Exumas Expedition 2009/2010

First Trip to the Bahamas!!
Stuart FL, to Bmini_
On 12/26/2010, we fueled up with 675 gallons of diesel fuel and left the Harborage Yacht Club in Stuart, Fl at 1540 local time.  The crew consisted of Bill Miller, Sarah Miller and Nick Starr, all experienced operating a Krogen 48 trawler.  We navigated through “Hell Gate” and the shallow “Crossroads” area to reach the St. Lucie Inlet just prior to sunset to start our nearly 800 mile journey.
Luckily the winds were calm and we had no problems making through the inlet to open waters.  We were headed to the Bahamas for the first time and were apprehensive about crossing the gulf stream.   Since the winds are from the east, our plan was to skirt very close to the eastern shore of Florida, south to Fort Lauderdale and then cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini.
To improve our ride in the easterly winds, we stayed close to shore and just outside the three mile limit as we headed south.  Although the ride was great, 10 miles south of Stuart, we picked up a 2.5 knot current on the nose from the gulf stream which really slowed us down.  We moved to within a mile of shore to minimize the current and maximize our speed.
Just a few miles north of Ft. Lauderdale, we decided to make the turn east across the gulf stream and towards North Bimini island.  We wanted to arrive around noon so we would have good visibility for entering the harbor.  The weather window looked good for the crossing and our weather router Chris Parker nailed the forecast perfectly!  We had 2′-4′ seas on the beam and both the boat and crew motored through the night with no problems.  We took two hour shifts with a four hour break in between shifts.
Land ho!
At 1130 we spotted the turquoise waters and white sand beaches of North Bimini in the distance and at 1430, we entered the harbor.  This was the first time we have landed on foreign soil and we hauled up the yellow quarantine flag on the starboard  spreader and the American flag on the port spreader as we cruised into port.
There was no answer on the VHF as we approached Bimini Blue Water Marina, but finally three dock hands appeared to guide us into our slip.
Bimini Blue Water marina

After we cleared customs and immigration and paid our $300 cash cruising fee, we opted for a little R&R.  Nick, Sarah and I hoofed it a few blocks to the “new” Bimini Grill just down the road from our marina.  It was Sunday so everyone on the island was drinking beer.


We couldn’t find the grill since it didn’t have a sign, but Sherry at “Sherry’s  on the Beach” set us on the right path.  The grill is a hole in the wall in an idyllic setting on the white sand Bimini beach.  If you remember the Corona commercial where they kick a field goal through the beer bottles with a paper football,  you’re there.  We had hamburgers and beer and sat outside at the picnic table celebrating and toasting our first successful crossing.

Ordering A Bahamian Burger and Beer
Relaxing at the Bimini Grill
Sarah explored south towards the harbor entrance  and ran across a boat that didn’t quite make it past the rocks.
A Warning at the Entrance to Bimini Harbor
We then decided to have a drink at Sherry’s on the Beach and chat up the couple who were eating outdoors.  They were just being served a great looking lobster salad so we ordered one of those as dessert.  Sherry didn’t have any lobster, but she offered to walk down to the dock to get one for us.  Shewas back in 20 minutes, boiled it, cut it up and mixed it with mayonnaise, spices and celery and man was it good!  Highly recommend the lobster over the hamburger.  We then headed back to the dock to prepare for the next leg of the voyage and take a well deserved nap.

12/28/2009 – Bimini to Nassau

We did our morning checks on all the boat systems, fired up the engine and pulled out of the Blue Water at 1000 local headed for Nassau via the Great Bahama Bank and the Northwest Channel, a 22 hour run according to our computations.
Leaving Bimini Harbor

We cruised north past Bimini and made our way onto the Great Bahamas Bank just north of the North Rock entrance.


From Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahama_Banks


We were in waters over 2000 feet deep and the bank is only 2 to 30 feet deep for 70 miles in any direction.  It’s a huge shallow water region with relatively calmer seas, but it can be dangerous entering and leaving the bank depending on wind, tides and currents.


North Rock - Marks an Entrance to the Great Bahamas Bank
We had beautiful weather for the first part of the day as we cruised across the turquoise waters of the bank.  At one point, we had over 15 dolphins following us.  Later on in the day as the NW wind picked up, we managed to catch a King Mackerel.
King Mackerel


Great Bahamas Bank - West


Leaving the Great Bahamas Bank towards New Providence Island, requires careful navigation around the Northwest Channel Light through shallow waters (we saw 7′ depths). As you cross over the edge of the bank, you’re basically heading over a cliff and the depths drop from 20′ to as much as 8000′ deep in a very short period of time. We crossed the light at around midnight and encountered winds out of the northwest and following seas as we proceeded towards Nassau which is a very comfortable ride in a Krogen 48 North Sea.


Great Bahamas Bank - East
Sarah at the Helm Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank
After a restful night, we spotted the Atlantis, an aberration on the Bahamian landscape, from 15 miles away. Nassau harbor is so busy, they have the equivalent of air traffic control to enter the harbor. We were surrounded by fast moving freighters, cruise ships, sport fishermen and other slow moving sailboats and the like as we contacted Nassau harbor control for permission to enter. Harbor control switched us to channel 9 to get our specifics and quickly gave us permission to enter and proceed to the Nassau Harbor Marina and Yacht Club.
We pulled into our slip and prepared the boat for the arrival of the rest of our crew which included Ann Miller, Suzanne, Ryan and Chase Starr. The dockmaster Peter is very welcoming and there is great shopping nearby for groceries and marine supplies, all within walking distance. Nick, Sarah and I grilled half of the King Mackerel we had caught with a romaine salad. Wow! Really good fish when it is fresh.


Nassau Harbor - New Providence Island
Ann, Suzanne, Ryan and Chase arrived around 1530 local time and after getting settled, we walked to the Poop Deck to meet fellow Rowellians Paul, Julz and Bailey Berticelli for dinner. We made it an early night so we could get a pre-sunrise start on our Exumas adventure.


The Poop Seck - Nassau


12/30/2010 – Nassau to Norman’s Cay


At 0630 we contacted harbor control and received permission to transit the east entrance to the harbor past Porgee rocks and direct to Norman’s Cay stake. We had to cross the yellow bank to get there and the cruising guides warn of coral heads that can only be cleared in good light with no winds to allow visual navigation. Our fellow cruisers dispute that claim and on their advice, we simply cruised direct to Norman’s Cay with a stiff NE wind over 20 knots and so-so light. Other than the 3′-4′ waves that made for a very rough ride, we had no difficulties.


Chase took over the helm for a good part of this leg and did a great job handling a trawler for the first time.

_ _

Chase Navigating the Yellow Bank Near the Exumas


At about 1300 local, we arrived at Norman’s Stake, slowed to idle speed and crawled through the channel to the anchorage in front of MacDuffs on the SW tip of the island.


Normans Cay - We Anchored on SW Tip of Osland


It’s a beautiful setting with turquoise waters, white sands and swaying palms with the small resort of MacDuffs tucked in among the palms just a few feet from the water. We dropped the tender in the water, loaded up luggage and the four Starrs and Sarah delivered them to their villa. After a short rest, Ann Sarah and I headed to MacDuffs for a drink and a burger. The Starrs opted for the burgers which are really good but just a little pricier than Burger King at $18.00 each!!! (drinks not included).


View From Starr Villa at Norman's - Ann Louise in Background
View From the Starr's Villa at Norman's - Ann Louise in Background

We slept with the windows open under a full moon with the tropical breezes flowing through the boat. In the morning, we were greeted by Suzanne in the kayak out for her morning workout. Apparently Chase and Ryan had kayaked over earlier, but thought we were still asleep.



It is the last day of 2009, and we spent a warm day snorkeling and exploring Norman’s.   Suzanne made her famous chicken pasta salad for lunch and we snorkeled several locations including a coral head, shipwreck, bicycle and a submerged Curtis C-46 that once belonged to Carlos Lehder, the infamous drug smuggler.


Submerged Curtis C-46
Starr's Villa on Norman's Cay

_We decided to join in the festivities at MacDuff’s Bar and Grill for the party. They had a great deal at $30 for all you could eat including your first drink. We played cards, sang (at least some of us), drank quite a few rum drinks and ended the evening by watching fireworks on the beach. A great evening for everyone. Unfortunately, Ann stepped in a hole at the bottom of the villa stairs right after the fireworks and badly sprained her ankle. We managed to get her in the tender and transport her to the boat, and Sarah performed certain medical procedures that allowed a good night rest. Our plan was to leave the next morning at 0600 to make our way to Staniel Cay.

New Years Eve at MacDuffs
Live Entertainment
Fireworks at Midnight

I picked up the Starrs at 0600 the next morning after a robust 5-1/2 hours of sleep and we slowly worked our way out of the anchorage into the Exuma sound and south to Staniel Cay, It was a great trip with smooth seas and we cooked a traditional combined north/south New Years meal of pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, collard greens and black-eyed peas.

Enroute from Norman's to Staniel New Year's Day

_The wind was really picking up as we approached Staniel, so we couldn’t put into the marina as planned, but were forced to anchor almost two miles away from the Starr’s pink villa at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We loaded luggage and five people into the tender “Sarah Elizabeth”, and took a wet ride into the yacht club. We had a little trouble getting the luggage to the dock but finally got everyone situated. Nick found some crutches for Ann and we spent the evening recuperating from injuries and New Years Eve.

Staniel Cay - We Anchored West of Big Majors

The next day was sunny and warm and we decided to explore the famed Thunderball Grotto, site of the famous James Bond Movie of the same name. We snorkeled the grotto with another group that had a dog with them who also swam the grotto with us. We enjoyed feeding the fish and swimming the underwater entrances to the grotto for excitement. We then explored the island, shopped and lounged on the front porch or the Starr’s Villa.

Suzanne and Ann on Staniel
Exploring Staniel Cay
Tide Went Out - Tender Weighs 850 lbs - Not Good
The Pink Villa

That night we had dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and decided to take the tender back to the Ann Louise at night since we had a full moon. It turned out to be a bad decision. The moon was not up when we left, and the night was pitch black. We got turned around three times and Sarah had a bad accident as we hit several large waves in a row. Her face hit the dinghy so hard, she broke her front tooth off and it took us over an hour to get back to the boat. Nick was about to call for a search and rescue mission we were so late.

The Damage to the Tender is from Sarah's Tooth

The next morning, we flew Sarah, Ann and Sarah’s tooth on a charter flight to Nassau for medical assistance,  while the Starr’s boarded the Ann Louise for the journey back to Nassau.

Flamingo Air to Nassau - Ann and Sarah

While Ann and Sarah flew to Nassau, Bill and the Starr’s started the journey back Nassau.  We couldn’t make it in one day, so we anchored south of Elbow Cay and had grilled pork tenderloin, Ryan’s sauteed peppers and onions,  and rocked out to tunes while we played cards.  Ryan and Bill beat Chase and Suzanne in a close game of cards that went to the last round while Nick acted as the DJ.

1/4/2010 Back in Nassau

After a rough ride to Nassau from Elbow Cay, we arrived back at Nassau Harbor Marina and met up with Ann and the newly configured Sarah.  We left Ann on the boat to relax and ice down her ankle and the rest of us explored Atlantis for a few hours.

Enroute to Paradise Island and Atlantis
Atlantis - No Caption Needed
Nassau Harbor Yachy Club

The next day we sent Suzanne, Chase, Ryan and Ann off to the airport while Nick, Sarah and Bill did some repairs and preparation for the journey home.  The weather forecast looked good for crossing the gulf stream, but we were worried about the leg from Nassau to Chubb Cay with strong headwinds and rough seas predicted.

Sarah Doing Repairs on the Mast in the Bosun's Chair

1/6/200 – The Journey home

We left Nassau Harbor 1220 local time for our 44 hour jouney back to Stuart, FL.  We had very rough seas for the first four hours, but then things smoothed out for the remainder of the trip.  The gulfstream had big swells, but the period was over 10 seconds long making for a very comfortable ride.  We saw a pod of approximately 30 Right Whales in the gulf stream, and arrived at the St Lucie inlet close to sunrise 14 days from when we left.  I spite of the injuries, a great trip and we hope to do it again soon!

Picture Gallery

2 thoughts on “Exumas Expedition 2009/2010”

  1. Bill,

    Wow! I had no idea that you seafaring kind of guy. I definitely envy you. The last big ocean adventure I had was sailing to Bimini as a co-op student. For some reason, you entries bring back the Jimmy Buffett song “Song of a song of a sailor”

    I got your Christmas photo and I have calling you high on my “to-do” list.

    Here in Boulder, Colorado, we are a long way from the ocean, so I will just will have to use your blog to sail vicariously.


  2. Bill, I just finished ready all your entries and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. How Dad would have loved it! The best picture of all was
    Sarah doing repairs on the Mast in the Boson’s chair. I would never have done that at any age. It sounds so exciting I even wish I had been there. That would have made your trip a chore. I’m so glad you could do that and I hope all of you have many more exciting safe trips.
    Love you – Mom

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