Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Passage Day and Landfall!

A long passage Monday, as we cruised from Nassau to all the way to Bimini, a cruise of 14 hours. We initially thought we’d stop at Chub Cay, at the marina there, but they were going to charge us for both Equinox and the tender too ($3.10/foot apiece for each boat), which wasn’t exactly what we wanted to hear. (Generally, marinas simply charge you for one boat, not for the tender as well!) And, since the anchorage in the small bay there at Chub Cay is known to have swells in southeasterly winds with only fair holding, it didn’t have much appeal either! SO...since we have friends who are trying to cross to Bimini on Tuesday, we thought we’d head there. We opted to push across the Great Bahama bank, get as far as we could with the following seas, and simply anchor at sunset. 
Unfortunately, the winds picked up and were stiffer than expected at the time we needed to anchor (of course!) but we made do. We dropped the hook in the small anchorage on the banks just off North Bimini, unfortunately without much protection from the winds. But it was preferable to bob a bit at anchor than try to enter Bimini in the dark! We’ve done it in the daylight and know how tricky it can be. The shoals there are always on the move, and it’s never a great idea to be making landfall in the dark. SO....we waited! It was a bit of a bumpy night in the winds and chop on the bank, but not too unbearable.
Tuesday we each piloted a boat off the banks as we didn’t want to be towing Tingum, since the winds were still blowing hard. Not to mention, we didn't want to tow through the tight channel into North Bimini. So, Ron piloted Equinox while I was in Tingum, and off we went. Conditions in the Florida Straits were rougher than expected with big 3’-4’ rolling waves coming from the south. I got soaked as soon as I rounded the northern tip of North Bimini,  thanks to a wayward wave. I bounced my way south along the shoreline to the entrance to the Bimini Sands Resort and Marina on South Bimini, where we'll be meeting our friends. I made slip arrangements for our boats while Ron was still underway. 


The entrance coming in from the north can be a bit tricky, as the northernmost channel leading in has a dogleg turn to starboard near shore, before an immediate turn to port to make the final approach into the marina. The jetties at the entrance are actually canted a bit south, so the turn to port is more than just 45 degrees. With the southerly waves rolling in,  the turn to port required a bit of delicate timing, because the waves were coming broadside at the turn and pushing you towards the rocks! Ron had a hairier time of it than I did since Equinox is so much larger and takes a bit more time to respond, but Ron handled it with skill. He did say that the rocks seemed very close!! 

The entrance jetties at Bimini Sands on a calm day --
narrow and rocky!

Once inside and settled in our slip, we felt rather decadent. It's been so long since we were in a marina that simple things like plugging into shore power felt like a real luxury! The resort is very nicely maintained and well-equipped, and we're enjoying it! We explored town on our folding bikes, and pedaled out to the airport to get our Bahamian fishing permits renewed (for some odd reason they were each dated differently than those of our cruising permits), and stopped in at the local grocery store for a few needed items. In the afternoon, we went out to dive on the wreck of the Bimini Trader, an old mail boat that sunk just offshore  South Bimini. Anchoring there is hard, since the bottom is scoured and rocky, with little sand, but we fortunately found a place that allowed for secure holding while we swam about the wreck. Lots of coral growth and fish life abound on the wreck, so it's a good site. We also found a small anchor, fouled in the wreck, along with a 100' length of line. It clearly hadn't been there long, as it looked like new -- the anchor still had a price written on its flukes! We brought it up with us when we made our ascent, since we can use the line for the smaller tender. Fun!

We later discovered that our friends off Concrete Idea and Amore have been delayed due to a generator/battery issue, but they will be joining us in a couple of days. The weather window looks good for them on Thursday. Ron and I shared a quiet dinner at the Bimini Sands Beach Club in the southern part of the island before we came back and made an early night of it. It's been a long day, but a fun one!

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