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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Crossing to the Bahamas

02 Jan - The plan is to cross to Nassau with "Contented Turtle" an Island Packet 38 that has made this crossing several times before. We hope to run all night and be in Nassau in about 26 hours.

0900 We pulled anchor in Miami and headed towards government cut. Called the coast guard to see if it was okay to use the main channel as it is shorter, but is closed to pleasure boats if there is more than one cruise ship in the channel. There was only one Royal Caribbean ship there and we were granted permission as long as we kept 100 yards away. We hugged the opposite shore and the ship launched a boat to make sure we kept away. They told us we couldn't go through, but I yelled over that the coast guard said it was okay, so they backed off and let us pass. It is a busy port and there are car ferrys crossing every 15 minutes to add to the congestion. We stopped at Miami Beach Marina to fill our diesel jugs before heading out. They also had a great marine store, so we picked up some electrical supplies we need to improve our windlass wiring.

1046 we leave the marina and head out into the Atlantic. The cut is narrow and deep and considered a class "A" inlet - the safest kind. Unfortunately the tide was going out and the wind was blowing in, creating waves that were square and tightly spaced making for a wild ride on the way out. Adding to the fun, a 100+ foot power boat passed us at high speed bouncing us around even more. The outboard started swinging back and forth, and waves were breaking over the bow. Glad we have a sturdy dodger to keep the crew dry. The alternator alarm starts beeping at this point as well. Beth secured the outboard with a line and we turned out of the channel so the waves calmed down. In the ocean the waves were only two feet and the wind was blowing 11 kts. Of course the wind was blowing from the east, where we are headed, but we expected that. Through all of this, Noah was laying on the cabin sole reading a book of ghost stories!  Beth takes the helm and I head below to investigate the alternator problem. The diagnostic codes pointed to an overheating situation, so we gave ourselves an hour to fix it or turn around. It turned out to be a broken wire right at the ring connector on the field wire. This is the wire that tells the alternator how much power to put out -- zero at this point. Beth sailed so we could cut the power and I could replace the wire. Of course the clearance was so tight that the nut wouldn't come off the lug. Used a spade connector rather than a ring to get around that. Will have to remove the alternator to do a more permanent fix. Not a service friendly installation!

1335 We fired up the engine and we were filling the batteries once again. By this time Contented Turtle had caught up with us. While the engine was off, we drifted North at 2.5 kts, so we had entered the Gulf Stream.

1535 Beth and Noah napping. I've still got an adrenalin rush from fixing the alternator.  Winds are down to 7 kts and we are making 6.4 kts speed over ground running the engine at 2400 rpm with the staysail up.

1710 Sighted Bimini in the Distance, the closest of the Bahamian Islands.

1806 Sunset Winds are 11-16 kts and we've covered 51 miles.

1847 The depth sounder started reading again at 134 feet. We've found the banks!

1908 Passed safely by North Rock Light. Japanese Noodles for dinner. Speed 5 kts. Wind 6. Noah falls asleep in the cockpit using the sail cover for a blanket. Air temp is 77.

2104 Full Moon rises . Speed 5.7 kts. Depth only 15.5 feet.

2316 Increased speed to 6.5 kts in order to compensate for increased wind speed of 11 kts. The boat cuts through the waves better at hull speed.  Beth takes the helm while Mark heads below for some rest.

03 Jan 0104  Mackie Shoal Light - Speed 6.5 kts.

0102 Slowed speed to make arrival at NW Channel closer to slack tide.

0300 Mark back in cockpit. Beth goes down to attempt sleep. Speed 5.5

0400 Winds up to 15 kts. Speed 5.4

0600 Waiting for dawn to enter NW Channel. Several freighters pass us, then wait for light as well. Two other sailboats catch up with us.

0713 Follow a freighter and pass NW Shoal light 120 miles from Miami. Depths drop off to 3000 feet. A boat behind us catches a Mahi Mahi as they come off the banks.

1000 We see flying fish. Winds 18-24 knots. Waves are closely spaced around 4 feet every 2-3 seconds. Every 3-5 minutes a pair of 6-8 foot waves would come. The first wave would lift us up and then drop us down into the second wave, sending spray everywhere. The ocean doesn't have any problem bouncing a 20,000 lb boat out of the water. Motion is not conducive to resting. Speed through the water is 6 kts, but we are only making a little over 5 kts over the ground due to the waves and wind. This is much rougher than the Gulf Stream crossing. Trying to rest below, the boat falls out from under me every twenty seconds or so and the setee greets me again rather abruptly. Beth did a great job making the lee cloths that hold us from falling of the cushions. We are pleased to hear fifty foot Benetaus behind us complaining of the same motion and not making any better speed.
Contented Turtle in the Tongue of the Ocean

1404  Winds 13-16 kts. Still on the nose, but the waves have decreased as we get closer to New Providence Island. Called several marinas, but only one answers and they don't have any room.

1506 Called Nassau Harbor Control for permission to enter the harbor. Permission granted and we raise our yellow "Q" flag and pass between a lighthouse and the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship that we passed in Miami. Called another marina and they have room for us!

1545 Tied up in Nassau Yacht Harbor after covering 177 nautical miles in just over 30 hours. They don't have dock hands to help with lines, just one dock master and several boats coming in. There is strong current, a bridge and a reef just off the docks, so we just took the first open slip we found. The dock master called and said, "just stay there mon" it is a sixty foot slip, so we have plenty of room!

The customs officer came right away and granted the boat clearance for 6 months. After dinner, and just as we had given up hope and Beth got undressed for a shower on the boat, the immigration officer arrived and cleared us all in. We went ashore and luxuriated in long, hot showers before falling into a well deserved sleep. Not a fun passage, but we made it safe and sound to Nassau.

Safe and Sound in Nassau

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