This year’s run down the ICW from New Bern seemed a little different. Maybe it was the fact that we were much later than normal since we returned to NJ for Thanksgiving and some doctors’ visits for Ron or maybe the difference is just the fact that this was our 15th trip and the sights are quite familiar. Our first night underway in December, anchored in Taylor Creek Beaufort, NC the morning temperature was 25o F as a drone watched Kathy raise the anchor. Few boats were this far north on the waterway and we had most anchorages all to ourselves and a quiet radio.
What we love to experience are the changes. Nature is ever changing with the weather, flora, fauna, and our spotting of wildlife. Over the years, we’ve watched derelict or abandoned boats slowly break apart and/or sink and have seen many changes including new bridge construction and updated town waterfronts.
Visiting friends along the way is always a high point for us and this year we added a new stop in the Wilmington NC area which led us to explore the Carolina Beach State Park Marina, a very nice park with hiking trails and a clean friendly marina.
Boat maintenance is an ongoing effort especially with the mileage we put on our 49 year old boat. As the days get longer and now being in south Florida, the project list Kathy keeps is getting smaller even with the added items for a few months of cruising the islands of the Bahamas. All the thru hull fittings, all hose clamps, the steering gear, the rig, and the engine have been inspected. The spare parts have been replenished with, hopefully, the only parts that will be needed. The varnish has a fresh coat applied and some painting has been completed. There is a saying that goes “Cruising is fixing boat parts in exotic places” and that describes us well.
So here we sit in Miami Beach, our grocery shopping is done, fuel and water tanks are full, while we wait for two fellow cruisers and a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini and the resort of Bimini Sands to “clear in” then on to the islands of the Exuma chain for fun in the sun snorkeling and enjoying the beautiful colors that are the waters of the Bahamas.
Getting to the Islands of the Bahamas involves a 50 mile trip across the Gulf Stream current which flows northward at 3 to 4 knots. If there is a north wind blowing against the flow of the current, the waves can get quite steep and short making for an uncomfortable ride. The trip across the open ocean and the Gulf Stream gets you to the tiny 9 square mile island of Bimini. The island is known for its great fishing along the wall at the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream where the depths go abruptly from several thousand feet to the shallows. Sailors tend to use Bimini as a place to rest after what may be a rough passage and savor the wonderful colors of the water as it goes from a deep purple to turquoise to white in the shallows. The Bahamas consists of over 700 islands while most to
urists see only the resorts of Nassau or Freeport, the two largest cities, though some cruise ship lines have purchased a few smaller out islands. Most people don’t get to experience the friendly relaxed lifestyle of the out islanders. Those of us sailing on small boats can look forward to a 60 mile sail leaving Bimini in our wake and crossing the Great Bahama Bank where the depths average around 10 feet for miles as we wind our way around coral with no land in sight. Leaving the bank we can choose to explore the Berry Islands or continue on to the Exumas, southeast of Nassau where many of the islands are part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and the rest are home to small settlements. Once we reach the out islands, destinations are no longer important and we begin to enjoy each day’s sail or dinghy ride, beach walk or snorkel trip with the pace that is “Island time”! This is where we plan to spend most of our time for the next few months, possibly making it to Georgetown or out to Long Island or Cat Island and maybe even looping around the Abaco chain on our way back toward the hustle of civilization on Florida’s east coast with happy memories of the quiet beauty left behind while at the same time looking forward to our own beautiful east coast and another sailing adventure north to reconnect with friends and family in New Jersey.