Dec 22 to Dec 31 2011

December 22 to December 23, 2011 

We made our way to Hurricane Harbour instead of No Name Harbour since it looked a little easier to get out of in the dark. We arrived around 1230hrs with plenty of time to get an updated weather report and prepare Diana for the ocean passage.

 

Steve and I have a good routine – he does the deck work and I do the cabin work. Within a few hours we were all set, anti-nausea patches in place and ready to have a spaghetti supper then take a short nap.

 

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Miami Skyline – heading to Hurricane Harbour

 

Crossing the Gulf Stream can be tricky. Proper planning, accurate weather information and navigation are essential to cross safely and efficiently. I’ll explain how the Gulf Stream flows and what our strategy will be.

 

The Gulf Stream runs north, up through the Atlantic. It can push anywhere between 2-4kts!! Now, because the Gulf Stream runs North, we want to be more south of our destination so we can use the momentum of the gulf to help us to our destination.

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This is why we are in Miami and headed to Bimini. The other thing we need to take into account is the wind direction. Since the current runs North, it’s important not to cross the gulf in any winds with a Northerly component. A north wind builds up the seas making the crossing very uncomfortable and very difficult for a little boat like ours. Tonight through to tomorrow, the winds are supposed to be light - ESE to SSE 5-15 kts – which is good enough for us.

We should start to feel the effects of the Gulf Stream about two miles east of a place called Fowey Rocks (there is a light house there only). This passage should take anywhere between 12 to 14 hours. It was advised to schedule our arrival into the Bahamas in full day light for ease of navigation. The channels are sometimes not clearly marked but the water is so clear that we should be able to see the bottom in full daylight and be able to navigate our path. Fingers crossed!!

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Up at 2230hrs and on the water by 2330hrs – a half hour early J

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Miama Skyline at night on our way out of Hurrican Harbour - we could see the Miami lights for up to 20 miles offshore!!

Getting out of Hurricane Harbour and our route to Fowey Rock is a little hairy to say the least. It’s a narrow channel with shallow water on either side…so we DO NOT want to make a mistake.

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The tan part is Key Biscayne. At the top left side of the Key you can see “Hurricane Hbr” -where we were anchored for a few hours to get ready for the crossing. Towards the bottom of the map, you can see the channel marked with red triangles – this is our channel out to sea!!

Not all buoys were lit so we had to rely on the chart plotter to show us we were close to a marker, then we would flash a light in that general direction to find them in order to make sure we were on the right track. I must say – we did great!! We were stressed but we made it safely to Fowey Rocks.

From Fowey Rocks we angled the boat in a more southerly direction for about 6 hours. We then angled the boat back on course towards Bimini using the momentum of the Gulf Stream to our advantage. The first 6 hours we averaged anywhere between 2.8 to 3.8 kts. By the time we angled north our speed climbed to 4.5kts and the closer we got the Bimini the faster we went topping off at 6kts.

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LAND HO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you squint your eyes you can see Bimini in the distance J

The crossing went very well. The wind was bang on East the entire time, meaning we couldn’t sail only motor. We did have a sail up for stability as the seas were roll-y most of the night. A few interesting things happened this evening:

·         We saw the biggest and brightest meteor we have ever seen soar across the star filled sky. I was sure it was a UFO with little green men ;)

·         We saw three cruise ships cross our path and one big tanker – slightly nerve wracking in the dark

·         The phosphorescence in the water. There is a type of plankton that when they are disturbed they glow. You can imagine every time that Diana crashed into a wave the sea glowed with little specs of light – spectacular!

·         A flying fish landed right in our cockpit. The funny part was that Steve nor I noticed which makes no sense since we were both in the cockpit together the entire night – awake. At one point Steve asked me if I smelled fish, I replied that I didn’t then made some joke that he was hallucinating from lack of sleep. When the sun started to come up, I saw the poor little thing, dead and stiff on the cockpit floor – LOL!!! I guess he wasn’t hallucinating J

And then the water changed colour…

This is probably the most beautiful thing I have seen so far. I now know what it feels like be in paradise!!!  I’ve seen pictures, people have told me how beautiful it is but when you see it first hand – it is simply amazing and my pictures do not do it justice…

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I think I’ve had a similar picture on my desktop at work for the past three years – now I’m seeing it in person – AMAZING!!

By 1130hrs, we were slowly making our way into the entrance to Alice Town, South Bimini. We had our course mapped out but noticed another sail boat taking a different route. We watched him for a while wavering on whether we should follow or not until we noticed that he wasn’t moving. In fact the boat was rocking from side to side signaling that he had run aground. Steve and I quickly altered course to our original plan – went very, very slow through it and arrived at the customs dock by 1200hrs. I hoisted our quarantine flag while Steve changed out of his dirty ocean crossing clothes into clean ones to make himself presentable for the customs office. Only the captain was allowed off the boat to do the deed. An hour and a half later, he emerged from the customs office with a cruising permit and fishing license until July 2012 and a visa for 90 days. We must report to an immigration office a few days before the visa expires to renew. YAY!!! We made it and are clear to explore this beautiful paradise!

We needed fuel next so we headed to the only Marina that sold diesel – Blue Water Marina. We fueled up and were advised by some fellow cruisers that this was a great place to tie up for a few days and the rates were the cheapest - 1$ a foot. DONE! We arranged for a slip, tucked Diana in for the night, showered, checked email, ate a massive breakfast then relaxed for the rest of the day...meaning we were out cold within minutes after we ate.

December 24, 2011

 

We can hardly believe it is Christmas Eve. It is certainly not the feeling we usually have waking up on Christmas Eve. No snow storms or driveways to shovel, no last minute shopping, no drive to work, no baking or turkey to cook…for us we woke up to this…

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We decided to stay a couple of days to explore Bimini. It would be a shame to leave without at least taking a walk.  Plus we have met some really nice cruisers. Our dock neighbours; Lance and Marie from New Zealand on a trawler called Amanzi.

There are many sailors here from Canada. One boat has a young couple with their three young kids on board (brave parents). And, Marie-Christine and Mario who we met in Ft Lauderdale arrived this afternoon J

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We are in Alice Town which is the Capital of Bimini, Bahamas. Bimini is comprised of two major islands, North and South Bimini. This island chain is the most westerly of the Bahamian islands and the closest to the U.S. mainland – approx. 50 miles.

 

Bimini is nestled between the Gulf Stream and the Great Bahama Bank and has a total land mass is about 9 ½ square miles with a population of about 1600 people.

A short history of the Bahamas (information from sign posted outside of Visitors Centre)

 

800’s: Tainos (Lucayans), from South America begin to settle in the Islands.

1492: Christopher Columbus makes his first landing in the New World in the Bahamas

1500’s: The Spanish deport the Lucayans to Hispaniola as slaves

1647: English and Bermudian religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, establish the first European settlement in The Bahamas.

1648: “The Golden Age of Piracy” dominates the islands until the mid 1700s

1666: Colonization of New Providence Island begins.

1717: The Bahamas become a British Crown colony. Woodes Rogers is appointed first royal governor and eradicates piracy.

1782: Spain occupies the islands

1783: Spain cedes The Bahamas to Britain. British Loyalists and their African slaves begin to establish plantations.

1834: The emancipation Act grants freedom to all slaves.

1861: Bahamians aid the Confederates during the American Civil War and are blockaded by Union Forces.

1940-45: The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VII of Great Britain, abdicates his throne and is appointed governor of The Bahamas. The islands serve as a sea and air way-station for Allied forces during World War II.

1964: The Bahamas is granted self-governance.

1967: Lynden Pindling becomes the first black Premier in the islands’ first legislative elections.

1969: Official status is changed from British colony to Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

1973: The Bahamas gain independence.

1992: Hubert Ingraham becomes Prime Minister, ending 25 years of rule by the Progressive Liberal Party.

2000: Sir Lynden Pindling dies

2001: Dame Ivy Dumont become the first female Governor-General

2002: Perry Christie becomes the third Prime Minister of The Bahamas

2007: Hubert Ingraham is reelected Prime Minister.

Now that we are all a little more knowledgeable about the history of this beautiful place, it’s time to take a look around.

So, we found this view walking through a narrow dirt road over a hill… 

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Then we walked down the hill and found this…

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Then I took more shots of the ship ‘cause is so COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The rust colour of the aging ship against the blue water was simply amazing!!

We made a date to spend Christmas day here J

We walked the entire island today. Bimini has one main street and a few side streets – that’s about it.

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Most of the transportation is by golf cart and the occasional car or truck. There was a lot of traffic today as the cargo ship came in delivering goods. The most memorable golf cart contained 4 men in their late 20’s drinking beer and a bottle of scotch. They must have driven down the strip three times, honking their horns and shouting at people. Very festive J

 

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Narrow main street of Bimini.

 

I definitely get the feeling that I’m in the islands mon J

 

Along our route, we noticed these little huts with mounds of conch shells behind them.

 

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Conch Shell Mountain

 

We finally stopped at a little shack by the sea that claimed to have the best conch salad. “25 years experience!!”

 

Conch salad is the signature Bahamian dish made from raw conch, tomatoes, peppers, onions garlic powder and lime juice. Steve had to try it!

 

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And it WAS delicious!! The guy was amazing. He pulled the fresh conch (still moving) out of the water – tapped it a couple of times to prove it was still alive. He tenderized it, then sliced it and diced it along with tomatoes, peppers, onions. Then he sprinkled garlic powder and lime juice – tossed it and voila! Conch Salad. I did try it (When in Rome!) and it was tender and tasty but that was the extent of my raw fish adventure – Steve ate the rest. I did however, try the Bahamian Beer called Karib – it was tasty too J

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At the beach…

 

We read that a famous boat builder lived and built his boats here. On our way back we noticed his shop and stopped in.

 

His name is Cpt. Ansil Saunders and his hand crafted boats are called The Bimini Bonefisher Mahogany Wood Boats – and they are pretty!!

 

Cpt. Saunders is a very knowledgeable man with an extensive history in Bimini and he’s pretty famous too. He showed us many pictures with taken with celebrities like the Miss Universe Pageant Contestants. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote the Sanitation Workers speech from one of his boats while Cpt. Saunders took him for a ride to get closer to nature. His brother wrote the history of Bimini and he also wrote a poem for Dr. King, recorded it and is selling it along with the book his brother wrote. It was a little too expensive for us and he joked that we must be sailors since sailors never have any money. He did perform the poem for us and it was quite powerful. I’m sure it moved Dr. King.

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One of his boats in production, notice the different types of wood.

 

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Completed. Shiny and beautiful!!

 

All his boats are custom handmade and can cost up to 40k.

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Steve and Cpt Saunders.

 

We then headed back to the marina for dinner and drinks.

 

HOW COULD I FORGET TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE SHARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At our marina, the first day I saw

the biggest fish I have ever seen – a five foot Tarpon!! If that wasn’t crazy enough, the second day we noticed a gathering of people by the docks. We walked over to find out what the fuss was about and sure enough there were sharks in the water. BULL NOSED SHARKS big ones too – 6 footers – two of them EEKS!!! And a nurse shark…I couldn’t believe my eyes – I may never go swimming.

December 25, 2011

 

Merry Christmas from the Bahamas!!!!!

 

We began the day with sweet apple bread and Mimosa’s made with the champagne given to us by our friends Janet and Jacques from the RYC – thanks guys, it was delicious!!! I was saving it for just this occasion! J

 

I didn’t have any orange juice so I have made the Mimosas with Mango Juice. Now known as “Island Mimosas”. We shared them with our new friends from Amanzi – Lance and Mary, and Mario and Marie-Christine stopped by to have a glass on their way to church.

 

We then went to the Rusty Boat Beach for the afternoon to swim and enjoy the sun. We were joined by Marie-Christine and Mario and had a really nice afternoon.

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Our beautiful Christmas Tree made by Steve’s mom, Betty. It you look closely you’ll notice the decorations are little lighthouses, red balls, boughs and electric lights that shine in three different ways. We received many compliments on our beautiful little tree.

 

We enjoyed Christmas dinner on our own with lamb, stuffed peppers, grilled veggies and biscuits with a nice bottle of red wine “Prince Philippe” given to us by our friends Pat and Mike from Ottawa – it was the perfect addition to our meal – thanks J

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Christmas Dinner yum J

December 26, 2011

We were woken up at 0600 by loud drums…It’s Junkanoo!!!…well, sort of…

We heard of Junkanoo, which is a parade in the Bahamas held on Boxing day and on New Year’s Day. It’s a lot of drums. The festival is very big in Nassau but some of the smaller islands do a version of it as well.

This morning, I could hear drums in the distance. It took a few moments to wake from our slumber to realize what was happening. I quickly woke Steve and grabbed my camera…as did everyone else in the marina and headed for the street. It was dark but we could still make out a small parade of drums marching by.

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A small Junkanoo in Bimini

The weather prediction as of yesterday – light winds from E to NE for the next few days – we are planning to go to South Cat Island for a few days.

Amanzi left ahead of us and turns out we were headed for the same place, so we agreed to meet for drinks.

We then said good bye to our new friends and left the marina.

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The water is beautiful – lots of starfish clearly visible from the surface.

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The water is between 10 and 15 feet here – the sand is clearly visible!!

Light winds today, we sailed past Sopora - a visible ship wreck. There is supposed be excellent diving and snorkeling here but we were anxious to get to our anchorage.

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Sopora Ship wreck…in hindsight we regret not stopping…

Coming through the cut we noticed Amanzi preparing to anchor on the east side of the island. We radioed them to find out why and they said their weather prediction stated winds were becoming south to south west overnight (making our anchorage not so good). We told them our weather info and said we were going to stick with our plan. They ended up following us into our anchorage.

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An old lighthouse on our way into Cat Island

The bottom here is hard and very difficult to anchor in – but we managed to hold – we will set our anchor alarm tonight just in case we drag. Amanzi anchored further north as they could not set their anchor here. We agreed that drinks were out for the evening and got a rain-check.

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View of Cat Island from anchorage - not really exciting...

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View of the Atlantic from the Cat Island Anchorage - eeks!!

It’s a beautiful clear starry night. Winds are still blowing from the East meaning our anchorage is still pretty good. The anchorage was not what we expected – we are exposed to any winds coming from the South and West or any combination of the two. We are basically anchored on the Atlantic Ocean (which is pretty cool) but there is a slight swell. We are pretty happy with ourselves - Our first night at anchor in the Bahamas J

We had supper and quickly fell asleep.

December 27, 2011

0300hrs – we are woken up by a very rocky boat and it would appear that the winds have moved to the south. We quickly got up, got dressed and are in high alert to move if we have to. It would appear that Amanzi’s weather info was more accurate than ours.

  • Getting accurate weather information in the Bahamas is more difficult than we anticipated. The VHF is intermittent at best. When we get internet access, we have a variety of sources to get good weather information from but if we don’t get access then our information could be a day or two old. And things can change dramatically in the weather world in that time frame. We also bought a Grundig radio with a SSB receiver in order to pick up SSB broadcasts but have been unable to pick up any of the stations yet. Steve tried diligently every morning and night to pick up the frequency but with little success.

Tonight, it would appear that our information was a day behind. We checked the Internet on the 25th which predicted a cold front moving in with light to moderate winds from the East, North East for the next 4 days which was prefect for our intended anchorage at Cat Island and our passage to the Berry Islands. It appears the weather changed the morning of the 26th – what a difference a day makes.  Ok – lesson learned.

With the winds in a different direction it was only a matter of time for our anchor to start dragging. Just as we thought it, the anchor alarm went off. We had more anchor rode out than needed so we weren’t too worried. As the boat dragged in the new wind direction, the anchor reset but we definitely could not stay here any longer and needed to move as soon as the sun came up. So, while rolling around at anchor, we were able to pick up a VHF forecast in order to make a new plan. This was the new forecast for the next few days:

December 27, 2011

Chance of rain – 40%

Winds South 12 to 15 kts

Afternoon – chance of Thundershowers 20%

Winds South West 13-16kts moving West-North-West 19kts overnight.

December 28, 2011

Winds North 15-20kts moving to North-East by the afternoon 14kts, turning NNE 10-13kts overnight.

December 29, 2011

Winds NE 6-9 kts moving to ENE 7-10kts overnight.

December 30, 2011

Winds NE 8-11kts increasing to 14-17 knts overnight

December 31, 2011

Winds ENE…

This is a clear example of the winds “clocking” in a really short period of time. This is common in the Bahamas during the winter months and this first time we are experiencing it. YAY for new experiences!!! Unless we can find an anchorage that protects us from all sides – which we do not have at the moment – then we need to make a plan to move around a lot during the next 48 hours.

Our choices were as follows.

  1. Go back to Bimini and stay at the marina for the next three days.
  2. Anchor on the other side of Cat Island for the day, then come back to the Atlantic side when the winds clock North-East.
  3. Head for the Berry Islands.

We didn’t want to go back to Bimini and sit at a marina for the next three days. We didn’t really want to anchor on the other side of Cat Island, then move the boat back to our current anchorage with poor holding. So, we began to seriously consider making our way to the Berry Islands.

The first big problem was that the Berry Islands were about 80 miles away across the Bahamas Banks – sounds exciting right!?!? It did to us as well J The winds were not too high which meant it could be a great sail.

By 0630hrs we still weren’t sure which option to take and wanted to get a second weather report. As we were motoring out of our anchorage, we saw Amanzi doing the same. We had a quick chat over the VHF about the weather. They were able to get an internet connection, so we shared our forecasts and the forecasts were pretty much the same. They had decided to head for the Berry Islands and anchor on the Banks overnight. We told them we weren’t sure yet and wished them safe travels.

Steve and I looked at each other said – let’s head for the Berry Islands. We also thought that there might be some protection from the winds inside the Banks.

The Berry Islands are described in our Explorer Chartbook as “The lovely cays and harbours of the Berrys are generally underutilized as a cruising area. If the enticement of fewer boats and a better chance of finding a secluded anchorage appeal to you, this is a sojourn to jot down on your itinerary.” YES WE ARE ENTICED AND WANT TO GO J What a great place to start the New Year!?!??!?

We made our way to the East side of Cat Island. The water was much calmer and we were able to drop anchor to plot our course to the Berrys.

It is advised to sail in the Bahamas only during the daylight hours and to follow Visual Piloting Rules. This means: travel during the day, in clear sunlight under the best conditions in order to see everything in the water. Reading the water colour is key in the Bahamas; light aqua means the water is shallow, a dark spot could mean a grassy area or coral head and so on. Any cloud cover creates shadows in the water that can hide hazards. That being said, we didn’t feel comfortable navigating at night and needed to plan to anchor on the Banks overnight.

Our destination is Bullocks Harbour in the Berry Islands. The harbor offers an anchorage with good protection from the North and East winds. It also offers a marina in case the weather changes. We plotted a North East course across the Bahamas Banks in order to take advantage of the South to South-West winds. It’s a long route, about 80 miles. This means we will be making our way up through the middle section of the Bahamas Banks just south of the North West Passage. There is deeper water through this passage meaning less likelihood of coral heads or such hazards in the water to watch for.

The weather will not be ideal so we think this is the best route that takes advantage of the wind.

By 0900hrs the anchor was up, the sun was shining and we were off to the Berry Islands!!

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Beautiful day sailing on the Bahamas Banks

The winds continued to blow from the south most of the day. The water was much bigger than we anticipated - about six to eight foot waves. We put on our life vests and harnesses as we were about to get some serious sailing experience!

We had all our sails up and sailing over 5knts most of the day. It was a wild ride!! Within the first few hours - everything inside the cabin was everywhere and we were beginning to regret not putting the dinghy on deck. For some reason, we didn’t think this was going to be like an ocean passage. Our hasty decision to cross the banks was catching up to us and we needed to get the boat in order so we could enjoy the rest of the passage.

I quickly went to work inside the cabin securing what I could. Steve noticed by the afternoon that dingy was taking on water from the rolling waves and devised a plan to bring the dinghy along-side the boat in order to get in it to pump out the water while the boat was still moving. If we didn’t do something fast we risked losing the dinghy as the weight of the water filling it was straining the lines holding the dinghy to the boat. Fortunately, Steve has the dinghy painter attached to the transom of the dinghy which distributes the pull weight to the strongest point on the dinghy. This is the only reason the dinghy made it through this passage. **Never pull using just the dinghy bow fitting**

This manoeuver is not for the faint of heart. And although, this may sound scary, Steve and I had the situation well under control. We were calm and careful with every step so that Steve got safely in the dinghy and back on Diana in a timely fashion as this would be a manoeuver that would need to be repeated throughout the next 24 hours.

While Steve was dinghy-man, I was deck-girl!! My challenge was to get on deck to secure lines, sails and set the anchor while the boat rolls around in heavy seas. Having good balance (thank you Yoga), my safety harness and some courage (thank you hairy balls) was what I needed to get the job done.

We had planned to anchor near Mackie Shoal (25’ 41 00 N 78’ 39 00W). By 1600hrs we passed the shoal and anchored one mile south of it to be clear of any traffic and allow enough swing room for the clocking wind to the North.

It was quite the experience setting an anchor in such an exposed area with no land in sight. With Steve at the controls, I went to the bow of the boat to get the anchor ready. It was fairly easy to deploy given the bouncy water. I also tied a safety line to chain in case the rode breaks. This is good practice in rough water and will enable us to stay tied to the anchor if the main rode breaks.

As of 1700hrs the winds were still South. The shoal did offer a little protection from the building sea and the waves were about two feet. Steve secured the dinghy on the starboard side of the boat.

Once secured at anchor, we set the anchor alarm, washed up and changed out of our wet, salt encrusted clothes. Cooking was out of the question, so left over pasta salad for supper and a stiff drink was on the menu.

By 1900hrs the winds had begun to clock to the west. We tucked ourselves in to get what sleep we could as it was going to be a rough night and tomorrow is going to be a big day.

December 28, 2011

0000hrs we were woken up by our anchor alarm. Beep! Beep! Beep!

We didn’t actually drag anchor, the winds were clocking North West and the angle of the boat changed enough to set off the alarm. We poked our heads out to survey the area and noticed some ship traffic!! I guess people do sail out here at night! We spotted several boats crossing Mackie Shoal. Mackie Shoal is marked but it is also supposed to have a flashing light which appeared to be out. Our concern was that passing boats in the night would mistake our anchor light for the shoal light. As the boat bounced at anchor it could appear flashing depending on the angle of the other boat. We lit up our boat for the rest of the night with a second anchor light and turned on our deck light so we were clearly visible. After about an hour watch, we went back to bed. The alarm woke us once more around 0300hrs as the wind clocked to the North – again the anchor was holding great – it was our angle change that set off the alarm.

We did have a problem: The dinghy was banging up against the boat in a way which was not healthy for the dinghy. Steve added another line so it could float far enough behind us as not to crash into the back of the boat. Then back to bed we went.

By 0530hrs, I was up first. Steve was not far behind. I poked my head out and saw bright lights in the distance about a mile or so away. It appeared this boat was headed in our direction but I solicited a second opinion from Steve. Turns out, the navigation lights told us that the boat WAS headed in our direction. We watched in disbelief for a few more minutes as the lights got bigger. OK, it was time to hail the ship to make sure he knew we were at ship at anchor. Steve made us as visible as possible by turning on every light in the boat while I made several attempts to hail the boat on the VHF radio. After the third attempt a voice finally replied that he saw our boat and would be crossing our bow. Phieuf!!! No need for coffee this morning!!!

We then reeled in the dinghy to discover that we lost one of the paddles. Well, it could have been much worse, so we considered ourselves lucky to still have it floating behind us.

By 0630hrs we were ready to weigh anchor.

Our anchoring system consists of two Bruce anchors on a roller system. The main Bruce is tied to 60 feet of chain and 200 feet of rode. We also have a Danforth and a Fortress stowed away but handy enough to be deployed if needed. Our system is a manual one; meaning me or Steve must go to the bow of the boat to set and weigh anchor. I usually do this job while Steve works the controls to move the boat closer to the anchor so all I have to do is reel it in hand over hand with very little strain. It’s a little bit of exercise which I like and this morning I was in for work-out. Bruce and I were going to wrestle ;)

The winds were full on North and the waves were beginning to build. The boat was bouncing so much that the bow of the boat would submerge with every 3rd or 4th wave. I assured Steve that I would be fine, put on life jacket and harness and headed to the bow. As Steve motored the boat slowly toward the anchor, I was able to pull in the line between the waves. Things were going smoothly until I got to the chain section where I had tied the safety line. I tied a bowline to the eye of the line which deployed smoothly while setting the anchor but the knot was too big for the roller and jammed on its way back up preventing me from pulling in the rest of the chain. I had to somehow untie or cut the knot free in order to bring in the rest of the chain. In order to do either one of those things I needed to get closer to the knot which was about two feet from the bow. My first attempt, I got doused with a big wave and almost lost my glasses. (Pretty funny since I have already lost one pair to the sea…) Ok, new strategy, I carefully counted the waves and when there was a break I would lean over and begin untying the knot. Once it was free, I was able to start pulling up the chain. Bruce was fully dug into the bottom – especially after clocking all the way around – and was not coming up easy. Every time the boat dug into the wave, I would pull the chain in and secure it to the cleat using the momentum of the boat rising to pull at the anchor. For a moment or two, I thought we were going to have to cut this anchor free but a foot at a time, the anchor finally broke free. Steve yelled from the controls that we were finally moving and I was able to pull the rest of the chain in. When I saw that anchor I could have kissed it!! I secured it to the roller, re-organized the chain locker and secured the locker shut, then made my way shakily back to the cockpit to Steve with a face full of relief at my return. We got our bearings then made our way back on course towards the Berry Islands.

It was a sunny day and with the wind to the North about 15-20kts – as predicted! The waves were anywhere between 6 to 8 feet hitting us on the beam making this a big breaking sea. At times, the seas were 10 to 12 feet and waves would crash alongside drenching us from head to toe. We are getting used to bigger water and find these moments more exhilarating than terrifying. And sometimes a rogue wave would only get one of us to the amusement of the other. I like to call this phenomena being “bitch-slapped by the sea”.

Diana is amazing!! Other than a few leaks she has handle everything and we felt safe the entire passage. In fact, if we didn’t have the dinghy to worry about this would have been a really fun and interesting passage.

As the day progressed, we watched our poor dinghy fill with water and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it until we got into calmer waters.

By 1200hrs we could see the tip of Stirrup Cay – YAY!!!!!! We were exhausted and our bodies ached for a calm anchorage and hot meal.

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I’m tired and sticky…time to get to our destination!

1300hrs, the closer we got to the Berry’s the calmer the water got. It was finally calm enough to stop the boat for Steve to empty the dinghy. With the dinghy empty we could concentrate on getting into our anchorage.

The chart indicates markers, ranges and poles to guide us in but out of all of those there was only one pole in the water to help us.

By 1600hrs we navigated our way to our anchorage south of Cistern Cay near Rat Cay. It is a grassy area and we needed to find a little patch of sand to set our Bruce into. It only took two tries and we were safely anchored in front of the beach JDec_28_Anchorage_Bullocks_Harbour_1_resized.jpg

Anchored in Bullocks Harbour near a little beach :)

Before we could sit back, relax and revel in our accomplishment, the boat needed some attention. The cabin was a disaster and so was the deck. While Steve went to work on the deck; stowing sails, lines and setting up our shower, I focused on the cabin. Almost every piece of clothing and bedding was wet!! I stuffed everything into bags to be dealt with at a later time. Fortunately, I had two blankets and pillows dry which was all we needed.

We got cleaned up, ate a HUGE spaghetti meal, took a couple of Advils and were fast asleep by 1800hrs.

**A side note for anyone planning on doing a trip like this: We recommend having two additional items on your equipment list.

First, a Davit System for the dinghy. We talked about getting one but didn’t like the look the thing hanging off the back of the boat or want the extra expense. After this experience, we can clearly see how useful they are. When we noticed the water getting bigger, we could have easily brought the dinghy up out of danger using the davits instead of worrying about losing it, causing more damage to it or risking our safety trying to save it.

Secondly, a manual or electric windlass for the anchor. It would have been much simpler and safer to let the windlass be the muscle to weigh and set the anchor in a rough sea.

December 29, 2011

We slept 16 hours. Steve is feeling rejuvenated while I am having a post passage hangover. I’m grumpy and things can’t get cleaned fast enough but we don’t have the energy. Instead, we went for a dinghy ride to check out Bullocks Harbour.

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Shoreline of Bullocks Harbour

There is one other boat in this anchorage called Jolly Mon. Greg and Anna gave us the scoop on Bullocks Harbour. Greg described it “as a small outpost” with a few little bars, grocery store, school, liquor store and church. The Great Harbour Cay Marina was not far and the only place to do laundry – at 10$ a load (wash and dry!!) We made a plan to check out the marina tomorrow and dinghied to shore to walk around Bullocks Harbour.

The Bahamas so far have not been what we expected. We do get the relaxed island feel but like Bimini, Bullocks Harbor has many abandoned, run-down homes along the main road. We wonder what it would have been like in more prosperous times. The people are kind and easy to talk to when engaged but otherwise we are left to roam around almost unnoticed. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread then headed back to the dinghy. On our way back Steve introduced himself to a couple working in their yard. They were planting slow growing palms. They lived and worked as teachers in Nassau and this was their second home. They wanted to retire here in the Berry’s were it was quiet and away from the busy city. We understood completely. They recommended heading to the Exumas next with beautiful beaches and lots of places to snorkel.

We headed back to the boat for supper and rest.

December 30, 2011

Have I mentioned that I am grumpy yet and I hate laundry and it turns out that a disorganized dirty boat makes me crazy?!?!?! And yesterday we discovered the dinghy is leaking again.  So, before we can enjoy these islands, we need to do some work.

First thing this morning, we piled four garbage bags of laundry into the dinghy and made our way to the marina – about a 20 minute dinghy ride.

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Entrance to the Great Harbour Cay...it's interesting that these signs are new but there isn't a navigational marker in sight!

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Narrow entrance to the Great Harbour Cay…we will come through here with Diana tomorrow…eeks!! 

The marina was basically empty, we counted about 8 boats. It’s a big facility and well kept. We were unloading the bags on the dock when the dockmaster told us the washing machines were down and would not be back up again until the following day. Can you believe it!?!?!? He also advised us the machines were for marina guests only. Our guide said the slip fees were .90$ a foot so I asked just to confirmed…he sort of said 1.50, then said 1.75$ a foot!! I explained what my guide indicated and he replied he would make me a News Years deal and give us a slip for 1$ a foot. He also said they had a band coming in for New Year’s Eve and suggested we come and stay here. We told him we would think about it.

Discouraged, we loaded our laundry back into the dinghy and made our way back to the boat. I was determined to get laundry done machine or no machine!!! I needed a moment to myself and Steve really wanted to go for a dinghy ride to explore the beach a bit. We went our separate ways…I devised a three bucket system, one to soak, one to rinse and the last to rinse with fresh water. I then sorted my whites, grabbed one of my last cold beers and went to work.

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Bags of stinky dirty laundry…not my favorite thing…

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My sad attempt at doing some of it by hand…

Steve had a nice ride exploring the beach; he saw some fish, stirred up a manta ray and discovered a wreck. By the time he got back, two beers and one lost bucket later, only my whites were done and I had no more room to hang any more. Steve helped me put the last of the laundry on the line then convinced me to get off the boat for a while and go for a dinghy ride to explore this new country. And I’m glad he did. The islands are rocky and surprisingly lush with vegetation. We could see the trees and the hills from the Banks. These islands are different from Bimini as Bimini was much flatter and less green.

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Shoreline along Cistern Cay – house in the background

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More Shoreline…

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Diana at anchor near Bullocks Harbour

Once, back on Diana it was time to move onto a different project – PIZZA J While Steve was trying to retrieve the lost bucket, I built a pizza and started cleaning the cabin with a bleach/water solution.

Within an hour, the cabin smelled much better, dinner was on the way, Steve had retrieved the bucket and was making a plan to tackle the leaks. It was a matter of tightening bolts and re-caulking the toe rail – which was a job I have repeatedly done incorrectly.

After supper, we made a plan to head to the marina tomorrow afternoon for several reasons. The first few were to get laundry done, repair the dinghy, caulk the toe rail and to check out the party J Also, Jolly Mon had stopped by to let us know that the weather was going to kick up on Monday and they were going to the marina to wait it out. So, as much as we hated to go to a marina and spend the money, it would appear that we could use a couple of days to re-group before we headed to the southern part of the Berry Islands.

December 31, 2011

It was an early start. Steve went to work on a couple of leaks, while I went to work on the blog. By noon, we were ready to head to the marina.  We weighed anchor and made our way to the Great Harbour Cay Marina where we had a slip waiting for us.

As quoted we got the slip for 1$ a foot for the next couple of days, possible until Wednesday. The weather predicts we will be here until then but who knows. We have an internet connection so we will be able to monitor the weather.

Once Diana was tucked it, I grabbed my bags of laundry, headed to the one working machine and went to work. I did 4 loads of laundry at a total cost of 40$!!!! To think I complained if I paid over 12$!!!

By 1700hrs, the laundry was done and the boat smelled good again J

Not too sure about the party but we are kind of glad to kick back and have a few drinks on our own too.

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Happy New Year from Diana Everyone J