Jan 25, 2017
When the three day weather window we needed to cross to the Bahamas opened up, we were ready to leave Marathon. We had decided with Folly, our buddy boat, to sail straight to the Bahamas, rather than make our way up to Miami from the Keys. We had also decided to get onto the banks at Riding Rock rather than Bimini, as this entrance would save us about 50 miles. The Gulf Stream passes south of Marathon about 6 miles off shore, so at noon, we headed south to catch it. The extra current in the Gulf Stream would give us an extra 2.5 knots of speed, a nice bonus when you have so many miles to go. The wind was forecast at 12 – 15 knots from the south, decreasing to 10 – 15 knots by dusk. We set the sails and were able to hold close to 9 knots until after dark! The seas were huge rollers, but no breaking waves, which made for spectacular sailing conditions. It was wonderful to get in some great sailing as so much of our trip so far has been motoring.
After dark in the Gulf Stream is where the AIS (automatic identification system) really earns its keep. There were loads of cruise ships, cargo ships and tankers plying the narrow Straits of Florida, all headed in various directions at various speeds. With AIS, they are all displayed on our chart plotter screen so we can see which ones will be coming near to us. We were able to contact most of them just to make sure they were seeing us and also to let them know there were two of us, not just Adamant 1. Quite a few of them altered course to pass behind us, others let us make the move. It’s a little intimidating to see ten or twelve ships all coming at you, in the dark, but by narrowing down the range on the plotter, it was easy to see which ones would be necessary to contact. I have praised the benefits of AIS in most of my blogs, but this piece of equipment has been one of the best additions to our electronics gear we have ever had. Ours is an ICOM, available at RadioWorld in Toronto.
While we were sailing along we could see a line of thunderstorms north of us, headed east. If there is one thing I hate to deal with on the open seas, it’s lightning! Good thing it was staying north of us, or so we thought. By 2 am we were within 20 miles of the entrance at Riding Rock, and surrounded by lightning! The charts showed the entrance to be narrow and full of things to avoid. Prudence says the best thing to do is heave to and wait until sunrise to proceed, at which time you will be able to pick out the hazards ahead. So we stopped the engine and left just half of our jib out, proceeding at a stately 2 knots! But now that the engine was off we could hear the thunder that accompanied the lightning, which made me antsy and anxious for daylight. Soon enough it was bright and we entered the banks, a non event as there wasn’t anything visible except the rock with a day marker on it, indicating we were in the right spot. Somehow, with the rising of the sun, the thunder and lightning completely disappeared, almost instantly!
With the Gulf Stream and the Florida Straits behind us and flat calm, turquoise water around us, we motored for the next nine hours until we were at Northwest Light, which is not a light, just a 30′ pole sticking out of the water near where it is supposed to be! We had been underway just over 27 hours and we happily and thankfully dropped anchor, had a swim, a quick supper and were off to bed at 6 pm. Next morning at 6, we were off to Nassau, basking in the glory of one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. After motor sailing for most of the day, we called for permission to enter Nassau Harbour at 3:30 and were told to proceed to Bay Street Marina. This is when we found out a lot had changed since were there in 2009. When we entered Nassau in 2009, we were directed to the customs dock next to the cruise ship dock. We checked in, paid our fee, then proceeded to drop anchor in front of the Green Parrot Restaurant. Though the restaurant is still there, in place of the mooring field is a marina for yachts, big stuff, 80 – 210 feet long. We were given a temporary dock, told that the marina would contact the authorities for us and told to wait. While we waited, they charged us $35 for their services, only to find out there were already eight boats waiting to be checked in and the authorities were already on site….what a rip off! Obviously they don’t want to cater to the little people anymore. We didn’t get checked in until 9 pm, and in an act of defiance, we left the marina and anchored a couple hundred feet off. And there we stayed for the next five days. No one bothered us, though we got a few looks from some of the mega yacht captains as they moved their boats in and out of the marina. We had a couple days of really nasty weather move in, a prelude to what was going to be routine for the next couple of months.
Left; Lynn from Adamant 1, Right: Jan from Folly.
We did however have a couple of nice days where we were able to tour downtown Nassau, going so far as to hire a taxi and guide to take us on a tour of the west side of New Providence Island. He was a terrific guide and though we were supposed to have the two hour tour, with a little wine at a bar half way around and a lot of stops for photo ops, it ended up being a four hour tour. Great fun with a great guy. We saw one huge resort, mostly completed but sitting empty for the last two years. The owner went bankrupt, and the massive complex was bought out by the Chinese who had the $80,000,000 needed to finish it off. The locals are up in arms about the deal as the Chinese are bringing in their own labourers to do the work. Our guide was a fountain of knowledge and we lapped it up, being the type who like local gossip! He also took us to see the huge complex owned by Tiger Woods. It is rumoured that he bought up a neighbouring complex that was a bit run down so he could incorporate it into his domain. All I can say is wow, what a complex that will be when completed. It is magnificent now!
The weather has finally cleared and we have had our fill of Nassau, so tomorrow we leave with Folly and head out into the Exumas, our playground for the next couple of months. Until next time……….
Below: Harley and Jan from Folly, and our knowledgable Tour Guide!