From Bimini to Staniel Cay

Bimini to Staniel Cay

Author: Miranda

Location: Northern Bahamas

 

We’ve been having ourselves quite a good time tooling around the northern Bahamian islands, and it’s about time we fill you all in on our adventures. After spending a week in Bimini with strong winds, we were excited to shake out the sails and get moving again.

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And, as if to say “Welcome Back!” we were greeted by two playful dolphins just a few miles south of Bimini.

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Dolphins

We were headed out to cross the dreaded “tongue of the ocean” by way of the Northwest Channel. The Northwest Channel is a tricky spot in which the depth falls from about 15 feet to 3,000 feet in the span of maybe a mile or two. Throw in a long “tongue” of deep water south and east of this point that works to build up plenty of big, bad waves when the winds are right, and you’ve got yourself a few days of scary sailing if you don’t time the weather conditions just right.

In addition, the channel is one of only a few ways for boats to get from southern Florida into the Bahamas (and definitely the most direct), so it can get quite crowded. Not wanting to make this passage in the dark, we anchored off a shoal on the northern tip of Andros Island and waited until the next day to have light. The anchorage was choppy and mildly uncomfortable, but we survived.

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The beating straight into the wind and waves the following day was also not all that much fun, so we veered off to Chub Cay on the southwestern tip of the Berry Islands to make for a shorter day.

We passed the time in Chub Cay by snorkeling (Pete speared his first fish! A coral hind– a type of grouper. The fish tacos were delish!), scraping off the barnacles from the bottom of the boat, and attempting (but failing) to call on our families on Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving meal at the marina of cracked conch and sweet potatoes was a little pricy for us, so we made chicken curry and gin and tonics to celebrate. I doubt the forefathers ever cooked with green curry paste and coconut milk, but hell, what can you do? We forgot to plan for thanksgiving-type foods while trouncing around Miami on our provisioning runs in the heat and humidity of southern Florida. Oops.

In other exciting holiday news, I spent the morning of Thanksgiving hand-washing my undies in a bucket. Sailing is nowhere near as glamorous on a daily basis as all these blogs show, but it’s way more fun to instill jealously in all your friends than it is to show the down and dirty side of cruising. And plus, I can’t show you pictures of my undies- that would stray much too far from my naturally classy and modest nature.

Stop snickering. Stop it right now!

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It’s a barnacle playground around here:

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Chub Cay

 

Instead of hitting the malls, we spent the day after Thanksgiving on our best sail yet! Bet you can’t find that on a Black Friday sale rack! We headed to West Bay on New Providence Island with 15-20 knot winds on a broad reach, and we flew. Our average speed was 8 knots with a max of 12. I never thought it could be so incredibly exhilarating to move at approximately 12 miles per hour, but it’s quite a trip. Think of us the next time you are coasting down your driveway in your minivan at 12 M-P-Hs baby… sheer excitement I know, but remember this the next time you’re thinking, “why haven’t they made it any farther yet?”

Easier to get up at the crack of dawn when you’re met with this:

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Wonderfully flat seas all day- I could even read over lunch.

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Just a quick night in West Bay, and we were off the next day to our first stop in the Exuma island chain- Shroud Cay. Winds were stronger, more like 25-30 knots, so we sailed with tiny postage stamp sails most of the day, but still made decent time. Plenty of saltwater blasted the decks as we beat much closer to the winds and waves- sadly our downwind fun had only lasted one day.

Beating

And since we were on topic “no-fun,” while we were reefing our mainsail, we both noticed that a tiny vertical tear had started along the foot of our sail. As we feverously tried to haul in the entire sail before it got worse, our tiny tear just keep inching up higher and higher, and before we knew it, there was a 2-3 foot tear in our mainsail. Flabbergasted, we just kept saying, “oh my gosh, we ripped the mainsail.” Pete even looked at me wide-eyed, and yelled, “DID YOU SEE THAT?” even though we were both very obviously watching the same event unfold.

On a positive note, the rains didn’t start coming down until after we set the anchor and they made for great photos.

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We had zero cell signal in Shroud Cay, so unfortunately, we had to hightail it to Staniel Cay so we could start calling sailmakers in order to purchase a new sail. We were fortunate to have nice conditions as we sailed from Shroud Cay to Staniel Cay with just our headsail pulling us along. We were surprised to make decent headway under just one sail, and we were only forced to motor-sail when we had to turn tight into the wind to make our anchorage.

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To Staniel

 

Once we arrived in Staniel, we wasted no time pulling off our mainsail so that we could repair it and (hopefully) keep sailing while we waited for a new sail to be made.

Here’s our little tear, in all her glory:

Rip
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Also, if you really want to get an up close and personal feel for how large that sail is that’s moving your 26 ton sailboat, try pulling it off in 20 knot winds. Good fun.

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But, we got her all patched up, and we ordered a new sail from Florida that should be arriving in the next weeks. We know that we could continue with the patched sail, but once we took it off the mast, we realized just how brittle and old it must be. Having a new sail will surely improve our performance and this is an upgrade that will certainly be easier done now than in a some other distant land. Ripping your mainsail sucks, but it certainly sucks less in the Bahamas than in the middle of the Pacific.

 

And, now that we’ve gotten that all sorted out, it’s time for some fricin’ fun already! I know you all love to see pictures of Pete as a shirtless seamstress, but let’s all cross our fingers for some pictures of good ole Caribbean fun in the sun sometime soon.

 

 

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