To Bimini We Go

Bahamas here we come! No sleeping in today: up at 5:00 (but does it really count as “early” when you couldn’t sleep from anticipation anyway?) So many thoughts and questions raced through our minds, but today they’d be answered. Salty Tails was rounding the Key Biscayne lighthouse by 6:00 am; we were underway before the sun rose. Miami was still asleep behind us except for the handful of commercial fishing boats who passed us on our way out of the channel, a typical day for fishermen.

On our course, heading East, we were able to see a beautiful, unobstructed sunrise. Clear visibility, pink and orange skies, and the open Atlantic met us just outside of Miami’s protected waters. We chose this day because we knew the sea state would be in our favor. Very light winds were forecasted along with a calm sea…perfect for our first time Gulf Stream crossing. Our crossing couldn’t have been going any smoother, literally…the seas were almost flat, glassy even. Yes, we motored; no sailing would be happening with 2 knots of apparent winds. For today, that’d be okay with us. Since the Gulf Stream typically moves northward at an average speed of 2.5 knots, we had planned accordingly, setting our course to compensate for the push. Once we entered the Gulf Stream, the water depth plunged on our charts. At the deepest point, our charts indicated we were traveling in over 2,700 feet of water. Wow! The sun shone so brightly that it seemed as if we could see to the bottom. The sun’s rays penetrated the royal blue water. It was breathtaking.

Several hours had passed, we were nearing Bimini. We couldn’t have asked for a better passage. The Gulf Stream wasn’t as big and bad as I had made it out to be in my head. We were finally approaching land: although the ground is low lying, we could see the BTC towers high above. Around 2:00 pm, we were less than an hour away, just three nautical miles. I was almost ready to do a happy dance. The most difficult part was behind us, right? Then, the engine shut off. OFF. We were dead in the water. Now the excited feeling I had did a complete turnaround. I was scared. Luckily Troy, kept cool and calm. He decided to hoist the sails. Even with just 3 knots of wind, we could at least keep forward momentum, buying us some time so that we could, very slowly, continue to make headway toward Bimini while diagnosing what had just gone wrong. With me at the helm, Troy went down below to remove the engine cover and dig in. He assessed and figured it to be some sort of electrical issue. But what was it? He dug through and traced the wiring harness. Finally, he found a simple wire connection that had worked it’s way loose. Thankfully from that previous trip to Napa, he had the correct wire connector he needed to get us going again. He needed 15 minutes, plenty of time since we were only moving at 3 knots. But…a storm cloud was approaching, and in the blink of an eye, winds began to pick up, soon the soft 3 knots of wind turned into 15 knots and we were moving towards Bimini at a much faster pace. Thankfully, Troy finished rewiring and the engine fired right back up. Phew!!
Even though the engine was back up and running as if nothing had ever happened, the storm cloud was still looming. It began to rain as we entered the channel to Bimini, which is busy with boat traffic, inaccurately marked (we noticed one particular channel marker to be washed up on the beach), and rough from the combination of boat wakes, increasing winds, and colliding sea swell and current. Once we safely entered the channel, another curve ball was thrown at us. YES, ANOTHER! As if the engine and rain storm weren’t enough, the anchorage we planned to use so that we could dinghy over to Big Game Club to clear customs and immigration, was inhabited by a storm damaged catamaran, that didn’t appear to be secured properly. Not wanting to take any chances, we headed for South Bimini to anchor in Nixon Harbor instead. With rain still coming down, we dropped the anchor…not once, not twice, but three times to no avail. The ground was so hard that we could not get our oversized, 55lb Rocna anchor to bite. At this point, we were tense, tired, nervous, anxious…and the list goes on, probably with a few choice words mixed in. Quickly, I called Brown’s Marina, which we had heard of through our research and reading about Bimini, to reserve a slip. Thank goodness, they had room for us…we’d finally be able to land in Bimini. Within 20 minutes, we were pulling into our slip, with Cecil assisting with lines. We appreciated his kindness and assistance more than he could know. The fear and worry quickly faded as we enjoyed the setting sun, clear water, and breeze in Bimini…with cocktails in hand. WE MADE IT. And, we even got to finish up the night with hot showers!

The next morning, well rested and with the previous day’s “excitement” behind us, Troy left for Big Game Club to check in and was back within the hour…easy, breezy. We ended up staying two nights in Bimini. This allowed us to rest up and plan our next stop, and even meet some new friends. Paul and John, brothers from the UK, were aboard Delphinus: a Bavaria 44. Paul has spent the last five years cruising across the Atlantic and exploring the Eastern and Western Caribbean with his wife and daughter. They too had arrived in Bimini and made plans to head to the Berry Islands next. We all decided that we’d head in that direction together, stopping overnight at Mackie Shoal (half way across the Great Bahama Bank). We took care of a few final chores; since we were so close to a marina with fuel, we went ahead a topped of both our diesel and gas supply, along with our water tanks. Tomorrow, we would sail to the Berry Islands.