A long motor to the Bahamas

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Fri 16 Dec 2016 18:32
In position   25:32.49N, 076:44.70W  Spanish Wells, Eleuthera
The ‘Admiral’ has been requested to shoot ‘Skip’ should we (he) choose to take the route from Lake Worth across the Gulf Stream into the Northwest Providence Channel, over the top of the Berry Islands into the Northeast Providence Channel and into Spanish Wells ever again (that means NEVER EVER EVER!!!).
We logged a total distance of 212 miles with not a break from the noise of running engines from 0715 on the 13th December to 2330 on the 14th December. A timescale of 40+ hours. The straight line distance is about 190 miles so we motored some 22 miles further to achieve the same distance due to adverse currents. That’s about four and a half hours motoring but going nowhere if that makes sense! Almost the entire voyage was against current which is bad enough when sailing but very depressing when motoring. Our ears were ringing by the time we anchored off Meeks Patch in the dark just outside Spanish Wells. And to keep us on our toes ‘til the bitter end we were followed for the last mile by the the local mail boat ‘The Eleuthera Express’ on our final approach.
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Departing Lake Worth entrance at 0815 into calm waters of the Florida Straits
If you removed the necessity of running the engines for that length of time then it would have been a magical experience with virtually calm seas the entire distance. But then without them we’d still be sitting in Lake Worth listening to police sirens. We’d have missed seeing that lonely whale surface. Swimming a quarter mile off our port side lazily puffing out water vapour from it’s blow hole. It was just after full moon too which made the night watches with the reflections of the moon dancing across the calm seas quite mesmerizing. That is apart from motoring past Freeport in the moonlight for what seemed like an eternity with the myriad of brightly lit tankers lurking around or just drifting on the current whilst waiting for their pilots. Hard to believe that just over eight weeks ago Hurricane Matthew had raged through these very same waters causing considerable destruction on Grand Bahama Island where Freeport is situated.
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‘Almost full moon rise’ picture competition! The ‘Admiral’s effort (left) and ‘Skip’s effort (right) Hmmm!
Had the weather window been shorter we would have checked into Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands and called it a day there and then. Engines off, down the hatch with a couple of Bahama Mamas and a welcome sleep. But the weather was extremely benign and we had another day or possibly two to play with before the next front arrived so we pushed on past the northern tip of the Berrys, passing a couple of cruise ships (Enchantment of the Seas being the larger of the two) disgorging their clients into liberty boats off Great Stirrup Cay.
Spanish Wells some 80 more miles to the south-east was chosen as our target destination. We lost our first fish of the season (and one hook and lure in the process) to a very big fish, probably Wahoo, just before the Berrys so it was welcome to the lure. Later when we pulled in the lines just before sundown our favoured cedar plug lure was found to have taken an awful mauling with teeth marks and splintered wood (another Wahoo maybe).  Again we felt we were probably punching above our weight in this part of the ocean especially taking into account ‘Skip’s track record skirmishing with fish in the cockpit.
Uninhabited Great Stirrup Cay in the Berrys is one of numerous cruise line ‘deserted island experience’  stop-offs in the Bahamas with lots of activities available for clients.
We are now on a mooring in Spanish Wells, having checked in with Customs yesterday (still $300 for the cruising permit) followed by a visit to the post office to post our USA permit to Baltimore for cancellation. A hike to the supermarket for some homemade bread and other provisions was also deemed necessary to keep us alive for a few more days. As usual it’s rare here to walk the entire distance to the store as a profusion of golf carts plod round the island. The occupants all waving at everyone they see because on this tiny island they know everybody. Anyone found walking is eventually scooped up and driven to where they want to go. On the walk back to the dinghy we were stopped by an elderly gentleman we’d met earlier on the dockside whilst checking in. Although driving in completely the opposite direction to that which we were walking he offered to turn round and drive us there himself! We thanked him but insisted we really needed the exercise after our voyage. It typifies the warm attitude of the locals here in Spanish Wells and throughout the smaller communities of the Bahamas that live off the beaten track away from the cruise ship routes. They love to welcome visitors that have arrived under their own steam or in our case exhaust smoke!
For the record, for our 40 hours of motoring using just one or, whilst crossing the Gulf Stream both engines simultaneously, and for a total run time for both engines of 56.5 hours we burnt some 40 Imp gallons or 180 litres of diesel.  Next outside job is to clean the black exhaust residues off the hulls whilst we wait for more good weather to head southwards towards the Exumas.