Monday, January 17, 2011

Bimini - Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau, Bahamas
25 04.5 N 077 18.78 W
Bluewater Marina in Bimini
We stayed in Bimini for 4 days waiting out yet another cold front while it blew 25knts for 2 days. On Saturday winds calmed enough for us to do some kayaking. On Sunday the westerly winds moderated and we decided to go snorkeling with another couple. We dinghied out of the harbor and went up the coast about 3 miles to a reef ½ mile off the northwest side of North Bimini (25 45.95 N, 079 16.70 W). We were able to see down to about 25’ depths. This was the location of the mysterious Bimini Roads… supposedly from the lost continent of Atlantis… all we were able to see was a series of flat stones about 20’ below the surface, but could not discern any road-like pattern. We then snorkeled over a near-by reef for our first look at the undersea world of the Bahamas with purple fan coral and colorful reef fish. There were several dozen other cruisers waiting out the nasty weather in the marina with us and we all got to know each other quite well over the 4 days. Afternoon cocktail parties were the routine with most nights onboard Carina. The catamaran is always the party boat!!

Fresh conch chowder
from Sophia's. 
We explored most of North Bimini Island by foot in a few hours as it is not very big. We purchased conch chowder from one store and a fresh-baked loaf of sweet Bimini bread from the local bakery. The bread made a wonderfully sweet French toast breakfast. A Bimini native came by the docks one morning selling fresh conch meat and Caribbean lobster tails for a very reasonable price. Kathy made conch fritters for the 1st time that were delicious after Mark learned how to “bruise” the conch meat from a local.

We departed Bimini on Monday afternoon. Our next destination was Chub Cay in the Berry Island chain about 85 nm to the east. In between lay the Great Bahama Banks, a vast & remote area with shallow water depths, generally in the 8’ to 20’ range. The distance is too much for most sailboats to transit in a single day so if you don't feel like continuing on overnight it is typical to anchor overnight on the Banks. We intentionally left in a mild weather period between fronts so we could motor across the Banks in light variable winds that also allowed for calm sea conditions overnight. Dream Catcher, another catamaran followed with us from Bimini. We both anchored in the middle of nowhere about 7:30 that night with not another boat, navigational light or any sign of land in any direction. It was so dark with no ambient light on the horizon from any civilization that the stars were visible 360 degrees right down to the horizon.

Anchored off Chub Cay Cove
It was surreal to be anchored out in such an exposed location but we really could not have had any calmer overnight conditions and after a restful night’s sleep we were under way by sunrise reaching the eastern side of the Banks where, in a matter of a few miles distance, the shallow Bahama Banks drop off into 2600’ depths of the Northwest Providence Channel. We continued motoring on in calm seas arriving at Chub Cay in the Berry Islands by early Tuesday afternoon. Both catamarans dropped anchors off a white sand beach (25 24.56 N, 077 54.54 W). Again the water was gin clear and the sandy bottom had hundreds of huge starfish. 

Starfish this size "littered"
the sandy bottom
More strong winds were forecasted for the next few days so on Wednesday 12th, we moved around the southern side of Chub Cay to the adjoining island of Frazer’s Hog Cay about 6 miles away where we picked up a secure mooring ball at the Berry Island Club (25 25.5 N, 077 50.1 W). The winds arrived as predicted and quickly built to 15-20knts which stayed that way for the next 3 days and nights. After three nights of uncomfortable conditions on the mooring ball we decided to return to Chub Cay Cove on Saturday to hopefully get a more restful night sleep. It turned out we made the right decision as it was very calm and we had the bonus of having the company of many rays which glided around and under the boat all afternoon.
 We weighed anchor on Sunday morning for the 38 miles to Nassau across the deep Northeast Providence Channel. Winds and seas were forward of the beam making for an upwind slog that we motor-sailed. We entered Nassau Harbor passing by the cruise ship docks and docking at Harbor Club Marina. Our friends, Gary and Jane from Dream Catcher arrived shortly after us and we have spent the past two days doing grocery shopping, laundry and taking care of some other errands and boat “things”. We plan to leave the docks tomorrow and continue on to the Exumas where we plan to spend the next couple of months.
Kathy securing the jib after
arriving in Nassau Harbor

Passing the Atlantis Resort
on Paradise Island

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