Goodbye Bahamas Bahamas Berry Island to Bimini
A normal Bahamas Cruising Permit allowed us to stay for three months and we used almost all of that time. We are now in Bimini, our last Bahamas island.
We were very surprised how often the more northerly Abacos and Grand Bahamas islands are harassed by strong winds. These low pressure areas then often reach over New Providence to the Exumas. When the wind got a little nicer for a short while, we set off from Nassau to have a look at the Berry Islands. A day trip of 40 nm. On the way, we already knew that we should only go to the south, to Chub Cay. For Grand Harbor further north, stronger winds were forecast again.
Chub Cay does not want us
Chub Cay is the westernmost island of the Berrys and quite private. There is a really nice development with cute houses on the beach that you can rent. Very classy. With a pool, restaurant and all the trimmings. And a very nice and well protected marina. We were suddenly very interested in them when it became very uncomfortable at our anchorage as wind and waves picked up.
The anchorage in the west of the island and just off Chub Cay looks big, but has little space with sand. Most of it is sea grass with poor holding. Open to the west, north and south, there is no shelter from wind and swell at all. The marina supposedly had no free space, although we saw plenty of empty slips during a dinghy round. The manager simply didn’t want to work or earn any money. So we dropped anchor at the empty anchorage, but it was very unpleasant. And when it gets uncomfortable even on a catamaran, it’s time to go.
Vacation homes in Chub Cay
We shortened our time in the Berry Islands and raised anchor again after two nights. Our last Bahamas leg to Bimini was 80 nm. Too long for daylight with the prevailing winds. At 5.00 a.m. we pulled up the anchor in the pitch dark and set course almost blindly according to the chart and plotter.
Navigating with Navionics Charts vs. Aqua Map
We usually use Navionics charts, but in the Bahamas they are inaccurate and not recommended. Therefore, we also have the digital charts from Aqua Map – an excellent recommendation from our friends Melissa and Jeff. You can simply download the App on a tablet with GPS location, select the region, pay and then navigate with it. We followed the Aqua Map map slavishly through the waterways on this dark morning. After 1.5 hours, it dawned on the sky and it became clear that the weather forecast was once again wrong.
The forecast was for mild winds of 12-15 kn from the north, shifting to the south. Both would have been pleasant reach courses, so wind from the side. But we had 12 knots of wind from the west the whole way, right on the nose. And since we were under time pressure to have the anchor buried in the sand again by 7.30 pm in remaining daylight, the engines had a long day’s work.
We did have the mainsail set and every now and then we tormented our genoa around the 30 degree wind angle, but mostly we had mercy and rolled the genoa back in.
Magical night in Bimini
At 6 pm we reached the east side of Bimini. We anchored in the north-east at a wonderful anchorage, in perfect sand. The area was so lonely that we put the dinghy in the water to visit the beach on the uninhabited part of North Bimini. Rays, very close to the waterline, the strangest birds and abundant wildlife rewarded us for the monotonous day.
Ray on the beach in Nord Bimini, Blue spotted Ray, a beach guaranteed without people
At sunset, we grilled self-caught fish, enjoyed one of our last bottles of wine and took pleasure in the solitude of nature for the last time this season. The sun set blood-red over a pine forest and we were speechless at the beauty. We lay on the bow of our cat and enjoyed the grandeur of the moment. At least until I blew into a conch shell for the traditional Bahamian sunset greeting.
Conch shell original and rebuilt as an instrument, traditional sunset farewell roar
The night remained spectacular. The stars shone as if to bid us farewell and the perfect full moon waved goodbye too. After the restless nights in the Berrys, we were gifted with a windless and waveless night. That was one of the special and great moments in the sailor’s life. Maybe a farewell gift.
As always at sunrise, I enjoyed a freshly ground coffee and the view of the rising sun over a flat sea. If only it were always like this when sailing.
Hectic after bad news
The enjoyment then came to an abrupt end. We received an email from the shipyard in Fort Lauderdale that they could not accept the takeover guarantee from our insurance company and therefore would not crane us. A date that had already been fixed for 5 months. We got stuck in the bureaucracy between the USA and the EU. The Americans wanted a clause that an EU insurance company cannot meet. Our coverage, which is taken all over the world, was not enough.
A disaster was brewing. We urgently need to haul out Rivercafe. Our bottom looks like a vegetable patch and absolutely needs to be cleaned and repainted. But above all, our saildrive needs to be serviced and our anodes on the propellers to be replaced. We cannot proceed without that.
It was absurd. We were in the most picturesque place, in the middle of nowhere and really stressed. Thanks to StarLink we were online. If we had got the message days later, everything would have been too late.
After much back and forth and with the help of our insurance broker Boris, the shipyard accepted a solution and everything was back to normal. Relieved, we pulled up the anchor and made our way to the west side of Bimini, to a marina for the weekend. Because – correctly suspected – unfriendly weather is coming again.
What Bimini is like
Bimini consists of 10 islands. North Bimini is the largest but only 200 m wide while 11 km long. Separated only by a channel is South Bimini with the Bimini airport. The remaining islands are inhabited by only a few souls.
Bimini is the self-proclaimed capital of “big game fishing”. This means that many fishing boats land here in pursuit of the kings of the seas, especially blue marlin. At up to 900 kg, far too big to eat, it’s all about the experience of having killed such a magnificent creature. The “fishing boats” are all overpowered sports boats with countless fishing rods on board. Mostly with grossly overweight Americans with beer cans in their hands, who then call it “sport fishing”.
Alice Town and Radio Beach
Bimini’s 2,000 inhabitants live mainly from such visitors, most of whom “come over” from Florida. There are not many sailing vessels in Bimini. In addition, there are normal tourists in an exclusive resort and cruiseships land on the small island. The short distance from Florida makes it attractive. And the beaches are really great. Of course, we should not forget Ernest Hemmingway, who was inspired here to write his masterpiece “The old man and the sea”.
We have a few days for Bimini and then we will leave the Bahamas on May10 and cross the Gulf Stream. 50 nm separate us in a direct route from Fort Lauderdale and Florida. Let’s see what the Gulf Stream makes of it. The forecast says mild winds. We will see. / Holger Binz