three hulls, two people, one trip around the world…

Sailing to the Bahamas

Last WhatsApp conversations, refuelling and finally our SAN mutates from a floating island to a sailing boat again. Refuelling was not so easy. The wind pushed us against the jetty. Our bow thruster was not ready for use. We had discharged the battery too deeply and had not yet restored it, and we could not yet check whether the thruster might be stuck. The only thing to do was to drive backwards (forwards would lead into the channel).

The trip went smoothly. Sailing as it should be. We were blown westwards by the trade winds. We took the direct route to the Bahamas, sailing north along the islands. Most of the time the wind was between 15 and 20 knots (5 Beaufort), the swell is bearable because the waves roll in from behind. We have adjusted our waking rhythm. I still sleep the early night shift and relieve Mathias at midnight, but after that we keep it flexible. Mathias often wakes up at some point anyway and relieves me again, or I wake him up if I get too tired. He then sleeps again during the day. For us, this is more relaxed than a fixed rhythm at which we can’t fall asleep at all. We sail long distances with the mainsail reefed twice plus genoa and are still fast (7-12 knots).
When we pass an island, we briefly access the internet and send WhatsApp messages to the family.

The first stop is after 3 1/2 days at the island of Mayaguana. According to the guidebook, it is possible to check in to the Bahamas here. Since a stronger wind was announced, we wanted to stop at the island, wait for the wind and check in on Monday. There is a lagoon in front of the village, to which there are two accesses. One is quite narrow and shallow and the anchorage area behind it is very shallow, the other one is a bit easier to approach and not quite as shallow, but it is at the other end of the lagoon and you have to go about 3 nm by dinghy to get to the village. We preferred to take the wider access.

On that Monday, the strong wind was still having an after-effect, we were sailing the dinghy against a tippy short wave. The little boat bounced up and down. I squatted or knelt in the front to keep a lookout for stones, and supported myself with my arms on the outer rim of the tube. My muscles were still aching for days afterwards. The last stretch was so shallow that we preferred to get out and pull the dinghy. Now we ran the risk of losing our shoes in the mud….

We had already been warned by a couple of sailors that immigration was no longer at the same place but on the other side of the island. But we wanted to have a look. We could moor the dinghy between stones at an old concrete jetty, luckily the guide book had warned us and we had the dinghy anchor with us. On land, everything looked rather deserted. But every now and then a car drove through the area. We met a few people and they spoke to us and were very helpful. Immigration had indeed moved, but only about 1 km away. You could easily walk there. The new office is in the former school, are there no children left on the island? We didn’t see any, only empty playgrounds. There are supposed to be 250 people living on Mayaguana. When we arrived at the authorities, we were told that there are officials here, but they are still in training and are not allowed to issue official documents. The port as a point of entry was closed a few years ago and they haven’t got the status back yet. Hmm, should we write an email to the guide book author. We just had a nice chat and decided to go to Cat Island next. Immigration still exists there. You should also make an online registration in advance. From the nice lady on Mayaguana we bought two key rings to support the planned festivities for the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Bahamas in July. The Bahamas were prior to that a British crown colony.

It took us just over 24 hours to get to Cat Island. We left the lagoon in the afternoon. The sun was very unfavourable for visual navigation. But Mathias just did his best to stay on the track of our way in. Within two days, no coral towers will have grown there.

Close to the islands – there is internet 😉

As the wind had dropped in the meantime (only up to about 9 knots), we were too slow to arrive in daylight. After the night sail, we therefore set one of our spinnakers. This time it went surprisingly well and quickly. I seem to have finally learnt how to lay down the sail and the sheets before we start to hoist. The ride under spinnaker was pleasant, little reeling, good speed.

With a precision landing, the anchor dropped at sunset and the chain ran out in the last light of day. 🙂 The water was very clear, I could see the anchor drop to the bottom and watch it dig in. We were alone in the open, it was calm and not rocking. That’s what cruising is supposed to be like. The good mood continued the next day. Immigration was right at the small harbour. We had filled out the online application the night before, and the officials were super nice. You get a cruising permit for the boat and the crew. It’s not cheap, though, with our boat size $300 for 3 months or $600 for a year. But in return, you can stay with the boat for a year in the waters of the Bahamas. That’s one less thing to worry about. When I asked how it would be if only one person left the country in between, they issued us an extra copy of the permit (so that I could take it with me). We joked around so much that the officers almost forgot to put a stamp in our passports.

From Cat Island we had to sail back to the northern outer side of the islands to get into deeper water.

Sailing around Eleuthera (always internet reception) and then to Nassau. On the trip since St. Martin we used the Watt&Sea hydro generator and it supplemented our power budget quite well. However, it got overconfident at times, thought it was a small aircraft engine and made appropriate noise. This is what happens when the generated electricity can no longer be taken off.

Nassau Harbour is sheltered between the main island of New Providence and a small offshore island called Paradise Island. Paradise Island is home to wickedly expensive hotels and marinas. We anchor in front of it 🙂 right next to the Carry On. Our arrival was again a precision landing shortly before sunset.

The Carry On

The Bahamas have an interesting pirate past…..

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