Leaving Nassau

Ambler Isle
V and S
Fri 20 May 2011 14:06
We called to request permission to enter the Nassau Harbour from  Harbour Control.  As usual, their radio was static and nearly undecipherable.
They took our  information and wished us a good day.  The harbour was awash with tour boats and ferries, carrying passengers here and there.  The busy water front was alive with activity.  We hailed the Hurricane Hole Fuel Dock on the VHF radio and tied to their dock to take on some diesel.  We did not really need fuel to get back to Florida, we had enough.  But we like to have extra for the Gulf Stream crossing from Bimini to Miami.  If the seas kick up we can run faster, which burns more diesel.  We added 100 gallons to the tanks.  The previous day we'd checked and diesel was $5.39.  Hurricane Hole did not charge the customary 5% surcharge for using a credit card.  (5% would add another $.28 per gallon to the already inflated price.) But when we got there, fuel had dropped to $5.28.   We disposed of our trash, bought some eggs, bread, and coffee cream at the little convenience store, and were off.  We decided to anchor in the busy harbour.  We'd never tried dropping a hook here before, but thought it would be good to rest up before starting the trip back to the USA.  Nassau is a big city, overpopulated, with much unemployment and drug use.  It is a different world from the Bahamas we know and visit.  Although not as big, nor crime ridden, as a big American city, we use precaution when in Nassau.  The anchor grabbed on the first try.  Internet service had been non-existent most of the week, we were in very remote areas.  But we were surprised that we could not connect to the network even in Nassau.  I think the phone system is just not powerful enough to serve the many people who need it to connect to the internet.  It becomes overloaded and unusable.  So we dug out the satellite phone, hooked it up to the computer, and used it to check the weather and emails.  The sat. phone connection is very slow, too slow to go to the internet.  But we subscribe to  compression servers for both weather and email and can get this data using the sat. phone.  The weather report showed very mild weather through Saturday night.  Then the winds would increase and the direction would go ENE on Sunday. 
The Gulf Stream is actually a river flowing northward inside the ocean.  This flow is quite strong, creating a current from the south to  north between the coast of Florida and the Bahamas. If we attempt to cross this Gulf Stream in any wind with a northerly component, say, ENE, NW, or WNW, we face higher waves.  When the winds from the North are strong enough, the wind waves beat into the waves from the southerly current and create a rage condition.  Definitely not good cruising.  If we leave now, before the winds go north on Sunday, we may have a better crossing.  The Gulf Stream crossing will take us about 8 hours if we don't catch fish along the way.  So comfort and good timing are crucial.
We departed Nassau through the west entrance and were soon in the NE Providence Passage.  It is 55 miles across this passage to the NW Channel Light, which is the entrance to the Great Bahama Bank.   The deep Passage will be a chance to catch mahi.  We also have sighted whales here on a previous trip.  A few boats were out.  About half way through the trip across, the reels screamed, "Fish on!"  It was mahi number 10 of the season.  We landed the fish, filleted it and it was vacuum packed and sitting in the freezer in no time.  We did reserve enough for a meal unfrozen, just to enjoy the fresh taste. Finally we neared the NW Light  just as a big eye tuna took the bait.  We'd caught this tasty fish before and decided to keep it.  While not our number one favorite compared to fresh mahi, it is a nice change.  We marinate it in olive oil and herbs, then grill it medium rare.  Served with ginger slices and wasabi sauce it makes a good dinner. 
By 9:30pm we were ready to drop the anchor for the night by the Russell Beacon, several miles into the Bank.  With our deadline to meet before the weather started turning, we had to run later than normal.  We turned on the spotlight and donned our LED headlights.  Our first attempt to set the anchor failed.  Unable to see bottom in the dark, we assumed we were over heavy grass.  We moved about a half mile and tried again.  This time was successful.   The bank was a bit more rolling than we expected.  Although the winds were only 10k, the tidal current was strong.  We went to bed so we could get an early start in the morning.