We made it!
Updated: Apr 12
Thursday, April 8, 2021
We left the anchorage behind Key Biscayne about 6PM on Wednesday evening. The plan was to make the 140 mile journey in roughly 20 hours so as to arrive at the marina in early afternoon giving plenty of time to deal with customs and immigration. Why plenty of time? Let's just say that things move at a much slower pace in the Bahamas as compared to the "need it now" mentality of most Americans. We knew about the slower pace of life from when we were here three years ago, and quite frankly, it was going to be a welcome change.
The first six hours of our trip were a little lumpy. The wind was out of the east at about ten knots and the seas were forecast to be two to three feet and subsiding through the night which meant it should have been an easy crossing. However, the wind had been blowing out of the north for several days which really makes a mess of the gulf stream which moves from south to north at about two knots. I figured the wind had been out of the east long enough that the start might be lumpy, but it would settle down the longer time passed from the northerly winds. And settle it did. Around midnight things really settled down to basically a light chop.
All in all it was an uneventful crossing, which is good, however there were three events worth mentioning. First, was the close proximity of a ship in the gulf stream about 11PM. It was a good reminder as to why we stand watch, as here we were, 40 miles offshore and the radar showed that a ship would pass within 500 feet of us. That certainly got Janet's attention (she was on watch). She slowed together down from a speed of roughly 9.5 knots (remember, we had a nice push from the gulf stream), to about 6 knots. Given how far the ship was from us when she did this, it enable the ship to pass comfortably 1.5 miles in front of us.
Janet also was on watch for the second notable event. As we were motoring along, AIS (Automatic Identification System) which is connected to our chart plotter showed a cruise ship off in the distance and it was not moving. Then another, and another. All totaled we passed 16 anchored cruise ships within maybe 10 miles. All were sitting idle with just a skeleton crew, due to COVID. It makes sense when you think about it. It's not like there is a marina where you can just plug them in and walk away! They are meant to be constantly at sea, with only 8-12 hour stops. There just aren't enough ship berths to park them at. The ships show up on the image below as green triangles.
The notable moment came upon arrival at Great Harbor Cay. We had been warned by friends and also read about the hidden entrance to the harbor but it still was a little nerve racking driving your home within 100 feet of land before turning into an opening carved into the land. As you approach, you really have to trust everyone that the entrance is there as its not like boating in the US where there are markers everywhere. Below is what you see just before you make the turn as the cut comes into view and you can see the beach in the right of the photo.
Here we are entering the cut. Its a good thing it is not that long as there is not really room to pass!
Once inside there is plenty of room and its plenty deep. A few minutes later we were met at the marina by their friendly staff. Once we were tied up, the marina staff phone customs and immigration on our behalf to come to the marina and clear us in. The process was slow, but both the customs and immigrations officers were so nice you just had to go with the flow. To put the experience in perspective for those of you that have travelled internationally, remember the third degree you received when coming home to the US, the place where you live and pay taxes. The customs officers, complete with sidearms, trying to make you stumble on what you are telling them. Your palms sweaty. Now think just the opposite. The two officers (customs and immigration are separate) showed up in their own vehicles and carried no weapons. We sat at a picnic table by the water under a gazebo filling out the paperwork. Who cares if it took time and was inefficient. We were in the Bahamas!