Thursday, August 17, 2017…according to Corey
3:30am was the wakeup call and we immediately (after coffee, of course) started getting the boat ready for departure. We were shooting for a 4:30am departure, left at 4:50am, expected the bridge adjacent to our dock to open on request, and then were told it wasn’t opening until 5:15am. Dan thought the bridge opened on demand until 6:00am at which point they would open on a schedule. But, no. We spent an extra 20 minutes idling in the channel, watching the bridge not open while cars didn’t traffic it.
We made the second bridge’s opening exactly 15 minutes later and by 6:00am we were headed out of the channel and on our way to the Bahamas. My first sunrise on our three-day trip to Ft. Lauderdale was ridiculous, but today’s was equally awe inspiring. For easy, consistent viewing, our course for the Bahamas lined up perfectly with the sun, Venus, and a crescent moon. An impressive array of clouds sat unobtrusively on the horizon leaving only a small crack in which the sun rose. With the first few minutes of light the clouds made face like pattern in which the sun was split into two small circles resembling burning, beady eyes. The entire horizon looked like a fiery devil was looking over the edge of a table. T’was sweet!
We put up the sails almost immediately, but during the entire trip they stabilized the boat against waves more than any propulsion gains we realized. We put out the fishing rods, but during the entire trip they created drag and slowed us down more than any fish gains we realized. The only “bites” were seaweed that accumulated to produce enough weight to pull the click of the reel.
I spent most of the trip just staring at the water as I lounged back in the cockpit. The seas were incredibly calm and the only thing visible was the occasional boat coming back from the Bahamas. Typically on past sailing vacations, we saw other sailboats coming or going, crossing our paths. During hurricane season in this area of the globe, however, we rarely see a sailboat that isn’t out for a day sail. Every cruiser we talk to tells us we’re crazy for heading south this time of year. They definitely back up their trepidation by avoiding these waters.
Scott (of my previous post) says you can’t live your life at the mercy of a storm that may or may not come. He also says to be patient and wait for good weather windows. It seems contradictory, and perhaps it is. But looking at our situation, we’ve rationalized it this way: We’re hanging out in a sizable area of hurricane territory during a sizable amount of time that is hurricane season. Is that being patient and waiting for good weather windows? No. Not at the macro level anyway. At the micro though, we’re very cognizant about short term weather windows and being patient by not venturing too far from well protected “hurricane holes” where we can use land to protect the boat and marinas to secure it down. And again on the macro level, we’re not worrying about storms of the century that may or may not come. We’re enjoying this time we have in some of the most beautiful places on earth (and it’s perfect right now, by the way).
I can’t help but draw similar analogies about life. Sure, statistically we’re more likely to find ourselves in hairy situations with our current plan, but in the grand scheme of things what’s the worst that could happen? I was reading Seneca yesterday and he wrote, “…some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.” So, again, what’s the worst that can happen? We might die? Hell, once a month I passed a wreck on the way to work or home that someone died in, friends have died of cancer or other diseases/disorders, and lots of people die every day in freak accidents. My tomorrow was never promised anyway.
More likely a scenario, the boat might sink in a storm. Then what? We all go back to the US and get jobs? Are you kidding me; we were living that worst case scenario already?! With that thought, how is being patient and “waiting for weather windows” your entire life any approach to living? Dan’s being rigorously concerned with our short term safety so I’m willing to “risk it” with our current plan. Anyway…
“…we suffer more in our imaginations that we do in reality,” – Seneca.
The day was pretty uneventful. Brandy took a couple of naps, I played disc jockey, and a lot of the journey was spent in silence. The boat stopped smoking which was a happy observation for us all. I did notice if I stared out to the side of the boat, watch the waves go by for several minutes, then diverted my gaze onto something stationary like my knee or arm, I’d get a visual “swirling” sensation in which my skin would move around in similar patterns as the waves. On the surface, it may seem like a boring day, but I enjoyed it immensely.
We pulled into the West End marina and it was beautiful. The harbor was big enough for two massive yachts and a dozen sport fishing boats but that’s about it. Dan had already made a reservation and our slip was an easy jaunt straight in without having to maneuver much at all. Brandy and I finished tying the boat to the dock pylons (there were no cleats…weird), connected our shore power, etc., and Dan went to check us into Bahamas’ customs. Our first country! I’d already spent some time reveling that we were finally out of America when we hit international waters and we’ve already been to the Bahamas previously so it wasn’t overly gratifying. But knowing there was a pool at the marina was! When Dan got back we drank the safe arrival cocktails Brandy had made and went straight to the pool. It was everything we dreamt it would be.
One of my favorite things about our sailing vacations has been drinking bushwhackers in the British Virgin Islands. Any other time I’ve tried them (like our trip to Nashville), it was a let down. They never tasted the same and the environment definitely wasn’t the same. But finally, we found a Caribbean island with a bartender who could make them! I drank them like water and it was phenomenal.
Several other guys were there on a bro’s vacation and had been spear fishing and lobstering. Brandy chatted them up, was offered a couple of different drinks. She left for the boat to make dinner about 20 minutes or so before Dan and I. Later, we all caught up on internet stuff before dinner was finally done (Brandy’s veggies and sausage!) and we all passed out.
Thursday, August 17, 2017…according to Brandy
My alarm went off at 3:30am. Normally at this time of day, it would be hard for me to get out of bed, but not today. I got up and started getting myself and Dillion, our dog, ready to go. I was excited because today we were going to go to the Bahamas.
Corey got up and made coffee for all of us while Dan worked on getting Maverick, our boat, ready to pull from the slip where we had been in Fort Lauderdale.
Our plan was to leave at 4:30am because we wanted to get to West End, Bahamas in time to check in before customs closed. It would take us about 12 hours to make the crossing and customs closed at 5:30pm.
Of course, we didn’t leave right on time, but pretty close. 🙂
It was almost 5am when we finally pulled out of our slip. Dan called ahead to the first bridge we needed to go under. We had to call them because we were too tall to fit under and we needed them to open their draw bridge. The bridge operator let us know that we could go under in about 15 minutes so Dan tried to keep us in place while Corey and I put up the dock lines and fenders that were out because we were in a slip.
After we made it through the first bridge, we had to navigate in the dark to the next bridge. Luckily, Fort Lauderdale is pretty lit up when it is dark outside but I still stood at the front of the boat with a flash light, lighting up all the channel markers. There were no other boats in the channel at this time of day so it was pretty easy to navigate.
When we got close to the second bridge, Dan called the bridge operator and our timing was perfect. We didn’t have to slow down very much and the bridge opened for us. On the other side of this bridge, was a huge cruise ship. It was moving but it was hard to tell if it was leaving the dock or pulling into the dock. We wanted to make sure we didn’t get in their way. I still don’t know exactly what the cruise ship was doing but it was barely moving so we were able to go by it without any problems.
Once we were past the cruise ship, we were almost past land. It started getting real dark because we no longer had all the lights of the city around us. Corey saw a shooting star, which we took to mean we would have good luck on our passage.
After we were in open water, I took the helm while Dan and Corey put up the sails. Once they were up, Dan came back and plotted us on a course to West End, Bahamas. There wasn’t very much wind so we kept the engine on but with the sails and engine, we were booking. We averaged around 7 knots the whole way which is pretty fast for a sailboat.
We ended up getting to the marina at West End right at around 4pm. We tied up Maverick and connected the shore power. Dan brought all our documentation and passports to customs to check us in. I was real nervous about Dillion because I was afraid that he wouldn’t be allowed in. I know we had all the paperwork and had the appropriate health certificate but I was still worried.
Dan came back in what seemed like a couple of minutes with a smile on his face. It was easy peasy. No problems with Dillion. We got a cruising permit so we could be in the Bahamas for 180 days. Woohoo!!! We successfully made it to our first country!!
I made us safe arrival cocktails and we headed to the marina’s pool.