Happy Thanksgiving Day from the Bahamas! We had wondered way back when if we’d be able to reach the Bahamas by Thanksgiving. Now we know we can as we are here. We are anchored off the south-west side of New Providence Island and will wait here until higher north winds predicted for tomorrow subside. We plan on going to the top of the Exuma chain on Saturday, as the winds and waves won’t be as bad, and then will find a place to “hide” from higher west winds predicted for Monday. We should be able to find such a spot by Allan’s Cay, which we believe to be one of the most idyllic spots in the Exuma chain. Good place to hide from winds! It’s also by Leaf Cay which is known for its iguana beach.
Last week I wrote the post from Ft. Lauderdale. We were there for just two nights and went straight to No Name Harbor to make the crossing to Bimini. We didn’t think we would be able to cross that quickly as last year we ended up waiting for two weeks for a weather window, but in using our weather router again, Chris Parker, it ended up being good to cross already. We almost left straight from Ft. Lauderdale and going straight to the Barry Islands to check in to the country, but Chris suggested we go back to our original plan of leaving from Miami/No Name Harbor, which is what we did.
So last Saturday we left Ft. Lauderdale, went offshore and after fueling up in Miami we anchored just outside No Name Harbor to be ready for the next morning. As it was a Saturday and great weather, mid-70’s and sunny, No Name Harbor was full of boats which is why we anchored outside. It also gave us an easy way to leave early the next morning. Last year we made the crossing on Jan. 2, and left at 4 am. We remember it being so dark and crazy out there we vowed not to do that as early again. So we planned on leaving at 5:30 am the next morning to take advantage of at least some light as the sun was starting to come up. It ended up being a great way to do it that way!
I just have to make mention of the sensory overload we experienced going through the Miami area. As we entered Government’s Cut from the ocean into Miami we were pummeled by sounds of loud boats, ships, helicopters and obnoxious music from boats all around. Even at the marina where we refueled stereos were blaring and noise was deafening all around. There also is a long run right along the edge of Miami you have to take and we ended up slowly passing a huge yacht that had at least a dozen people dancing on the back to very loud music on the boat. Maybe because we have been used to it being so peaceful and quiet is why it was so crazy but it was overwhelming. We longed to get out of all that.
So on Sunday we pulled up our anchor and headed to Bimini. Our plan was to stop in at Bimini and check into the country of Bahamas but that plan soon changed. Chris Parker made mention in his customized forecast for us that the building waves may make entering the harbor of Bimini unpassable, and indeed that was the case. We started out the passage in relatively decent weather. It was already 77 degrees and the sunrise at 6:44 am was beautiful with a nice 9 – 11 knot south-east wind over our starboard stern. By 6:20 am we had our headsail out and were making a great 7.2 knot/hour SOG with the engine still going. By 7:00 am the winds were picking up a bit more and we were into 3 – 4 foot waves from the starboard beam making it uncomfortable. We pulled in the headsail and put out the mainsail (still so cool I can pull the main out so easily!) which helped stop the rolling a bit.
By 8 am the wind had picked up to 15 – 16 knots from SE, off our starboard aft, but we were able to make 7.6 knots/hour SOG, so it was ok. And then by 10 am the wind was 17 – 19 knots with 4 – 6 foot waves. Chris had suggested the wind would pick up throughout the day but we didn’t think it would happen this early. It was quite uncomfortable moving around inside the boat with the side to side rolling but we were making great time, so that certainly helped. Because of the waves we decided to forgo stopping in at Bimini and Sharon found an anchorage area on the north east side of the island where we would find protection from the wind and swells, so we headed north. That actually was to our advantage as by this point we were in the middle of the Gulf Stream and by pointing our bow 5 – 10 degrees north, instead of straight east, we were able to increase our SOG from mid-7’s to 8.4 knots/hour. Because it was quite uncomfortable on the boat our goal was to get the crossing over as quickly as possible, so the speed was great! The wind also picked up to 20 – 22 sustained so that pushed us along as well.
By 1:45 pm already we reached the north east side of Bimini and put our anchor down in calm, protected waters. Whew! We ended up crossing the 57 miles in great time, which was ok with us because of the rolling around. As the waves were more off our stern quarter we didn’t end up banging at all over the waves, which I really appreciate as I hate it when we do all that banging. But we still moved all over. By the end of the afternoon there were at least three other boats that anchored nearby as well in seeking protection. Shortly after anchoring we got some rain, but that was great to wash some of the salt off the boat from the spray.
Monday morning we pulled up anchor by Bimini and started across the Great Bahama Banks, which is a trip of about 80 nautical miles. The wind changed direction overnight and was now coming from the north but the most we saw all day was it being 15 – 17 knots. We ended up with both sails out and we flew! The Great Bahamas Bank is a massive area that is only 12 – 15 feet deep so at the end of the day, which ended up being about 63 miles, we just stopped the boat, threw out our anchor and spent the night. How cool is that?!
I have to just comment on that night spend on the Great Bahamas Bank. It is hard to describe how serene and beautiful it was. While we were semi-near N. Andros Island we couldn’t see any land at night all around us, there were no other boats around and the stars were beyond describable. With no other light pollution the stars were so bright and the Milky Way was so clear to see. We just sat in awe on the bow of the boat looking up and marveled at all God had created and put there for us to see.
Thankfully the wave swells did settle down a bit for the night and we actually slept quite well out there in the middle of nowhere! Tuesday morning we pulled up our anchor, which was still so cool to be able to see in the blue amazingly clear waters, and we headed for a quick stop at Morgan’s Bluff on N. Andros to check into the country. Apparently this was a good place to check in, and all you have to do is stop at the harbormaster’s office and they call Customs and Immigration to come down and check you in. That is indeed what we did, and even though we had to wait about an hour for them to show up they soon had us checked in and set. I do have to say the Customs/Immigration guy there was not a guy I would like to work with again. He was quite brusque and obviously not happy he had to come and check us in. And he ended up giving us a stay of only 30 days, even though it is customary to get 90 – 120 days at least. How crazy! We will be in Georgetown by then to get an extension, but it just seems so dumb that they would even write a stay for such a short period of time. He said that was all he was authorized to give. Right!
Anyway, we left Morgan’s Bluff after getting checked in and headed to West Bay on the west side of New Providence Island where we stayed for two nights. We even got the chance to go for a wonderful walk ashore, something Max especially appreciated! Part of that walk was going to Jaws Beach, and then around the corner to Flipper Beach where apparently a lot of the TV show Flipper was filmed years ago.
Because we were experiencing a swell that was wrapping around into West Bay we decided this morning to move about 5 miles around the bottom of New Providence Island to where we are now anchored. Hopefully as the wind picks up in the next couple of days we won’t experience an uncomfortable rolling of the boat from a north swell.
To celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the boat we did a video WhatsApp call with our kids and had a wonderful time talking with them! Sharon also baked a delicious pumpkin pie that we will enjoy later, and our ham sandwiches were tasty as our Thanksgiving Dinner. But most important was that we gave thanks to God for the amazing things, places, people and experiences we have been privileged to see on this adventure. And we know there are more to come!