Monday, January 6, 2014

Bimini to the Exumas

Wow. I am way behind on this blog. We have been moving fast and then,lazy in between. The internet connections have been sporadic, at best. And, some of our decisions and movements were spontaneous, irratic and unexpected. 

The weather cleared enough for us to make an escape from Bimini. Realistically, the weather was not that great but we wanted to move. I had made several trips to the gas station down the street to fill diesel and gas cans. We made a much needed trip to the laundry. Met a cool guy named Humphries running the laundry. He had been born in the Bahamas, spent the better part of his life in England, and was now back in Bimini. He was really interested in helping the community and the people. Very interesting conversations.

Shortly after that, just around noon, we cast off the lines and headed out the channel, sailed north to North Rockwith the full rig. As soon as we turned east, we couldn’t sail. Somehow, the wind seem to figure out where we are headed and turns to hit us on the nose. I suppose you could argue that we are poor planners and weather interpreters. We motor sailed out across the Bahama Bank. It was a Beautiful sunset, clear water about 12 ft deep. Night fell and, of course, it got rougher. Our vision of dropping anchor somewhere in the middle of the bank started to dissolve. Now, we were committed to an overnight sail that wouldput us at the Northwest Channel at daybreak. 

The relative boredom of an overnight motor was broken by a Coast Guard helicopter operation. We were trying to spot the light for a shoal shown on the chart and all the lights kept moving. Turned out to be a search for a disable 30’ sport fisher. A 197 ft cargo ship was providing assistance which made for a lot of radio traffice and confusion. We contacted them to help if needed and to stay out of the way if not needed.

The seas remained rough but we arrived at the Northwest Channel at dawn. We waited for a few cargo boats to pass in each direction then followed one through the channel for an easy transit. This is where the Bahama Bank drops back into the deep ocean.Weird to see water drop from 16 ft to more than 2000 ft in a hundred yards.

We decided to make for the Bird Cay anchorage shown on the chart. It was entirely isolated, some protection from the wind but it was still several hours away after a long night. We dropped anchor at about 11:00 am. Dinghy down, Roux to shore. Powdery sand. Isolated. ROLLY. The swell coming around the point rolled us up and down, side to side. It was a dangerous dog trip with the dinghy banging the side of the boat, we were all tired. Not a great combination.

Got up next day, after a rolly night and went to the beach. Nice morning on beach. We dallied a bit too long and then decided to move since the anchorage was so rolly. I think it was Saturday. By the time we weighed anchor it was noon. We were intent on sailing so we sailed a little too slow in a slighty wrong direction for our next destination anchorage at West Bay, New Providence (the island Nassau is on). About halfway, it became evident we might not make it before dark. We cranked up the motor to go faster and more direct but it was not soon enough.

So what to do? Entering West Bay through a reef opening in in the dark seemed ill-advised. So we decided to head south of New Providence and head directly to Highbourne Cay in the Exumas. Once again, wind on the nose. There were several boats and ships around. Junie went to sleep for a while. So,here we were on an unplanned overnight passage across White Bank. As the evening went on, the wind dropped.Soon, it was down below 10 knots. The waves subsided. I was out in the cockpit by myself (with Roux, actually) and started getting mad about motoring across this beautifulbank in the dark, paranoid about possible coral heads in the dark, and I was sure that we needed rest. So, we just stopped. We finally got our 'anchoring on the bank' experience. It turned out to be the right choice. We had an easy night, calm water, clear skies and very little wind. Woke to a gorgeous day. We did have to ‘help’ Roux poop on the deck for his own well-being.

White Bank
We pulled up the anchor (perfectly clean, white sand), and sailed for a while. Very pleasant. Then, of course, the wind moved to our nose. We motored the last little bit to our reserved slip at Highbourne Cay Marina. We arrived at 3:20, stayed outside waiting for clearance from marina (pretty tight channel and fairway) to go to the fuel dock. A catamaran snuck in without clearance and stole our fuel dock spot so, we finally went direct to our slip. Our tight slip. We would prefer a stern-in dock but that was not going to work. So, bow in it is. Junie immediately started worrying about how we would get out.

Highbourne Cay
Highbourne, indeed. It is a nice place that, obviously caters to high end motor yachts. Which, of course, we are not. $4 for showers, .50/gal water. Beautiful place, well maintained, nice little dog beach. We ended up staying 2 nights.

The next day, New Year's Eve, Junie and I walked to east side beaches. Gorgeous. Sand, rock/coral, pools. Then we worked on several issues. Classic. Working on your boat in exotic places. A bowleak getting the mattress wet. We needed to reconfigure our water tanks because the watermaker not working up to expectations. We made the forward tank the ‘good’ tank. Transfered water to mid, put 'bought' water in front. Tested at 208, better than the watermaker, and better than most water we have seen so far.

New Year’s Eve. We were in bed by 11:00. We heard, but missed, the Junkanoo (carnival-like parade), the fireworks. No ball falling for us. Old cruisers, I guess.
Next day, 2014. Roux swam - really swam - for the first time in along time. We have been nursing him along. He has good days, bad days. It was great to see him enjoying the water. 

We did manage to get out of our slip with a lot of help from our neighbors, Michael and Tammy, sv Aria.We really enjoyed meeting and talking with them. They helped us back out of the slip (which tu
rned out to be easy), and to get to fuel dock (which turned out to be hard. Those big yachts take up a lot of room).

We moved on to Shroud Cay. We sailed part of the way with the staysail and reefed main in a fair amount of wind. Picked up a mooring in paradise by 4:30.


  1. Hi Duane and June - Randy here. We are enjoying 13 below zero, 2+ feet of snow, and 30 knot winds. The northern-most 100 miles of I-65 has been closed for 2 days. I've been off work for over 2 weeks, and haven't been keeping up with the blog, as it's not there on my list of favorites at home to remind me. But Duane is a better writer than even I am :-), and so it was fun to catch up. Good to hear you are doing well. Enjoy the warm. And since I just learned you are planning a trip to Cape Cod, why not go just a little further north, and then west, and pay us a visit on Lake Michigan too?

    1. Gosh Randy, you sure make a trip to Valpo right now sound inviting. We know of some folks with a boat like ours that did the Erie Canal back to Canada. It involves taking down the mast. Not sure we are up for that just yet:)
      Nice to hear from you.