It’s hard to believe we’re three months into our journey! The time just seemed to sail along so quickly as we soaked up the Bahamian sun and swam in the spectacular island waters. We’ve had the most amazing time, traveling from the Florida Keys, across to the Bahamas, heading south down the Exuma Islands to Georgetown, before turning north and crossing over to the Eleuthera coastline for our journey to Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, then southwest to Nassau and then northwest to Bimini before our final journey across the Gulfstream back to the U.S. coastline.
While on our passage from Nassau toward Bimini, friends we’d met in the Exumas (the Hagens) heard us calling another boat on the VHF and hailed us. We’d both anchored overnight on the Bahamas banks, about 30 miles from the nearest land, and our boats were about ten miles apart. We ended up arriving in Bimini the following day at just about the same time. The Hagens, on Arcadia (a Selene 53’), have decades of cruising experience and they took the smarter northern route around Bimini, with the last five or so miles in bigger open water. We took the southern route, hoping we could stay more protected on the banks and assuming we could follow the charts and navigate some tricky reefs. Mistake number…well, we’ve just stopped counting!
Fortunately I was able to stand on the bow-pulpit with my polarized sunglasses and help guide Michael through the reefs and into safe waters near the entrance to North Bimini. The charts were about 100 yards off and we had to abandon the charts and go with the eyeball approach. Happens all the time in the Bahamas and is just the way it goes. Brilliant hues of turquoise, green, and sapphire blue waters awaited us though, and the four-dolphin escort we had at the entrance to North Bimini was an additional treat!
Thanks to a recommendation from Michael’s brother Chris Samway, we had a wonderful few days docked at the snazzy Bimini Bay Resort & Marina. Three months of anchoring out every night and now two fancy marinas in a row! No more worries about anchors dragging and waves slapping, it was just plug and play at the marina.
As we cruised up the channel entrance, Michael recognized a boat he’d paddled by every morning for years in Miami Beach on his stand-up paddle-board. Turns out the boat belongs to our neighbors back home on Venetian Causeway, and they just happened to be staying at their place in Bimini that week. So here’s the funny thing. It took us nearly thirteen years and a trip to the Bahamas to finally spend some time with our neighbors, Marc and Ruth Cooper, who live just two blocks from our home in Miami Beach. And what a pleasure it was to visit with them! They invited us to watch the sunset at their beautiful oceanside home and they gave us lots of good advice on boating and the Bahamas. And of course we also caught up on Miami Beach and neighborhood politics and happenings.
As with so many of our Bahamas experiences, sailors’ luck was with us and we also made four new friends at the Coopers’ home whom we hope to visit (near Virginia Beach) on our travels north on the Great Loop. The offer of possibly touring an air craft carrier (three of the four are retired servicemen) up in Virginia made the kids’ eyes get wide. That’s been one of the most defining and enjoyable aspects of our trip so far – the opportunity to meet so many people and make friends with people from all over who’ve invited us to spend time with them as we travel along the Great Loop. Local knowledge really makes the trip so much more interesting in both boating and in exploring on land, as we can experience things not written-up in the guidebooks. Plus, people have such interesting stories to tell, and it’s nice to have the time (well, to make the time!) to listen and share.
We spent two days in Bimini and enjoyed each and every last moment of our trip in the Bahamas. Bimini’s only 40 or so miles from Florida but has some of the best fishing and diving in all the Bahamas and Caribbean. We hope to be back. From watching green flashes at sunset and socializing with new friends, to relaxing poolside along the crystal clear Atlantic waters and beach-combing for seashells in the afternoon, we kept ourselves busy. As with so many things on our trip so far, one good experience blends into the next, so it was no real surprise (we were careful to check all weather reports) when we pulled-off the dock in Bimini to be greeted by some of the calmest, crystal clear ocean waters across the Gulfstream and back to the U.S.A.
Since we met-up up, fortuitously, with the Hagens in Bimini, we agreed to cross the Gulfstream together. Due to the three knot north-flowing current of the Gulfstream and the 10 to 12 knot southeast winds, ol’ Muddy Waters was able to attain her fastest speeds yet – just over 12 knots speed over ground – surely the fastest cruising Muddy has experienced in her lifetime.
Once again, we were joined by dolphins for our journey home, but this time we experienced multiple pods joining in the fun of bow-wave surfing for over half an hour. They were like teenagers drag-racing their hot rods on a summer strip. You could almost see their grins. The sapphire blue water, gentle but large-ish swells, and dolphin surfers kept us all captivated on the foredeck as we edged closer to the U.S. coastline.
After about nine hours (and 75 nautical miles) crossing from Bimini, and two months spent cruising in the Bahamas, we were welcomed back to the America by giant tankers, tugboats, and plenty of speedboats and fishermen as we made our way through the Lake Worth Inlet and back to familiar cruising grounds. We cleared customs by telephone as we entered U.S. waters, having registered with Customs & Border Protection before our departure in January.
An overnight anchorage among Palm Beach mansions, mega-yachts and the ICW was a stark contrast to the soothing breezes, gentle swells and gorgeous landscapes we left behind in the Bahamas. So it was just as well we enjoyed a quiet onboard dinner before turning-in early on our first night back in the United States.
A relatively short run (35 statute miles) up the ICW towards the St. Lucie River the next day brought us back to our current location at the Four Fish Marina in Jensen Beach, Florida. We’ve been spending the last few days reconnecting with lots of family and friends who’ve come to visit, replenishing our supplies, and working on a few boat projects – all in great anticipation of the second leg of our journey, along America’s Great Loop.