Wednesday, April 1, 2009


We are at the Atlantis Marina in Nassau.  Its quite the place and we'll be sure to blog about it soon.  Stephanie's started calling it Fantasy Island.

We left Fort Lauderdale Sunday and passaged 50 miles to Bimini.  Today we left Bimini and passaged over 130 miles to Nassau.  Both trips were quite the adventure.

From Fort Lauderdale to Bimini, we travelled south west across the gulf stream.  Crossing the stream can be a non-event or it can be a fatal mistake.  Our crossing was somewhere in between.  Conditions were forecast to be 2 - 4' building to 4 - 6' which were higher than we hoped for but seemed reasonable.  Well, we certainly know better now, don't we?  Optimistically, we (OK, I) felt that if we left early enough, we'd be across before any building started to take place.  Hah!  Even though we left at dawn, we hit 2 - 4' almost immediately outside the channel.  By the time we were in the Gulf Stream - 15 miles off shore - we were in 4 - 6' waves with the occasional 7 footer to rattle our fillings.  It was choppy and we were going into the wind, which meant slamming into the waves head on.  It's hard to judge wave size, but their effect is more important.  For our crossing, a 4' wave meant a splash of water on the windscreen.  A 6' wave was water over the roof and a 7' wave was water everywhere!

We made it to Bimini, but the boat took a beating.  We had a few cupboards pop their doors and the door handle to the forward cabin fell off.  Clearing customs and immigration was very easy and we got a 12 month cruising permit.  So we're set for the whole year!

Today we left for Nassau.  We knew this was going to be a long trip.  130 miles at cruise is over 6 hours.  Leaving Bimini and heading north along it's west side was easy going.  We rounded North Rock and entered the bank.  Once we cleared from the lea of Bimini we had head seas of 2 - 4' chop.  Not especially comfortable, but we are pretty used to this by now and cruised along.  While crossing the Bahama bank to the Northwest Channel, we didn't see many boats but we did hear them.  One exchange is worth noting.  We were about 6 miles from the channel when we over heard a powercat going east talking to a sailboat going west about conditions in The Tongue of the Ocean.  The Tongue of the Ocean is this stretch of water in the middle of the Bahamas that goes as deep as 9,500 feet!  The normal entry into the Tongue when heading east is through the Northwest Channel, a relatively narrow - about 5 miles - gap between the rocks of Andros to the south and the shallows of The Berry Islands to the north.  Conditions change dramatically when you leave shallow water of 20' and enter the deep stuff.  The sailboat reported 6 - 8' swells with a 1' wind chop on top.  Steph and I looked at each other.  We hadn't got a backup plan - shoot for Chub Cay perhaps?  The cats were talking about threading down to Andros and looking for an anchorage that would shelter them from the SW wind.  They already had at least one sea sick passenger aboard and weren't having a good time of it, having dropped their speed down to 6 knots to try to lessen the bumping.  I got on the radio and established that we were ahead of them by about 6 miles.  I told them we were going to poke our nose out and would hail them to let them know the conditions.  So we entered the Tongue.  I was expecting the NW Channel to be bad, but was pleasantly surprised by the relative calm.  We entered the Tongue and conditions were pretty much as the sail boat had reported.  There was 6 - 8' seas.  They were rollers but spaced closely together - about 8 - 10 seconds apart - with a little chop on top.  Having the waves so close together meant I needed to reduce speed down to 12 knots.  That two hours to go suddenly became three and a half!  I got back on the radio and reported to the power cats.  I'm not sure what they decided to do.  We, on the other hand, decided to press on.  We chose our closest approach to Chub Cay as our "go/no-go" point.  That would be in an hour.  By the time we got there we had been able to up the speed to 15 knots and decided to press on.  It was not comfortable, though better than Sunday's experience.  Lucky handled things better down below as well.  Either that or we're better at battening down.  we lost a clock, a ceiling panel and one of the restraining bolts for the life raft.  Not too bad and I see a use for that blue Loctite I got in Fort Lauderdale.

As we approached Nassau Harbor conditions improved and we could both breathe a sigh of relief.  You need to get clearance to enter the harbor, so I hailed Harbor Control and gave them our details.  One slight hiccup occurred when I was asked for Lucky's documentation number, which was in a folder under the bed in the cabin behind the door whose handle hadn't been put on yet, which had slammed shut and now couldn't be opened. Doh! Fortunately I remembered about putting the number on the floor of the engine room, so could look through the hatch and call off the numbers. Needless to say, the handle is now back on the door!

Tomorrow we're going to refuel, fix the few things that need it and explore Atlantis.  Friday we may go into town in search of a cheap, pre-pay Bahamian cell phone.  We may even pick up some more baked chips for Steph since she's been mourning the crushed bags since Sunday.

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