We left Bimini full of anticipation and excitement for the next legs of our Bahamian sailing adventure! Our next planned stop would be Nassau en route to the Exumas.
Prior to departure, we joined Tim and Kathy on their boat Carina at the Bimini Blue Water Marina and listened to Chris Parker’s Caribbean weather forecast on their SSB (single side band) radio. In the States, getting weather information was no problem. But now, without a cell phone data plan and only spotty wi-fi, our access to reliable marine weather forecasts is extremely limited. We are so thankful that Tim and Kathy (and their dog Shamus!) were willing to share weather reports and cruising plans with us! An SSB radio is the latest item added to our growing “wish list” of cruising gear… along with a watermaker. And radar. And AIS haha. But that list is for another blog post haha.
Crossing the Great Bahama Bank is an endurance trip. It is wide and shallow, with a large shoal to avoid in the middle. After 70 miles, you’re faced with two options: anchor on the bank (unprotected, requiring calm seas) or sail through the night – neither of which is ideal. Our plan was to anchor on the bank and wait until morning. Then we’d enter the Northwest Channel on the way to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands, or perhaps all the way to Nassau.
As soon as Chris Parker reported that “tonight was as good as any to anchor on the bank” Tim, Kathy, Alex and I darted up to begin our departure preparations. There was a decent southeast wind (which would be right on our nose during the passage), but it was supposed to die down to as the day progressed. We hoped for an easy day of motoring/motor-sailing and calm waters for anchoring on the bank at night.
Instead, we faced steep chop all day. Each time the Abby B. hit a wave, our speed dropped below 5 knots. We were really slogging ahead slowly, with Tim and Kathy in Carina motoring ahead. As the sun set, Carina let us catch up and follow along better in the dark.
Over the radio, we could hear other cruisers stopping for the night and complaining about the seas. All we could hope for was some protection behind a shoal to cut the height of the seas a bit, otherwise no one was going to get a good night’s sleep. And the dogs weren’t going to get to shore tonight…
Tim and Kathy expertly led us in behind a shallow area to the northwest of Chub Key / northeast of the Northwest Channel marker. Just past 9:30pm, we found ‘calm’ water and dropped anchor in about 14 ft. What a day…
Alex and I both woke up intermittently throughout the night and marveled at the most amazing night sky: more stars than I have ever seen!
* * *
Tim and Kathy have a blog about their sailing adventures too: www.tkronaboat.com