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Discussion in 'Southeast' started by Alex F, Dec 6, 2015.
Will do as were in St Petersburg for the next two nights.
I wanted to mention, those who's hope port is far from FL or Bahamas, but would like to join us, there's an interesting option of chartering a boat. I haven't researched, but I know that there are few choices in Miami. When we went to Abacos, there were options there as well. As I was typing this, I did quick google search on "boat charter in bahamas" and there are several options. So, those that want to have the experience cruising bahamas and would like to have CSR friends come along, that's your alternative.
I heard recently that Chub Cay marina had an issue and had exchanged management. Does anyone have any updated info if the marina is fully operational and is pumping fresh fuel?
I haven't heard anything like that but might be worth to call them and ask if they are operational. I know of several sport fish boats that were there last, going this week etc and they aren't worried but then again, they hold a couple thousand gallons of fuel so not an issue. Fresh fuel ? in the Bahamas? Good luck. Bring filters. Whenever fueling in the Bahamas you really never know. Sometimes you get the middle of the tanks, other times you get the top or bottom. They typically don't let you know. The problem isn't fresh, its what else is in the tank and you are sucking the bottom that usually means water.
As I'm doing more research and shuffling the itinerary options, I think this might be a decent choice:
FTL to Chub Cay (1 night)
Chub Cay to Harbor Isl (2 nights)
Harbor Isl to Little San Salvatore (2 nights)
Little San Salvatore to Nassau (Atlantis) - (3 nights)
Nassau to Bimini (1 night)
Bimini to FTL
I'm leaving only 1 night for Bimini by considering that Bimini can be done as a separate trip, during a long weekend.
What you guys think?
As I'm reviewing the itinerary I posted above, the obvious question comes to mind. Is it worth running all the way to Little San Salvador (~200NM round trip)? I originally thought that we'll stop at either Governor's Harbor and/or Rock Sound, or Cape Eleuthera. But, having limited time and after I started crossing "nice to see" ports from the list, it started to look like I'm doing the 200nm run just for one port. It doesn't make too much sense, once I cross off other stops along the way.
Thus, I'd like to ask, does anyoen know how is the Governor's Harbor and Cape Eleuthera? Is it worth to rework the itinerary and make sure to stop at least in one of them? By doing the LSS, I would probably need to get fuel and Cape Eleuthera would be the logical stop, so perhaps spending a night there would make sense.
Wish we could make the entire trip.. I might be able to pull off Friday-Monday but with the less than stellar workforce I have it will be a challenge. You think it would be worth it only for a few days?
Considering your timeframe allowed for the trip, I would rather use for a nice long weekend in Bimini. If you look at the current itinerary draft, Chub Cay (which most likely will be Great Harbor Cay instead) is around 125-130NM run. I'm treating it as an overnight and refueling stop and plan on heading to Harbor Isl, which is another 70NM or so. Regardless how you slice it and dice it, running 400NM (round trip) for just a long weekend will no way pay off the "trouble".
There's still a lot of time, so a lot can change in either direction, with weather being the driving factor.
If your schedule opens up and you'll be up for the whole trip, let me know and I'll keep you in the loop on the updated itinerary. Steve and I made some changes offline.
Makes sense.. You never know, maybe we will be able to get away for that long....
How was the trip?
I have to start by saying that I didn’t mean putting this off for so long. But, the timing was just really bad as I got extremely busy and couldn’t focus on the write up. As people say, better late than never, right?…So, without further ado, let’s take a virtual ride to Bahamas as I’d love to re-live the experience through the post, as well.
As you probably learned from the earlier posts in this thread, one of the challenges doing the Eleuthera and the Barries trip, is that there’s nothing like Cruising Guide to Abacos by Steve Dodge. WWCG is one of best publications we came across. It has limited info, but at least it gives you a basic idea, including necessary regulations. Thus, we had to spend extra time doing our homework.
This time my crew decided to take our cat on the trip. Getting all the paperwork and comply with necessary checklist was a task on its own. It took about 1.5 months just to get a permit, which we had to take to the vet. Of course, rabies shot is important, and we do it on the regular basis, regardless. The craziest thing was their requirement on having the health check done within 24hrs prior the departure. We called Bahamian authorities and talked about this and they told us that they’re not very strict on 24hrs policy, and that even 48hrs will do fine. That was a huge relief for us, as I don’t think we could have pulled it off in 24hrs. By time we go to our vet, fly to FL, we needed to have one day for getting things ready and do the provisioning. Then, IF (and that’s a big IF) the weather allows us to travel the following day, according to my math, we’re barely making 48hrs window. And that’s if all goes well and there are no delays.
In the meantime, Steve brought Retreat on the West coast for some routine maintenance, including bottom paint, detailing and some enhancement items. The boat is on hard and we’re hoping that there would be no delays on his end.
The weather,…. oh well, that’s another story. As most of you know, you just don’t want to do the Gulf crossing with Northern component in the wind forecast. So, that was our primary concern in regards to the winds. We have observed prevailing SE wind, which has been blowing 15-20kts almost daily for about a week or two prior the trip. Looking at the pattern, I said to myself that I need a good plan B, since I may have to call the Bahamas trip off anytime, if there’s no improvement.
Here’s a quick look at our final itinerary for Eleuthera Bahamas:
FTL to Great Harbor Cay (1 night)
GHC to Harbor Isl (2 nights)
Harbor Isl to Governer’s Isl (1 night)
Day GI to Nassau (Atlantis) - (3 nights)
Nassau to Bimini (1 night)
Bimini to FTL
We’re now couple days before the trip. Luckily, Retreat has been splashed and being prepped for the trip. The weather doesn’t show signs of a big relief. The same SE at 15+kts has been blowing day after day. NOAA was showing 3-4’ers with SE at 15kts in the Gulf for the next couple of days. The only more optimistic forecast we saw were the following day in the Bahamas Bank region. Based on few other sources it was a puzzling decision making process. We didn’t see any real red flags, but you know what this forecast mean. For the first two legs (~130nm) from FTL to Great Harbor Cay and from GHC to Harbor Island (another ~90NM), we’ll have the seas on the nose, aka head seas. The forecast during the last couple days prior our departure was on and off. One day it showed less wind/seas, the other day it was greater.
We flew in FTL and did last minute prep work. The forecast hasn’t changed. Overall weather outlook was for the first few days of the trip, we’re looking at the same 15kts wind with 3-4’ers (less as we get to Barry Islands). Then, we expect to have a break for few days. So, we figured that at this point, we’ll just have to give it shot and see how it goes. If the seas are too rough, we’ll turn around and proceed with our plan B. In the meantime, being on the West coast, Steve decided to go around the upper keys and make the Gulf crossing from Biscayne Bay area. So, Retreat took off one day earlier to align the Gulf crossing on the same day as us.
This is it…. we’ve waited long enough and finally we’re departing on very exciting adventure!!! I wanted to get earlier start, so I pilled off the dock around 6:30am. By 7am we were in open water heading to Great Harbor Cay. With SE wind and seas, being on the FL coast we’re on receiving end. So, we got the feel for what ride will be like pretty much right away. Let me just say that I wish it was 3-4’ers which NOAA predicted earlier. We were in 4-5’ers VEEEERY close together with occasional 6+’ers right on the nose. I immediately started thinking about short term and long term solutions. I knew that my crew will question me very shortly. As for the short term, I asked myself the obvious question, what can I do to make the ride better? The only two options came to mind, adjust the speed and the angle. So, now I’m doing 15-16kts (this is usually most comfortable speed for my boat in these conditions). Tacking is always an option, but I didn’t want to make the rough ride longer than it is. In regards to the long term solution, I’m trying to figure out for how long are we in this? Are there any places we can stop and take a break or even spend a night (as forecast for the following day looked just a little better)? If you look at the chart, you’ll see that there’s pretty much nowhere to hide between FTL and Berry Islands. However, I saw couple of options. The major factor I was looking at the Bahamas Bank. I said to myself that with SE seas, the banks should create a decent barrier. So, theoretically, the closer we get to the banks the less the seas should get. On the other hand, if we maintain the course for couple of hours and become too tired from a bumpy ride, I would have an option to take detour and shoot for Bimini for the night. These two options can help us from aborting the Eleuthera trip.
As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for admiral to express her opinion and state that she wasn’t sure we should be in these conditions for 7hrs, and perhaps we should discuss our plan B (very nice itinerary for West coast of FL). After proposing the two options I just came up with, the next obvious question was, how long are we expecting to be in the 4-6’ers? I responded that probably for the next 20-25NM (or couple of hours) before we could feel some protection from the Barrier islands. As we were making our way eastbound and brainstorming the best approach in a given situation, we’re now about 13-15NM, and I felt like the Gulf Stream was slightly breaking the seas. We were settling in the rhythm of the seas and the ride felt more manageable.
Another challenge we had was communication. While we were inland or close to shore, Steve and I had constant communication. However, as we were about 7-10NM offshore, that was it. We totally lost cell communication and we were too far and out of VHF range. I remember that the last text I sent to Steve stating that the first hour is the roughest. Then, as you get closer to the Gulf Stream it becomes a little better. From that point on it was all about calculations and guessing. We knew an approximate location where we could meet up, we knew each other’s departure time. But, after we lost communication, each of us was only guessing if the other boat was still going or decided to turn around.
So, my wife and I made the decision to hang in there as in reality it was just uncomfortable and the ride didn’t present any safety issues. As were about 40NM out, I asked admiral that if we are to seek a break and shelter for the night, now would be the time to change our course to Bimini. But I also said that in the next hour or so, I’m expecting much better ride. She gave me a green light to maintain our course to Great Harbor. About 60NM out, as we approached Great Isaac bank, the seas did in fact become much better. We were finally in 3-4’ers short chop heading in to 15-20kts wind. At this time the worst part of the ride was over and those 3’-4’ers felt like a walk in the park. I was happy that my approach worked, it just took longer to get to calmer water than I anticipated. I bumped the throttles to my regular cruising speed, as from that point we still had about 70NM to go.
I figured that if Steve was still maintaining the course, we should be getting in VHF range very soon. I made the attempt calling Retreat, but got no response. I thought (and obviously hopped) that maybe we still out of range. I waited another 15-20 min and hailed again. All of a sudden, I hear loud and clear “Inspiration, this is Retreat……over”!!! ……Hollyluya….!!! This is when being on bridge boats paid off, due to the fact that our VHF antennas are much higher allowing us to communicate being 10-15NM apart. At this point it didn’t take as long to connect, after we exchanged coordinates. Steve has AIS receiver via one if his upgraded VHF radios, so as we got closer Inspiration simply appeared on his MFD screen as one the AIS targets (I have transponder/receiver AIS unit).
Of course taking pics during the crossing in those conditions was a low priority, but here’s one to give you an idea. I guess when looking out of the cockpit and seeing wall of water above your gunnels, you say to yourself “yeah… it’s definitely a little bumpy out here”….LOL
The rest of the trip was uneventful and in few hours we entered the Bay of Five Pirates (AKA Great Harbor).
Few pics of Great Harbor Cay Marina
We wanted get fuel prior settling in the slips, but we had to clear customs first (you’re not allowed on land prior clearing customs and even though we asked, the marina office told us to clear first, then fuel up). Just to clarify, the fuel dock was in the same harbor but in different location from the marina. After we tied up and the dockmaster made the call to a customs office by the airport to have an officer come to the marina for clearing us. The marina is not a 5 star resort, but you get welcomed feeling right away. Between very friendly marina staff and cruisers you feel like you’re blending in to the community with ease. While we had lunch and gave a boat a quick wash, the customs officer arrived. The clearance was a breeze and we were ready to enjoy our first Bahamian port.
Just in a little while later we see a gathering behind my boat. Apparently, this was the scheduled time for serving a Conch salad. Next thing I know, the immigration officer who cleared us, changed in regular clothing and it’s his “gig in town”. I have to say that the salad was excellent!
We checked the forecast and saw 10-15kts SE winds 2-3’ seas for our 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] leg on the following day. This was in line with what we observed earlier on 5-7 day forecast. The next morning we took off bright and early. After refueling we made our way out of the harbor and set our course for Spanish Wells.
We had to go around Little Stirrup Cay. Those who have done cruising on RCI cruise ships might be familiar with the area. This is where Royal Caribbean has a private island Coco Cay. As we make our way around the island, sure enough we see RCI’s “Majesty of the Seas” anchored in the harbor. I saw it miles away on my screen as one of the AIS trgets. Since we’ve sailed on her years ago, it was a special feeling for my crew meeting the ship in Bahamian waters while cruising on our own yacht.
After passing the northern tip of the island, we started losing land protection. With expectation of the given forecast we didn’t have concerns for the next leg of total 90NM.
Not so fast!!!......... All of a sudden my burgee started flapping like crazy and the actual wind was 20+kts, the seas started building up as we headed in deeper water and getting away from the island. At this point we had about 50NM to go. The seas were getting rougher and we’re pretty much now in the same conditions we’ve experienced on previous day. We’re in 4-6’ers whipping wind at about 20-25kts right on the nose. This definitely something that we didn’t expect as nothing like that was in the forecast. We discussed our options and the decision was made to keep going at most comfortable speed. So, we pulled back to about 15-16kts, double checked that all the items were secured and set back trying to be as comfortable as possible.
It’s not news to any captain that in 4-6’ers you occasionally get rouge waves. I tried to snap few pics, but they never represent the true conditions. I’ll just tell you that about 20NM to the Egg Island, all of a sudden I see in my rearview camera that the dinghy has developed much greater movement. Thank God I’ve noticed it on time. I slowed down to trawling speed and went to see what was going on. Next thing I see was that one of my stern straps has snapped. This is where all my extra effort paid off. In my setup I’m using total of 6 straps for rough water cruising. Many would say that’s an overkill, but believe me when on the day like this you see a ROI, you’re happy you have the extra support. So, I quickly grabbed one of the dock line and used it to secure the dinghy until we get to the marina.
I’ll fast forward for a moment just to finish my story about the dinghy straps. When we got to the marina I started talking to a captain from 45 Cruiser Yachts, which pulled in about an hour before we arrived. After sharing my story about snapped dinghy strap, he showed me how his SS cable has snapped, also securing the stern of his dinghy. Can you imagine a force to have SS cable snap? I had to take a pic of his damaged cable.
Back to our trip….Just as expected, in the next 30 min or so we started feeling some land protection as the seas starting to calm down a little. Those who are not familiar with the area, Spanish Wells is one of the primary entry points to Devil’s Backbone, which we have to take in order to get to the Harbor Island. You can get more details on DBB from this link.
In short, it’s an area where you navigate on top of the long reefs, which has areas placing you 50’ from a beach with constantly shifting shoals, an area where you cannot just go by charts, but by visual navigation and a depth sounder. Pretty much every cruising guide strongly suggests hiring a pilot. Every yacht, especially mega yachts, uses a pilot here. So, being a newbie in these waters we didn’t think twice. We preliminary agreed that Steve will make an arrangement and the pilot will operate his boat and I’ll follow closely behind. Just an FYI, it makes no difference here who follows whom, every boat pays the same $100 one way. But, like majority that come here, we figured it’s a cheap insurance.
Steve jumped ahead and met the pilot. The basic arrangement is, as you enter the harbor you hail a pilot on VHF. There are few pilots in the area. We used “Bandit”. As you keep heading towards Spanish Wells a pilot meets you on his small boat and if he doesn’t have anyone coming back from HI, then you simply tow his boat while he operates your vessel. In our case, the pilot had pre-arranged ride back by bringing another yacht to Spanish Wells. So, we pulled up to a local dock to drop off Bandit’s boat.
Here are few pics of our trip through DBB. My apologies for pics quality, I didn’t have a chance to clean the windows after the “fun” ride with spray over the top of the bridge.
We just dropped off the pilot’s boat and entering the channel.
As we navigate the Devil’s Passage, right around a corner we see a beautiful Lazzarra anchored away from everything in a gorgeous spot. This was just a quick tease on where 1% is hiding during a spring break.
Just few min later we started spotting one yacht/mega yacht after the other.
Shortly after we entered the harbor and approached Valntine’s Marina.
While waiting for our slip assignments, Steve decided to deploy his tender. He was advised that it won’t be possible to deploy it in a slip being docked stern in.
Few pics of the marina. I don’t have a lot of good pics of Valentin’s Marina, but without a question it was the best place to stay in Harbor Isl. We felt very much on the small side compare to all yachts and mega yachts in the marina. The marina has couple of nice restaurants with excellent harbor view. They also have excellent pool area. A true resort type of marina for a very reasonable cost.
Few cool yachts just couple slips away from us.
The next day we’ll be sharing secluded beach with guests from “Nita K”.
Here are couple pics of nearby Romora Bay resort and marina.
Biking was the best way to get around Harbor Island. But, as you can imagine, this is a dinghy haven to explore by water. Here are some random pics.
For those who’s not familiar with this part of the islands, there’s a difference between Eleuthera and Harbor Isl. Even though looking at the charts we tend to treat HI as part of the Eleuthera Isl, locals refer to them as very different islands and destinations. After seen it for ourselves, we get it. Here’s a couple of links about Eleuthera, if you’re interested:
Our original plan was to spend a night at Eleuthera Governor’s Harbor, but after two days of cruising in rough waters, we just wanted to enjoy the beauty of Harbor Isl by extending our stay there. However, we decided to take a different approach. Instead of taking our boats, we took a water taxi right from our marina to Eleuthera and hired a cab for half a day to give us the tour of the island. It turned out to be an excellent idea.
Random pics of our visit to Eluthera.
Glass Window bridge, a unique place where Atlantic Ocean connects with Caribbean Sea
Here’s a link for those who want to read more about it.
When we got back to the marina we had the scenery how some people travel in style. A sea plane buzzed around and landed in the harbor, then a water taxi pulled up to the plane and took the passengers to their villa.
One day, on the way to a secluded beach (where we met guests from Nita K), we found a stingray and followed it for some time. It was a lot of fun.
The next port of call is Nassau (Atlantis). By this time the seas have calmed down substantially and I’ve expected a relatively smooth ride from HI to Nassau. As you look at the chart, we can see that we have to track back from HI to Spanish Wells via Davil’s Backbone and then set the course to Nassau. Steve and I discussed the approach on navigating the Davil’s Backbone and I said that I feel comfortable following my route/tracks recorder when we came in. So, we made the decision to navigate without a pilot. We picked the time with rising tide and decent weather, and headed out to Spanish Wells.
Our passage was uneventful and we stopped by a fuel dock in Spanish Wells. After refueling we were all set to head to Nassau. Passing by the no wake zones in Spanish Wells and then being in protected harbor gave us an opportunity to trawl for a little while and enjoy our breakfast. Soon enough the clouds were covering the sky as a passing storm cells started brewing in the area. As strange as it sounds, the next thing we observe was 4 water spouts around us. 3 of them were safe distance away, but the more we monitored the one that was closest to us, it was travelling toward us and picking up the speed. I heard people making securete calls, so I did the same announcing the water spout location. It was clearly the time to run from this thing, so I jumped on plane. Looking back at our position from few min ago, the water spout ran right over the spot we took off from….That was some WOW scene!
The rest of the trip was uneventful and just in couple of hours we had the New Providence Island in our site.
About couple miles from Nassau Harbor inlet I followed the required protocol, which is was hailing Harbormaster and requesting permission to enter the harbor. I have to tell you that being a recreational boater it was a special feeling to make that call. Apparently the harbormaster has to control every vessel entering and exiting the harbor. During the call you need to announce where you came from, number of crew aboard and where you’re going. Only after the permission is granted, you can enter the harbor. After having a quick chatter with the harbormaster we made our approach into the harbor and headed for the fuel dock right by the bridge.
This world is way too small. As we passed the ships pier we spotted gold AB116 on our STBD side. I know the vessel and the captain, her home port is Sag Harbor NY.
After getting fuel we made our way to Atlantis Marina, got a slip assignment and safely landed in very nice slip facing the Atlantis Resort.
Some pics of the resort.
As you can see, the marina, the display of yachts/mega yachts and the resort itself are just gorgeous. The resort is very expensive, but you get what you pay. Here you have endless food experience and entertainment options. We were actually surprised how busy the resort got. Anything you wanted to do, you had to make advanced reservations. One of the cool small touches, is that your “room key“ has your boat name instead of a room number. While cruising secluded island of Bahamas, this is definitely the place to stop to “pamper” yourself.
While walking the docks, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to learn about these cool bikes that were carried aboard of 165 Mangusta “Moonraker”.
These are on the pricy side, but as you can see most compact and very cool electric bikes. They go up to 18MPH and the battery lasts for about 16 miles. The battery gets recharged when you pedal and also breaking.
From Nassau we planned on stopping at Bimini for a night, to get fuel and get a quick introduction. However, the weather had everyone changing their plans. The south easterly wind was starting to pick up on the day of our planned departure, but the major factor was that on following day it was shifting to NE. Those who planned staying here for the next couple of days had to cut their trip short. Thus, I made the decision to skip overnight stop at Bimini, and just go there to fuel up, especially that it’s on our way back to FTL. I could have made it to FL coast without refueling, but I rather be on the conservative side and do the Gulf crossing with plenty of fuel in reserve.
We got up bright and early, all “buttoned up” took off from the slip and entered the harbor. Once again I hailed the harbormaster requesting permission to enter the harbor, but this time it was denied, as two ships were entering the harbor. We had to idle for a bit and enjoy our scenery of docking ships and yachts slowly gathering in a caravan in prep for the crossing back to the states.
The last ship is in and permission for us to enter the harbor was granted. As we slowly idling by the port, and taking the look at the beautiful view of my stern as I take the pic of the images on my display.
Few minutes later we jumped out of the inlet and set the course to Bimini. For quite some time I was travelling with few 100+’ers yachts which were making their way back to the states. I had zero doubts that I made the right call cutting our trip short by one day. The wind in the afternoon was kicking up, but at least we had seas on our port quarter. I could easily tell that it wouldn’t be pretty here on the following day with NE wind kicking up the seas.
Few hours later we were in the Barnett Harbor having distant view of the famous shipwreck Sapona on our STBD side.
Few miles later after making the final turn to STBD we hugged the shore of Bimini and made our entry to Bimini Sands marina, it was the closest marina to the inlet.
By this time the wind has picked up to good 20kts. The good thing was that the seas were on the port quarter (SE). Even though it took some extra skills for maneuvering around the fuel dock, I knew that this was my best chance to make the crossing back to the states. After topping off the tanks we picked the nose out and it wasn’t too bad. Comparing to our trip out (with heavy seas on the nose) this time we at least had the 3-5’ers slightly behind us, which made a huge difference. I was able to maintain about 18kts, which gave us comfortable cruise. The trip back was uneventful and couple hours later we entered Port Everglades and enjoyed the scenery of departing cruise ships.
In the end, all I can say that despite some challenges presented by the weather, it was an amazing trip. Admiral and I both agreed that without a doubt we made the right choice on doing the trip and the reword was outstanding. We were happy to have Retreat accompany us on this journey and I can only wish to be able to do more of trips like this in the near future. Now that Steve installed a water maker, we can start dreaming about Exumas…LOL
Awesome article, really enjoyed your trip.
What an awesome write-up. Thanks for taking us along. Must have been a great trip.
Awesome write up... can't wait to do that trip one day!
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Very nice Alex!
Man!! great effort writing that report! Awesome, thanks for sharing.
Thanks for taking us on the trip, it was worth the wait.
You keep working south....these future trips are going to give me some good winter reading:grin:
As usual Alex, great write up of your trip. I wish I could have been there !!
I'm glad you guys enjoyed the write-up. I wish we had bigger CSR group joining. Hopefully some day we'll have a good size CSR Southeast Flotilla heading to Bahamas. That would be some cool journey.
Another great read....Thank you Alex!
I hope to join or at least follow your foot steps on such a trip after I upgrade into a diesel boat with more range