Bahama Bound

Getting Ready…
After two months in Fort Pierce City Marina, we start our provisioning for 3 months in the Bahamas, and it’s a big task. Have you ever tried to determine how many pounds of chicken, or bottles of juice, wine, or tonic water you use in three months? We are told that, in the Bahamas, food is expensive, and supermarkets are few and far apart, so we try to purchase of all the basics we can squeeze onto Bravo. In addition to many visits to local supermarkets in Fort Pierce, we make a couple of trips to Costco in Palm Beach Gardens. An hour each way but worth it! And then after each provisioning trip, we had to then figure out where to put the items, and how to organize it so we would be able to find what we need, when we want it! Ahh, Karl builds yet another spreadsheet! 

Starting to feel overwhelmed! First provisioning trip, and many, many more to come.

Over 400 line items to help us figure out what food items are where.

Nevertheless, we find time to kick back and enjoy the local scenery. Sunrises and sunsets provide visual treats to every day.

Gotta love these sunsets!

Love the birds, long as they don't land on our boat! (messy cleanups)

Days end.

South to Miami
Finally, everything is ready to go! We exit the marina, head south on the ICW, and meet up with our buddy boat, Worknot, in Stuart, FL. This is just the start of the “parade of bridges” that we will encounter through the Florida ICW.

This is one of the handful of fixed bridges, versus the huge number of low opening bridges.

A cold front comes into Stuart as we do a final provisioning run by dinghy. Mary, Keela, and Nora hunker down to stay warm. We see a low of 39 degrees! Yikes! Winter in Florida!

This dinghy ride was brrrr cold! And we actually have jackets on!

Waiting for a suitable weather window to make the crossing from Miami to Bahamas, Bravo and Worknot depart Stuart, continue to creep south on the ICW, in day hops, anchoring each night. First stop, Lake Worth, North Palm Beach. The days are grey and cloudy, but we are getting ever closer to Bahamas!

Rain clouds on the ICW.

Cruising through North Palm Beach, the Yacht Tech staff catch Bravo passing their work yard in Seminole Marina.

This section of the ICW is a constant trail of bridges that open on their own specific schedule. Some open on the hour, others on the quarter hour, half hour, or three-quarter’s hour. This tight and inflexible schedule frequently causes marine traffic jams with multiple boats waiting for the bridge to open and then everyone trying to get through in both directions... all at the same time! On our busiest “bridge” day we passed through 26 bridges!

As we approached one of the last opening bridges in Miami, it was temporarily blocked by a large yacht that had turned itself sideways as they were getting ready to pass under the bridge. Turned out that they had a problem with one of their engines.

Minor traffic jam here.

We get a chance to race the Goodyear blimp! It was practicing for the Super Bowl in Miami, and was going back and forth along our route through the ICW in Miami.

As we get closer to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, fancy high-end houses line the banks of the ICW. Sort of a floating “Architectural Digest” and “Street of Dreams”!

There is a crazy variety of boating traffic. Bright yellow water taxi buses zip by here and there.

When farther away, these water taxis looked like school buses on the water.

A giant Tow Boat US waits along the banks to assist large boats in need. This is the biggest tow boat we have seen on the entire East Coast.

Good to know they are there, but hopefully we never need to call for their help!

Weather is changeable in Florida. An afternoon rain shower and Florida sunshine create a rainbow in our wake.

Still looking for that pot of gold!

Our final Florida anchorage is Maule Lake in North Miami. It’s a super protected lake, a short distance off the ICW. Our friends, Mark and Dawn are flying in from Bellingham, Washington and we have to figure out where we can pick them up with our dinghy. Turns out that the only nearby place is a small park on the banks of the lake. See map below for our sophisticated UBER instructions!

Making the turn off of the ICW, into the channel that leads to Maule Lake.

The channel was narrow and lined with condos.

Maule Lake has no real dinghy dock, so we had to let our friends know where to go.

The weather window now looks good for the crossing to the Bahamas. We are up early and on our way to Miami Harbor and Government Cut, the exit from the ICW to the Atlantic Ocean. We pass through several more bridges and a modern urban Miami  landscape lines the banks of the ICW.

Miami feels similar to Vancouver B.C. with lots of high-rise condos.

More condos and local Coast Guard flying by.

Out to Sea
As we turn to port and head out to sea, we leave the busy Miami Harbor behind us. The water colors increase dramatically to include blue and turquoise.

Farewell to Miami!

The change in color of the ocean was a very distinct line as seen here.

We gradually lose sight of land. Darkness falls as we head east, to the Bahamas. 

Bimini Islands, Bahamas are less than 50 nautical miles from Miami. “Go-fast” boats, traveling 18-22 knots, go to/from Bimini in a day. However, since we travel around 8 knots and exited Miami Harbor around mid-day, we will not make Bimini in time to check in to customs. Therefore, we cruise until almost midnight and drop anchor offshore near Mackie Shoal in about 12 feet of water. We are up and underway before dawn.

Heading almost due east into the sunrise, our destination is Nassau, New Providence Island.

An early start, with a great sunrise!

The shallow water on Elbow Bank changes dramatically when we pass through Northwest Channel and enter Tongue of The Ocean. In less than a mile, the water depths go from 15 feet, to 50 feet, to over 5,000 feet! Our depth sounder stops displaying the depth and we rely on our charts for this information. This phenomenon is one of the unique aspects of Bahamas’ geology. The west side of the islands is very shallow.

Blue line was our course, and depth numbers are in feet.

The east coast of the islands drops off quickly and dramatically. Therefore, most cruisers find anchorages on the west sides of the islands. If you want to move quickly, boats will transit to the east side and run offshore.

Our course takes us directly to Nassau Harbor entrance and the line-up of multiple cruise ships. We make a short overnight stop to clear customs, as we always try to avoid any ports that cater to cruise ships and tourists. 

Way too many cruise ships for us to have any desire to spend time in Nassau.

We arrive in time to dock at Nassau Harbor Club, complete the Customs and Immigration check-in process and obtain our 3 month cruising permit and fishing license. The next morning we walk across the street for a quick provisioning stop at Solomon’s Fresh Market. This is one of the best supermarkets we see in the Bahamas. Back on the boat, we pull the dock lines and head south. 

Basic Bahamas
The Bahamas are a group of 700 islands and cays (pronounced “keys”) 50+ miles off the east coast of Florida stretching for over 500 miles, north to south. The islands are typically identified as smaller archipelagos known as Bimini, Abaco, Berry Islands, Exumas, Eleuthera, Nassau, Ragged Islands, etc..

In September 2019, the northern-most islands of Grand Bahamas and Abaco were devastated when Hurricane Dorian stalled for three days and pounded them with 185mph winds. Amazingly, the the southern Bahamas were not damaged. Because of the damage to the northern islands, we plan to cruise to the more southerly Exuma Islands. Some of these islands are developed for tourists and resorts, while other islands are remote, sparsely populated with minimal services.

Initial thoughts on what we see are amazing crystal blue waters and lots of white sandy beaches.

A piece of coral that washed up on a beach.

So many white sand beaches!

First Stop - Highbourne Cay
After a short cruise south from Nassau, we are excited to drop anchor in the crystal clear waters. We can actually see our anchor in the water!

Bravo at anchor. The water is absolutely stunning!

Dinghy is ready to go and explore.

Launching the dinghy, we head to shore for our first beach walk...

Like I said, the water is totally clear and amazing!

We park the dinghy and go for a stroll.

Gale & Mark. Amazing that Mark actually got his feet wet!

Nora is totally loving the beaches and the warm water!

Then we swim, and out of curiosity we later go to one of the beaches where iguanas live on this island. Really? Sure enough! ...Iguanas in the wild! We bring some veggies for these creatures. As soon as the dinghy lands, the iguanas come out of the bushes looking for “treats”! We keep our distance and give them the goodies!

The iguanas varied in size, with the largest being close to 3' long.

Not my idea of cute and cuddly!

The sand dunes are held in place by a variety of plants that add to the brilliant color palate of the Bahamas.

We have no idea what these fruit or berries are??

Much of this island is private, so we dinghy to their marina and resort dock for a short walk around the areas open to the public. As we approach the dock, we realize this is not your basic marina.

Turns out that these are "Nurse Sharks".

Yikes! There is a gang of sharks hanging around the fish-cleaning station. Apparently, they also like a “free lunch”! These critters are 7-8 feet long and simply rest on the bottom until the fishing boat comes in and starts dropping scraps into the water.

These fellows are big, and the water is only 2'-3' deep here.

I love how the ripples in the water make this look like a painting.

Even though these sharks are supposedly friendly, you won't catch me swimming here!

The marina also houses a beautifully restored wooden boat. Apparently, this vessel originally was used to make deliveries to the outlying islands.

A gorgeous boat, but a lot of wood to upkeep.

A peek at the resort’s private beach says it all. This is Bahamas!

Boardwalk to the beach.

Mark, Dawn, Nora, & Karl.

Ahh, the water and beaches are so very appealing!

Back on Bravo, we relax for the evening. The view from our back door isn’t half-bad either…

Gin & Tonic time!

The next morning, we pull anchor and continue south to the next island.

The Bahamas are fun, and we're ready to see more!


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