Friday, April 3, 2009

Welcome to the Bahamas!!

WE ARE HERE - we have finally set foot on Bahamian soil and it's as great as we always thought it would be!! We left Marathon just five short days ago - although it really seems much more than that - and steamed up to Rodriguez Key along with Lucky Stars to meet up with September Song and Life's2Short (the other two boats that we planned on heading over to the Bahamas with)! It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the weather was awesome - a great day to be out on the water. That afternoon, once we got our anchor down, the entire anchorage got to participate in our Bahamas anticipation as Bob on September Song played a couple Jimmy Buffett tunes on his hailer. We all had an early evening as the plan was to leave at 5:00 AM the next morning for our crossing!

Of course we were all too excited to sleep so by the time we finally did get to sleep it was time to get up. Anchors were lifted in the dark as we made our way through the anchorage and then the reef in the pitch black of the morning - we have never run at night so it was a very strange feeling to be underway without being able to see anything ahead of you except the running lights of the boats in front of you. With September Song leading the way (Big Boat Bob has the biggest spotlight - of course), we all made it through the reef and we were on our way!!! The crossing of the Gulf Stream was really pretty cool - we ran at about 9-91/2 knots which is fast for us - we got a boost form the gulf current. The weather was fairly nice although a little rougher than what all the weather forecasts had predicted - I have to admit that it was a pretty weird feeling being out of sight of land knowing that there was over 3000 feet of water under our keel. It was great to look around and see 3 other boats!!
We are following Life's2Short and September Song

We fished our way across the Gulf Stream - Lucky Stars got lucky first and caught a big mahi, then it was Life's2Short's turn with a tuna and finally Colleen struck with a barracuda (not good eating and really tough to get off the hook with those teeth - just ask John) and then a spanish mackeral!! Big Boat Bob was eating hot dogs that night...
Colleen Fishing during the crossing

Colleen's Spanish Mackeral

Around 2:30 that afternoon we saw South Riding Rock - land ho!!
South Riding Rock

Our first glimpse of the Bahamas and it was breathtaking - the water was 20 shades of blue and green and stretched out for miles in every direction.
Blue water right beside the boat

Because we had crossed into Bahamian waters we took down the Jolly Roger and hoisted our yellow quarantine flag - no we aren't sick or contagious, it signifies that we haven't formally checked into the Bahamas yet.
Gypsies in the Palace flying the quarantine flag

We proceeded across the Bahamas Banks for another 3 hours or so and just dropped the hook in the middle of the Banks. Once again we were out of sight of land but this time there was only about 13 feet of water under us. The water was just too inviting so as Colleen cleaned and filleted the fish, Doug and I went for a swim - glad we did it then as later that evening Lucky Stars was commenting on the nurse shark that kept coming over to their swim platform!! We watched our first Bahamian sunset

enjoying a bottle of champagne that we had been saving since our bon voyage party (thanks Kathy and Sean - told you it would come in handy!) while we toasted our amazing fortune to be living this life! After hearing Bob blow the conch as the sun sunk below the horizon (no green flash unfortunately), we enjoyed our freshly caught spanish mackeral cooked on the barbie. I think that was the best fish I've ever eaten!! We ate up in the flybridge under the Bahamian stars - what an amazing sight the night sky was with no ambient light around to mess it up (the only other thing we could see were the 3 other anchor lights which were somehow reassuring)! We'd made it to the Bahamas and life was good!

It was at least until the middle of the night when the winds and waves really started to kick up and without anything around to protect us, the anchorage was rocking and rolling. We woke to a fantastic sunrise

and weighed anchor at first light in search of some protection from the weather - which was supposed to be dead calm!!! APRIL FOOLS!!! The first 3 hours to cross the rest of the Banks wasn't too bad but as we headed into the Northwest Channel and the Tongue of the Ocean (how can you make this stuff up), the waves were awesome - 6-8 footers spraying up over our flybridge. We came down to drive from the pilothouse to stay dry but as we took one after the other over the bow, the helm station and the salon became a firing range as anything that wasn't tied down became a flying projectile! By the end of the day, our salon looked like a hurricane had gone through it - at one point even the cats became airborne (they were so not amused!!) But we finally found a semi-protected anchorage at Chub Cay and all tucked in behind a little spit of land where we could put the boat back together and chill out. Shortly after the anchors were down, Dan's delivery service showed up at our boat transom - Dan from Lucky Stars had donned his flippers and was delivering fresh mahi fillets to us and the other boats. Thanks Dan and Carol for sharing!!! We had a great dinner of fresh mahi and I think everyone was asleep by 9!

We had planned to try and get to Nassau yesterday but once again the weather didn't cooperate so we decided to sit tight and have a "mental health day" - at least that was the plan! But no, mother nature wasn't done screwing around with us - mid-day the winds started to pick up and turn so that our once semi-protected anchorage wasn't looking (or feeling) so protected anymore. We could see the waves crashing up over the spit of land, so braving the Tongue wasn't high on our list, but after weighing our options (Chub Cay marina would have been glad to accommodate us for $4.75/foot - NOT), we decided to move to a little spot about 5 or 6 miles away. After the day before, how bad could it be??? With September Song and Gypsies leading the way (we have stabilizers and the others don't), we headed over to Frazer's Hog Cay (really!!) where we planned on anchoring or picking up a mooring ball. The ride over wasn't too bad (after the day before, our perceptions had changed) and we pulled into the channel without incident. We in fact were welcomed with open arms by The Berry Islands Club run by a super great guy named Herbie who insisted that we tie up to his dock (for the same price as what a mooring ball would have cost).

After we were all secure at the dock, a group hug and primal scream seemed to be the thing to do - after the tension of the last couple days, we had taken what mother nature dished out and had triumphed (well at least we were all OK). Herbie offered to take the captains to customs and immigration since technically we weren't supposed to be on Bahamian soil before checking in with the authorities.

When the boys returned several hours later (we of course had happy hour on the flybridge in the interim where we watched a group of local fishermen cleaning their catch),

the ceremonial changing of the flags occurred where the yellow quarantine flag was lowered and the Bahamas flag was raised!!

Shortly thereafter we all met up at the little restaurant at the head of the dock where Herbie cooked us tons of conch fritters

and made us pitchers of the best rum punch I've ever had (maybe it just seemed that way but I really do think it rocked)!

Tonight Herbie's aunt and girlfriend are coming over to cook us a "true Bahamian family dinner" - we can't wait!!! As we stood around the bar last night

drinking rum punch and chatting and laughing with Herbie, our friends and several of the local fishermen, we realized that this is what we had dreamed of so many months ago when we started to plan this adventure. We were living our dream!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our anchorage on the Grand Bahamas Bank.

Click here to see a Google map of our anchorage at Chub Cay.

Click here to see a Google map of our location at the Berry Islands Club.

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