23rd - 26th Feb 2013 Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas

Tue 26 Feb 2013 22:16
With our 10 year USA Visa, we are usually allowed to stay in the country for 6 months at any one time.  Strangely enough, Nimue is given a one year cruising license, which we received in Ft. Lauderdale in April 2012 on our return from Cuba!   So having landed back in the USA in October 2013, with plans to head to Maine for the Summer, we needed to ‘clear’ ourselves and Nimue ‘out’ of the USA before mid April 2013.  With The Bahamas virtually on our ‘doorstep’ and our desire to visit The Exumas; a chain of islands in the middle of The Bahamas, we decided to make this our ‘out of country’ choice.   We would then be able to return to the USA after a couple of months and start the whole process again!
Setting sails for the Bahamas
Rising Star had undertaken the ‘passage to The Bahamas from Florida the previous year, but this was a first for Nimue and Narsillion.   Although it is only about 50 nm from Ft. Lauderdale to the entrance of the Grand Bahama Bank, it necessitates crossing the Gulf Stream, which runs northwards up the Florida coast; sometimes at speeds of 4+ knots.  With any wind blowing above 15 knots from a northerly direction, big seas kick up in the Gulf Stream and it is not advised to make the crossing in these conditions! Thus, we waited with Rising Star and Narsillion in Ft. Lauderdale for a good weather window and so eventually we all left on a sunny Saturday afternoon.   We all had an excellent fast sail across the Gulf Stream in relative comfort on a lovely full moonlit night and at 0200 we approached the “Hen and Chickens” entrance to the Grand Bahama Bank, where depths are only around 10-15ft (although they are even shallower in parts)  It was then onto Mackie Shoal waypoint and towards the NW Channel a further 60 nm across the Banks.  As we didn’t want to arrive at Nassau in the dark, we found a good spot to drop the hook in 15ft if water on the Banks, just a mile or two from the Northwest Channel.  This allowed us to get some sleep and go for a swim and snorkel, before departing at 2000 hours for the Northwest Channel and south to Nassau!  We made it safely through the narrow shallows of the Northwest channel and had a smooth motor sail transit onto Nassau, arriving at 0800, after a total of 169nm at the entrance of the Harbour Club marina.  A helping hand to tie up at the dock and all 3 boats cleared Customs and Immigration within an hour of arrival- that’s fast!  The Bahamas is the most expensive place we have ever checked into and the hefty sum of US$300 cash had to be handed over by each boat and in return we received a 3 month cruising permit and fishing license; although we could apply to have an extension for a further 3 months!
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Introducing Rising Star ................................................................and Narsillion

Bahama Bank

Crossing the Grand Bahama Bank – the green line is our rough track across the Bank and the paler the blue, the shallower the water

Into Nassau harbour ...........................................................and meeting up with Val & Lisa and Joe and Cherie
Once all the formalities were completed, we took the short walk to the Yamaha dealership where we had arranged to meet Jakiel.  Jakiel had been in correspondence with Michael for the previous 18 months, as we were supposed to pick up a new Yamaha 2 stroke 15hp outboard engine in 2012, but events with Michael’s hip took over and we were therefore, unable to make The Bahamas and complete the purchase.  Unlike the USA, Europe and the UK; The Bahamas are still able to sell 2 stroke engines, which are lighter than the newer 4 strokes.  Jaikel delivered the outboard to Nimue at the Marina, so it wasn’t long before the old 6hp had been taken off it’s stand on the stern of Nimue and replaced with the smart new 15hp.
The next item on the list was to sort out going communications.  We managed to purchase a new phone & SIM for $35 and a separate SIM for the iPad, which provided good connections to the many BoTel towers dotted around the Islands.  The most popular navigation charts used in The Bahamas are the Explorer Charts, which detail all the waypoints to best avoid the many shoal areas.  We had successfully navigated all around the USA using C-Map charts attached to applications used on the boat PC.  However, when it came to The Bahamas, our C-Maps were missing most of the essential detail, darne!    So we able to download the new Mobile Garmin Bluecharts onto the iPad, which provided the same detail as Explorer Charts, but electronically; good news!  This turned out to be a fabulous purchase, as we could now use the iPad in the cockpit as a ‘repeater’ and it came into it’s own!
We spent the next 2 days catching up on a few chores and wondering around Nassau.   It was fun engaging with some of the locals ‘downtown’ and eating lunch (fish taco’s) in one of the shacks underneath the main bridge.
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We found a number of food shacks under this bridge in ‘downtown’ Nassau .  Val & Lisa with the owners of the ‘fish taco’ shack
Enjoying a cold beer with Joe & Cherie, whilst waiting for the fish taco’s.