Happy New Year from Adventures Await! We hope and pray your holidays were good and filled with joy!
If you have been following us on Facebook, you already have an idea of where we are and how we got here. If you are not following us on Facebook, feel free to do so as I post more frequent updates on there in between these longer blog posts. I think the best way to find us on Facebook is to search for us at “SV Adventures Await”.
Sorry about the Facebook plug there, but those following know we are in Bimini, Bahamas! Whew! And finally! We have always heard at times you have to wait quite a while for a weather window, and we now know that is very true. We had been ready for almost two weeks but the windows we thought could work closed on us, and we had to continue to wait.
In last week’s update I had shared we would be leaving Saturday night, Dec. 29, and head south toward Miami and then turn into the Gulf Stream to make the crossing. Well, that didn’t happen. The weather just did not look good in that the wind was too strong from the E and SE with waves that would not have been fun. What we ended up doing was to leave Ft. Lauderdale at 8 am on Sunday, Dec. 30, and headed to Miami to anchor at Marine Stadium just off the skyline of Miami. It was a trip of just over 30 miles and it went well. We had winds of 11 – 15 knots from the ESE and waves of 2 – 4 foot, with occasional 5 foot or a tad bigger. We even sailed with both sails and the engine off for quite a while on the trip! That was great! It has been quite some time since we have been able to do that.
We anchored for two nights in Marine Stadium, which is an anchorage area that at times is used for boat races and the Miami Boat Show in February. It is well protected and we were able to get Max ashore, which he appreciated. There were many boats anchored there; some just for the day/evening and many others for overnight and benyond. We read you can only stay there one night, but found out that isn’t correct. There were quite a few boats that looked like they had been there a long, long time. During our stay there Sharon did find another vet (sheesh!) to get Max’s Bahamas certificates back up to date. Because Bahamas say pets have to have a certificate within 48 hours of arrival, and Max’s first one was dated on Dec. 21, we decided to not push it and get it recertified. In between the first one and this one in Miami we also went to another vet in Ft. Lauderdale to get him micro-chipped as apparently that is a new law for entry into the Bahamas. Three vets – Max is sick of going to vets!
New Year’s Eve could have been very nice in Marine Stadium but we went to bed too early to see the New Year roll in. (Party Poopers!) We did hear fireworks and some celebrations, but didn’t get up to see them. Later that day, Jan. 1, we pulled up our anchor and headed to No Name Harbor to stage ourselves, once again, for our crossing to Bimini. We were now working with a weather router, Chris Parker, and he suggested it would be possible to cross on Wednesday, Jan. 2, but would be motoring straight into the wind the whole way with 3 – 4 foot seas. The other possibility was to wait until maybe Saturday or Sunday, but no guarantees if that could even work. So we opted to give it a go and cross on Jan. 2 and see how it went. We always had the option to turn around if it was too much. But we have motored into those kind of conditions before and knew although it would be comfortable that it would be doable.
No Name Harbor is only 6 miles south of Marine Stadium in Miami, but it is just that much farther south for the crossing as you go another 4 – 5 miles south upon leaving the harbor. The harbor was an absolutely delightful place to anchor with may boats and activity all around. We got in there early enough to find a spot to anchor, it filled up later in the day, and it was fun to watch the New Year’s Day festivities on boats and onshore.
Wednesday, Jan. 2, we woke at 3 am to get things set and ready for a 4 am departure. Another sailboat left just before us so it was good to see someone else giving it a go. We hailed them on the VHF a bit further out and they were indeed headed for Bimini too. As we cleared the harbor and set south-east it ended up being very, very dark out there in finding the channel clear to more open water. Of course it was 4 am, but it was much more difficult to find the channel even with the blinking markers as our perspective was so off kilter. But our chartplotter and Navionics helped make it with no major difficulties and we continued on. The wind was about 10 – 12 knots on the nose, but the waves were probably even larger than we anticipated. It was especially difficult in the dark as you couldn’t see where the waves were coming from to be able to quarter them. To say it was stressful is a bit of an understatement, but we persevered on.
Shortly after clearing the navigational markers/buoys, so around 4:45 am, we put the mainsail out to help the boat stabilize itself and not roll as much from side to side. It is always amazing at how helpful that is in smoothing things out. At this point we were headed at 130 degrees in heading south east. To head straight to Bimini from Miami would be a heading of 101 degrees (90 is straight east) but because the Gulf Stream is in between, which flows north at 3 – 4 knots, you try to get as far south as possible so when you exit the Gulf Stream you won’t have to head as far south east again. I hope all that makes sense.
Our weather router, Chris Parker, put together a detailed forecast and route for us which ended up being amazing. He was able to tell us where the Gulf Stream began and then to turn at that point to head on a 69 degrees true compass reading (versus magnetic compass reading) to a waypoint he gave us about 2/3 of the way through the Gulf Stream. In order to head to the 69 true reading we pointed the boat to 25 – 30 degrees more than that, so between 95 and 100 degrees, and we watched the boat actually move close to the 69 true as we went through the Stream. Because of the direction of the waves, however, we ended up heading closer to 90 – 95 degrees to hit the waves better instead of bashing. That put us north of our intended line a bit. But, don’t think we didn’t bash waves because we did! The waves were somewhat accurately predicted in the 3 – 4 foot range, but especially in the first couple of hours and in the last couple of hours we were into 4 – 6 foot waves and believe us when we say our bow was in the water – a lot! We had lots of water spraying over the front of the boat. Interestingly, the winds were still only in the 12 – 14 knots, with occasional gusts to 16 – 17 knot, range but the waves were still that size. It may have actually been better to have had a bit more wind to allow the sail, which was out the whole trip, to work a bit more. We had it sheeted in pretty tight because the wind was from the nose, but it was off the port side a bit and helped somewhat.
We followed the route from Chris and exited the Gulf Stream about 4 – 5 miles north of where he routed – again, because we chose to try and mitigate the wave action a bit – and we then headed south east maybe 6 miles or so to the Bimini harbor entrance.
I know this is getting a bit longer, but it was a trip worth writing about. And I always wondered in my head what it would be like in the Gulf Stream vs. not being in the Gulf Stream. I thought the temperature would increase dramatically in the stream, which it didn’t, we would pick up in speed right away and that it would be so different than other waters we have sailed in. But because of the wave action I think we missed some of those things I thought it would be. When we turned north, the goal being to go with the northern flow and get out of the Stream as soon as possible instead of heading more south and staying in the Stream, I thought our speed would pick up dramatically. But it really didn’t at first. Again because of the waves we were only going maybe 5.2 – 5.4 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground) with an actual boat speed of around 6.3 – 6.5 knots. When we turned more north, from the 130 degrees to about 95 degrees, we only picked up to 5.7 – 5.8 knots SOG. We left our boat engine RPM at 2400 throughout the trip so it wasn’t working terribly hard, which is good.
However, as we figured out how to hit the waves better and headed even more north, closer to 90 degrees and sometimes less, it was eventually clear at how even a 10 degree turn helped our speed. We did end up going at times in the 7.7 – 8.0 knot range as we neared the middle of the Stream because we were going more with the northern flow rather than fighting it as much. Our boat speed remained in the middle 6 knot range, but the SOG is what picked up. As we neared the exit of the Stream our SOG slowly decreased, and when we headed more southeast we were able to still maintain a semi-decent speed.
So I guess the Gulf Stream did end up being what I thought it would do, but because we were bashing around it wasn’t as dramatic. Hope that makes sense. Oh, the temperature only went up maybe 3 or 4 degrees, but that was it.
I promise I’m almost done, but just wanted to add a couple of things. We were beat when we arrived at Bimini. I went to Customs and Immigration and they cleared us all in no problem. They looked at Max’s certificates but didn’t spend much time on them to check dates! At Immigration, probably because it was still the holiday season, the Immigration Officer on duty was only allowed to grant 90 day allowances into the country because her rank was not high enough to give more. This means within three days of April 2 we will have to find another Immigration site and ask for an extension. Oh well, we’ll have to deal with it, but it would have been so much easier to get the 180 day pass even if we don’t use all of it. We certainly will be here longer than 90.
We are at a great marina here in Bimini called the Bluewater Marina. This is more than likely the last marina we’ll stay at in quite some time. We will probably stay here another day or two in order to figure out the phone system here, particularly in being able to get weather, and in enjoying the area. I think I can get a different SIM card for my phone in order to get on the Batelco phone network. But I think we will primarily do communications throughout our stay in the Bahamas via WiFi when we can find it. That may mean my regular postings may end up being more infrequent as we don’t know when we’ll have WiFi. But I will do the best I can.
When we leave here, probably Saturday, we will head south toward Gun Cay and either anchor there overnight or just head east over the Grand Bahamas Bank. We will anchor overnight out there somewhere – it’s almost 80 miles across and only up to 12 feet deep so you can drop your anchor along the way, as long as you stay out of the way of other boats! – and then head to Chub Cay which is the southern part of the Berry Islands. Eventually we will head to Eleuthera and then to the Exumas. Who knows from there!