Sunday, October 2, 2016

Return to Florida

June 28th, 2016

The days in June were bringing tiny pop-up storms in seemingly random places at random times. But nights were clear, so we set out from Bimini back to Florida across the Gulf Stream in the late evening.  Our target was the Palm Beach inlet by sunrise.

Sailing through the night varies wildly depending on the phase of the moon.  When the moon is full, a night sail is magic.  Light dances across waves, and your eyes easily grow accustom to the pale glow, needing no additional illumination to find lines or pace the deck. 

We were sailing on the waning crescent, and we wouldn't see it for much of the night.  This is more an exercise in trusting your instruments and the physical sensations of the environment around you.  Everything around is black.  Your vessel is travelling forward seemingly blind into inky blackness.  The water is black, and it is set off from the horizon only by the lack of stars.  Oh, and the infinite stars! when neither moon nor man is there to outshine them...

We were able to see the lights of the Florida Coast many hours before sunrise.  In the dead of night, you can see Miami and Lauderdale, all the way to Palm Beach.  First as a glow, and eventually full points of light breaking over the horizon.  As we had hoped, the night was both surreal and uneventful.  Around 3 am we slipped into the inlet and sunk our anchor into US sand for the first time in 4 months.

The next morning we awoke to the bustle of the West Palm inlet, and started down the ICW towards Stuart.

 After a night on anchor in Stuart we continued motoring up the Okeechobee to Indiantown.

Through the hours of the late afternoon beautiful contrasting rain clouds were all around us but somehow never upon us.

We hauled out at Indiantown Marina.  After a few days of cleaning, packing, and preparing Robin for dry storage, we returned to Arkansas to wait out the summer.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back in Bimini

June 26-28, 2016

We woke up in Nixon's Harbor to windless flats reflecting the clouds. There wasn't even enough disturbance in the surface to obscure the view of the sea floor.

Low wind is terrible for sailing, but glorious for swimming.  By noon, the tidal current arrived generating swells that created velvety emerald luminescent swirls on the otherwise undisturbed surface of the water.

The next day was almost as calm. I sat on deck and watched light rain fall off the coast of Bimini. The ability to see full weather systems move across the sky is my favorite thing about being on a boat. I grew up in a densely forested mountainous region where you can barely see the stars through the trees. I'd never seen rain fall anywhere but above my head until I moved to the level lands of Florida.

With no wind for our sails we went ashore, took a short bus ride across the south island, then took the watertaxi to Alice Town on the north island.

We were looking for a liquor store to buy a couple cases of our favorite Bahamian exclusives before we left.  If you told me that a grapefruit beverage was delicious, or even drinkable, I wouldn't believe you. But it's true. It's light and sweet, and perfect to drink in the heat. Sands Pink Radler is brewed by Sands Bahamian Brewery, who, as far as I know, does not export. I already miss it.  Guinness foreign Extra was formulated over a century ago with extra hops for global export to the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, which are just about the only places you're likely to find it. Although, I hear that the surge in interest in Craft beer in the UK and US has lead to occasional limited releases. So it could be coming to a city near you.

After acquiring the beer and returning to Nixon's Harbor, I went to comb the beach for keepsakes brewed by the sea. The public beach at Nixon's harbor was just as deserted as it was the last time I was there in March. There is definitely no shortage of the private~beach~experience in the Bahamas. In fact, I'd say it's harder to find company than it is to find a empty beach. There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, of which only 30 are inhabited. That's 670 islands that are almost guaranteed to be void of human life. With only 394,000 people spread across the 30 inhabited islands, chances are still good no one is going to be at a particular beach on any given day.  Even on the inhabited and tourist-ed Island of South Bimini on June 27th, it was just me and the trilobites.


While I was wandering the beach, stirring up the sand looking for fans and shells, I was taken by surprise when I looked down and saw that I had company.  A stingray was right next to my feet and appeared to be looking up at me.  He/She seemed more curious than aggressive so I stayed in the water and went about my business. He stayed close and fluttered around me for a while, before finally losing interest and gliding away.

After I found a few sea fans, and took in the novelty of being alone in such a place for the last time, I re-joined AJ in the Mackey's Sandbar to discuss the weather and the Gulf Stream crossing game plan.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When the Wind Dies: Sailing from Andros to Bimini

June  25, 2016

After eight days in Andros waiting for a weather window to continue sailing, the radar was finally clear of sporadic red dots.  We departed during the best wind window, that evening around 5pm, and sailed gracefully into the sunset. 

Sailing remained as pleasant through the night and into the morning.  We were able to use the windvane and take turns keeping watch. But the sun rose higher the wind blew lighter until there was none at all. By noon we were adrift in the doldrums. The sails flopped, the water was calm enough to swim in, and we were going nowhere.  

While I wasn't elated to be delayed, I was glad to see doldrums before our journey ended; for the same reason I'm retro-spectively glad we were caught in storms.  Because, it is now forever part of my mind's landscape, and before it certainly was not.  Whether it's 360 degrees of raging water, wind and darkness, or 360 degrees of glaring windless flat crystal sea bleeding into the sky, it's not something you get front row seats to every day, even if you are in the habit of losing sight of land. So, as our voyage was coming to and end, I felt terribly appreciative to have seen so many varied seascapes in only four months. 


We waited for the wind to pick up for a few hours. The sun was so severe that the cockpit was getting too hot for bare feet.  We clipped a bed sheet to the dodger for shade while we waited. We really didn't want to burn fuel all the way to Bimini. However, preferring to reach Bimini before dark, we eventually gave in and started chugging, breaking the beautiful silence.

Luckily we were reunited with the wind along the way, and shut down the engine promptly.  Bimini was in our sights about 25 hours after leaving Andros.  As we sailed into South Bimini we passed the shipwreck of the SS Sapona.

The SS Sapona is a concrete cargo ship that ran aground off the coast of Bimini in 1926 during a hurricane. It was used as a warehouse for booze supplying Miami during prohibition. During WWII is was used as target practice.  In 1965 it was featured in 007 Thunderball.  Now it is a popular site for divers.

28 hours after leaving Andros, we dropped anchor as the sun set in the familiar pillowy sand of Nixon's harbor, South Bimini, about 100 yards from the first place we anchored when we arrived in the Bahamas four months earlier.

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