Roger Update: No Name Harbor to Bimini

Ok, as I reported earlier, we were at No Name Harbor in Biscayne Bay for
almost two weeks waiting for a weather window to make the crossing to the
Bahamas. During our stay we made friends with some other boaters also
waiting to head to the Tropics. On one boat are Dave and Renee from San
Marco, Texas; on another boat are Rodney and Audrey from Kemah, Texas and on
another boat are Henk and Susi from Ft. Lauderdale. We’ve had a great time
together as a group – going to the beach, going for lunches, touring the
Bay, having social time together. But everyone has been anxious to get
moving again.

According to all weather information available to us, there was supposed to
be a suitable, but short weather window to make the crossing overnight on
Thursday night. The window was forecasted to close on Friday morning with
the arrival of a massive new cold front by Friday noon. So, if we left late
Thursday after the mornings squalls were over and the seas had a chance to
settle down, we should have been able to get safely across before the next
cold front/storm on Friday.

On Thursday we had a “Captains meeting” and decided to go for it. After the
meeting we all went back to our boats and prepared for an overnight passage.
We all stowed onboard gear, checked all systems again and prepared for a
“rough but relatively safe trip” as per my weather consultant’s advice (Chris Parker). We planned to leave the US at ~5 pm and expected to arrive in Bimini in
the early morning on Friday. We expected steep but calming seas, a
near-full moon for visibility and favourable winds from the south west. Did
all of this happen???? Not quite.

As we prepared to leave on Thursday night, the sky clouded over and a
lightning storm began with rain and high winds. These storms are not
unusual and they typically pass quickly – as did this one. It began to
clear and it become sunny and HOT once again as we watched the storm travel
towards Miami in the distance. Just to be sure I telephoned my
meteorologist and asked his opinion. His words were – “it depends how much
punishment you want to take in order to get moving over to the Bahamas”.
Hmmm. But, asking him about the thunder storm we just had he reported that
the storms had indeed moved north and out of our area. All we would have to
worry about would be getting to the Bahamas before the new, massive cold
front arrived on Friday noon.

So, off we went. Three boats left the US and headed out into the
Atlantic. Windhover (Susi & Henk) were the last to leave – they saw the storms build and decided to stay put. The rest of us went past Fowey Rocks, out past Cape Florida and on until the depth sounder went from 25 feet of water to 10,000 feet of depth. As we travelled
dusk came and then the darkness. And then came the storm.

Dave and Renee on Adriana saw it on their radar first and advised us of it.
Sure enough, on radar I could see the large mass of storm activity heading
straight for us. There was no avoiding it. It hit just after dark with
high winds, torrents of rain, thunder and lightning all around us. And it
didn’t let up – it was terrifying. We were in the eye of the storm and it
was travelling the same direction and speed as us. The radar showed it was
all around us. The rain was unbelievably hard and pounding like pellets on
the roof of the pilothouse. The thunder was deafening and lightning of all
types striking over and over all around us for hours. The waves seemed to
increase but there was no way to really tell as it was complete darkness –
the moon was clouded over and non-existent and shining a spotlight into the
rain just reflected the horizontal rain. Couldn’t see a thing as we charged
forward toward to Bahamas into the blackness.

We detected our arrival in the gulf stream about 10 pm as the sea
temperature rose to 33.6 degrees C. Boat speed, just using the headsail,
went up to over 10 knots per hour with the aid of the fast moving stream.
And the unforecasted storm persisted into the wee hours of the morning.
Fortunately we had tranquilized both dogs before departing and they spent
the night in one of the aft cabin, dry and warm and safe. Jana had applied
a Scopomine patch the previous day to prevent seasickness and it was
working. But because of the storm we had nothing to eat, save for a few
Oreo cookies and anything else that provided carbs without effort or
preparation.

Around 3 am the rain stopped as did the thunder. It was actually a rather
nice sail The sky cleared for a while and the moon appeared and the seas
settled down a bit. Nice. All night the three boats kept in touch by radio
and we could see each other by radar. The fourth of the boats had turned
around and gone back to the US but we didn’t find this out until a day
later. We hailed them all night and heard nothing so were obviously worried
about them.

As the night went on we had brushes with two more storms – both were smaller
and using radar we were able to skirt around them for the most part. By
around 5 am we spotted Bimini on radar and shortly after we could see its
lights. We all slowed down in order to make our landfall in North Bimini by
daylight. By around 6:30 am we entered the Harbour and made our way to
Browns Marina and tied up. Exhausted – had been up for 33 straight hours.

Up went our quarantine flags and the three ‘masters’ walked – actually
staggered up to Bahamas Customs to clear in and then from there up to
Immigration. All the paperwork was completed despite the feeling that the
whole earth was moving/spinning. I could still hear the thunder. The forms
they use are historic remnants of the past – the “Captain” or “Master” of
each boat must swear that no one has died during the passage (although we
may have felt – or even wished we had during the night), and that to our
knowledge we had no cases of bubonic, typhoid or other plagues on boars
etc.

And so it went. Our first passage to the Bahamas. Are we having fun yet?
Now, yes. You bet. And boy do we have some good sailing stories to
relate.

Its absolutely beautiful in Bimini. The boat appears to be floating in air
as the water is crystal clear and turquoise tinted. There are manta rays
and bull sharks and all kinds of tropical fish swimming below us. Our dock
master climbed a palm tree and grabbed a coconut, opened it and gave us all
fresh coconut water. The village of Alicetown, although looking tired with
old buildings with the roofs ripped off in hurricanes past but typically
Caribbean with pink and blue and turquoise little houses and quaint shops of
all kinds, golf carts used for travel on the narrow decrepit roads
(travelling on the opposite side of the road of course). The locals are
colourful characters but friendly and warm -everyone says hello and chats.
The beach is white sand and turquoise water – and a rusty old freighter
that was shipwrecked years ago. A rooster is crowing somewhere nearby.

All good! Soon, after the weather stabilizes again, we’ll move on the Gun
Cay, then make a long run across the Great Bahama Bank to Chub Cay, then
Nassau and then the Exumas.

RS

About Jana Cervinka

I am married to Roger and we have two dogs, Charlie and Alie. We bought our home in Port St. Lucie, FL, in 2010 and celebrate each day of our six month stay in our little paradise - a comfortable stylish home with gardens and pool - indoor/outdoor living - in a community of friendly people. The other six months we live in downtown Toronto, our home of over 40 years. We met at Toronto Island Marina, me in my 22' Edel and Roger in his CS 22'. As a couple we purchased a CS 27' and very soon afterwards our Sparkman & Stephens designed 40' centre cockpit ketch 'Delos' which we sailed for 13 years around Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte. Last year in 2013, we discovered 'White Star', a Gemini 105 MC, our first catamaran. Now we can fulfill our long time dream of sailing to and around the Bahamas. So it begins!
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