Crossing the Gulf and our stay at Bimini
Monday, January 15th.
By 1930 hours we are on our way heading out of No Name Harbor. Because our GPS marked our trip into the harbor we basically were able to follow the markings back out.
We have to say we would never have tried this crossing in the dark without our electronic equipment and the company of another boat. Up until midnight the seas were to be two to four feet with winds E 10-15 knots. After midnight the seas were to be two feet or less.
Well, this did not happen. The further we got into the Gulf the nastier it got. The seas turned into a minimum of six to eight feet coming right at our nose for the next ten hours. We had water running on deck and the wind was howling. If we could have seen the situation around us we probably would of turned back. We could see UNWIND’S stern light diminishing. We lost communication with UNWIND around 0400 hours. At our last communication with them we had decided it would be easier to head south to Gun Cay (pronounced Key) and go through customs there. As daylight broke we were off Gun Cay and had no success making contact with UNWIND. ( It turned out we both had our own set of problems.)-- we were having trouble with our handheld VHF’s and they were having trouble with their navigation equipment.
We were not comfortable with the entrance to Gun Cay and decided we would head north to Bimini. As we got closer to the waypoint for Bimini we did not think it was possible to enter. All we could see were huge waves crashing over a surf so we inadvertently went past. After heading further north we decided we definitely had gone too far so we turned around . As we got closer to the way point we called into Bimini on the VHF and were advised that yes we were at the correct entrance and that the channel was 11 feet all the way. NOT!!! We never saw it deeper than 7 feet.
The entrance is actually on the inside of a shifting sandbar.
There is no official dock in Bimini. We did however see a huge cement dock and decided this must be where we were to go. A good breeze basically pushed us right to the huge dock area.
Randy went to customs and immigration to get our cruising permit and fishing license. He said they were very friendly. While he was on shore a different element was happening to me. A“ fellow” came over to the boat and wanted my water. He continued pointing at his empty bottle. I finally said firmly “No”, that I had already been drinking from mine---of course I’m sure he didn’t care about that. He continued to hang around until finally I had to move to the other side of the boat and turn my back to him. Am I feeling uncomfortable yet?
In the meantime Randy went and found a marina we could tie up to and we proceeded to try and get off the dock to no avail. The wind had picked up and kept pushing us back on. An elderly fellow on a bicycle came up to us and tried to help, even though we had not asked for his help. We said thank you and said we’d stay put until the wind changed . At this point another man came up to us—put his hand out to shake mine and at that point stuck out 4 fingers. This I thought meant I was to pay the old man 4 dollars. I went and got 4 dollars and gave it to the old man which put a smile on his face. He left, however the younger man hovered around forever. We put everything away that we had on deck and he still wouldn’t leave. Finally Randy told him to go and get money from his “friend” which he obviously didn’t like. He hadn’t even tried to help us leave the dock but expected payment.
The wind started to die down so we decided to try again and at this point another man came up to us and said he wanted us to move….We said yes, we wanted to move too. The long and the short of it is we paid him 10 dollars and managed to finally get off the dock.
Heading for the marina yes, low and behold we grounded. A dinghy from a United Kingdom boat came to help us get off. Then another dinghy with a 50 hp engine came by and helped, then a dinghy with a family in it came and helped. After 15 minutes which seemed like at least 30 minutes we were off and said our thanks. Needless to say very nerve racking. The dinghy with the family in it said to stay over to the southside of the channel so we dropped our anchor there. Turned out where we set our anchor was too close to where all the boat traffic entered and left the bay so we decided to move and as luck would have it got stuck again. ARE WE HAVING FUN YET!!! Randy got us off quickly. We are having lots of practice grounding. Not exactly our favorite past time. We are so tired I am sure that is one of our problems. We did anchor with 7 feet of water under us. This last part of our journey we have traveled 50 miles. No wonder we are exhausted. Basically in the last 36 hours we have had about 2 hours rest.
The island of North Bimini is 7 miles long…no more than 700 feet wide, with an elevation no greater than 15-20 feet above sea level. In general the Bahamas are an archipelago of about 700 islands and nearly 2400 cays (keys) and rocks. We have found the people in land away from the docks here in Bimini very friendly and helpful. It sounds like there is a lot of poverty on the island as not as many boats have been arriving from the States. Some people thought it was due to the new Passport Legislation for the Americans. Others said the increase in cruising fees was an issue and then others stated basically it’s been the weather. WE believe it’s probably a combination of all three suggestions.
Poor Rand! As luck would have it, the new” Merc” motor would not start. We were hoping to go to shore for brunch. How frustrating for him. We did finally paddle ashore and walked most of the island. We found a hardware store and purchased engine start. When we arrived back to the dinghy we had the pleasant surprise of the Rutherford’s and Paul checking out our dinghy. They are at South Bimini and have had problems just like us. Their life buoy and strobe was pulled off the boat when they were trying to leave a wharf and they lost both, plus their keel has met the bottom too. Maybe we should start a “Grounding Club”
To the east of our anchorage was an incredible bird sanctuary that would have been nice to explore. When the tide went out the area was a massive sand bank. We did see a group of small shark playing and jumping approximately 100 feet from the boat.
We unfortunately have had no luck getting the dinghy motor started so we will keep our travels to a minimum as the current is very strong in this bay. We have been told the current here runs between 2 and 3 knots and the tide change is every 3 hours. We experienced the current one afternoon heading back from town. Rowing back to the boat we got caught in the current. Randy is yelling at me to ROW!!! I’m saying I AMMMMM!!! We are not making any headway; in fact we’re going backwards. Randy continues to “coach” me, saying we’ve got to get to the pilings or we’ll be swept out to sea. Gads, it took all my strength, then we finally managed to grab a piling. Pulling ourselves from one piling to the next we then rowed back into shore. On our next try after a short break we decided to head to the N.W. side of the boat with the idea we would be “swept” literally to the boat and would grab on. That is exactly what we did. We managed to grab on to a forward stanchion and made our way to the stern. Randy telling me to jump onto the boat, me saying I can hold us---NOT!! Him saying no you can’t, get on the boat!!! We both got onto the sugar scoop and again we are exhausted. No more going to shore here without a dinghy motor.