Thursday, April 25, 2019

Going Eastward - Crossing the Gulf to the Bahamas

Crossing the Gulf Stream from Port Everglades to West End

After all of the preparation, we actually left the dock around 18:30 on March 31st  2019 for our crossing the Gulf Stream from Port Everglades to West End Bahamas.

We expected the trip to take about 12-13 hours, and considered stopping for a few hours at Lake Sylvia, but re-considered with the prospect of a potential work out anchoring and hoisting the anchor within a few hours and then having to manage the boat for the 12+ hours transit to the Bahamas.

West End Customs and Immigration open at 9am, as does the Old Bahama Bay Marina. We expected to arrive early and anchor just to the North of West end or tie up at the Fuel Dock until the Marina Opened. Well, that didn't quite workout! The trip took 15 hours! (dock to West End). Our route planning was ok, but we strayed off the planned course by 6 miles as you can see in the dip in the track just over half way across. Lesson learnt there! Keep an eye on the Distance Off Course. 

Also of note is the pretty large drift North (as expected) where we hit the Gulf Stream. Most of the drift was in the 1st 1/3rd of the transit. We pretty much kept on our Course of 89ºm until around 03:40 when we realized we were off track by 6nm yet probably out of the major influence of the Gulf Stream's Northward flow. At that point we changed course to 65ºm. Looking at the track shows that we still did have some Northward drift as our track is more like 45ºm.

We put the sails up when clear of the Port and comfortable about the sea state which was 1'-2' - nice!
By 23:00 the wind died down to about 5knots so we motor sailed from that point on. Despite my urging for Peggy to take a break, she was awake most of the trip even when off watch. Not me! I slept but awoke at the slightest call from Peggy at the helm.

The trip was pretty uneventful, not a lot of AIS traffic, slight cloud cover, an easy passage.

Moonrise April 1st 2019
Around 05:00 we could see a few boats in the distance, their lights showing under the broken cloud cover to the East. Then we saw MoonRise! Our first ever Moonrise on the ocean. It looked like an Alien ship coming down through the clouds. Sorry for the meager image, the Camera was just not up to catching the moment, but it was a image we will always remember. Just Beautiful!

With our Quarantine flag flying on the Stbd Speader, we arrived at the entrance to West End around 08:50, and found the channel easily in the daylight. We hailed the Marina on #16 and switched down to #12, confirmed our slip. There's a small lagoon between the inlet channel and the Marina, so we slowed while they dispatched  guy to help us tie up. Peggy did great at the helm and we easily tied up without incident. As we were tying up, another Catalina 34 was at the Fuel dock and tied up in the next slip as I was getting ready to head over to the Customs & Immigration office to check in to the Bahamas.

Checking in was easy, the efficient and cheery team quickly helped me complete the forms. I had done most of them on the boat, but was a little uncertain about some of the entries. I paid the $150 fee and they gave me the Receipt, Fishing Permit and Temporary Cruising permit. 

They very specifically asked about which items we had on the boat, ie. Bicycles, Kayaks, Paddle Boards, Dinghies, Out Board motors, etc. I was a bit surprised when they asked, and we had none of the items they mentioned. I wondered about it afterwards. Was it because those items are potential targets for theft - or - would they check to see what we checked in with if the Bahamian Defense Force ever stopped us on the water to see if we had more than we checked in with? Just a thought.

Customs asked about which stores we had brought in with us. I had a spreadsheet listing everything, but all they wanted to know was the types, eg. Wine, Beer, Food, Water, Drinks. So I expanded my list on the Form from 'Ships Stores' to Wine, Beer, Food, Water, Drinks.

At the end of the jetty where the Customs and Immigration office is located, is the Old Bahama Bay Marina Office. Caviar was bright and cheerful and quickly completed our registration. We were booked in for just one night, but the weather over the next couple of days was forecast to be rugly, so we bit the bullet and for two days with the option to stay an extra day if weather prediction was correct. The two nights cost $304 including a 5% discount, probably because the Marina only reopened on Saturday (3/30) The daily fee included a $15 Mandatory Water service fee - it's not metered - and the Electric fee, I think it was $23.80. 

Once cleared through Customs and Immigration as well as the OBBM registration, I returned to the boat and pulled down the Quarantine Flag and hoisted the Bahamian Courtesy Flag which stayed up until we were close to Lake Worth on our return.

We were tired from the trip, but our neighbors, the C34, were up and about and so I did the right thing and requested to come aboard with a bottle of Rum in my hand. I wish I had gotten a Boat Card from 'Bob' the skipper, Ricky & Phil were crew and they were doing some extensive cruising from their home port near Pensacola. Bob has made some very nice mods to his C34 Mk. 1.5 including a really nice Bimini & Dodger. They were headed out to dinner and I had hoped to take some pics in the morning, Sadly, they left the dock before dawn strayed into my eyes after a really good nights sleep.

I hope to be able to get in contact with 'Bob'. He also had a significant upgrade in his electrical system. Most obvious from the outside, besides the Dodger & Bimini, he had installed some really good Tank Rails on the lifeline stanchions on both sides of the boat. He also only used the tall slim tanks rather than the short and stubby cans easily available in Auto Stores for the Diesel. So they (the tanks and the tank rails) are both on my 'To Do' list.

Before getting turned in for the night, I started my written blog notes. There's no way I could recall most of what we experienced, so those notes are important, to me at least!

Next - Old Bahama Bay - And what did we forget?

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