Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We Made It To Nassau! What A Trip

We left Bimini at 7:30 A.M. Sunday morning. We left a couple of hours early but when we woke up and the wind was calm with the current flowing in the right direction we decided to get out of the slip while we could do it easily. Of all the maneuvers we need to do sailing Pearl, getting into and out of slips are the most stressful and dangerous. We were in a slip close to shore with the wind blowing us against the dock when we went to bed. I thought it was going to be very difficult in the morning to get us off the dock, out of the slip and facing out to the channel in a strong wind. When we woke up to a light wind we shoved off immediately making a safe exit. We were on our way east to Nassau.

Our new friends on Echo II were going to go along with us "buddy boating" and shortly after we got out of Bimini harbor they caught up.

All boats travel at different speeds and wind angles so its almost impossible to stay together so we do our own thing. It is nice to know that there is someone around that you know to talk to on the radio even if they become out of sight. We kept each other company by checking in occasionally.

We sailed north until we were past Bimini and turned east. This was going to be a long run east/southeast to Nassau. The wind was not the greatest angle yet so we had to motor sail the first couple of hours until it swung to the south when we went full sail and no motor for the rest of the day. Along the way we were chatting on the radio with 3 other cruising boats we spent time with in Bimini. They had left a day earlier and anchored south for a night to take the southern route that would eventually merge with our track. It made the day go by comparing notes on each others progress. It was choppy and rolly but compared to the Gulf Stream crossing it was comfortable.

We struggle to get exercise when on the boat so when the bobbing of the bow was right I went forward in my exercise attire and did a little "deck surfing" to exercise the quads.

On board Pearl we have a few navigation devices but up at the helm we have a Garmin Chart Plotter that shows the nautical charts and our position within several feet. You can also plan your trip on it marking the turns in your route and it will calculate when you will arrive given your speed. We were making great time sailing and just before dark it said that if we continued on through the night we would arrive in Nassau at 5 A.M. in the dark. Of course we don't want to enter any new harbor in the dark, or even familiar ones so we decided to drop anchor while still on the shallow Bahamas Banks and have dinner and rest. We dropped anchor in 15 feet of water in the middle of nowhere about a mile south of the line everyone travels on. We made dinner and I went to sleep for about 2 1/2 hours. Gayleen stayed in the cockpit slightly napping keeping an eye out for other boats coming by in the dark.

After anchoring we radioed our friends on Echo II and they were still traveling behind us as we sail a little faster than them. Right after we get a call on the radio from one of the boats from the other group that took the southerly route. I said "hi Mike you sound like you are right next to us." He said,"that's because we are!". They listened to us give our position to Echo II and it turns out in the dark the three other boats were anchored about a mile south of us. We could see their anchor lights all lined up. They were going to sleep there for the night and make a stop at another Island the next day before going on to Nassau. We lost touch with Echo II as they passed us while we were asleep.

At 10:30 in the pitch black moonless night we raised anchor and started the overnight passage to Nassau. The first two hours while still in the shallow banks were uneventful. The first challenge was going through the narrow channel that led to the deep waters that we had to cross to get to Nassau. Since you can't see anything you just have to trust your GPS/Chart Plotter and go through. We weren't alone as another sailboat under full sail passed us in that channel as we went through. At night with just Gayleen and me on board I prefer to not raise the mainsail. Having too much sail up to worry about if a storm comes in or the winds pick up. Leaving the cockpit in the dark is dangerous, even if you tether yourself to something. We rolled out the jib and supplemented our progress with the motor to maintain our speed for a mid-morning arrival at Nassau. We take the time to plan our trips in detail and we knew there is a strong current flowing through the channel in Nassau where all the marinas are. A mid morning arrival would get us there at slack tide so we could get into our slip without having to deal with swiftly moving water pushing us one way or the other.

The trip across the deep waters was rough but was manageable. There was no moon so all we could see were some occasional boat lights. Otherwise, all we could do was keep ourselves awake. Gayleen caught up on some of the sleep she missed earlier and I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open and watching the clock to see how much longer before the sun came up. Fortunately the autohelm did the hard work of steering Pearl keeping us on course. The sunrise on the horizon was a welcome sight.

Finally after about 11 hours from pulling up our anchor on the banks Nassau was in sight. With the huge Atlantis Resort off our port bow.

We had to radio Nassau Harbor Control to get permission to enter the harbor. We motored into the channel to be welcomed by the huge cruise ships that frequent this popular tourist destination.

These ships always amaze me in their size. They are like a small city with thiings on them that you wouldn't think should be on a boat. As we passed the Disney ship we could see people going through a big tube waterslide on the top deck of the ship. I wish they had this when I was a kid.

All in all the trip was 26 hours including our 4 hour stop on the banks. We continue to run into cruisers we had met in the past and at our dock last  night our neighbors from Tango that were next to us all summer in Vero Beach came by. They pulled in just down from us.

When we arrived, our friends from Echo II started out with us were nowhere to be seen. About mid afternoon I thought I would give one more try on the radio. It was so nice to have them reply immediately telling us that they were just coming into the harbor and would join us at the marina shortly.

OK, enough typing. It's time to get out and explore Nassau and get prepared for the Junkanoo festivities to come tonight. More on that later.

Happy New Year everyone!

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