We made an overnight crossing from Marathon in the
Florida Keys to Gun Cay, (pronounced KEY), on the western shore of the Great
Bahamas Banks, leaving Marathon on 15th February 2005 at around
1400. We were in the company of two other boats,
It' owned by Art & Joan Schuck and 'Chill'
owned by Ken & Cathy Peters.
The three boats took slightly
different routes across the Gulf Stream, but we stayed in contact through
VHF and SSB radio links.
The journey took us north east and
across the Gulf Stream, through which we could expect a northbound current
of up to 2.5 knots and waves 30% higher than outside the Gulf Stream. The
route also crossed the major shipping channels of the Florida Straits.
Total mileage for Dream On was 132
nautical miles and the trip took 26 hours. As the wind was mostly easterly,
the trip was a mixture of motor sailing and motoring in to wind.
Our fishing lines were out for all
of the trip, but we only managed to catch a Barracuda, which we were advised
not to eat as they carry the ciguatera disease . We used this as bait for the
lines. Arrived at Gun Cay at around 1600 on 16th February to
anchor in a very pleasant area off the eastern shore in 20 feet of crystal
clear water. On the way in to the anchorage, around the southern corner of
the island we could clearly see Nurse Sharks below us.
On arrival in Gun Cay, we met up
with Thatís It
and Chill and also with
three other boats from Marathon, Nikita with Steve, Tammy and Hannah, Christina Joy
with Andrew and Emily and Melissa Sue
Gun Cay has three great beaches and
16th February was a beautiful day there. We christened the kayaks
here as we explored all the beaches. Then, thanks to the lobster catching
skills of Steve from Nikita and Andrew from Christina Joy, and with a little
help from the lobster catching novices from Dream On, we held a beach
barbecue that evening for which we had 17 lobsters on offer.
Two days later we left Thatís It at
Gun Cay and sailed north about 10 miles to Bimini to join Chill, Nikita,
Christina Joy and Melissa Sue. It is only wise to enter and leave Bimini
close to high tide as the entry channel is very intricate. We were the last
to arrive and all the other boats were in marinas but we decided to anchor.
Big mistake! The channel was very narrow and we ran out of water. Having
tried to sail on sand for a couple of hours and with some fairly lucky
placing of anchors from the dinghy, the wind rose, created a few waves and
we managed to wind Dream On back into water again using the anchor rodes.
However, it was a very unpleasant anchorage and Bimini does not seem to have
a great deal to offer. The following morning saw many very fast small
fishing boats haring past us with no great concern for wake control.
However, the biggest surprise was when we heard what sounded like a very
powerful boat at very great speed coming our way. We rushed up into the
cockpit and found ourselves a few feet from the port wingtip of a Pan Am
Airways Grumman Mallard seaplane taking off in our channel!
Bimini on the tide that afternoon, 20th February, even though the
wind was still active and headed north around
North Rock to start the crossing of the Great
Bahamas Banks. The sea off the west coast of Bimini drops to unregistered
depths of well over 1500 feet. After we rounded
North Rock onto the Banks, we did not see more than 25 feet in depth for the
next 20 hours! Our plan was to anchor on the Banks if the wind and sea
settled down, but this did not happen and we decided we would be more
comfortable continuing than anchoring. We caught a bonito, which made good
eating when we reached Chub Cay the following day.
The Banks that night were rough,
very rough at times. Due to the shallow water, the waves are close together
and choppy and we saw waves up to 8 feet at one point. We were only making
2.7 knots at times in such water. Despite this, we both managed to get some
sleep. We saw a few other boats crossing in the opposite direction during
the night and arrived at the (daylight only) exit from the Banks, the narrow
and intricate North West Channel at midday having made contact again with
Thatís It. They had made most of the journey across the Banks from Gun Cay
the previous day and anchored overnight on the Banks.
Once through the North West passage,
the depth dropped from 16 feet to over 2000 feet within a few yards. The
fishing lines were out again as we were now in The Tongue of the Ocean, one
of The Bahamas most productive fishing areas. There were many sport fishing
boats in the area, so we took some time trolling over the drop off but with
no luck. We then joined up with Thatís It and spent a very uncomfortable
rolly night anchored off Chub Cay in the Berry Islands.
The following day, 22nd
February, Thatís It and Dream On made the trip across the Tongue of the
Ocean to New Providence Island where Nassau is located. However, having
heard some horror stories of anchoring in the very busy and tidal Nassau
Harbour, we decided to anchor in Old Fort Bay on the northwest corner of New
Providence. This was a beautiful anchorage in 20 feet of water over white
sand. A day later we were joined by Chill, Nikita, Christina Joy and Melissa
Although this was a great anchorage,
there was no obvious landing point for dinghies. However, we were close to
Lyford Cay, a VERY, VERY exclusive area of New Providence with gated
communities for the mega rich, including the likes of Sean Connery. Lyford
Cay has an equally VERY, VERY exclusive marina serving the yachts of the
mega rich residents. We managed to sneak in by dinghy for some
re-provisioning and make a $2.00 bus ride into Nassau for the day.
Nassau is not as high rise built up
as we expected and although busy with a constant stream of cruise liners,
still maintains some island charm. The people are great and the bus ride
allowed us to see something of the island. The main landmark is the very
famous Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, the other side of the harbour.
We joined Art & Joan from Thatís It
and a number of other cruisers attending the weekly lunch on the Harbour
front in Nassau organised by BASRA, The Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association,
a voluntary organisation that keeps an eye on cruisers and issues daily
weather bulletins over SSB radio. During the lunch
we met Mick & Sue, an English couple, (both ex-British Airways) from
'Breathless'. Mick & Sue had also bought their boat in the US, re-registered
her in the UK and were on their maiden voyage, having started in Annapolis.
On 25th February,
after picking up diesel and water in the VERY exclusive
Lyford Cay Marina, we sailed along the
north coast of New Providence, past Nassau and the Atlantis resort to
Rose Island off the eastern side of New Providence. The trip was busy, with
a few rocky areas to avoid, three warships of the Canadian Navy, a cruise
liner that just had to be on a collision course for Dream On and
para-gliders off the back of speed boats from Atlantis.
We came a little too close to the
Canadian warships and were escorted a safe distance away by each shipís
We explored Sandy Cay and Green Cay
on the way in to Rose Island, again a very intricate area in shallow waters
with many coral heads and rocky areas. Chill and
Melissa Sue had also made the journey, but had routed through Nassau
On 26th February, we set
off with Chill and Melissa Sue across the Eastern Great Bahama Banks towards
Allens Cay in the Exumas. The first part of the route required very careful
visual navigation through a rocky area down the east side of New Providence
Island and then a southerly loop to avoid the treacherous Yellow Banks
before heading east to Allens Cay, a journey of around 30 miles. While over
the Banks, we caught a Florida Pompano, a member of the Jack family. This
was not very large but made very good eating. We arrived at Allens
Cay at around 1500.