Night Sailin’ Across “The Bank”

My poor mother was not impressed when I emailed her and told her we were gonna do an overnight sail.  Shame on me for not explaining the situation better.  Now that we’ve buzzed through The Berry Islands safely, I guess I owe it to her to explain our crazy, adventurous choice ;)

We didn’t really intend to stay in beautiful Bimini for a week and 2 days, but as sailors, our adventures depend on the wind.  The day we arrived in Bimini was GORGEOUS.  That’s because we picked a gorgeous day to cross over.  The days following were blowey, and from a not helpful direction, so we stayed put.  As I mentioned before, Bimini is a small town and there is only so much to do.  We all (us, Adamant, and Summertime Rolls) started getting itchy waiting for weather so we started chatting about leaving anyway.  Now, keep in mind, the weather wasn’t horrible or scary, it was just blowing from the direction we wanted to go, east.  Unlike the ICW, we had choices of where to go once leaving Bimini.  Those of us in slowish boats knew that we were looking at 2 travel days to make it anywhere east, we couldn’t do the 70 + mile stretch over The Great Bahama Bank, or “The Bank” for short, in one daylight day.  We talked about anchoring out on The Bank, which is literally in the middle of a very large body of water, and though we know people that did it or planned on doing it, to us it didn’t sound fun.  That’s where this night thing comes in.

JR, well rested and ready for an overnight adventure!

JR, well rested and ready for an overnight adventure!

The trick is, you wanna LEAVE your marina and navigate the channel in the daylight hours.  And you wanna ARRIVE at your destination and anchor in the daylight hours…  All of this is for safety’s sake.  You want to see your marks heading out, see your marks heading in, and make sure you’re anchoring in sand not grass or rocks.  That makes sense right?  The stuff in the middle (in this case, at least) is easy.  It was a straight shot once we rounded North Rock in Bimini.  See, look at the top of this map, we pretty much followed the line B6 – B7.  Nothing was in the way!

Map of Bimini to Great Harbor Cay in The Berry Islands.

Map of Bimini to Great Harbor Cay in The Berry Islands.  In case you’re worried, the depths are in meters, not feet :)

Straight east over The Bank with good depths the whole way and no obstructions!  Hear that, Momma?  No rocks or other objects that do not move!  We clearly wouldn’t sail at night if there were icebergs, or rocks, or sunken ships in our way, that would be silly!  Also remember that our beautiful Journey has radar.  That’s like night vision for boats and JR had a great time playing with that little TV screen :)

The sun was setting, but we were just beginning!

The sun was setting, but we were just beginning!

So, after scrapping our first plan of motoring into the wind and anchoring on The Bank, we consulted our cruising God Parents (better yet, cruising angels), Tammy and Chip from Plodding in Paradise, and decided to leave in the afternoon, sail all night, and anchor in the morning, about 16 hours depending on speed.  Brilliant!  Of course this isn’t unheard of.  In fact Chip and Tammy have done it twice before.  It’s a reasonable thing to do if the weather is right and the course is clear, so we did it.  And it was beautiful!

We left Bimini at about 4:30 pm and headed out of the channel.  This was truly the most stressful part of our 16 and a half hour trip because the channel is narrow, the tide was ebbing, the seas were confused, and the wind was blowing directly at us!  It was ugly and bumpy but only lasted 10 minutes tops.  As soon as we veered north, it was smooth sailin’.  And sail we did!

Sails up, y'all!  This sure beats motoring into the wind!

Sails up, y’all! This sure beats motoring into the wind!

We sailed without the engine at an average speed of 5-1/2 knots from about 5:00 to about 10 pm when the wind died.  Had we gone with our other plan, we would have been headed straight into the wind, which meant no sailing and possibly choppy, bumpy seas.  Our cruise over The Great Bahama Bank was so peaceful!  After running with just the engine for a few hours, at about 2:30 am, the wind had picked up again slightly and we decided to bring the sails back out since we had nothing better to do!  We were able to sail for a couple of more hours without the engine at around 4-1/2 knots.  It was so overwhelmingly beautiful to be tethered to our boat, in the dark of the night, hoisting our sails, and hearing the water rush by our hull.  Thirty feet of waterline, nicely making way! (Whoever gets that reference first, wins a Bimini conch shell ;)  It was so intensely beautiful.

Gettin' a little tilty with those sails up.  The ICW makes you forget what heeling is like!

Gettin’ a little tilty with those sails up. The ICW makes you forget what heeling is like!

We originally decided since it was our first overnighter and only about 16 hours, we would both stay awake the whole time so we took luxurious naps during the day.  Nope.  After dinner we both got sleepy and agreed to take turns cat-napping.  We stayed in the cockpit for our naps and slept, each for about 30 minutes under the stars.  I planned little activities for each hour of the night, but our cat-naps overrode a few.  We had Jimmy Buffet Hour, Knot Tying Hour, Read About The Berry Islands Hour, Coffee Hour, Pump Out the Holding Tank Hour, Oreo Cookie Hour, and a few others to keep our minds busy.  It was fun and I can officially say that I now know how to tie a Bowline  :)  Bonus.

Cooking dinner with our red lights on.  Thanks Peg and David, we love our red lights :)

Cooking dinner with our red lights on. Thanks Peg and David, we love our red lights :)

 

It really couldn’t have been more peaceful.  We weren’t nervous or scared at all during the trip.  Well, that’s not all the way true.  At one point JR went down to the cabin to use the head and I started envisioning a Kraken jumping out of the dark waters and grabbing me with one of his tentacles, so I did get a little bugged out then.  But other than that it was awesome.

Here is a night shot of our mast.  You can see our halo on top, our radar reflector to port, and our Bahamian courtesy flag to starboard.

Here is a night shot of our mast. You can see our halo on top, our radar reflector to port, and our Bahamian courtesy flag to starboard.

We watched the sun set and the dark crept in.  We watched the moon set and the even darker crept in.  We looked at stars and saw 7 shooting ones.  We saw the infamous mysterious marine phosphorescence in our wake and then we watched Venus rise right in front of us.  That little planet spooked us for a moment because it was so bright.  We thought it was a boat anchored, or a helicopter coming toward us, but it was just a beautiful planet showing us the way to Great Harbor Cay.

This was the sunrise that welcomed us to Great Harbor Cay.  The little light in the sky is Venus <3

This was the sunrise that welcomed us to Great Harbor Cay. The little light in the sky is Venus <3

I’m super pumped that we did it.  We were a little sleepy afterward, but super pumped.  Mom, you don’t have to worry about us overnighting much more.  I don’t think there will be many more opportunities, so I’m really glad we jumped on this one!

Here’s a quick video JR made with his GoPro.

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7 comments

  1. Southern Cross – CS&N (1982). That’s your song reference.
    JR ought to know better than try pulling something like that on me. :)

  2. Is there a prize for the people who were listening to Southern Cross on repeat as we read the whole blog post? I had put it on right before sitting down with the computer. It is one of our favorites!! Miss you! Are you still with Adamant and Summertime Rolls?

    1. Nope. We broke away when they did Chub and we night sailed. We are still in Nassau, waiting on fridge (and blow.) You get a prize ’cause I love you! Miss you tons. Let’s time the Exumas so we’re there together, K? Don’t tell the boys ;)

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