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Tripppin In The Bahamas – Welcome To The Islands

January 5, 2013

A continuation from my earlier post,http://wp.me/pKtoE-b1.

Grsnd Bahama Bank

We were about 100 yards into what we thought was the cut, but the depth was lingering around 4 feet. The good news was we’d be standing in waist-deep water if we sank, but no one wanted to deal with that. Once I felt like we made it into the channel and had some descent water under the props it was time to roll. We’d spent over an hour trying to determine where we needed to enter the channel, and we had time to make up from our storm experience earlier that morning. We had 11 feet under the boat, and it was game time. The boat popped up on plane as if to scream “These idiots actually did it!” and we were off. We managed to run the remaining 5 hours at an average speed of 30 knots with nothing but beautiful flat seas, and the occasional starfish or ray sitting under the boat as we sped overhead.

We’d made it, and we were now enjoying that amazing crystal clear water, beautiful skies and clear running. You can see from the photo above that the bank is fairly open and the depths are consistent. We were using our compass headings and “MOB” coordinates to help us determine distances between points. This would tell us precisely when to turn to our next heading and keep us out of trouble. As promised in the Abacos Guide, we did encounter fish muds, and they scared the hell out of every person on the boat including myself. We slowed for the first encounter, but once we felt confident in what they looked like it wasn’t an issue. A fish mud is nothing more than a cloud of sand/mud stirred up by schools of bottom feeding fish, but this mud tends to look like very shallow water to approaching boaters.

Fish muds, as noted by Steve Dodges Cruising Guide to The Abacos
fish muds

The initial run on the bank is fairly easy once you have your coordinates planned. You’ll scoot just north of Mangrove Cay, turn to starboard and shoot just south of Great Sale Cay before skimming the top of Little Abaco and heading onto Spanish Cay. The water is amazing and the visibility on our trip was simply incredible. One of the major benefits of this course is that you’re in a semi-protected area the entire time, and Cays are great buffers between open ocean and shallow waters you run in. We never experienced more than moderate chop; despite winds kicking up in the afternoon to 15 knots.

The only thing I was semi-concerned with were the fuel gauges… specifically the two that were empty, and the third that was reading about half a tank. I knew we’d have plenty of fuel to make the trip with about 25% reserve, but we’d run heavier than ever before, and we used up an insane amount of fuel on the trip over due to the storm. I made the call to pull into Green Turtle Cay and fuel up just to be safe. We’d originally planned on clearing customs here, but it was past 5pm at this point and the offices were now closed. No worries though, as we had 24 hours to clear once we were in Bahamian waters. We came cruising into Green Turtle a little before 6, and everyone was excited. This was going to be our first Bahamian experience on the trip, and we were finally going to be standing on Bahamian soil. I see the fuel docks off in the distance and pull back on the throttles just before the break-wall. As we approach the old, sun-beaten dock hand walks out and yells, “Need Fuel?”, to which I replied, “Yep!” The next words he mutters aren’t exactly confidence inspiring. “We’re out, and the fuel boat didn’t come today… matter fact, everyone around here’s out.” Well shit. We managed to get all the way to Green Turtle Cay only to find out all of the neighboring islands were also out of fuel. We said our goodbyes, turned to port and proceeded back to the harbor entrance. The whole time my Dad is just smiling, and he finally said, “Well boys… welcome to the Bahamas. Sometime we’ve got fuel, and sometime we don’t”. He was having way too much fun with this.

The run into Green Turtle was slightly interesting, as you had to double back on your heading to enter the marina.
Green Turtle map

You can find the next part of the journey here, http://wp.me/pKtoE-by.

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