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The weather dictated we should leave Alive Town on Tuesday, December 13th.  We’d have three days to cross with ease from Alice Town, first to Chub Cay, and then on to Nassau.  However, on Monday evening when we tried to make water, our water maker took an unrepairable dump.  It was not wholly unexpected, the water maker was probably at least twenty-five years old.  Several options were discussed, including hopping back across the Gulf Stream to Ft. Lauderdale to both purchase and install a new one…I lobbied hard not to choose that option and, thankfully, prevailed.  Instead, the decision was made to use our fairly good internet service in Alice Town to arrange for a new water maker to be shipped from California to Nassau’s Harbor Central Marina where we intended to take on fuel and spend a few days anyhow.  After spending all day Tuesday, we successfully tackled the logistics of making that happen.  Our 20 gph water maker was set to arrive sometime on Monday, December 19th from Technautics , the same vendor we used for our two refrigeration units.

After another delightful meal at the Big Game Club Marina restaurant, in which we were pleasantly surprised to run across our friend Rod Casto (he, his wife Janet, and friend Chuck sailed to Cuba together last May)…we set our alarms for 0600 Wednesday morning to head out.


I’m not much at all for clichés and cute, overused nautical phrases.  The “cruiser’s lifestyle” sort of irks me, for example.  But, many of them are as true as tea.  One particular one that applies, whether I like it or not is that “Cruising is nothing more than about fixing your boat in exotic locations.”  It’s an inescapable and undeniable fact.  Boats, no matter the age or the condition, break…regularly.

At 0630 we started the engine and almost immediately noticed it was running a bit hot.  Turns out the sea chest strainer was somewhat clogged; we cleaned it out quickly and at slack high tide, 0730 we eased the dock lines and made our way out of the channel.  Good bye Bimini, Captain Husband was at the wheel.

As we rounded North Rock, a reef with light, that sits at the north end of North Bimini, I took over the helm.  Chuck mentioned to me that the auto helm was “acting crazy.”  That was understatement, it would not hold course at all, evidently due to getting some sea water on it the night before as we massaged our leaking,  creaking, failing water maker; the auto helm’s computer module sit right next to it.  So, we hand steered the beast across the Bahama Banks, a somewhat tiresome affair on a yacht the size of ours.

The auto helm issue aside, the eighty-seven nautical mile run to Chub Cay was a great day on the water.  The seas were flat; the wind was light.  We set the genoa and staysail and popped along at almost eight knots the entire time.  Mid to late morning I turned the helm over to Chris before reclaiming it around 1500 hours.  Shortly afterwards the auto helm miraculously started to work again, a good thing.  It was to be a night entrance to Chub, but the moon was completely full, an exceedingly easy approach.  By 2030 hours the anchor was set and we all enjoyed a couple of beers in the cockpit before turning in for the night.  Another 0600 alarm time was established for departure on to Nassau.

At 0600 we were awake, by 0630 the anchor was up and we were on our way, again with genoa and staysail only flying.  Five hours and thirty-eight nautical miles later and we were refueled and in our slip at Harbor Central Marina, in Nassau Harbor…which is where we sit as I type.

Harbor Central Marina is not really one of the best we’ve stayed at.  Though we had reservations, we had a choice of three slips to berth in.  All of them were designed for 30’-35’ long boats, at most.  There were other sufficient slips available that our boats would have more easily fit into but no matter how much we tried we were unable to persuade the two very young Bahamian ladies in charge to let us dock in them.  There advertised internet service has been down for weeks with no indication when and if it will be back, if at all.  There are no dock hands.  They never answered their VHF as we approached.  The showers are marginal.  Overall service would be rated one star and even then we’d be generous.  But, there is free and very fast internet at the small restaurant, Green Parrot, next door, a half block walk maybe.  So, we are thankful.  The boat is tied up and we are safe and sound.


Most of the time I drive the boat…particularly when docking and undocking.  There’s no particular reason for that really.  Things have just sort of evolved that way in all these years we’ve sailed together.  Make no mistake, Chuck is quite capable of driving the boat, after all, he had six sailboats before we met each other, and we’ve had two together since then.  But, specifically with the beast, our Tayana 52, he has only docked the boat twice in the over three years we’ve had her. 

Now, to both me and him, there’s no glory whatsoever in being the one at the helm.  Being at the helm when at sea is really nothing more than scanning the horizon and monitoring the chartplotter (navigation, radar, AIS), auto helm and engine instruments.  Docking and undocking in a marina one is not familiar with is a bit different, however.  Though there is some stress on both of us when bringing Freedom into a marina we’ve never been into before, the pucker factor goes way up on the one at the helm during that exercise.  Our boat is big, heavy, and ungainly when slowly maneuvering in a marina, even with the bow thruster.  Throw in a howling wind and ripping current and it’s, well, downright exciting, though not particularly in a good way.

Before we left Key West, Chuck and I agreed, without actually talking about it, we’d alternate helming the docking and undocking efforts.  As I’d taken on the docking in Key West, I brought us out of the Safe Harbor channel when we left.  Chuck took us into Bimini, and out.  I took us into Chub Cay, and out.  It was Chuck’s turn to take us into Nassau Harbor…and out, when we leave.

My poor guy had a fairly rough time docking at Bimini.  Even with calm winds, there was a slight current at the dock which, unfortunately, he didn’t read.  However, there was a dock hand available to assist us at least.  In Chub Cay I took the boat into and out of an anchorage, sort of a piece-of-cake thing.  

In Nassau, however, it was Chuck’s turn to handle the docking and conditions, though not all that bad, were not all that good either.  The wind was gusting off the port quarter at 10-15 knots, but the current was ripping straight into the slip we were assigned, and there were no dock hands.  The very short finger pier ended forward of our mast, pilings midships and aft, both port and starboard.

After an admittedly easy and picture perfect dock along the fuel dock, and then unable to convince the marina staff to give us a berth with a longer finger pier, after considering the wind and current, Chuck chose (rightfully in my opinion) to enter our assigned slip bow to.  As there were no dock hands, I elected to handle the lines from the dock, as Chuck and Chris eased from the fuel dock and approached the slip.  Chuck expertly lined up on the slip and brought the boat in, with the current dead on the stern.  We got a quick bow line on before quickly securing the stern lines to the two pilings on either side of the stern…then the midships spring lines.  Though not a difficult dock per se, it was wasn’t an easy one either.  We danced a delicate ballet from point to point fighting both wind and current in an effort to prevent the midget of a fixed finger pier from damaging our cap rails.  Thankfully, we have strong, study rub rails.  It wasn’t particularly pretty, but sometimes it never is.  Adequate length finger piers would have made the dock a no brainer.

As Gulf Coast sailors, current is something that very seldom comes into play…not so, here in the Caribbean.  We have next to no experience dealing with ripping currents.  Believe me, we are learning to deal with it quickly.  Docking is never an issue of just getting to the dock and secured.  It’s always an issue of getting to the dock and secured without tearing your, or someone else’s, boat up.


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