many coral heads on the banks, but all passed safely to either side of us.
I was very pleased with Mirasol’s performance. Even loaded down with every cabinet stuffed to overflowing with provisions and gear, we were able to overtake a monohull with a 10 mile lead and keep ahead of a larger catamaran following behind, although he would have overtaken us if he had a few more hours.
At sunset, we left the 6 to 20 foot water of the banks and entered the Tongue of the Ocean which is the deep water between the Great Bahamas Banks and New Providence. The drop-off is sudden – our depth finder which has a range of more than 350 feet and measures every second, lost the bottom with the last reading being 24 feet. A glance at the chart we were suddenly in 2600 feet of water, and would soon be in water over a mile deep. The topology of the Bahamian waters is simply amazing.
Over night, we sailed most of the way across the Tongue of the Ocean. The sky was clear and the moon was out so it was a bright passage. The wind settled down to about 8 knots, and we were fighting a 1.5 knot current so our progress was a modest 4.5 knots through the water and 3 knots over ground. It worked out just right, though as we arrived off of Paradise Island, New Providence just before dawn and would need daylight to pick our way onto the Yellow Banks just past New Providence.
As we approached New Providence, we could see the lights of the massive Atlantis Resort and other hotels on Paradise Island, and kept an eye out for the many passing cargo and cruise ships. At first light we picked our way through the scattered Cays and coral heads that guard the north east corner of New Providence and turned south onto the Yellow Banks. The Yellow Banks, like the Great Bahamas Bank is a huge expanse of very shallow water, generally less than 20 feet deep that runs the entire western length of the Exumas.
By mid afternoon on Friday we made Highborne Cay in the Exumas, which was where we had planned to anchor for the night. However, as we approached we learned that the cold front we expected to arrive the following evening had sped up and was now expected that night. The anchorage at Highborne Cay didn’t offer much protection from a strong North wind, so we changed plans and headed a couple hours further south to Shroud Cay.
The Shroud Cay anchorage is gorgeous, dotted with tiny cays surrounding Shroud Cay on the East and the turquoise waters of the Yellow Banks on the West. At Quinn’s suggestion, we toasted our arrival in the Exumas and then went about the business of squaring away Mirasol after a passage. By sunset the three of us were lounging on the bow, very happy to be back.
We spent four days and five nights in Bimini at the Blue Water Marina while we waited for weather for our hop to the Exumas. We spent the time exploring Alice Town, building sand forts on the beach, fishing off the boat and a little minor boat maintenance here and there.
We had arrived on the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday and Jen was happy to find that the owners of The Big Game Club marina were big Packers fans and were hosting a Super Bowl BBQ. Late Sunday afternoon we headed for the Big Game Club, both Jen and Quinn sporting their Packer gear. Since the Bears didn’t make it, I settled for cheering for the Packers, but refused to wear any Packers gear. The waitress at the door harassed me a bit for being a Bears fan, but let me in anyway. The BBQ was fantastic. Jen went for the chicken, Quinn for the ribs and I for the jerked pork loin. Delicious! Bahamians know how to throw a BBQ! Since the Packers won the big game, we celebrated with a big slice of chocolate cake, probably the last desert of that type we’ll find for a few months.
Monday Jen went searching for sea glass while Quinn and I built a huge sand fortress, complete with an outer wall, a moat, and a secret escape tunnel in the back. It has been many months since Quinn’s been on a beach like this and he put it to good use!
Alice Town was a pleasant place to visit, with very friendly locals. Quinn made several friends, including Craig, the BBQ master & bartender at the Big Game Club. The town is well kept and painted bright pinks, blues, and yellows. I was sorry to find that the Complete Angler Hotel where Hemmingway spent a lot of time had burnt down in 2007. Maybe I’ll read Old Man and the Sea again soon.
We’re back in the Bahamas!
The crossing from Miami to Bimini was bouncy but pretty quick. We were in a pack of six boats making for various entrance ports of the Bahamas so we had plenty of company. We worked our way slowly through the pack and were the first of the three boats to arrive at Bimini. Not that it was a race…
On arrival at the cut between North and South Bimini, we found that the entrance did not resemble our electronic or paper charts. There were two large brand new channel buoys that were not on our charts and none of the buoys that were on our charts. The only thing that seemed in agreement was the note about shifting sand bars on the charts and the breakers we were seeing just beyond those fancy new buoys. We motored very slowly between the entrance buoys and confirmed the water in front of us was full of breakers so we turned around and headed back out to deep water to regroup and visually plan our route in.
We were hailed by another boat that just arrived who wanted to know what we found in the cut. They had been here before, but said the markers were all new. They had waypoints plotted from their last visit, so we let them lead the way. As we headed in, we were hailed by someone with local knowledge who advised us to ignore the new buoys and head straight towards the southern shore and follow the beach in through the cut. On the bow, Jen said that route looked the best and we headed that way. The boat we were following didn’t heed these instructions, I assume being more comfortable with their old waypoints, and ran afoul of one of the sandbars. They were being very cautious so didn’t ground hard and were quickly moving again. We both then followed the beach in through the cut and were safely in the North Bimini channel off of Alice Town.
We took a slip in Blue Water Marina, cleared Bahamas Customs and Immigration, and settled in for a relaxing evening.