We made it to the Bahamas! Two and a half months after leaving Maine and 2,000 miles of Atlantic coastline/Intracoastal Waterway – we are finally here! And what a trip it’s been!
On Tuesday night, January 13th, we anchored the Abby B. in No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, Florida (southeast of Miami) in preparation for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini, Bahamas.
The Gulf Stream crossing is one of the most difficult passages of our entire trip. The force of the wind on the fast moving, northbound current can create immense, dangerous waves. The conditions can worsen quickly, and if that happens, you’re stuck 30 miles offshore with few options but to sail-on. Needless to say, the right weather window is necessary, and we had been waiting for optimal conditions for the last week or so to make the crossing.
Typically, any winds from the north can render the Gulf Stream passage very uncomfortable (and even impassable). In our case, the winds were supposed to remain light all morning and slowly clock around to the north around 10am. The weather window thus opened from Tuesday evening to Wednesday at noon – a narrow window… After consulting with several other cruisers looking to cross during the same window, we left No Name Harbor at 1:30am destined for the Bahamas.
Tired and admittedly nervous, our first mental obstacle of the transit was seeing a far-off lightning storm. Flash, flash, flash. Were those clouds coming our way? Given the low light conditions, it was hard to tell… if we wanted to turn around, now (3am-ish), this was our only chance. After a VHF conversation with another sailboat a couple miles off our stern, we decided to press on, hoping we wouldn’t encounter thunder and lightning in the Gulf Stream itself.
And as sun rose over the Gulf Stream waters, conditions remained favorable! The clouds and lightning remained to the north and we maintained a great speed. We were motor-sailing at 6-7 kts, with the Gulf Stream’s current in our favor. The sunlight revealed the deep, perfect blue of the Gulf Stream surging below us. Flying fish leapt out of the water and over the rolling swells.
Around 7am, the winds veered to the north (3 hours earlier than forecasted) and the seas started to pick up. White caps dotted the waters all around us. (A warning from fellow sailors was to clear the Gulf Stream before 12pm or expect the worst.) We were due in Bimini around 9am, and were glad to be getting out of the Gulf Stream sooner rather than later. The increasing winds pushed us along at 7-8 kts and Bimini got closer and closer on the horizon. Nearing the marked harbor entrance, perfect turquoise shallows surrounded the island.
We entered the harbor right on time at 9am. Glad to be out of the increasingly choppy offshore conditions, we sought refuge at one of the several marinas in the harbor. None of the Bimini marinas responded to radio hails (welcome to the Bahamas, haha), so we pulled into a slip at Sea Crest Marina, cleared customs, and hoisted the Bahamas courtesy flag before happily napping the rest of the afternoon away, exhausted.
We have now been in Bimini since Wednesday, soaking up the sun, and exploring the island and surrounding waters. We ended up moving to the cheaper ($1/ft) Blue Water Marina nearby, and even spent a night at anchor by the Bimini Big Game Club. Yesterday, we snorkeled the wreck of the Sapona off Turtle Rocks to the south of Bimini, and fished the Gulf Stream on the way back to North Bimini harbor, landing a small King Mackerel.
Hopefully tomorrow, Tuesday, January 20th, we’ll set sail for the next leg of our Bahamian adventure: Bimini to the Northwest Channel, and eventually on to Nassau before we reach our final destination: the Exumas.
>>> Obviously the blog has fallen by the wayside as we adventured south. But with any wifi we find, we’ll be back-blogging, to fill in all the details of our trip down the Intracoastal Waterway from North Carolina to the Florida Keys! Thanks for reading – there’s lots more to come! <<<
Also, some necessary shout-outs to our friends along the way: Mike and Ben on Chloe, Tim and Kathy on Carina, Jay and Bridgette on Celest, and Stormy Mayo on Istar. All the way from New England and we found each other en route to Bimini! Such a small world.