The Bahamas
Just 50 miles off Florida’s coastline is the entrance to the Bahamas with its closest island, Bimini.  The islands of the Bahamas, a 700 mile long grouping of pure crystal water maintaining summer-like weather year round.  An extensive chain of islands, cays (pronounced keys), and reefs, only 22 of which are inhabited.  Surrounded by coral reefs and sand banks through channels that lead to the most perfect harbors and coves imaginable.   The waters that surround these islands range in color from a translucent midnight blue in the deep waters to the palest of blues and bottle greens close inshore.  Then there are the beaches, remote and dazzling with white or pale pink with coral sand as fine as baby powder.

Historically the Bahamas are of great interest.  In 1492, Columbus made his first landfall in the New World here, although the precise location is debated.  After a series of unsuccessful colonization attempts by the Spaniards, the Bahamas remained almost uninhabited until the mid-1600s when planters arrived on the southern islands importing slave laborers from Africa.  Many Loyalists, after the American Revolution, left America and went to the Bahamas where they tried to make a go of farming by recreating their southern plantations that they had in the U.S.  Mostly these efforts failed as the climate and the soil were no good for growing tobacco or cotton.   After WWII, the Bahamas began promoting tourism, bringing with it many changes influenced by the visitors.   In July 1973, the Bahamas became independent after 300 years as a British Colony.

Cruising life is very different in the Bahamas from what we experienced in the U.S.  Cruisers are tight knit and have an extreme sense of community.  While traveling from island to island, you meet up with and make friends with many other cruisers.  As you sail the islands, you continually meet up with them.  Evenings are often spent at the beach or a nearby landing enjoying a cocktail and conversation with other boaters in the anchorage.  The majority of the boaters we met were from the U.S., but many were from Canada and some from Europe.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”  Mark Twain
Conch Shell
Shark at Atlantis
Weaving Baskets
Sunset Conch Blowing
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Beach Cocktail Hour
There are trade-offs in the Bahamas given the beautiful water, the fantastic snorkeling and the gorgeous weather, life is a bit more difficult for the cruiser in that the conveniences of the marinas and yacht clubs in the U.S. just don’t exist in the remote islands.  Water and fuel are scarce and pricey in the islands with water ranging anywhere from 40 cents per gallon to $1.10 per gallon.  Fuel is expensive at $2.50/gallon for diesel and $3.50/gallon for gas.  (Most outboard engines on the dingys and sciffs require gasoline).  Conserving is everything!  No more nice long hot showers.  Bath time requires jumping overboard with someone on decks to hand you soap and shampoo.  You soap down in the salt water, rinse well, then come on board for a quick fresh water rinse.  Laundry facilities are few and far between, so essential laundry is done similar to the baths, with wash and 1st rinse in salt water in a bucket, and the final rinse in fresh water. Once that’s all done, you hang all those wet clothes out to dry on the life lines. These are the things that try one’s soul….Ultimately, we found it every bit worth it to experience the beauty of the Bahamas.  It also made us appreciate our life style and conveniences of home even more.  Continue reading for details of our Bahamas adventure...
The Crossing,  Miami, FL – Biscayne Bay to the Bahamas Tue Jan 20 through Thu Jan 22
We ended up crossing from Biscayne Bay on Tue. night  Jan 20th.  Our dear friend, and of course experienced sailor, Bill Nagley, met us in Key Biscayne to cross over with us.  This was Bill's second trip to meet us as we had planned to leave the previous week but ended up canceling due to weather.  Bill was a great sport and real trooper, and came back in on Tues. Jan 20th to lend a hand.  Bill has made the crossing several times, so it was great to have him on board to help with the voyage.
We left Biscayne Bay just after 10:00 p.m. on Tues. with winds out of the northwest at 15 to 20 knots.  The gulf stream was about 3 miles off shore and once we got into it, the winds picked up to 20 to 25 knots, still out of the northwest.  The seas in the gulf stream were 4 to 6 feet.  It was not bad at all as the waves were off our quarter stern, making it a little rolly, but not bad.  We took turns on watch through the night, keeping at least two of us on deck at all times. While on deck, we all wore our life jackets with harnesses.  The rule was, if you were to go out on the decks for any reason, you needed to tether yourself to the line we had set up earlier.  (This is in case a wave or the boom were to knock you down, or overboard, you would be tethered to a line on the deck so that you could be retrieved quickly and safely).  The shipping traffic was light, and of course with radar, we could see it coming for miles out.  We were motor sailing between 6 and 7 knots, making better time than expected.  After 2:00 a.m. the winds subsided a little and our speed as well. 
      At around 5:00 a.m. we realized we were going to make land fall prior to day break so we cut back on the throttle a bit.  We could see the Bimini light around 5:45 a.m. and approached the island just at daybreak around 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday.  We decided to press on and continue on the Great Bahamas Bank until evening.  We had mostly cloudy, windy, rainy weather on Wednesday, but by the end of the day all the rain had passed but we still had winds 20 to 25 knots out of the NW.  We decided to anchor out in the Bank so we dropped the hook in 15 feet of water just prior to 7:00 p.m. (The Great Bahamas Bank is a body of water that extends out between the islands.  It is vast and open water, yet relatively shallow, around 8 to 25 feet of water).  We were all exhausted from the last 24 hours, so decided dinner and a little shut eye was the best thing.  The wind continued to howl through the night blowing between 15 and 20 knots.  We all stood anchor watch (including Monica) through the night as boat traffic and wind were our main concerns. It was a rolly and bumpy night but we all got through it just fine.
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