We cruised out of the Dinner Key channel and headed across Biscayne Bay, past No Name Harbor and again out into the Atlantic Ocean. The sun was setting as we started to feel the effects of the Gulf Stream. It wasn't long before the dreaded cruise ships were all around us, the seas were confused and were churning us quite a bit. The cruise ships are the worst thing to deal with because they keep their decks brightly illuminated, obscuring their running lights. As a result, it's difficult to tell which way they are moving, or even if they're coming directly at you. Kate did not feel so good and Mike was on watch by himself by 8pm. He dodged many freighters and cruise ships and took care of the most stressful part solo. Kate took watch by 11:30pm. Just before Mike went off watch, however, he came up into the cockpit to see a huge orange light dead ahead that wasn't there just a minute before. He dashed below to check the radar, and to his surprise nothing was showing. He jumped back up into the cockpit to try and figure out what the heck it could be. Kate went to look and the huge orange light had exposed itself even more. It was the moon! We had a good laugh over that one. Really though, it is magnificent to see the moon rise on the water - it is huge and bright orange. Another view into God's incredible imagination. During Kate's watch, the seas had calmed and there was not much traffic to speak of. Mike got up about 2:30am, we had made great time and were already close to Gun Cay. We found a good spot to anchor on the west side of Gun Cay on the charts and started making preparations for the approach. Mike mans the helm while Kate navigates with the computer software down below. We anchored among other boats in 10 feet of water at 3:15am The water was crystal clear and a beautiful ice blue color. We crashed out for 3 hours, Mike slept in the cockpit to keep an eye on things. We rose at dawn and weighed anchor early. We headed out for the Northwest channel to Chub Cay. The day was the best that we have had on the water so far. We could not keep the smiles off our faces. Bathing suits, sunscreen and even a little sun burn aaahhhh! The Bahama Bank is about 12 feet deep the whole way across. We were mesmerized by the sandy bottom, littered with large brown starfish, coral, nurse sharks and loggerhead sea turtles. We saw shrimp dancing on top of the water, flying fish and at sunset whales. We are not sure what type yet. We both rode on the bow for a while, read a lot and listened to some great music thanks to Mike and XM radio. By sunset we had come off of the Bahama Bank and into the Deep Midnight blue colored Tongue of the Ocean, which is 1000's of feet deep. We made it to Chub Cay in the dark about 7:30pm. There was a coral reef just to port of the entrance, and the range to guide you in was not lit. It was a little hairy, but we kept our heads about us, and slipped right into the channel. The boats at anchor inside the harbor were not in the anchorage that we saw on our charts, so we decided that they must know something we didn't and in the pitch black we maneuvered in among them. We set the anchor and kicked back with a little Capt. Ron. (It's a movie, not a rum) One of the best sailing movies ever! We have watched it over and over. We crashed early and got up early. We had the motor running before dawn and we were heading out of the channel by 6:15am. More big smiles today, Presidents day. We are again in the deep and cannot see the bottom. We should enter Nassau around 2pm. Mike will have to go check us in at customs and immigration before we do anything. We can see the islands becoming an addiction.
Monday, February 20th
We arrived in Nassau at 2pm and cleared customs and immigration at 4pm. We had to take a slip to get cleared in by customs and decided to keep it due to the poor holding ground at the anchorage in the harbor. Only the Captain may leave the boat until the officials arrive, so Kate had to stay on the boat and keep busy until then. As soon as we cleared customs, we pulled down the yellow quarantine flag, raised the Bahamas courtesy flag and set out immediately for the shops across the street. We saw first hand what we knew to be true, that items are much more expensive in the Bahamas. Food is double what you would pay at Wal-Mart, especially meat or chicken, and the home goods, decor, kitchen utensils etc.. are sometimes 5x more expensive here. There is an import tax of 33% that the Bahamian govt puts on imported goods so that people will buy local whenever possible. They do not have income or sales tax either and those are built into the price. Liquor and jewelry are less expensive than in the states and there are numerous stores on every block. There is a pool at the Yacht club which we have taken advantage of and have met a lot of really nice cruisers on the docks. We did get an internet connection at our Marina, the Nassau Harbor Club. We decided to stay another day to take in the sights and go to Atlantis, the mega resort on Paradise Island. We had a great dinner of grilled chicken breasts and Israeli Couscous, our friend Paul turned us onto it and we had to provision at the Fresh Market in Coconut Grove, a specialty foods store that had everything! Anytime you come across the Israeli stuff go for it! Unfortunately they only had one bag. Mike planned our next passage to Allan's Cay. We did find out that a cay is an island of less then one mile in length. Allan's Cay has lots of coral reefs for snorkeling, also Leaf Cay nearby has a unique population of iguanas that come right out to you when you land your dinghy. We crashed soon after dinner and planned on seeing Nassau the next day.
Tuesday, February 21st
Did a little sightseeing around Nassau today. Not necessarily what you think of when you think of the Bahamas, but unfortunately, it's what most people who only travel on cruise ships get to see. The downtown area near the cruise ship dock is very commercialized, and of course the locals are doing all they can to capitalize on the tourist dollar. We did take a passenger ferry boat over to Paradise Island where Atlantis is located. The tour guide told us about all of the millionaires and billionaires that live on Paradise Island. He showed us the home of Quentin Harris, who is in the Harry Potter films and told us about the celebrities that had mansions on the island like, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds etc... He also told us about the presidential suite at the Atlantis hotel that goes for $25,000 a night and minimum of 4 nights stay. He told us that Colin Powell, the Queen of England, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and many more have stayed there. We did get some nice pics and it was great learning about all of the amenities of the resort. It has 11 pools, a 50ft water slide that ends up in a glass tank with sharks on the outside, to great you when you land. It has a wonderful aquarium, shops, restaurants and a marina full of mega yachts. We are proud to say we spent no money at the Atlantis, just for the cab ride back to the Yacht Club and we had a great time. We are much more comfortable at a slower pace, so we'll be more comfortable when we find a secluded beach with great snorkeling and beautiful white sand. We did enjoy the sights though, and on the way back in the taxi, we had a great chat with the cab driver. The people are very friendly here. Island time must be good for the soul. Tonight, we'll get to bed early and prepare for tomorrow's (Tomorrow's) passage to the Exuma cays, aka Paradise. The Exumas are much further South than most of the Bahamas, and the air and water temps are almost the same year round - perpetual summer. One new thing about this part of the voyage is that there are no guarantees of deep/safe water in the Exumas. Coral heads are everywhere, lurking beneath the surface, waiting to tear your boat apart, so you have to be constantly vigilant and travel only when the sun is high in the sky so that you can see the coral heads from the surface and turn to avoid them. Wish us luck!
We made it! The Bahamas... Gun Cay, pronounced key
Sunrise at Gun Cay
The crystal blue waters of the Grand Bahama Bank - These pics taken right before we got underway to cross the Banks
The entire bank has a depth of only 14 feet max
The Gun Cay Light
Gun Cay Light
Going through the cut at Gun Cay, there's a coral head on the starboard side, lookout!
Gun Cay Light
Flying our yellow quarantine flag until we check in at customs
Our wake trailing behind us went on as far as the eye could see and the ripples changed color to a sea green
The view from the bow was breathtaking
This was the premier reading and spotter seat
You can see the shadow of our mast on the bottom - This is about 12 feet of water
The wind was very calm
Sunset as we headed toward Chub Cay
Mike those people are not wearing clothes!
The whales came out at sunset to feed and looked to be hovering over the bank
Mike and Rum Cay in the background
Kate's latest haircut. Miguel got a little carried away
Mike preparing the fishing lines
Sunrise just outside of Chub Cay
We are not having any fun!
Kate winching in the jib sheet
This picture is trying to show the deep blue water in the Tongue of the Ocean
The approach to Nassau Harbor
Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island
Cruise ships docked in Nassau Harbor
This is definitely a rock jetty that you don't want to hit
These boats are how mail and supplies are distributed to the Outer Islands
The rock jetty on the other side of the harbor entrance
Paradise Island Lighthouse
Here's a closeup of the number in case you're interested - Area code 242
There are no roads on this side of the island, so the only way to get to these houses is by boat
Hey!!!! We cleared immigration and are proud parents of another passport stamp
We found an internet hot spot (not free, but convenient) at the pool of the marina we docked at. Of course we had to swim too.
After we cleared customs and immigration, we lowered the yellow quarantine flag and raised our Bahamas courtesy flag. We're now legal to travel anywhere in the Bahamas.
Outback Steakhouse in Nassau - Things are different here, but sometimes familiar
One of the historic churches in the Downtown area
We took a stroll through the cemetery. It was filled with a lot of headstones from the 1800's
These traffic officers work the busiest intersections
This is the Bahamian Parliament House
Nice place for a bus stop, eh?
We took this water taxi over to Paradise Island to look around Atlantis
Atlantis was pretty impressive. Definitely an engineering marvel.
The whole inside of the resort, and especially the casino, was filled with beautiful artwork and glass sculptures
This is the ceiling of the main lobby - very intricate
We spent a little time checking out the aquarium, but passed on the $29 per person fee to experience the whole thing.
All I want for Christmas is....
Sculpture on top of Atlantis