Logan and I woke up in Bimini, The Bahamas. We did it. We got off our old friend, mooring ball O1 and headed northeast to paradise Saturday morning.
Saturday we enjoyed the best day of sailing yet in Hawks Channel. The winds were 15-18kt and we sailed a broad reach the whole way. We decided to give the autohelm, now named Otto, (we can’t seem to stop naming parts of our boat!) a break and I steered the boat downwind for most of the day. It was exhilarating. ZZ Top was jammin’ and Stella was zoomin’. We arrived at the Rodriguez Key anchorage in record time for a short nap before our 4am departure to get across the Gulf Stream. Nothing to report about the anchorage, the holding was great, we rocked and rolled all night, but managed to get a few winks.
I slept amazingly well considering all the movement and the excitement that was building up. The Chris Parker weather forecast said that crossing looked “fantastic” (I’ve never heard him say anything like that before), but the NOAA forecast stressed the NNW winds at 15kt and seas 4′-6′ with an occasional 8’swell. 8 feet?! For some reason that I still don’t quite understand, I wasn’t scared at all. I felt prepared and pumped up. So I woke up at 3:30a and put on the coffee. By 4:15a the anchor was up and we were on our way into the dark ocean. I stood at the bow for a while with the Q-beam to watch for shallows and reef markers…this was starting to feel like a real adventure. There I was, hanging onto the shrouds looking out over the dark Atlantic waters. We hoisted the sails in the dark so that we could enjoy the sunrise and get moving. After our speedy sail the day before, we knew sailing as early as possible was the way to go. We set our course to 78 degrees, turned on Otto and had some breakfast. Ready, set, go!!! With the wind at a broad reach and the current pushing us along, we saw 10.5kt on our boat speed!!! We were flying. The crossing was an uneventful one aside from the big swells. We sang Rockin’ and a Rollin’ Barbara Ann (Beach Boys) for while. The best part of the trip for me was the bonding experience that I had with Stella. She sliced through the big swells and seemed to know exactly what she was doing. I felt safe and secure. There is a lot to be said for trusting your boat I think. Everyone keeps saying that the boat can handle anything, it’s people that have a hard time with the conditions. It was just a kick ass day.
We decided to get a slip at a marina here in Bimini. We knew this trip would be a mentally and physically exhausting one and we wanted to get a good nights rest. As soon as we set up camp here at Browns Marina, Logan went off to immigration and customs, and then we jumped off the boat in search of our first Bahamian rum drink. Conch sandwiches and rum drinks on the beach at sunset… I’ll say it again, we made it.
As I sit here this morning and reflect on our passage yesterday it seems far less significant than it did at the time. We’re sitting in a marina with power, water, and Internet. It doesn’t feel much different than when we were in the states. My cell phone doesn’t work, but these days, with iMessage, Facetime, email, and blogs, I can keep in contact with everyone — when we are in port.
The passage yesterday was nothing shy of epic.
We left Marathon and had an excellent sail to Rodriguez. We even logged a new record on the GPS, 8.5 knots. We anchored, hung out, then went to sleep early (8ish). I slept hard for four hours then at 12:30 I was wide awake, ready to go. I tried to sleep for the next three hours but it wasn’t happening. At 3:30 we got up, finished our chores, got the coffee on and brought up the hook. We were on our way, in the dark. I had Gillian up on deck spotting in a few areas where it looked to be shallow according to the chart. No problems, plenty of water. Once we got past the shallows and into 20+ feet of water, the sails went up, in the dark, another first. Sails up, engine off, drinking coffee, making great speed, everything was going well. Slowly the winds started to inch higher and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the gulf stream. The seas were building and our speed was increasing. I kept an eye on Gillian to make sure that she was ok. She was fine! She had a, “no big deal” look on her face. And so it went for the next 8 hours 4-6, we think, foot swells with some chop on top, surfing the waves, crashing into some, and rolling over a few. We hit our top speed coming down a wave around 11 am: 10.5 KNOTS! Now that’s cruising.
About four hours into our passage we were in the middle of it so to speak. The winds were in the upper teens out of the northwest, the seas were bigger than either of us had ever been in, we were out of the country, and we were sailing amongst cargo ships nearly 500 feet long. The adventure part had finally begun. As I sat at the helm I started thinking about the different emotions I had. I was excited most definitely. I had no fear, SB was more than taking care of us. More than anything I felt a sense of accomplishment. Yesterdays passage was the culmination of nearly a years worth of intense work and training. We did it! Holy cow, we did it! Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Tomorrow morning we are heading out at 3am to sail across the Bahama Banks to the Berry Islands, then on to Nassau a few days after that. We have the cruising guides out and are excited to explore this country.