The BIG DEAL in going to the Bahamas is the crossing of the Gulf Stream. Its actually the Florida Current down here and only becomes the Gulf Stream as it rounds Cape Hatteras. None the less, it is a fierce and raging 40 mile wide river in the ocean between Florida and the Bahama Bank, traveling at as much as 4 kts from south to north. 4 knots doesn’t seem all that much until you consider that most sailboats crossing here, are doing so at only 5 to 7 kts of forward speed. But the worst part is if there is any wind blowing against the current, it builds up an incredibly rough sea. The waves are not all THAT tall, but they have nearly vertical faces and are very close together. This is not only hard on the boat and crew, it can easily take that 7 knots of forward speed down to more like 2 to 3. When the wind is right (from the south) this is a simple and quick trip to Bimini.
When it is wrong (from anywhere north) it can be a bone jaring and frustrating 24 hours of pain and danger. Before making this crossing we are always looking for a “weather window” that has less that 20 kts of wind speed, and NO “N” in the wind direction – at all !!
We crossed with “Samvaro III” and “AWAB” and arrived in Bimini about 2:30PM.
Bimini is a hoot! It is absolutely an unbelievable change from everything we have seen to this point. The water is Aqua, the beaches are empty, the streets (street) is only wide enough for one way travel, but used for both directions AND pedestrians too. The ONLY thing familiar is the sun sets. We walked around the whole island, talked to kids in their uniforms headed to school, and bought our first loaf of Bahamian bread.
Definitely good stuff. “AWAB” shared our anchorage along with a 26′ sailboat from New Hampshire. I really had a hard time believing anyone would sail such a small boat from there to the Bahamas, but when we met Mike and Myra on “Bear,” they had really done it. Understand a 26′ boat has no shower, a 2 burner “camp stove” and a bathroom (sort of) in the middle of the bedroom – which was the livingroom. Great for quick weekends, but these two had gone over 1000 miles and crossed the Gulf Stream in a “day sailer.”
A couple days here to check in, get a phone card and off to Nassau.
You sail across the Bahama’s Bank and then the “tongue of the ocean” to get to Nassau.
The first part of this is in water 12-17 feet deep, and you can clearly see the bottom all the time. Suddenly, the bottom drops away and the depth goes to over 2000 feet deep, and the color goes from aqua to deep navy blue. Really quite an experience the first time.
We started to troll our Mahi Mahi lure, and first a 3.5 ft barracuda and then a 8lb Mahi found it interesting enough to bite. The barracuda probably fed the other barracuda, but the Mahi feed us…. and it was wonderful. Although we have tried to catch more, this is still the only one we have caught so far. Just because we could, we anchored in the middle of the Bank and spent the night. Imagine being anchored where there is nothing at all in sight from horizon to horizon. It is very errie and strange as we normally don’t normally drop an anchor unless tucked into someplace very protected, safe and close.
Nassau was very different again. This is the capital of the Bahamas, and holds fully 1/2 of the nations population, along with its largest tourist attraction…Atlantis. We anchored in the harbor, just east of the cruise ship docks, and had an endless parade of ships to watch. One afternoon there were 6 ships including “Oasis”, the largest cruise-liner in the world.
There is just about anything you want here, and prices are about 1.5 times USA prices. Obviously, EVERYBODY seemed to be selling fresh conch, and Jodi found the “market” full of little beer stands and fresh veggies under the bridge to Paradise Island. The area downtown near the cruise docks was exactly what you see in the posters and TV adds… white coated and helmeted policemen directing traffic among the statues, and jewelry shops. 1/2 mile in any direction and the city looks dirty, run down and poor.
Perhaps the very worst for us was walking through a large church cemetery and seeing mounds of garbage tossed over the walls and strewn among the graves. Something about this put a dark and depressing cloud over our visit that no amount of sun would clear away.
On Saturday, we needed to ride a Jitney into the airport to pick up Phyllis (Jodi’s mom). For a $1.25, we got the ride, and a ongoing tour from the Jitney owner/driver about the island, politics, his wife’s company and any even about the sights we were passing. It was a blast. We tried to connect with him for the ride back into town, but the flight was late and a $40 cab ride was required instead. We did have so much fun on that Jitney ride, the next day we went into town and just flagged one down. This time it was $.75 for the seniors and we just rode around the whole route. About 1 and 1/2 hour “tour” for $2.75…. the best deal in the Bahamas! This ride took us “around the hill” and to the backside of Nassau. It was much as expected with fine gated communities next to sections of abandoned buildings next to dumps next to seeming nice little neighborhoods. We left wondering if dirt and decay that seemed pervasive was getting better – or rather the result of the 40 years of independence.