Bimini was very enjoyable. The Bimini Big Game Club is a great facility and very comfortable. I could easily have stayed for several more days to explore the town and the neighboring islands but a nice weather forecast got me moving again.
We left Bimini yesterday around noon with the high slack tide. The wind and seas were just perfect for a sail north around the island and onto the shallow bank. The water was so clear I could clearly see individual starfish on the seabed and the shadow of Andante’s mast on the sandy bottom. Around sunset the wind died completely and many of the hours of darkness were spent drifting under a crystal clear sky and coordinating passing maneuvers with freighters and mailboats. Altogether very pleasant.
This morning we reached the Berry Islands and found a nice one-night anchorage between Frazer’s Hog Cay and Bird Cay. One-night because its a bit rolly and both islands are private so not much to explore. But that’s ok since we’ll be leaving again in the morning for 5-hour trip to a small harbor on the western end of New Providence (Nassau is on the northeastern side of the same island). Then there will be just one more day-long passage to the northern Exuma Cays where I hope to spend several weeks exploring, hiking, and snorkeling.
My communications capabilities will be a bit limited for the next few weeks. I hope to have cell coverage in most places — but not everywhere. So I anticipate there may be some delays in updating this blog. Thanks for your patience.
I sailed across the Gulf Stream in a small boat for the first time in 1988, the year Andante was born. I was an undergraduate working on an oceanographic project in the Abacos and our base of operations was the chief scientist’s sailboat. He had just completed a circumnavigation with his family and had much to share about sailing and island life. It was great living aboard that summer in a tiny Bahamian cove eating the fish and lobster we caught and doing cool science. Later, while in graduate school, I crewed on several sailing races from south Florida to the Bahamas. I even served as navigator on races to Bimini and Great Issac because somebody thought I knew something about ocean currents. We did ok anyway. That was 30 years ago.
Yesterday I finally made the short trip myself in my own boat. It was a very satisfying accomplishment — even though there wasn’t much sailing because of the light headwinds. The mechanics of the trip were no different than before though technology has changed the stressors. In the before times if you couldn’t see the container ship bearing down you just assumed all was well and you could relax for a bit. Today with radar and AIS you can see where everyone is all the time and can visualize in graphic detail exactly how and when you will collide. So there is never the chance for ignorant relaxation. I was thinking last night that the Miami-Bimini trip is less about sailing than it is a giant game of Frogger. After about 10 hours of dodging traffic and constantly updating our heading to stay on course we arrived offshore of Alice Town, North Bimini, around 0400. I anchored just off the beach for a few hours to take a nap and wait for sunrise to pick our way along the shallow channel and enter the narrow harbor.
We’ve spent the last couple of days anchored offshore of the old Nixon winter white house site near the Key Biscayne Yacht Club. This spot is also just a few blocks from where Paula and Cheese and Basil and I lived in the mid 1990’s.
Through the magic of reciprocal privileges and a timely letter of introduction from our RBHYC commodore I was able to gain access to the club to use their dinghy dock to access groceries and water and covid testing. It was fun walking around the town again after so many years. The yacht club itself is much bigger and fancier than when we lived here — but the people are still super friendly and helpful and the view of downtown Miami across Biscayne Bay is still spectacular.
All the water tanks are topped off, fresh fruits and veggies are loaded, I’ve got my health visa, the weather forecast looks good and we’re ready to go. We’ll depart late this evening for the quick overnight trip across the Gulf Stream to Bimini. The plan is to stay at a marina in Alice Town for the first night (or possibly two) to get my bearings and wait for the next front to pass. Then I expect to head further east across the bank to the Berry Islands. Or not. From here on there is no real schedule or itinerary.
Fort Pierce to Lake Worth Inlet / Palm Beach to Miami.
It was time to move on. The weather windows have been few, far between and brief. To improve our chances for a near-term crossing to the Bahamas we set off for Miami with an intermediate stop in Lake Worth / Palm Beach.
We left Lake Worth early the next morning. The gusty east wind made for a sporty sail with seas building from 3-4 ft in the morning to 5-7 by the evening. It was lumpy and at times uncomfortable but the conditions made for some of the best pure sailing we’ve had on this entire voyage. We made great time with typical speeds above 7 kts and seeing 8-9 kts occasionally when surfing down a wave. Good fun.
After picking our way through the shallow waters near the mouth of the Miami River we anchored just off the beach south of the Rickenbacker Causeway. This less-than-perfect anchorage (noisy, smelly, wavy) is intentional and temporary. Because of the recent weather there is a substantial population of boats down here waiting on a window to cross to the Bahamas. Rather than try to squeeze into a more favorable but crowded anchorage late in the day we chose to hang out somewhere easy and well-protected. But definitely not quiet. And definitely smelly (Virginia Key sewage treatment plant is nearby and upwind). Tomorrow morning we’ll move to a more peaceful and secure location to make final preparations for the jump across the Gulf Stream.
Temperatures here are consistently in the 60’s and 70’s. Barefoot at last.