So, here we are! In the Bahamas! After making a short, but tenacious, trip across the Gulf Stream to North Bimini Island. We have been anchored here for almost a week, as the winds are blowing like a banshee, socking us in.
Let’s start with the trip over- not exactly the smoothest of sailing, but we survived. It was fine. The obvious heroines (Wendy and Belinda, remember?) of the trip were our twin Volvo diesels which pushed us straight east the entirety of the trip- from anchor up to anchor down. Yes, we spent the entire day motoring straight into the wind. So, “why cross in those conditions?” you ask. Basically, it’s by far the least of two evils. Being that the Gulf Stream runs from south to north, you don’t want to be anywhere near it when the winds are coming from the opposite direction. This makes for nasty, confused seas. So, northerly winds and the Gulf Stream are one big, bad combination. And, once the northern winter winds in Florida start, they rarely ever stop. The winds were mild(ish), 10-15 knots, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely the weather window we were waiting for.
We pulled up anchor just as first light was peeking over the horizon, found our buddy boat, and headed east.
We were surprised at just how far our cell phone signal reached, so we both took turns calling family and friends from several miles offshore- to squeeze as much out of our U.S. cell phone while we had it, and it was just plain fun to share our excitement for the day ahead with loved ones.
There were two portions of the trip when the sea was at its worst- right at the beginning and then right, smack-dab in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Any trip made below decks during the day made us both feel a little woozy, but it was especially puke-y feeling around then. Per Casey Becker’s (I know, I know Casey Harrison’s) suggestion, as we headed through the worst waves, we blasted what I like to call “weight room jams” (some good ol’ Metalica, Def Leopard, Offspring- just think back to what they used to play in your high school weight room, and you’ll know what I mean).
It’s a somewhat anticlimactic moment to find yourself entering the Gulf Stream. People talk about it as a “raging river in the ocean.” As we were getting 5, 6, 7, 8 miles offshore, Pete and I kept looking and at each other and saying “so, are we in it yet? Are we in the Gulf Stream?” There’s no mistaking the odd feeling of being sloshed around in weird directions once you’re in the middle of this “river,” but the entrance… not so noticeable.
Here’s our new friends from Canada, Brian and Yvonne, in Options 3. They made the crossing with us and are now hanging out with us in Bimini. Really great folks. Lots of expertise, plenty of fun discussion, and great euchre players when the weather is especially yucky.
Headed out past Stiltsville. I was hoping we could get a closer look at these interesting homes, but we were too far away to poke around.
Some menacing, little waves.
Your first time noticing that there’s no land in sight is empowering… if a little scary.
Notice the lack of horizon in this picture- taken as we met a wave, head-on. Just a little spray.
And, finally, Land Ho!
Pete put up our first ever courtesy flag and later we toasted our first passage (of many, hopefully) with some champagne. Thanks Lily!
As far as life in Bimini goes, we generally see the sun pop out for an hour or two in the morning, then its grey clouds, constantly looking on the brink of rain for the rest of the day. But, it hasn’t been all that bad. We are itching to get a move on, of course, but Binimi World Resort (our neighbor here at the anchorage) has blessed with free wifi and access to THEIR SHOWERS! We haven’t been here in the Bahamas long, but you realize very quickly how fresh water is a very expensive and scarce commodity, so free (and HOT!) showers is as close to winning the lottery that you can get without actually buying a ticket.
We jumped in the beautiful, wickedly blue waters for a few hours one morning to do some snorkeling, but mostly we are using the time to do projects on the boat. Pete’s mostly working his way down a to-do list of repairs, while I’ve been focusing on getting our Pactor modem set up to send and receive email through our SSB radio. This will keep us connected wherever we happen to be. Other than the obvious social conveniences, this will allow us to receive important weather reports and maps on a daily basis from anywhere on the globe.
Getting this system all set up was no small feat. The technology has been around for a long time, but is still pretty darn cool if you think about it. Our Pactor modem will take our text emails, compress them into teeny, tiny bits of information, convert them to audio signals (something along the lines of Morse Code, but not really), then fire them to a shore station, where they will be converted back to text, and sent to all you wonderful folks. There’s both some special software on my end on my laptop and some special people working at the shore stations (thank you SailMail!) to make this all happen.
It took all of the “Idiot’s Guides to setting up your Pactor Modem… your SSB… your Airmail software… etc, etc” that I could get my hands on, but I figured the whole blessed system out! Several days of trolling through forums (because, of course, none of this software is written for a mac), I sent and received our first emails, weatherfax, and GRIB files by way of our Pactor radio. Oh, lordy, I have never been so excited to receive two-sentence email in my life!
Check out the shining moment for yourselves here:
With all the strong winds, we’ve also been very happy to get immediate gratification that shelling out the bucks for a new wind generator was a darn good idea. Most days, we have more energy than we know what to do with- and that’s on a completely cloud covered day. These days our poor solar panels are feeling like the uncoordinated, last-kid-picked-at-kickball to the new shining star at school- the wind genie, pumping out a consistent 10-15 amps and powering the entire boat on it’s own.
Here she is in all her glory:
We hope to push off within the next few days, although, to where we are still figuring out. We are looking forward to getting to the Exumas next, which are perfectly southeast of us. Guess where the wind is coming from for the foreseeable future… you guessed it… the southeast. And strong. We’d really like to do more sailing and less motoring, so we might need to get a little creative in our next float plan. Keep in touch for the juicy details.