Photo #1: Bimini doorway to the ocean.
Photo #2: Kathy and Rachel in front of a pile of conch shells.
Photo #3: Stardust in Miami 2 days before departue for the Bahamas.
We motored into Nassau yesterday afternoon after crossing the Tongue of the Ocean which is part of the Northeast Providence Channel between Chub and Frazer Cays and New Providence Island. The crossing was made with 4 other sailboats from Frazer Cay, our last anchorage of the night before.
Our departure from Alice Town, Bimini was made at 9:20am on Sunday, traveling with Jim and Pat on Shamrock, built by Endeavor. Shamrock was one of our buddy boats from No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, and is on the same route as us down through the Exumas. We sailed up the NW coast of Bimini, rounded North Rock, and then motored into a 10kt headwind across the Grand Bank to Mackie Shoal, arriving 6 hours later with an average speed of 6.3kts covering the 39 miles. I caught a small Tuna, which we rolled into Nori with rice and carrot for a sushi appetizer. Yum! The wind increased to 15-20 out of the east, and the shoal did very little to calm the sea. We had a very rough night of it with not much sleep. In the morning some big fish hit on the piece of tuna on a hook resting on the bottom, and took the hook, line, and sinker with it.
The wind was once again right on the nose, so we motored through building seas of 4-5 foot swells in the East 15-20kt breeze. It wasn’t pleasant, and Rachel got seasick. But she handled it like a trooper, and felt better afterwards. A few miles out from the entrance to the Northwest Channel the engine died. This has happened so often to us when motoring in rough water that I half expected it. We quickly put up a reefed jib and continued to an area of 10 foot depth north of the channel and anchored there with Shamrock providing moral support next to us. I changed the Racor primary fuel filter and the engine ran fine. I still didn’t trust it though. We had covered 36 miles in 7.5 hours for a 4.8 average speed due to the slow final portion and lower speeds due to the swells. Lucky Stars called us from the Frazer Cay anchorage to ask how we were doing, and let us know that they were well protected from the SW winds. There was fairly good protection from the strong winds overnight from some surrounding sand banks so we had a comfortable night of sleep. The day had covered 36 miles at a speed of 4.8 kts.
Leaving the sand banks at 9:20, we motored 15 minutes and then put up reefed main and jib. Winds were more southerly and seas had calmed significantly so it was a good day of motorsailing until the engine quit again about 4 miles out of Chub Cay. It would run only at low (1200rpm) speed so we limped into Chub Cay basin with building wind and seas and surrounding storm cells. We couldn’t make Frazer Cay. The Delta anchor dragged initially then bit in so we put out the Bruce anchor as well, at a 45 degree angle from the Delta into the building south wind. Having just completed that chore, a strong cell blowing 35kts hit us hard with Stardust bucking at both anchors and Shamrock just a few hundred feet behind us in the small anchorage. Another sailboat was already there, behind us to the wind and closer to shore. We watched him drag anchor, pull it up, reposition and reset, which held. There were breakers coming over the bow for 30 minutes before things settled down some. I had kept a constant eye on the gps for any anchor movement but they held well on 80 feet of chain and 15 feet of nylon rode apiece. Now that the possible eminent need of an engine was over, I changed both the Racor (again) and the secondary fuel filter bolted to the engine. It was my last one of these, but I still had 4 more Racors. The engine ran fine. Soon after dark, another sailboat came into the harbor and slid in next to us. I then chased down every squeak and groan inside the boat to quiet it down as much as possible. After a light meal we tried to get some sleep but it was the roughest night yet for us. I spent 3 hours in the middle of the night reading in the cockpit and watching the gps. The mercury vapor lights of Chub Cay were way too bright as is the case everywhere these days, but the stars were out bright and I had Scorpio on the southern horizon to keep me company. Kathy came up the companionway to check on me and to make sure I wasn’t going to try going up on the bow to check the anchor lines in those conditions. We didn’t have any jacklines set up. Rachel slept soundly.
The next morning I put out a general call to any boats in the Frazer Cay anchorage and got Wake Robin who said that their anchorage was very good. We departed at 9:25 and sailed to the Frazer Cay anchorage 6 miles away, at 11am, but not before Shamrock ran aground on a sand bank, and then motored off 15 minutes later. I told Jim he was just trying to add some more excitement to an otherwise smooth day. Stardust ran fine but I still didn’t trust it and thought through different things I could try if it happened again. Frazer Cay had a nice sandy beach with 6 other boat anchored and the crews ashore. It looked like a party so we dinghied ashore with Jim and Pat so they wouldn’t have to unload their dinghy as well. Sure enough, rum and beer was being consumed and conversation was very spirited. We snorkeled and looked at fish, conch, and sparse coral amid the seagrass. Whitefoot went bonkers, running and swimming until she got sick from drinking the saltwater. Man we were having fun!
We left at 8am with Shamrock and 3 other boats the next morning, bound for Nassau, about 40 miles away. We were the last to leave and were only 6 miles away from Frazer when the engine died. We called Shamrock to report the dismaying news and to say keep going, if we didn’t solve the problem we’d turn back and anchor at Frazer again. Bad weather was expected the next day, and would last for over a week, so we’d be stuck at Frazer for a while. My first plan was to swap fuel tank pickups between the engine and the generator. The generator pickup is somewhat higher in the tank so if you run the generator out of fuel, you still have enough in the tank to run the engine to the nearest filling station. Swapping the lines only took 5 minutes during which we were sailing with jib only in a 3kt following wind making 2 kts. Restarted the engine and it ran fine all the way to Nassau without a hiccup. Yea! We even caught the other boats just as we entered the harbor. We did 44 miles in 7:40 to average 5.7kts with a top speed of 7.6 kts at 2200rpm. Winds were light and variable the whole way. It would have been a loooong trip on sailpower alone.
So now we’re docked at Nassau Harbor Marina with our other buddy boats, and will stay here through the next 2 cold fronts, leaving on Monday. Kathy and Rachel will complete a series of school exams, I can stock up on more fuel filters and we can resupply for the Exumas. There is huge catamaran next to us, 65 feet long and 30 feet wide, which does scuba charters in the Exumas. I’ll be getting a tour and info from one of the mates this afternoon. It is raining off and on and strong winds will come in tonight. It is supposed to blow over 30kts on Sunday according to Chris Parker on the SSB. But we’re safe and secure and feeling pretty good about our ability to get this far despite some minor skirmishes in mankind’s war with inanimate objects.
There are 2 opposed sides of Nassau. On one hand, everyone is so friendly and says hello or good morning. Willing to talk or help out. On the other hand, everything is locked up. There are security guards in the fast food joints. Other businesses buzz the door open much like some banks back home. Homes are walled and gated. But it is a beautiful place with a good feel. Hopefully the banditos will leave us alone.