Bimini, the Bahamas

January 13-15, 2021

We made it!

Our COVID test results were supposed to come back by 4PM Tuesday, at the latest.  By 6PM and no results, I was pretty torqued up.  After two discussions with customer service, and getting to know the lab manager Lisa on a first name basis, we had our results by 9:30 PM.  Jeff and I quickly uploaded our negative (phew!) results and submitted our Health Visa applications.  Amazingly, I got an email at 4:30AM from the Bahamas, saying I was conditionally approved.  I just had to send my credit card info to pay the fee, and by 5AM we were good to go.  Some of you may be thinking – that psycho, what was she doing up at 4:30am?  Well, an odd side effect of retirement seems to be that I need less sleep.  I’m feeling well rested on 6 hours or sometimes 5.  It’s surprisingly annoying because, other than reading the paper, 4-6AM is a boring time of day.

We planned to leave at sun up on Thursday, but the weather started looking less good, so Wednesday afternoon, we said, why wait?  We can do a night sail.  It was drizzly and gloomy in Palm Beach, so it was clearly time to leave.  By 5PM, we were under way for an approximately 13hr trip.  We started out motoring with very low waves and light wind directly behind us.  As we angled across the Gulf Stream, the wind picked up and we sailed.  Then the wind clocked more dead behind us again, and it was motoring sailing the rest of the way with just the genoa out to stabilize us against the rolling.  We decided to just bomb straight to Bimini, a SSE course.  Most people hug the coast to get south, and then go due east across the gulf stream to minimize time in the 2-4 knot current, carrying you north.  That means more miles but higher speed over ground.  Since wind was either too light, or the wrong angle for good fast sailing, we deciding on the shortest motor sailing route.  It worked out great.  As the sun rose, we arrived in Bimini’s southern anchorage.  We anchored in 12 ft of water, and could clearly see the anchor and chain along the bottom.

I should note that back in 2018, we sailed Renegade to the Bahamas for my birthday.  I took ten days off from work, and we left from our marina in Cape Canaveral.  Today’s was basically the same trip across the stream, just a hundred miles or so further south.  Nice and quick and boring, as we’d hoped.  In other ways, this trip is totally different.  Last time, we just had a week in the islands so we were in a rush.  I had packed a suitcase with the warm weather clothes I needed, having to choose what I’d want out of my walk in closet in Oyster Bay.  This time, it’s not a vacation, it’s our day to day life, and we have a couple of months to work our way down the chain of islands, knowing we still have another shot at them on the return trip north in the spring.  Instead of packing, we relocated our entire life.  It is a very cool feeling to change the country you live in during a half day sail.

The south Bimini anchorage is interesting.  On arrival, there was a big swell coming off the Atlantic all day, rolling us side to side.  It became annoying walking around sideways, so we deployed a bridle to angle the boat into the swell.  With swell out of the west, Jeff didn’t want to take the dinghy ride to Alice Town to check in, as it would be a rough wet ride.  Luckily, I saw the Bimini Sands resort, right where we are anchored, which  was listed as a check in site on the Bahamas Customs website.  Bingo!  Jeff dinghied in to check it out, but found it was destroyed in a storm.  No checking in there.

Thursday evening, the wind and swell died down and we decided to celebrate our arrival with a bottle of Veuve Clicot Denise gave me that last day when I gave back her car keys.  Isn’t Denise amazing?  Who else would let you borrow their car for a couple days, and then give you a bottle of Champagne to thank you for bringing it back?  Especially if that car is their spirit animal.  Kate decided that when we were all picking spirit animals the other day.  It was so funny I have to document it here so we never forgot… Denise’s spirit animal is a white Mercedes, LOL

So, good champagne, Cheetos, and a few episodes of The Americans were the order of the evening.  Shout out to our awesome friend Johan, and his amazing thumb drives of movies and TV shows!  A 22 meter long catamaran anchored behind us during the night, it was hard to miss.  By morning it was gone.  It might have been a spaceship.

We woke up at 6am today, before sunrise, to a downpour.  I ran around closing the few hatches we had open, and the drizzle continued.  Jeff (only the captain is allowed to leave the boat to clear in) bravely put on his foulies and headed out on the 20 minute dinghy ride (about 3 or 4 miles around the corner) to Alice Town to check in with immigration and customs.  It went smoothly, although he had to wait in line, which surprised me, and all the forms we printed out and filled in ahead of time where wrong, which didn’t surprise me.

On the way back he was excited to report that he saw a very cool fish on the way back.  It was about 18 inches and super skinny.  It popped itself out of the water swimming through the air while using his tail fin like an outboard to keep his body in the air.  His did this 4 times in a row, keeping pace with the dinghy at 10-15 knots!  There was also a sighting of a small dorsal fin, attached to a little 2 foot long shark.  Baby Shark, do-do do-do do-do-do! 

As Jeff returned, the sun came out, I hoisted the Bahamas courtesy flag, and our Bahamas adventure has officially begun!  The forecast has winds from the NW tonight, so we are going to move to the east side of Bimini and then we plan to head east toward the Berry Islands tomorrow.