Wow …. it’s already over a year since our Bahamian rescue mission!! I must sincerely apologize if you have been waiting for Part 4 of the Rest of our Adventure. So much has happened in the interim since I last wrote on our blog. I guess I’ll just say that sometimes life just gets in the way. But enough shilly shallying, let’s go back to the Bahamas!
Rose Island to the Berry Islands – about 40 nautical miles
Our goal after leaving Rose Island was Chub Cay in The Berry Islands group which lie east of Bimini and west of New Providence Island where Nassau is located. As we reached along, we reached speeds of about 8 -10 knots on average. The water colour turned a deep blue-violet, a sure sign of very deep water. At one point, our chart indicated 3000 metres of depth! Rain had been predicted in the morning but though it was overcast for a time, the sky stayed dry. Soon the sun came out and a gentle swell, along with brisk north-east winds, propelled us westward along on a steady tack to the Berrys.
Here is a short clip of our sail that day.
We had a lovely, breezy sail toward Chub Cay until the winds came around later in the day to “on the nose”. We decided to cut our passage short and headed into Whale Cay instead. Though not as far west as we had hoped, we wanted to get into the anchorage while the sun was high enough to see the shallows in the water. We didn’t need any more holes in the hull!
We saw that an anchorage was marked on the chart between the southern tip of Whale Cay and Bird Cay just below Cat Cay (remember, that “cay” is pronounced “key”). The depths were pretty shallow beyond the marked anchorage but we knew we could ride in a meter of water even with the tides. But we had to have a careful look at the bottom. Was it rocky, weedy, sandy? We doused the sails and motored around trying to find the best spot out of the west wind. Charts are good but one always has to use visual navigation where it can be shallow. The sand bars can move all the time and dark sea grass can be mistaken for rock or coral sometimes! The islands in the Bahamas are all pretty low so even a chunk of mast sticking up 45′ into the wind can act as a sail! So windage is a consideration as well. Paul and I eventually jumped into the dinghy to scout out a site. Finally we decided on a spot just east of Bird Cay over a smooth patch of sand.
As Happy Hour rolled by, we enjoyed a cocktail in the cockpit and gazed at our first glimpse of damage from Hurricane Matthew which had struck the western Bahamas in October of 2016. On Bird Cay we could see trees that had been thrown over or snapped off by the strong winds. Parts of the ground cover looked as though it had been rolled up and pushed back. Debris lined the shore here and there. Though this is a pretty barren island, it was sad nonetheless.
The next day, we sailed “around the corner” to Chub Cay. Chub is a popular fishing resort which according to our cruising guides had a restaurant, a laundromat, fuel, ice, etc. Everything a cruiser could need. And boy did we need ice! As I recall, we had tried to get ice at Palm Cay marina on New Providence Island. But the small store was closed (at 3:30! we are so spoiled in our culture) and all we could buy was some fresh water. We still had some frozen meat in our cooler that we had brought from Ft. Lauderdale on February 6 and had not yet used on our adventures! Though at this point, I’m not sure frozen was the correct term.
As we approached Chub Cay, we began to see damaged villas at the resort and piles of housing debris on the land. There were odd empty spaces where it seemed a villa may have been, or perhaps a stand of palm trees. Things looked kind of bleak. Then we sailed near to the entrance of the marina but it was chained off with large red floats holding up the chain as a barrier. Uh oh! Now what? I turned on my cell hoping for a signal. Sure enough, Google let us know that Chub Cay marina was closed until further notice. Dang.
I wrote about our tour of poor devastated Chub Cay in my February 19, 2017 post but I want to give another shout out to the local worker Dan who managed to scrounge us up 10 pounds of Ice…for free! We obviously gave him a little something for his efforts and proceeded to have a lovely barbequed turkey in a bag meal later that night. If you’d like to see what Chub Cay looks like now, I believe they re-opened this past summer. Here is a link to their website http://www.chubcayresortandmarina.com/
Our crossing to Bimini to the west began at dawn. It was a beautiful sunrise. We basically sailed across the shallow Bahama Bank for 80 nautical miles on one tack. It was an absolutely gorgeous sailing day. We hit our top speed of 14 knots and the guys were very happy with that. I wrote about this trip in some detail on the “Yes it can be done” post of February 21, 2017. What I didn’t mention was that many cruisers don’t make this jump in one day. Because a lot of cruising sailboats only sail at 4-6 knots on average, this is not a day trip, especially for those who don’t like to sail at night. Some cruisers will opt to anchor for the night on the Bank just out of any shipping channels. As our average speed that day was about 8-10 knots, we were pretty confident we could reach Bimini during daylight. Which we did. It took us around 10 or 11 hours to reach Bimini where we tied up to the dock at Weech’s Marina.
It turned out that the winds were to blow really hard from the East for the next several days. The big local fishing trawler was carefully turned into the wind at her dock and most of the cruisers who could leave did so as the east side of Bimini is pretty unprotected. We moved to the very protected Bimini Sands Marina the next day as the wind was already starting to howl. We docked in the nick of time as pouring rain drenched the area. We were grateful to be snug and secure as the marina is protected on almost 4 sides! We stayed there for a couple of days and enjoyed our time walking the island in the stiff winds and visiting the Shark Research Lab which is often featured on shark documentaries during Shark Week on TV!
Soon we’d try to make our way out and head westward to Florida….or so we thought.
Here are some pictures and video from that passage. Stay tuned to more details from our Adventures coming up in Part 5: “Almost There or Not Sunk Yet!”