Deep Water

Two thousand feet under the keel. It’s a sunny morning, seas are 2 feet at 6 seconds, winds 5-10 knots; couldn’t be a better day. We have finally left North Palm Beach bound for West End on Grand Bahama Island. We follow the ICW several miles south past Singer Island and Peanut island and turn east into the Lake Worth inlet. A large ship is entering the harbor and passes by with a tug nudging her along. At long last we’ve reached the outer marker; I activate our route on the chartplotter and hit the “Nav” button on the autopilot…we are on our way.

We are not alone; a half dozen boats are within 5 miles all headed to the same destination; their AIS signals are prominent on our chart plotters and radars. The doors to the pilothouse are open and the sea breeze blows through. Flying fish skitter out of our way covering surprisingly long distances. The highrises along the Florida coast recede in the distance until they disappear and soon we are into the Gulf Stream. The boat is facing 120 degrees while our course over the ground is 94 degrees; i.e. we are crabbing into the current 26 degrees to make our course. The autopilot, fortunately, does this automatically while we monitor systems, do our engine room checks, and watch the little icon representing our small boat snake slowly across the chart straight as an arrow to our destination.

The plan is to clear customs at West End, spend a night at Old Bahama Bay marina, then head north to Memory Rock where we cross onto Little Bahama Bank en-route to an anchorage at Great Sale Cay. This is a route well-traveled by thousands of boats each season, but for us, it marks the beginning of travels to other countries in our own boat, a shake-down cruise close to home, and a return to familiar waters. Deanna and I were married on Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay in the Abaco’s 15 years ago and though we’ve returned several times this is our first visit in Tivoli.

Tivoli is in fine shape. Shiny top to bottom, flags are flying, and all the system upgrades installed over the past 4 months are working as planned. The stabilizer upgrade has not only fixed a mechanical wear issue but has improved performance as well, the new hydraulic steering pump has made the rudder more responsive and the boat is easier to maneuver, the water maker can churn out 16 gal/hour, etc. – I contend the boat is better than new. We are making 8 knots at 4 gallons of diesel/hour. With 800 gallons aboard (of 1320 total capacity) we could carry on for another 1600 miles. No need to purchase expensive fuel in the Bahamas. We could do our planned Abaco’s visit and return 3 times over without refueling. Slow down to 6-7 knots and, with full tanks, she would carry us 2500-3000 miles, enough to cross the Atlantic.

But for now, it’s time to kick back a bit and, finally, enjoy the islands for the next couple of months

As we enter Bahamian waters I raise the yellow quarantine flag on the port spreader; a first for Tivoli as she has never been out of the country since commissioning. The convergence of boats to this small marina is remarkable; one after the other waiting in a queue to get in and tied up. We are thankful we called ahead and made reservations but we still must wait a few minutes in the turning basin before getting a slip assignment. We wonder what we would do if there were no room at the inn…there is really no place to anchor nearby for a boat with a 6 foot draft. We would have to run down to Freeport; another 30 miles or so in the wrong direction. Fortunately, we soon get our slip and gingerly make our way into this crowded place. We tie up without a problem and begin the tedious task of filling out the paperwork to clear in; customs, immigration, health (do the rats on your ship carry plague?), boat documentation, etc. Once filled in I take all the paperwork along with passports to the customs office, a short walk from the boat. Check in takes all of 15 minutes, pratique is granted, and I leave with a cruising permit and a fishing permit as well. Back to the boat to replace the Q flag with the Bahamian courtesy flag. We are finally here.

We take a quick walk around the marina but there is little here other than the marina, customs and a hotel. The onsite restaurant isn’t yet open so we return to the boat for dinner.

Communications is a challenge here. US cell phone service works but is very expensive. We spend time shutting down all phones, iPads and our cell hotspot to avoid ridiculous fees ($20/mb of data) since these devices routinely update apps. We now rely on marina WiFi and, in the absence of that, an Iridium Go satphone. We use the Go for phone calls and to download GRIB weather files from Ocens. I also have a weather router sending me email forecasts daily to the satphone. Can’t be too careful about the weather in this business. Web surfing is out at satphone speeds.

It is now “high season” and super busy. Before the day is over the marina is chock full of boats; I doubt a single new arrival would fit. We sit on the boat deck in our lounge chairs and watch as one after the other arrive and tie up. We wonder how we will “unpack” the marina and get on our way in the morning….onto the clear turquoise waters of the Little Bahamas Bank and and anchorage at Great Sale Cay.


1 thought on “Deep Water”

  1. Vickie Cochran

    So excited to hear you are in the Bahamas. Been waiting for this particular post for a while now. Enjoy and keep the news coming.

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