After more time and money than planned (as is the norm), we finally set off from Fort Lauderdale on the 28th December 2016 to our staging anchorage off No Name Harbour in the Bay of Biscayne.
The last few days were a hectic run-around getting last minute bits and pieces and provisions and packing them away in a semblance of order:
We even managed to get a bargain second hand set of Dahon Marine folding bicycles from Sailorman. Some bargaining ended up in a decent price for the 1980’s pair. They are in excellent nick and a pleasure to cycle. They should help a lot with island exploration.
There have been numerous improvements and maintenance items such as bottom clean and paint, rudder renovation, steel rigging renewed, Rocna anchor and new G4 chain, sails re-stitched, canvas re-stitched and new glass panels installed, SSB radio and antenna, AIS installed, new 6 man life raft, additional 50% solar capacity, fuel polished, new stereo system, all lights changed to LED, some electrical circuitry reworked, engine serviced and baselined, Wifi signal enhancer installed together with a router to service all devices on board, SailMail service set up, new Raymarine eS98 multi-function display and C-Charts for the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands, new Tri-Data, lots of books, pilot guides and charts, lockers cleaned and painted and boat cleaned stem to stern plus numerous other activities. There is always a list of “To-Do’s” and it never seems to get shorter!!
Many thanks to Steve Leeds for all the wise advice and fitting in working time for us (not to say vastly diminishing our claim to membership of the Capitalist class …).
From Biscayne Bay, we set off in an easterly direction to cross the Gulf Stream at 08h00 on the 29th December. We calculated a magnetic course of 114 degrees to steer across the stream in order to compensate for the current and fetch us up to pass by the Northern tip of Bimini Island.
‘Bye Bye’ the US of A!
The daytime crossing from Biscayne to Bimini was in lightish conditions and the crew (Linda and Steve Leeds, Liz and Roland) had plenty of time to chat, fish (without reward) and enjoy the sea.
Bimini appeared out of the horizon ….
We rounded North Rock for the next leg (overnight) to New Providence Island and Nassau.
Bimini fell behind us and darkness fell.
With four of us, the watch system of three hours on each was easy. It was a bit scary at times with large ships appearing out of the dark. We could see them on AIS, Radar and visually when near but they gave no indication of being aware of our puny selves!
All went well. From about 04h00, the wind and seas built steadily. We reefed the main at about 05h00 as a Front came through and stormed along at 7-8 knots; very comfortably. The traditional long keel holds the course very well and Windward is very sea kindly in strong seas and wind. We sailed 171 nautical miles at an average speed of 6.5 knots (8.7 knots top speed) and top wind speed of 29 odd knots (just into Force 7). Depth varied from a worrying 8 feet to well over 10,000 feet and the colour of the water correspondingly varied from a light turquoise to a deep, deep indigo.
New Providence appeared over the horizon and we did not have a lot of time for photographs as it was a bit bumpy going into the channel with the wind and tide performing a minuet, not over ostentatious channel markers, not much time to take down sail and an unresponsive Marina being tardy with docking directions.
Once alongside and all the mooring lines and springs set up, it seemed quite peaceful, belying the conditions outside.
Steve and Linda flew off the next day (thanks guys!)
We have since had time to look around and get some more work (the VHF died on the crossing and we have a sea water cooling system slow leak) done on the boat.
We visited the Bahamas National Trust grounds (we can get reciprocal membership from the UK National Trust and thereby preferential access to moorings in the BNT reserves), had a sundowner on Junckanoo Beach, saw the changing of the Bahamas Police Guard (delightful uniforms), visited the pleasant Cabbage Beach and had an amazing grilled Conch (pronounced “Conk”) at a 3rd world shack restaurant tucked under the Paradise Island bridge and with a stunning sunset view.
Well. The first leg of our cruising is done. We will stay here a few more days to finish off necessary maintenance, stock up on island rum and prepare for an extended time without shops, WiFi, telecoms and professional help at hand.
The weather outlook is looking good for a passage to the Exumas next.