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I’ve neglected our blog and after being somewhat scolded by one of our followers I will endeavor to be a bit more diligent in our posts.

The passage from Key West to Bimini was a bit rough on me.  Not because it was difficult; on the contrary, it was about as near to perfect as any passage we’ve ever made.  But, because I just felt extremely tired and out of sort.  In hindsight, I’ll write it off to having a very mild but lingering-in-the-background upset stomach.  Perhaps some background is in order.  I just felt a bit out of sorts.

Chuck and I have had additional crew on our boat for two of our passages and considering the shallow depth of the Bahamas, decided we like company on this one.  The first name that came to mind was a close friend of ours from Texas, Chris Earls.  Chris is forty-nine and has been sailing and boating with his family and others since he was six.  Over the years he’s either done out-right or has assisted Chuck on numerous projects on our boat.  No better candidate could have been found.  We contacted him and he was available.  As it were, we got him down to the boat in Key West one week before what became our departure over here to the Bahamas.

During that week, as anyone who makes offshore passages would attest, there were many things to do.  We started tracking the weather and a good window for leaving turned out to be last Tuesday, December 6th.

On the Monday before we left there were two major items left to do: complete our provisioning and, almost as importantly, bring our yacht to 3D Boat Yard (right next to the marina) to have our fixed prop replaced with our newly refurbished foldable Max Prop.  The Max Prop is way more efficient than a fixed prop and the boat performs much better with it.  On three separate occasions we’d attempted to have our propellers changed out but as luck would have it, we just couldn’t make it happen.  So, on Monday, the prop change was job one; it had to be done.  We had the propeller guy lined up and were set with the boat yard to have the boat quick hauled at 1300 that afternoon.

As 1300 rolled around we rode over to the yard only to find out that they were going to have to splash a large schooner first…we were next in line after that for the quick haul.  The long and short of it was after the schooner was dropped in the haul out slip and started their engine they had lost engine cooling water circulation…busted impeller.  Our haul out time slipped to almost 1530 before our prop contractor finally got to work.  He had some very minor problems that delayed his installation but the boat yard agreed to stay late, knowing we were leaving the next day.

After the prop was installed and we splashed, it was back to the Stock Island Marina Village fuel dock where were took on a whole four gallons of fuel (we thought we’d need a measly fifteen) and left ourselves tied up there rather than go back to the slip.  Then we hurried to downtown Key West to return our scooters, before borrowing a friend’s jeep and rushing to the local Publix Supermarket to finish provisioning.  By the time the provisions were bought, brought and loaded back onto the boat it was near 2200.  Our initial plans were to leave, perhaps as early 0300.  Exhausted from a grueling and very stressful day, we then sat down to finalize our route.

Now, over the previous several days we’d consulted several from the marina that had made the trip over to Alice Town.  Seldom can one have too little information on something like this.  Our first plan was to go from Key West to Rodriquez Key, down near Key Largo in the upper keys, spend the night and then jump over to the Bahamas the next day; that plan would have broken the trip up into two days with the only real advantage being it avoided an overnight passage.  Then we considered going to Marathon, Florida, anchoring out, and then make the jump…which also would have included an overnight passage.  All of us being dead tired and somewhat stressed not only from the day, but for the several days before in which we averaged maybe six hours of sleep a day, we finally just took a deep breath and tossed out both of those plans.  Here we were with over a hundred years of sailing experience between us and we were fretting a 150-160 mile passage in what was predicted to be perfect winds and seas.  We’d sleep until 0600, have coffee, and depart Key West at 0630 direct to Alice Town.  We estimated the passage at somewhere between 21 and 24 hours.  At 0630 the next morning, after another six hours of sleep, we slipped the dock lines and headed out into Hawk Channel.

The plan was to take the shortest path to the Bahamas…we’d take the Hawk Channel inside the reef until an hour or so before sunset and then jump out into the Gulf Stream.  We’d then set our rhumb line for Alice Town, Bimini.  And, we did.

We’d never sailed inside of Hawk Channel but knew before we left there would be a lot of crab pots.  We weren’t disappointed.  I took the helm while Chris and Chuck spotted crab pot floats…we estimate there were roughly 39,658,003 crab pots…we’re not sure…we quit counting at five million.

After we jumped outside into the Gulf Stream the sail was uneventful.  What was significant is that our ETA at North Bimini was estimated at between 0300 and 0500…we knew that, at the least, we’d have to circle the entrance until daylight.

The only burp in the passage was our dinghy davits.  Around 2200 hours we noticed that the starboard side davit had dropped about three inches for some reason.  Upon inspection, we saw that a stainless steel pin that allows the davits a bit of movement had failed.  It was still quite secure, however, and with less than one meter swells we decided to just keep an eye on it, anticipating a repair once in Alice Town.

We arrived at the North Bimini waypoint at almost straight up 0400.  Within a half hour, another sailboat arrived off of our starboard quarter.  We hailed them on the VHF, S/V My Kay, asking what their draft was (we draw 6.5’).  They drew 7.0’ and indicated they were going to have to circle until high tide which was to be around 1300.  We knew we would have to do the same.

So, for the next eight boring hours we, along with My Kay, circled the entrance about a half mile or less offshore…watching multiple catamarans and small power boats with their shallow draft enter.  Occasionally, we’d hail a vessel exiting the cut and inquire as to water depth.

At around 1230 hours we uneventfully entered the channel; Chuck had us safely tied to the dock at Big Game Club Marina a short time later.  We had dinner at the marina, showered, and by 1830 I was in bed and sound asleep…a short time later the boys turned in.

After a great meal and thirteen hours of replenishing sleep my out of sorts disappeared.

One pleasant surprise was that within a half hour of our initial docking, a gentleman approached us on the dock offering us a dozen freshly caught lobster tails at a price that was ridiculously inexpensive.  We jumped right on that.

The next morning, Thursday, we dropped the dinghy in the water and completely disassembled the dinghy davits, removed them from the boat, and brought them to a welder we were told about.  By 1430 hours the repair was made, expertly.  A couple of hours later the davits were back up and the dinghy safely hanging from them.

That evening, I cooked a splendidly delicious meal of steak, two lobster tails each, and my semi-famous hashbrowns.  We made short order of the feast.

On Thursday, after we had communications, business back in the US dictated that Chuck had to return in order to send a Limited Power of Attorney to our lawyer back in the States.  On Friday morning, he flew out to Ft. Lauderdale to handle that chore…Saturday morning by noon, he was back, his trip a success.

We knew before we got here that there is essentially nothing to do and nothing to see, and we weren’t disappointed.  It’s a small place, with friendly people but otherwise quite bleak.  The locals make their living fishing and catering to the tourists and cruisers.  That was no problem with us for on Friday, a cold front blew through with 25-30 knot winds, rain squalls and a chop in the marina that made conditions raw at best.  We hung out on the boat, took care of some minor repairs, ate at least once a day at the more than acceptable marina restaurant, and just took it easy.

Today is Monday and the weather is once again settling down, the sun is out, high in the upper 70s, and the chop is gone.  We have a great weather window, starting tomorrow morning, for the next three days.  After we refuel today, we plan to head out for Chub Key tomorrow, perhaps anchoring out on the way.  In Chub, we will anchor out before making the 37 mile passage into Nassau early on Thursday to arrive mid day.  On Friday, the weather is expected to again deteriorate with high winds and seas between Chub and Nassau.  We fully expect to be in Nassau before then…you never know, however.  Once we ride out the next weather system in Nassau, the 10 day forecast indicates we will have a good week or more of favorable winds and seas to pass east of Providence Island (Nassau) and continue on South.

There is one additional side story in the trip.

On Friday, we received an email from Stock Island Marina Village informing us that when we exited our slip last Monday to go to to the boat yard we had hit the huge power boat that was next to us.  We were somewhat taken aback as we were quite careful when we undocked.  All three of us on our boat were in agreement that there was no way our hull hit them…we did acknowledge to ourselves that our dinghy came quite close to his yacht, though we honestly didn’t think that hit them either.  We contacted the owner, told him that we didn’t feel we had hit, but to be sure, and in the interest of fairness, could he please send us a brief narrative of his side and take a few photos, particularly the height from the waterline to his alleged damage.  We also assured him that if we hit him we’d be more than happy to pay for his damages.

He honored our request and as soon as we saw the photos knew that we were mistaken.  At exactly the point in which we were the closest to his boat it was apparent that the rubber port side rub rail of our RIB dinghy kissed his boat leaved three or four minor scuffs.  As we could see from his photos, and of which he admitted in his note, the damage wasn’t even slightly severe, very minor scuffs indeed.  We called our friend Kyle Ohearn who did our bottom job this summer and asked him to take a look.  On Sunday morning he dropped by the owner’s boat to look-see.  Forty-five minutes later he was gone, the scuffs buffed out and waxed and…most importantly, the owner of the power boat tickled pink with the effort.  He had a PayPal account…we paid him the $105 immediately.

The incident was more an inconvenience than anything else.  On three separate occasions we had the marina park large power boats right next to us, in a double slip that was already too small for one boat, much less two, considering the tight fairway…our bow stuck out fifteen feet.  On the first occasion the power boat actually struck our boat when docking, though the damage was insignificant.  On the second occasion the boat was quite beamy and close to us, we complained and they moved him to another slip.  And, as the boat we kissed was docking we complained at the time, but they berthed him there anyhow.  It would have been one thing if the marina was chocked full of boats but there were numerous double slips that all of these boats could have had…instead, they docked them next to our 52′ behemoth.  Oh well, as the Captain at the helm at the time of the kiss it was my responsibility to control my vessel…shame on me.

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