Voyage 2000: Chapter 6

Bahamas and Back

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We waited three days for a weather window to head back to Rodriquez Key – our planned jump off to the Bahamas. The weather was a little too calm for sailing so we had to motor most of the way. We stopped at Marathon for a West Marine fix. We didn't attempt an anchorage in Boot Key Harbor as we wanted to get a very early start the next day (plus we heard all sorts of negative skuttlebutt on the harbor). Good to our promise, we were back in Hawk Channel before sunrise with a planned arrival at Rodriquez by 1600. The anchorage east of the Key was filling up but there was plenty of room for us late comers.

The crew was up at 0530 preparing for the Gulf Stream crossing to Gun Cay (pronounced Key) of the Bahamas. NOAA radio indicated a light Northerly wind in the morning turning to light and variable in the afternoon. We hoped the wind would not increase out of the North as it could produce a nasty chop on the Stream. We knew we would have to motorsail to cover the 70 nm from Rodriquez before sunset. All systems go at 0545, anchor stowed at 0600, and we are headed out of Hawk Channel into the Florida Straits. By 1000 we reached the 1,000 fathom line where the depth of the water is over 6,000 feet. During the crossing, we encountered (from a distance) numerous fast moving ships. This would be a continuing problem during our Bahamas visit.

We planned for a 20 nm northerly current so we set and computed our heading accordingly. We followed our actual track on the GPS mapping program and could really see the effects of the Stream. Our compensation for the current set was actually quite accurate. By 1600, we could see land (sure hope it is Gun Key). At that time, Toby and Bob set the quarantine flag in preparation for our entry into the Bahamas. The Q flag had to be visible (usually flying off of the starboard spreader) until we completed customs.

At 1645, the lighthouse at Gun Cay was clearly visible. Navigation is somewhat tricky as we had to weave around a few shoals. Weave the wrong way we could either hit the shoal or some really big rocks. Once we rounded the southern tip of the Cay, we were in the Bahamas Bank. Kewl! We anchored at 1725 on the eastern side of the Cay. The water was much clearer than what we experienced anywhere else, including the Tortugas. Our plans did not include anything more than an overnight stay here. Rather, we would head to West End on Grand Bahamas for our trip to the Abacos.

Early to bed and really early to rise again. We left Gun Cay, headed west to the 100 fathom line (to take advantage of a push from the Stream) and then headed North. Pretty disappointing push! In fact, in some places, it was pushing the wrong way (eddies, I guess). The wind died at 1520 and we were getting quite concerned that we would not make landfall before dark. Plus we were getting 5 foot waves off our port quarter. Not to worry, we tied up at Old Bahama Bay Marina (formally Jack Tar) at 1800. It was dark but not real dark.

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