Bimini, The Bahamas: I'll Have That Beer Now
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL to Bimini, The Bahamas //
On Sunday, January 13, we woke up early, around 3am, aiming for a 5am departure from No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne. It was still dark, but it was imperative that we got going early in order to arrive in the afternoon in Bimini, a few hours before sunset at the very least.
The conditions themselves that day ended up being a bit bumpier than expected, at least through the morning hours. We were at least mentally prepared for this because we knew the sea state had been rough earlier that week. To think that miles of ocean can quickly calm down in a day or so is just wishful thinking. Aside from the sea state, the winds, while forecasted to veer from E to SE and eventually S, stayed E for the most part. This meant we were too close to fully sail and had to take on some of the wake head on while motoring. It made for a bit of a bumpy ride, but after a while the sea state calmed down. However, we weren’t able to manage to keep our sails up, so we continued by motor to Bimini.
The trick to the Gulf Stream crossing is that you have to use the flow of the current to your advantage in order to make headway, but also to not get thrown too far off course. From our departure point in No Name Harbor, our planned route to Bimini mimicked the curves of an “S” where you first need to traverse in a Southeast direction and once in the thick of the stream (where the water can run up to 3-4 knots) you veer Norhteast to gain speed with the current. Until you near your destination on the other side of that curve, is where you come back South/Southeast again.
Tom, Paul, and I, definitely enjoyed tracking our route and each of us at some points had various opinions about where we were at in the Gulf Stream, how fast we were being pushed (or not) by the current, etc... Ultimately, we came to the consensus that the Gulf Stream current that day must not have been as strong as usual because we didn’t seem to be going too far north once we had turned in that direction. We also only saw up to 7 knots on our knot log, which is great, but we can imagine that in really strong currents you can get up to 10 knots with our kind of boat... Maybe we needed to go more South at the beginning, who knows. But we ended up making great time.
By 3pm we could already see land. Unfortunately, none of the fishing lures we had let out during the crossing attracted any fish, so any hopes for a fish taco dinner were gone. But we enjoyed seeing little flying fish move about around us and we managed to get our sails up for the last hour as we arrived into the harbor. Eventually, we inched our carefully into the harbor due to the very shallow sand bars.
By 4pm, we were docked at Bluewater Marina, as we needed to fulfill the immigrations and customs process. During this particular time, only the captain of the vessel could leave the boat to complete such procedures. So Paul and I ended up staying on lockdown aboard Sparidae while Tom went over to get everyone cleared. As time went by, with no signs of Tom, friendly locals popped by for a chat. One of them came by looking for a beer, specifically an American beer. After ignoring the request (how can I give away our precious and limited cargo?!) he stayed by the dock and continued chatting, telling us stories of life in Bimini, sea life and trying to sell us lobsters.
Tom eventually came back to pick up a few other documents for immigration and asked what was up with the guy standing by the dock. Paul and I replied he was just a friendly local looking for a beer. The chat continued outside with Paul, while I was helping Tom sort out the documents. Once I came back to the cockpit, Aaron, the friendly Bahamian, must have gotten tired of the senseless chatting, and in a nonchalant yet authoritative manner just said: “Ok, I’ll have that beer now”. Laughing, Tom said we should have given him a beer so he would scurry away. Alas, I opened the icebox and tried looking for something “American”. We had a ton of Modelos and a few Guayaberas, a craft beer from Miami, which falls in the “American” category, but which I definitely did not want to give up. Reaching far few into the icebox I saw a Yuengling that other sailor friends had brought over one night to the boat while in Miami. Without hesitation I gravved it up and passed it on to him. We explained how it was from Pennsylvania, hoping to chat some more, but as soon as his mission of bumming a can of beer from newcomers was complete, he was gone. We later saw him carrying a Miller High Life.
With our beer stock quickly dwindling, Paul and I popped two more open. We needed to continue waiting for Tom to clear with customs, so we might as well. Tom had to go to a couple different buildings, buy some candy to break larger dollar bills, and eventually pay $160 for our cruising and fishing permits. Once back at the marina, we officially celebrated our arrival to the Bahamas with a few more beers, our stock now almost depleted... But hey, we had made the crossing! All I kept telling Tom was: we didn’t bring enough.
Later, we went on a walkabout to check out the town and hit the beach on the west side of Alice Town. There we met fellow sailors Willow and Jay on S/V Aqua Trek which we were docked next to at Bimini Bluewater Marina. By the evening, over dinner aboard, we reviewed the weather and realized we had a good window to continue moving on towards New Providence where we would be dropping Paul off. We got a few provisions the next day, a Bahamian SIM card for our unlocked phone, and got going around 1pm on an overnight across the Great Bahama Bank over to our next destination: The Berry Islands.
Sparidae docked at Bimini Bluewater Marina
The Gulf Stream crossing crew
Keeping an eye on Miami and on this barge’s route
Onwards towards the sun (and the Gulf Stream), bright and early!