Yet another fierce storm was forecast to blow through on our first full day in Bimini with winds possibly reaching 50 knots (round about 90 km/hr). Blows like those are one way to meet your dock neighbours! Early in the morning, before 8am, on what looked like a beautiful sunny day, everyone in the marina was up and out on the fixed docks weaving and tying extra lines to give extra security to their boats, the wind had already picked up to 25 knots and was gusting over 30, more was expected. People were offering us, here on Grace, extra lines ’cause I guess it didn’t look like we had enough! Truthfully, we didn’t. We brought some extra line with us, but we never expected to be in storms of this force and tied to a dock very often. Back in Toronto we rarely got this kind of wind and usually only in winter. We always had extra lines securing the boat during the winters at Marina Quay West, but we had to make choices about what gear was necessary and what was not before leaving home and left some of our lines behind. With the kinds of storms we’ve been seeing, it may be time for an upgrade to Grace’s dock lines!
After everyone was certain their boat was secure, many of us went for a walk over to the beach side of the island (the island is not very wide so this took all of about ten minutes) to see what the surf looked like on the beach. It was definitely building and I couldn’t believe we’d been out there in the open ocean just the day before. The waves were now over 6 feet in height and it was suggested they would continue to build to over 9 feet, we saw nothing like this yesterday crossing the Gulf Stream!
We had planned on spending only two nights at the docks at Browns Marina in North Bimini and then moving to an anchorage until we wanted, or the weather allowed us, to move to the Berry Islands. However, there are not many anchorages around this part of the Bahamas and none we felt safe in with the weather the way it was. We actually had planned to get off the dock one afternoon, but were invited out on a dinghy tour to see a Martin Luther King, Jr bust hidden out in the mangroves. Since it was Martin Luther King, Jr Day we decided it sounded appropriate and moving to an anchorage was a low priority when there was something fun to do! Our guide was another boater at Browns who spends part of each winter here in Bimini, it had taken him a few years to actually find the bust and now he was eager to show other cruisers where it was. Mar-a-Largo had not yet launched their dinghy from the bow of their boat so they hopped in with us and we set out to find the mysterious bust of Martin Luther King, Jr deep in the mangroves.
By the time we got back from our dinghy excursion, the current had reversed and we were once again trapped on the dock. Oh well, why fight it? We gave up and stayed at the dock for another two nights.
There was some settled weather coming and a possible opportunity to jump across the Grand Bahamas Bank to the Berry Islands. Brian and Jane were headed there too so we made plans to travel together – I love travelling with another boat. We got together the night before to look at the different routes and discuss what each of us thought about the weather and course options; there is a north option and a south option. The north option is about 13 nm shorter, but since the wind had been out of the north for a few days, we were concerned about the sea state if we tried to head north before making the eastwardly turn towards the Berrys. We decide to make the final decision in the morning once we were out of the harbor and could see for ourselves what the waves were like. Tim and I were told once the only way to really know if the conditions are right for you is to go out and have a look. If you don’t like it, you can always come back into the harbour.
We left the dock the next morning at 7am with lots of help from our neighbours; we needed it as we were once again pinned to the dock! Four or five people walked us back using our lines to help us avoid the pilings – Tim did a great job at the helm, all I had to do was collect lines as they were dropped! Mar-a-Largo was off the dock a few minutes later and we head out out the channel towards the Straits of Florida. We recorded our GPS track on our iPad chart plotter as we traveled into Bimini as we usually do and this has become helpful when exiting a harbor that required visual navigation to get into, a safe track to follow back out as long as the tide is the same or higher than when we entered! We turned our boats north and decided the waves were very manageable and both Mar-a-Largo and Grace V voted to take the shorter, north route. There were a few boats ahead of us and a few behind. Some were headed for the Berrys and some for Nassau. You know you have the first good weather window in a while when that many people head out on the same day!
We had a pretty uneventful day, which is a good thing! We chatted back and forth on the radio with Jane and Brian as we made the 13-hour trip and anchored in Bullocks Harbour before 9pm. We saw many other anchor lights on in the huge open anchorage, all of them waiting for daylight before making their way into Great Harbour Cay Marina.
We spent 3 nights at the marina (more exciting weather that drove us into the very protected basin) before moving just outside into the Bay of Five Pirates for another 7 nights. Great Harbour Cay is an amazing marina and we loved staying here. Several of the boats we met said they originally came into the marina for a week and had now been there for between one and two months! If I only wanted to stay in one place for the entire winter and not travel, Great Harbour Cay would be top of the list. The marina is in a VERY protected basin, the settlement is only a short bike ride away and there are white sand beaches close by. The marina management is excellent and some very active boaters keep the community tight. Almost everyday there is an activity or something scheduled, conch shell horn making, pot luck suppers, pizza night and fresh bread delivered three times a week!