Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

At 4:30 a.m., we untied from our much-loved temporary home in Coconut Grove, waved to a sleeping Jessie Marie and turned east into the darkness, happy, wired and only a little nervous, ready to face the Gulf Stream, ready to leave the fluky weather of Miami, ready for some brilliant turquoise water and Bahamian sun.

By my calculation we would arrive at the Biscayne Channel, running between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic, right at sunrise, so, you know, we could see. I've always wanted to see Stiltsville, the group of houses built out over the water, now endangered.

I'm not a very good calculator. We arrived well before dawn. I took the high-powered spotlight in hand, we slowed to a crawl and crept into the ghost town I thought I wanted to see.

I was wrong about that too. The first time I swung the spotlight through the pitch black and a house loomed up, right in the middle of the water, oh boy. That was definitely NOT what I wanted to see. I'm not usually prone to the heeby jeebies, but all I wanted was to get the hell out of there! AAAAAAHHHHHH!

But we plodded slowly through. I stopped shining the light anywhere but directly at the marks, so we silently passed houses without seeing them. CREEEPY.

We passed safely through and offshore into the Gulf Stream -- and the sunrise.

It was slated to be a mild day on all counts. The one factor that did not get figured in was that storm that moved past yesterday. Seems it left some energy churning around in the Gulf Stream. At about five miles offshore we entered confused waters, popping up in big bumps all around us with a prevailing swell coming onto our starboard beam.

The boat rolled right and left, nose down, nose up, every which way in no particular pattern -- the only "pattern" that makes me seasick. And yes, I got nauseous. And then I threw up my ginger ale, right into the Gulf Stream. Take that!

This photo perfectly captures how I was feeling.
Discomfort aside, our crossing was uneventful and beautiful. I had heard of the cobalt blue waters but had never seen a blue so rich. I admired it even as I was hurling into it.

We approached Bimini between 1 and 2 o'clock, still in confused seas. Keeping a wary eye on the notoriously sketchy, poorly marked channel into Alice Town, I saw something move in the water off to port. I turned my head just in time to see a whole school (flock?) of flying fish take flight, landing again almost 30 yards away.

The spot where the flying fish flew -- just a few minutes ago. :-( Sorry.
As advertised, the entrance was treacherous. The red and green marks at the beginning were big and visible, confidence building, but as we passed into the channel, the water was still so rough we were getting jostled around so thoroughly that the GPS was useless, taking way too long to right itself after we rolled.

Okay, here's the easy one. Where's the green mark?
FYI: This photo was taken on a calm day, NOT the day we entered.
Welcome to visual navigation. We scanned the water for the purported second green mark, knowing it might not be there. Should we start turning? Maybe? Wait! Chip saw something ahead. A green mark, just about the actual size it is on the chart. Seriously, it is about the size of a yardstick. We spotted it just in time. We turned, terrified, pointed toward the entrance to the harbor and made it. We made it.

I even made this photo large for you. (HINT: It's just to the left of that sailboat.)
Pulled in, tied up at 2:03. Nine hours and 33 minutes from Coconut Grove to Alice Town. Not bad.

I pulled out the yellow quarantine flag. The dockmaster told me, "Ma'am, you don't have to fly that if you're going straight to Customs."

"Yes, I do!"

He stared at me blankly.

"How can I take a picture if I don't fly it?"

Yellow quarantine flag.
Soon enough -- ridiculously fast -- Chip returned with our papers, clearance to sail under the Bahamian flag. YES!

This long, long, long plod to paradise, by my count 943 days since my first blog post,  has finally reached a destination that looks like paradise.

Gulf Stream, conquered. Bahamian flag, flying.

Safe and deleriously happy in crystal clear, turquoise waters.

Alice Town Bimini, Bahamas 25º43.444N | 79º17.879W

Happy captain!
Oh, yeah. Water at the dock.

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