Wednesday, April 27, 2016

To the Abacos!

Bimini may seem like a strange stop, if you are headed to the Abacos.  Indeed, most people head to Bimini on their way east toward Nassau and beyond.  However, we were interested in avoiding the mess that is Miami, along with about a million of the people there, too.  So, east to Bimini, and then north to West End.  Nevermind that wind was conveniently blowing us this way, too.

So just where is West End you ask?  It the west end of the Great Bahama Island, nearly due north of Bimini and across the Northwest Providence Channel.  Since our ultimate cruising destination was the Sea of Abaco, it would require going around the north end of the Great Bahama Island and then east of the Great Abaco Island.  It doesn't look like much of a destination, but the Sea of Abaco (which I would call more of a sound) is actually a wonderful cruising area.   Once we made it around West End and onto the "bank", the great cruising began.  The passage across the NW channel went well, the highlight being all the flying fish.  Our night at the posh Old Bahama Bay marina at West End was great - we took advantage of laundry machines and filled our water tanks.   Once we got on the Little Bahama Banks, we did not see water over 20 feet deep for a whale of the a time, but I get ahead of myself.

The deck hand enjoying the view from the helm on the outside passage from West End end before entering the banks. 

The Banks are protected from the ocean swell, and make for wonderful sailing conditions.   We sailed across the Banks and anchored at Great Sale and Crab Cays along the way.  Just around the corner from Crab Cay, the Sea of Abaco begins.

Our first cay in the Sea was Powell Cay.  It was here where we finally had our "we arrived" moment.  It has been a lot of go go go to get here.   At last, we found ourselves on an isolated idyllic beach, and no where else to be but here.  Powell is uninhabited, but there is a trail across the cay to the Atlantic Ocean side.

The ocean side of Powell Cay

Who needs structure when you snorkel sporting your very own fish attracter pants?

We stayed at Powell Cay two nights, and then the wind turned and it was time to move.  The great thing about this area is that there are a lot of anchoring options nearby =  less work and more play.  :)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gateway to the Bahamas!

We planned our departure from Marathon with a two day weather window to get to the Bahamas.  To avoid an overnight passage in the gulfstream, we left Marathon and traveled up the Hawk Channel and anchored near Key Largo, at Rodriguez Key.  The Hawk Channel is the near shore waters along the Florida Keys between the keys and the ocean reef, about 5 miles offshore.  It is much more protected than offshore, but still far from the calm of the TN river.  Our second day would be the long day to Bimini.  It would be our longest single day trip, totaling 73 nm and our first crossing of the gulfstream.  The first 23 miles continued inside the Hawk Channel, until we reached Angelfish Pass, where we ventured out.  Since the gulfstream runs north at about 2 knots, we would be pointing the boat almost due east and being pushed north, to end up at our destination...Bimini!

The crossing was mostly pretty awesome.  The color of the ocean when it's several thousand feet deep is an amazingly deep blue.  We had some man-o-war jellyfish joining us that day, along with two other boats also making the same crossing.  While we didn't plan on the boat company, it is reassuring that you picked a good day to cross when you have others doing the same thing.

We arrived after an uneventful day of motorsailing.  The depth changes rather abruptly from thousands to hundreds to tens of feet as you come onto the Bahamas Bank. The guide books warn about this, but it was still pretty intimidating to go so suddenly from deep blue water to a turquoise color that you can suddenly see right down at the rocks, coral and sand!  But we managed not to run aground, and since there are not good anchoring options here, we tied up at a marina and cleared customs.  Customs was a mostly painless process, there are so many boats that clear in here that the offices are near the marinas and are quite accommodating.  Next stop, the pool, and then the beach!

We spent five nights in Bimini, waiting for our next weather opportunity to head on to our next destination.  In the mean time, we enjoyed swimming and snorkelling on the beach, swimming in the pool, and generally exploring this tiny island.  It is amazing how many people live here, and how friendly and welcoming they all are to each other and visitors.  We felt very welcomed and enjoyed our stay on the "Gateway to the Bahamas".

More sunset candy...