Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 2018:The Berrys to Bimini & Then the USA

Mon, 07-May to Thu, 10-May….The Berrys To Bimini & Then Back to the USA

Early in the Leg to Bimini We Had a Thunderstorm Dead Ahead
On the morning of Monday, 07-May we were up by 0700 and underway at 0800.  We departed on a rising tide, and while we never saw less than a foot under the keel, it was good to get out into the open water of Great Bahama Bank and eventually find depths greater than 50 feet.  Both Mystic Lady and Just Us had departed about an hour earlier just after first light; they were planning to make the run all the way to Palm Beach today to take advantage of good Gulf Stream crossing conditions.  Of course they were moving along at twice our best speed.

Skies were overcast and there were showers in the vicinity but as we departed the docks at Great Harbour we had dry conditions.  Temps hovered in the mid 70’s with humidity in the low 80’s. The overcast persisted a good portion of the day, but sea conditions were very tolerable…as we got out of the lee of Great Harbour initially they picked up to two to three feet out of the south, but within the next two hours laid down to two feet or less.

Same Storm Cell on Radar....You Can See We've Deviated Left
of Planned Course to Give Us Plenty of Separation
Showers and storms came and went most of the morning, but between our XM weather display and the Furuno radar set it was fairly easy to identify range and motion (generally to the north), so avoidance wasn’t a problem.  By around noon the local precip had cleared out and only distant storm clouds were visible.  High cloud cover remained, but some sun filtered through.

We ran the boat’s water maker all day.  With potable water priced at $.50 per gallon at GHC Marina, we had gone through 140+ gallons of our own water while at the dock, emptying both wing tanks.  So while we still had about 100 gallons remaining in the forward and rear water tanks, we were planning on anchoring out once we arrived at Bimini and needed to do laundry and run the dishwasher; thus our goal was to replenish much of what we had consumed during the past week.  
The Weather Improved Considerably Later in the Day and We
Dropped Anchor Here on the Northeast Side of Bimini

As we got closer to North Bimini the breezes died out quite a bit leaving only a light wind ripple on top of a one foot swell, which boded well for our intended anchorage site on the northeast side of the island.  We arrived there around 1800, finding fairly calm water in about 10 feet of water, and dropped the hook about 350 meters from the shoreline, letting out 125 feet of chain and setting the anchor per our normal procedure.  We had a peaceful night at anchor, running the genset all night to stay free of the noseeums and to keep cool in the building humidity.

On Tuesday, 08-May we awoke to some rollers coming in from the east that gave Ghost Rider some mild hobby horse motion, but otherwise had good conditions – already warm in the low 80’s, with partly sunny skies, and NE winds at 10-15 knots.  The anchor was still where we had dropped it.  (See footnote.)  Since the genset was still running we took the opportunity to get some laundry done.  We weren’t planning to move to the marina on the other side of the island until later in the afternoon to take advantage of a high tide and slack current....both of which are pretty much prerequisites to a good docking experience over there.

Ghost Rider Tucked into Our Berth at Sea Crest Marina
With Copious Fendering
Around 1330 we completed our preflight checks, raised the anchor and looped around North Rock at the top end end of North Bimini and headed south down the western coast line.  It was only an 11 mile sortie to the Sea Crest Marina but it required an entry through the cut between North and South Bimini; the current can rip through there, so we were hoping our timing to arrive just after high tide would provide good depths and minimal flow. 

We discovered the charts don’t necessarily match the way the entry channel is currently marked, but still found our berth without drama, although there was enough nervous angst along the way.  The good news was we had finally found a dock low enough to use the normal boarding door; on the other hand its pilings were overly tall, so we had to get creative in deploying our “fender boards” on the starboard side to protect the fiberglass.  Good tie offs and fenders are required here as there does not appear to be any no-wake zone; if there is everyone ignores it.
The Entrance to Bimini Big Game Club

Chelle Enjoys the Signature "Big Game" Drink
After securing the boat (no wash-down today, they charge a lot for water here) and completing post-flight duties we relaxed for a while and Chelle took a quick walking tour of the area.  Later that evening we both got off the docks and walked a bit north to the famed Bimini Big Game Club for dinner.  Rick had the cracked conch (good) and Chelle ordered the Seafood Marinara (also good.)  The portions were hugely generous, so we got a couple meals out of that outing.  Their signature “Big Game” fruity rum drink was tasty, although not nearly as good as our own Goombay Ghost.

Once again we slept in the next morning (Wednesday, 09-May) and enjoyed some relaxing time on the boat while at the dock.  After finishing chores – preflights for tomorrow’s early departure, weather checks, that sort of thing – we grabbed a rental golf cart and toured North Bimini Island.  With a length of seven miles, a width of only 700 feet, and only one real town (Alice Town), there isn’t much here beyond some very nice beaches on the western shore line, a few marinas on the eastern side, and a few clusters of small stores and restaurants.  Its permanent population numbers around 2,000.  Not unlike some other islands in the Bahamas, it first became popular during the prohibition period in the U.S. – a rum-runner’s haven.  Hemingway lived here for a couple of years back in the mid 1930’s.  Tourism, especially centered on sport fishing given the proximity to the U.S. east coast, is its main industry today. 
The Casino at the Hilton's Bimini Resort

At the far north end of the island is Hilton’s sprawling World Bimini Resort, which now includes the obligatory casino, and stands in stark contrast to the modest structures that typify daily life here. Much more appealing are the public beaches south of there, with their gin clear waters, local eateries and bars.  We enjoyed some excellent conch fritters and experimented with more rum drinks at Sherry’s Beach Bar.  Broadly speaking, anything that’s served from a carved-out coconut has to be interesting.
But This is What the Real Bimini Looks Like

One of our more interesting stops on our impromptu tour was the Dolphin House Museum.  Its sole architect and builder (and tour guide) is Ashley Saunders, an island native, who says after he swam with the dolphins he was inspired to build this place.  The three story structure (the third is being added and is a work-in-progress) is an eclectic, klitchy explosion of color and inventive artistry -- all built into the structure by Ashley.  He scours the island and beaches, finds "stuff" that interests him, and melds it all into the building itself.  In addition to at least forty dolphin images in varying forms, there are hundreds of conch shells, crab pot balls, ceramics, sea glass, driftwood pieces, beer and liquor bottles, license plates (from all 50 US states) and all sorts of other odds and ends either molded in or hanging from the walls and ceilings.  And, according to Ashley, the whole thing is hurricane proof.  (It is on relatively high ground and has survived at least six hurricanes we know of.)
And Then There Are Some Beach Bars Always Worth Trying

It was with mixed emotions that we prepped the boat for departure early on the morning of Thursday, 10-May.  But we were underway by 0730 as planned, with a decent tide and only minimal current with which to deal while getting off the dock.  After snaking out of the harbor channel about 15 minutes later we entered the open waters of the Gulf Stream, with partly cloudy skies, temperature around 80F and the typical late spring humidity common at this latitude.
The Dolphin House...There are More Pics at the Bottom of the Blog Entry, So
Be Sure to Check Those Out, Too.
Seas were predicted to be an average of three feet with wind at 15 knots, both from the northeast, and initially that was pretty much what we saw.  The stabilizers got a bit of a workout with the short intervals and as an occasional bigger wave would broadside the boat, and of course the northerly wind component chopped up the Gulf Stream current as the two collided.  But Ghost Rider dutifully held its course as we wallowed our way back towards Florida.

Approximately half way across, however, the seas and winds picked up considerably, with frequent six footers on the beam and a healthier wind chop on top driven by a northeast breeze that had increased with gusts to 20 knots.  Ghost Rider heeled occasionally to some interesting angles as an occasional seven or eight footer rolled in; the lag in the stabilizers provided a healthy snap-back.  You had to be careful moving about the boat, and cautious when opening cabinets and fridge doors as stuff was moving around.  One or two particularly square waves rearranged some furniture in the salon as well as some boxes of spare parts and an air compressor in the lazarette.  We’ll need to find a new bungee cord arrangement back there.
Salon Furniture Rearranged by Some Sideswiping Waves

Still, the boat itself did not seem to care much, it just kept plugging along, averaging 8 knots in the sloppy conditions.  At around 1330 we poked the bow into the Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) entry channel, turned the corner under the bridge, lowered the flag of the Bahamas, raised the yellow “Q” flag, and then backed into our slip at Pier 66 Marina just before 1400.  Ghost Rider then got her most thorough wash down since we’d left the USA over a month ago, and it was surely needed.
Chelle Was Sitting at the Salon Table When it Tried to Tip Over, So
She Laid it On Its Side Before It Could Do So On Its Own

We checked into customs using their new smart phone app, ROAM (very convenient), lowered the quarantine flag, and called it a day.  Chelle got some pool time in before dinner; while Rick updated Wheelhouse and also assembled the latest punch lists for the boat – one for Yacht Tech and one for himself – that would need attention over the next few weeks.  But that was the original plan anyway, as we knew we would be due for some regular service after returning from the Bahamas – bottom paint, zincs, valve adjustments, that sort of thing.  There are also still few lurking annoyances that still need to be tended to, but we’ll provide more detail about that later.

For now the weather looks good for tomorrow's short (six hour / 50 mile) run up the coast to Palm Beach and Old Port Cove Marina.

Our Loop Through the North Central Bahamas Over the Past Month Or So

** We’ve been asked how we monitor our anchor for drag.  At the time that Rick releases the windlass brake to free fall the anchor to the bottom, we also (as simultaneously as possible) activate an anchor alarm using a laptop copy of the Nobeltec TimeZero software; that laptop also has a GPS antenna plugged into it.  The TimeZero software allows us to set a radius for a swing circle (equal to the amount of rode, or chain, we deploy.)  If at any time the boat departs that defined circle it sounds a very loud siren.  We leave the laptop running all night.  You can accomplish the same function using either the Furuno MFD or the TimeZero software on the ship’s PC, but the laptop draws fewer amps when we’re running the boat only on batteries, which is often.  See screen capture below.

This is What Our Anchor Alarm Software Displays to Us...As Long as We Remain in That Circle Then We 
Know All is Good.  A Really Obnoxious Siren Alarm Sounds if We Don't.
Some More Pics from Bimini....

Chelle Trying Out a Beach Bar on Bimini
The View From the Deck of Sherry's Beach Grill
Third Story Being Added to Dolphin House
Entry Way to Dolphin House
More of the Dolphin House....Note the Rows of Embedded Conch Shells
Dolphins Everywhere
Eclectic Decor & Collections Inside Dolphin House
More of the Dolphin House Interior
A View of the Beach on the Southwest Side of Bimini
And the Wreck of a Steel Ship Washed Ashore Long Ago

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