Finally! Marathon, Florida to Bimini Bahamas

Al and Cheri in the Bahamas
All smiles – Because we’re finally in the Bahamas!

After five months of repairs in Marathon, FL, Consort was ready to go! We have a new mast and rigging, and have made several additional improvements during our enforced downtime. Woohoo! Alan and I were more than ready to get out of town, and we had a decent weather window. See ya, Marathon! We were excited and making last minute preparations to leave the next day, when I heard it…

The domestic water pump. Running. For no apparent reason. This is not an emergency, like it won’t sink the boat or anything, but it sure needed to be functioning properly before we left the states. Alan took up the floorboards and started investigating. It seemed a good cleaning might be all that was needed. Wrong. Out came the spares, to no avail. We would apparently need a new pump. Did I mention this was late at night? Events like this seem to be nocturnal. They always happen when stores are closed and you should be sleeping. Ok, first thing the next day we went to West Marine and bought a new pump, which Alan installed, but then we were super rushed to get out of town on schedule. So we hurried. Which, as always, was a mistake. Hey, we were rusty and anxious!

While Alan was installing the new water pump, I was planning our route using our paper charts. I had our waypoints calculated and was very comfortable with them. But, in the rush, I did not have time to enter them into the chart plotter. We knew the area well enough to make the first couple of hours without them, and that would give us plenty of time to enter them in. No big deal. We put them in as we went and sailed on. Until I decided to zoom in to look at the approach into Bimini. Right there at the channel entrance, the most complicated portion of the trip, the very detailed charts became simple outlines of land masses, and nothing more: no depths, no contours, no obstructions, no markers. Yikes! Apparently, the charts for the Bahamas were not installed. Ok, we had backups and resources to get in safely, but it was more nerve-wracking than it had to be. Then we figured we’d just download charts when we got there and carry on. The ability to download charts was a major selling point of our new B&G Zeus2 Chartplotter, which we love, so no big deal, right? Wrong. The website for downloading charts was down. Until August. Gah. After three days of going round and round with customer support for B&G, GoFree (the download website), and Navionics, we got to someone in tech support, who finally admitted that there is just no way to download charts to our system right now. Wish they’d told us that from the start, but the customer service reps who answered the phones seemed not to know this. (Pro tip! Tell your customer service reps things like this!) We’d have to order an actual chip and have it shipped to us. West Marine thought they could get it here in three days, so we ordered one, paid the international expedited shipping fee, and waited. When we checked the tracking it said it would be eight days before it got here.

Bimini Sunrise
Bimini Sunrise

Now I should mention that there is no good anchorage here. We are in a marina, spending money for dockage that isn’t in our budget to wait for this chip. Otherwise, no big deal. It’s lovely here, but, as it stands, time is literally money. We have to be in a location long enough to get a shipment, so here we are.

So we got back on the phone with West Marine and their international customer service rep, Miriam, seems to have sorted it out. We should get it today. We’ll see!

Marathon Sunset
A surprisingly lovely sunset on a gray day.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As for the sail over here, the weather was calm and overcast. It was hot and humid. You would think that sailing you would always have a nice breeze, but sailing downwind made it feel like the air was quite still because we were going in the same direction as the wind. We were glad when the sun went down and it cooled off a little. And the sunset was surprisingly lovely, considering the cloudy conditions.

The wind was only 3.5 – 4 knots and right behind us, so we put up the main sail with a special line called a preventer, which keeps the sail from slamming over to the other side of the boat if the wind shifts and is a good safety measure when sailing with the wind behind the boat. (We’re being safe, Mom!) Not sure if it helped our speed at all to have the main up, but it made us feel better. Remember, we had to replace our mast. Sometimes it feels good just to stare up at it in use…

In the evening, the wind picked up to 9-11 knots and we unrolled both furlers. Now we could cut the motor and actually sail! We started making 6-7 knots, which continued until early morning when the wind died down again. We took in the headsails (the two front sails) and motorsailed the rest of the way with just the mainsail up.

Rain Clouds
These clouds stayed to Starboard the whole trip.

Overnight, we could see distant lightning, but it didn’t seem to be moving closer on the radar. In the morning, the activity increased, and it looked for a while like we might get caught in a little squall, but it stayed away.

We soon caught sight of land, and started getting our first glimpses of the exquisite Bahamian waters. Wow, even on a cloudy day, it is lovely! The water is every shade of blue, from the sapphire of deep water, to deep teal and then pure turquoise as it shallows towards the islands, to the pale celadon of the beaches themselves. Underwater features like coral and sea grass can be clearly see even in 30 feet of water. It’s amazing.

Approach to Bimini Channel with Markers
If you look closely, you can see the channel markers. That’s Bimini Sands Marina on the right.

Coming into the channel, we had to switch from navigating via electronics to doing so visually. In the Bahamas they say “if it’s blue, come on through; if it’s brown, go around.” Well, it’s not quite that simple, but we managed it and tied up at Brown’s Marina for the night with no further drama.

The marina is small, but well situated. The wifi is pretty slow (think dial-up). The showers and bathrooms are spartan, but clean and functional. The dock master, Cordero, was very pleasant and helpful. The water here is crystal clear, like looking into a fish tank. Several species of fish were enjoying the current that flows through the marina. It was like having an aquarium right outside the boat. The marina is right next door to Big John’s, a restaurant and bar, and the music was pretty loud into the night, but we were tired enough not to care. I don’t think either of us lost any sleep over it. The marina had all the forms needed for customs and immigration, and Alan made the short walk to get us checked in, which went smoothly. They are clearly in the tourist business here, and make the process pretty straightforward.

A moderate rain storm blew in after we were pretty much squared away at the dock, so we apparently had very good timing. Was the rush worth it? I don’t know, but we are trying to sloooooooowwww doooooown from here on out.

Shortly after we docked, the lovely couple in the catamaran next door invited us over. We had an enjoyable evening visiting with them and were so happy to benefit from their knowledge of the Bahamas. Thanks Michelle and Fabio (and Sadie) on Delfino! We also met Dan and Trisha on Oasis, a beautiful DeFever yacht, and they shared some of their favorite Bahamas destinations with us as well, even going so far as to show us drone footage of one of their very favorite places.

It has been a pretty good start, all told, and a loooooong time coming. We are just so happy to be underway.

Bahamian Water
The water is beautiful. This doesn’t really do it justice!

 

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