November 30 – December 2.
We have a three-day window to get to New Providence. The first two thirds of the trip is across the fairly shallow Great Bahama Bank. The last third is through the Northwest Channel with depths up to 1.5 miles.
Our forecast is 15 knots of northeast wind for the first two days and light and variable wind preceding a cold front the third day. Itâ€™s a perfect forecast for weather weenies like us. We will be too busy sailing to check for weather updates on the way.
With Duwan at the helm our departure from Bimini is much more graceful than our arrival was. We sail around the west side of the island and turn eastward after we pass the North Light. Out on the bank we have ten more knots of wind than expected. Weâ€™ll just run with it as long as we can.
We sail close hauled on a port tack all day. The boat is really heeled over at a steep angle. When Duwan is at the helm I hike out over the windward side and look down over the cockpit. I can see the bottom roll by through the clear Bahamian water. Waves crash over the bow. Water lingers on the gunwales. The scuppers are below the waves, and there is no place for the water to drain.
I check the safety pins we have securing the bimini awning over the cockpit. They are a bit rusty now, but are holding fine. As soon as we have a calm day the seams on the awning must be re-sewn.
Late in the day we hear a slapping sound. Itâ€™s the rub rail. The rail runs along the edge of the boat, circling it. Itâ€™s a hard rubber ribbon, which fits tightly into a metal housing. Waves have gotten under it and started working it out of the housing. When we stop tonight I tie that loose section to the boat with shoelaces.
At sundown we anchor on the bank and bounce around all night in two to three foot waves. We arenâ€™t in a shipping lane, and weâ€™ve seen no other boats. We leave the radio on in case someone tries to hail us.
We get our â€œweenieâ€ wind the second day. Our trip toward the Northwest Channel is much more pleasant. Our anchorage on the bank is much calmer. I tie more shoelaces to the rub rail.
Duwan wakes me at night to say that the fridge isnâ€™t working. Oh great, the GPS kept cutting off all day too. Whatâ€™s up?
I open the house battery compartment to find that bilge water has washed over the positive and negative connection hubs I installed two years ago. We had probably taken water in through the anchor locker up at the bow. And when the boat was heeled over the battery compartment was lower than the bilge, allowing water to drain in.
Everything, everything is corroded. The ends of our 150 amp fuse for the inverter have completely dissolved. The + connection for the fridge? Dissolved. Rust covers the remaining positive connections. And a weird blue gel covers the negative connections (congealed salt water?).
I rig a new connect for the fridge and resolve to clean everything in New Providence.
I can fiberglass patch the biggest opening into the compartment and caulk up the smaller openings used for running wires.
We get up early and are through the opening to the channel by 7am. We have a small problem here. The headsail wonâ€™t unfurl. It is somehow fouled on one of our spare halyards. I fool with it for a long time until Duwan suggests leaving six feet of slack in the halyard. This works. With the headsail unfurled I tighten the spare halyard back up. That was an exhausting hour.
We have perfect conditions all morning. The southern breeze slowly increases and shifts southwest. By noon, though, itâ€™s blowing about 25 knots from the west. It becomes a lively sail with a brisk wind mostly behind us. Sailingâ€™s not the problem. Our anchorage wonâ€™t have any protection from the west, and there arenâ€™t any other free parking spots close by.
We arrive and bounce around the rest of the afternoon and night. By mid morning things are calm. Calm enough to sew the seams on the bimini, and scrape connections. Itâ€™s also perfect weather for untying all those shoelaces and pounding the rub rail back in place with a mallet!