So when non-sailors ask us about our travels, and specifically, “so do you anchor out in the middle of the ocean?” I have always said no (and maybe secretly said in my head, haha, what a silly question, that’s ridiculous!).
Until we anchored in the middle of the ocean.
I couldn’t find a description of the Great Bahama Banks on Google that I liked, but basically it’s a huge (70-80 miles across), shallow (12 feet) body of water that was right between us in Bimini and the rest of the Bahamas, and too much to conquer in one day of daylight sailing.
We consulted the weather, the guide books, the charts, and our fellow cruisers about how to tackle it. Do we try an overnight sail? Leave from Bimini, go around the north end of the island then southeast, or go due south then turn due east, and anchor out on the Banks?
Based on the wind forecasts, we decided we’d leave Bimini and go south to Cat Cay, anchor on the west side, cross the Banks the next day, then try to make it to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands by dark – and if we couldn’t, we’d drop the hook about 2-3 miles off the charted channel on the shallow banks and keep going the next day. Our friends Wade and Theresa on Adamant and JR and Drena from Journey were planning to do the same, and while all of us are not the biggest fans of the “buddy boat” pack mentality, it would be nice to have everyone’s delightful company nearby on the radio if any of us needed help.
Then on Tuesday morning, Wade came by with a new suggestion – what if we just got the anchoring out on the Banks bit over with right away? He said he’d decided to go south towards Cat Cay as planned, and go about 5-7 miles due east along the channel and anchor out. Sounded like a good plan to us so we decided to join Adamant.
We set out around noon, and got about 3 1/2 hours and 20 miles of the total trip knocked out before we decided to go ahead and drop the hook. We were just out of sight of land, and the seas were choppy, but it was only 12 feet deep and the anchor held us tight. Let me tell you, anchoring in that sort of chop is NOT fun – the boat was rocking and rolling constantly, and neither of us got a lot of sleep. Here’s a little video of what it was like. ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
Neither of us slept well, and we got moving as soon as it was light enough to see. We decided to raise the sails just after we got the anchor up, since the boat was already pointing into the wind, and set our course for Chub Cay.
All seemed good, it was a beautiful morning and the winds were around 10-15 knots, although we knew we’d be turning slightly which would have the wind on our nose. We also noticed that one of our shrouds was a little looser than normal – back in Annapolis we asked our rigger Collin about it and he had told us all we needed to do was give it a few turns when under sail to tighten. Except…we’d sort of forgotten exactly how to do it, and if we screwed up, our rig could fall down. That’s BAD. So, we decided it would be best to drop the main sail and just use the jib for however long it would be useful.
We were still cruising along around 6-7 knots and were feeling confident that we’d make Chub well before dark, although the waves were still pretty annoying. We had one more tricky spot ahead of us – the Northwest Passage, or “Tongue of the Ocean”, where the depth goes from 12 to 3000 feet pretty quickly. As we made our way through, the seas started building from 2-3 feet to 5-7 feet, and we were really slamming on them. Both of us were pretty freaked as those are probably the strongest seas we’ve seen with just the two of us on the boat. Things inside were slamming and crashing (sorry Kathy, my “World’s Greatest Aunt” mug became a casualty!), and the cats were beyond freaked. Over time, once we got through, the seas calmed a little bit, and we started getting closer to landfall. The thought of a calm anchorage was so delightful.
Needless to say, we were beyond happy to drop the hook at Chub around 4 and relax. Of course, we were still waiting for Adamant – they weren’t making quite the speed we did, so we kept in touch with them on the VHF and were very happy when their running lights appeared around 7:30 that evening, and we saw them safely anchored nearby. After a little gentle ribbing from Wade about our feelings on the waves in the passage, we wished them a good night’s sleep, and went and did the same.
The next morning was a completely different experience – the winds still on the nose of course, but the seas for the 30 mile hop from Chub to the west side of New Providence Island (Nassau is on the east side) were gentle and it was a stunning day.
We arrived at 1 and immediately jumped in for a swim, and to do our first “dive” on the anchor to ensure it was set. No sharks here! Just a few little fishies 😉
We’ll stay today and probably tomorrow and just relax – then we have another short 40 mile hop and we’ll be in the Exumas!