Friday, April 27, 2007

No Name Harbor, FL, to Bimini, Bahamas

56.1 nm
Wind: SE 10-15 knots
Seas: 5-8 feet
Latitude: 25°43.36’N
Longitude: 079°17.92’W
Maximum speed: 6.6 knots (under sail)
Average speed: 3.7 knots

This morning I woke up to the sunrise in a glorious blue sky and deep blue luscious water, the water on the other side of the Gulf Stream. Karl woke me up for my shift and I was actually able to sail for some of it, a lovely tack along the first Bahamian islands after escaping the inexorable pull of the current.

Bimini finally approached. We’re using the Explorer charts given to us by Marcel, but we don’t know what year they’re from. They overlay beautifully with our GPS and we trusted them to the letter, following the track laid in over six-foot spots of coral and shoals. Halfway into the harbor, still exhausted from the night’s efforts, the noon sun beating down on us, we notice an entrance channel dug out and well-marked far off from our course that all the giant sports fishermen seem to be using. “What’s that?” Karl goes. “I don’t know,” I say, “It’s not on the chart.”

We later found out that it was the new channel dredged to a depth of fifteen feet, and missing it was the first of our many faux pas of the day. After limping unscathed into the harbor we puttered up and down the channel about eight times, looking for the anchorage marked both on our chart and in our guidebook. The beautifully marked entrance channel led right through the middle of the anchor marked on our charts, and try as we might, we could find no place to drop a hook. I don’t know if it was our long night or the clarity of the water, but every time we escaped the channel the water shoaled up right away, and even if our depth sounder didn’t ding huge black patches blocked our way. We had been warned to watch for black patches so even though they looked like grass we avoided them. We still had to clear in, after all, and we didn’t want to do it while aground.

Finally, out of desperation, we began to hail the harbormaster, as recommended by our guidebook, only to be told by an annoyed local that there is no Bimini harbormaster. He told us to go to Weech’s Dock, a marina at the harbor entrance, and clear in there. Which is where we are now. It ended up being a great decision. Several cruisers going the other way, back to Florida and then up north for the summer, helped us with our lines and showed us the proverbial robes for getting through customs. Customs ended up being relatively painless, if confusing in our sleep-deprived state. Karl’s passport has its first stamp in it, and that’s what matters.

Tonight our fellow cruisers invited us to our first crusing potluck, the stuff of Bahamian legend. We had fresh conch salad and snapper grilled on bed of fresh dill, as well as steak and pigeon peas and a cake baked in a cruising oven. I contributed a salad, made with all my vegetables on the verge of turning. Everyone leapt on it, as I imagine fresh greens are the things that go most wanting around here. Karl and I poked around in a couple of stores this afternoon, and, as promised, aside from fish and rum, the prices are ungodly. I am very, very glad, for the many trips to the Winn-Dixie with the giant backpack. I wish we had bought more. But I’m sure we have enough to get all the way to the Dominican Republic, potentially supplementing with a couple of over-priced tomatoes and mangoes. And fish, if we can swing it.

The craziest thing about tonight was how doable everyone made our formative plan sound. People said they had heard great things about Luperon, in the Dominican Republic, our destination for hurricane season. No one made us feel crazy for going the “wrong way,” southeast in the Caribbean heading into May. And these are experienced crusiers, too, one guy who’s been cruising the Bahamas since the seventies, a German Atlantic crosser, and two single-handers who met on their own boats and have now coupled up. For the first time I feel like our plan is realistic, maybe even intelligent. No one’s said that we can’t do it, only that they wish they were doing it with us. I feel like we’ve joined a real community at last, a community different from the one that motors up and down the ICW every year. These people sail, for real.

So we’ll sleep well tonight, if the no-see-ums don’t eat us alive. I always forget there’s a reason we don’t pay for dockage, even at seventy cents a foot. Land-based life sucks. I just hope we don’t get any cockroaches on the boat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

man. that pot-luck sounds incredible. This is all so exciting.