The route from New Providence to Bimini included sailing through the Nassau harbor – what an experience. After dodging the numerous coral heads that dot the waters surrounding southeast end of New Providence Island, we motored through the harbor and got a great view of the city and four huge cruise ships docked there.
Cruise ships in Nassau harbor
Paradise Island is right off the north shore with the Atlantis Resort and numerous mansions along the coast.
Bridge to Paradise Island
Once out of the harbor we raised the main sail and motor sailed ( 2000 rpm) on pretty much the same course across the North East Providence Channel and the northern part of The Tongue of the Ocean and through the Narrows to the Great Bahama Bank. The water goes from shallow in the harbor to 3000/9000 feet deep in the Channel/Tongue to 14 feet deep in the Bank.
Most of the trip was pretty relaxed.
Nassau lighthouse as seen leaving the harbor
The waves were not a factor because we had a light following breeze. This was much different than other night sails we have had with honking winds and large confused seas. The stars were spectacular and gave us more light than I would have imagined. A tiny bit of crescent moon was only visible for a very short time. While the sailing conditions were not an issue, the boat traffic along the way provided a new twist – especially after dark. We used our radar to help us see what was out there. We were also able to see AIS (Automatic Identification System) transmissions from some of the boats - but not all boats transmit AIS. There were also a large number of boats anchored along the sides of the main channel on the Bank – this we told to expect. We had considered anchoring and sleeping for a few hours ourselves, but didn’t because we wanted to get to Bimini the next morning, before the stronger winds came in.
The bigger boats caused the most concern to us. To prevent a mishap (collision) we needed to make sure that they saw us. We don’t transmit an AIS signal and sometimes sailboats do not appear on radar, although we do have a radar reflector. Right about midnight, we picked up an AIS signal from a large ship approaching us from behind. He was going about 11 knots (twice our speed). We called to the ship on the VHF radio asking them if they saw us and what their intention was for passing. Were they going to pass on our left (port) or right (starboard)? The response was in Spanish and all we understood was the captain saying in broken English that he wanted to pass port to port. Here’s the problem - if two boats are approaching each other, they can pass port to port (like 2 cars passing each other on the road) -our left side to their left side. But if they are coming from behind that is not possible. So we asked again, explaining that they were approaching us from behind. Again we got the port to port response. With only 6 minutes to impact, Bob wisely decided to head 90 degrees off to the left to avoid any chance of them hitting us.
The rest of the night was uneventful. We took watches (shifts at the wheel) so we were each able to get a bit of sleep and around 7:00 am we watched a beautiful sunrise.
Lobster claw shaped cloud on way to Bimini
After 25 hours under way, we arrived at the Bimini Sands Marina and tied up to one of their newish floating docks. This will be our last stop in the Bahamas as we wait for a weather window suitable for comfortably crossing the Gulf Stream on our return to Florida. In the meantime, we look forward to exploring Bimini.