Friday, April 10, 2015

USA to Bahamas and Back

Trip Statistics

 Total Trip – Nautical Miles – 458
                      Statute Miles  -  526.7
Total Hours cruising             - 71.9 hours


Open water crossings

Elliot Key to Alicetown, Bimini - n55nm,  8.4 hours
Bimini to West End – 64 nm – 8.6 hours
West End to West Palm Beach – 60nm, 9.3 hours

Fuel Used    – 130 Gallons
Water used – 70 gallons
Duration       - 17 days
Total cost      - $1,800


Considerable planning has to go into an open water trip, particularly weather. We traveled with another Ranger Tug, Roam a 25 footer. The Captain is Rich and his first mate Cheryll. Having a buddy boat is a great comfort in knowing if there is an issue, you have someone to help. Having two captains reviewing weather and doing an analysis is always an asset. As they say, two heads are better than one. It is very important when crossing to not have any northerly wind component.  Both open water crossings were exceptional. The seas were no more than 3 feet with six second intervals. The water was the deepest blue one could imagine with depths over two thousand feet in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Our only other open water passing was when going south after Green Turtle Cay. We had to cross on the outside at a location called Whale Cay. The seas through this passage were about six feet, but also well spaced. Jess thought it was rough, but we have been through worse. The passage on the outside was only three and a half miles. Cursing is a lot like flying a plane; ninety percent boredom and ten percent terror.

 Food and water was our biggest concern. Food in the Bahamas is quite expensive. Would you care to buy a gallon of milk for $10.00 or Cheerios for $8.95? Water can cost as much as .75 cents per gallon. Electric is about .65 per kilowatt hour. Careful preparation and conservation make for a lot of savings.

Besides planning for weather and supplies there are the technicalities of immigration and customs for the Bahamas as well as returning to the USA. We registered in advance for the Small Vessel Reporting System. This program allows for an easy reentry process when returning to the USA. We had to go to Key West to the Customs office, get interviewed, pictures taken and finger printed. We were then issued “BR” numbers. Twenty-four hours before returning we had to file a float plan on line and activate it. The float plan includes the name of the vessel and all passengers on board. When we got to our marina in North Palm Beach we called a special phone number and spoke to an official who then closed our plan. There was no need for us to report to a customs office or get inspected.

Upon arrival in the Bahamas you have to fly a yellow quarantine flag. This signifies that you have not cleared customs and no passengers may leave the vessel other than the captain. Once docked Rich and I had to first walk to customs after filling out 6 pages of information and then be interviewed by the officers there. Once we paid our $150.00 entrance fee each they gave us our visitation permits. We then had to walk a few blocks to immigration and report there with everyone’s passports. After a few questions passports were stamped and we were on our way. We considered telling the ladies that they were not cleared and had to stay on the boat the entire trip. This would have saved considerable money on shopping excursions! However we reconsidered and let them run free.

Below is a map of our route from start to finish and pictures we took along the way. Thanks to Cheryl for letting me use some of her pictures. Our camera decided to go swimming in the water in Green Turtle Cay and never wanted to work after that.


The dark blue waters while crossing both ways.
Entering the Harbor to Alicetown

This is where we went for Immigration in Alicetown, Bimini

 Rich and I walking in the distance through the back streets of Alicetown

Getting Fuel in Old Bahama Bay at West End. As you can see this place is set up for larger boats. Low tide didn't help any!

Docked for the evening and getting ready for the next day.

Made it to Bluff House Marina to celebrate Jess's Birthday!

Walking the town of Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay

Watching the locals preparing conch after their dive

Relaxing on the beach in Green Turtle Cay Bluff House

That is the waves breaking on Whale Cay as we pass on the outside.
Beer Time at Nippers on Great Guana Cay. Nippers is well know in the Abacos and a place where most visitors stop. Sundays is their famous Pig Roast. Wrong day, but good time.
Additional View from Nippers. Every day our views were magnificent.
Illusions entering Hopetown

Illusions at the dock in Hopetown

Hopetown was our favorite. The lighthouse in the background is the focal point of the island. We climbed to the top and were able to walk around outside. Great views!

No Caption necessary!

Doing their favorite hobby, shopping!

Here is a bit of information about Man-O-War Cay. We also liked this town. It is a dry town and everything closes on Sunday and all the people go to church. It definitely had a unique charm. It reminded me of the days when we had blue laws in the USA. It's the one day where families can spend time together and enjoy each other's company. Maybe they should bring this back to the good old USA.

Here is a typical grocery store that you will find in the Bahamas. It is what we would see in a local deli, but a bit more expanded. Most of the meats are frozen and shipped in. Thursdays are the day you want to shop. That is when all the fresh produce is delivered to the Cays. Every service we take for granted as convenient isn't that way here. Banks open on Wednesdays. The post office is about three days a week and there is one constable in town. Lunch time everything closes down.

Very Government looking, isn't it?

Just in case we were thinking of continuing on to Africa.
Most of the Cays are small. Golf carts are the preferred method of motor transport.
While on our journey we attempted to snorkel several times. The water is always crystal clear. At one spot it was over 20 feet deep and you could see perfectly to the bottom. Unfortunately the seas would not permit us to go out to the reef. The winds were just not cooperating. We did dingy around and did see some rays and other things. This starfish was below the dingy as we passed.

The boating community is quite small. You meet people again and again. This is Frank and Pam, fellow Ranger Tug owners. We met them a few years ago at one of our Rendezvous and our paths have crossed many times since. As you can see Frank, who used to be a well respected teacher, has now become a pirate. This was a chance meeting at Treasure Cay, known for its beautiful beaches.

I did say beautiful beaches in Treasure Cay. This picture does not even give it justice. The water is phenomenal and the sand is like flour. This is what makes Treasure Cay great.

Sunset in Treasure Cay

Every trip needs a shot of Illusions on the run. Here we are making way from Treasure Cay to Alans- Pensicola Cay. Alan's Cay and Pensicola Cay used to be separate at one time, but after a hurricane they were joined together. The USA used to have a missile tracking station on the end of the island. The only thing left now are a couple of concrete footings. 
When you dingy to shore this is a spot where you land and there is a hut with some shelter and old tree stumps to sit on.
There is a path worn from the cove side of the island to the Atlantic side. People bring various items to leave hanging from several trees as a memorial of their visit.
Jess & I left a keychain with our name on it and attached it to someone's flip flop. You can see right below someone left a scuba tank. It is amazing at what people have left. The Rizzos left a friggn keychain advertising Petit bottom paint!
On the ocean side and perhaps I should go on a diet.

Sunset at anchor is always nice.
What is this you ask? It is a man of war Jelly Fish washed up on the beach. on the way out to Bimini we saw hundreds of these floating along the waters in the gulf stream.

While at anchor it is always a good idea to check things below and clean the bottom while you are at it.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to cook. Well I got engrossed in conversation and our ribs didn't turn out so well!

Crispy Critters

Our trip back across was one of exceptional firsts. We left at 5:30 am into a beautiful full moon morning. Unbeknownst to us it was also a morning of an eclipse. Not only that, after the sun rose, we were also in the midst of a pod of pilot whales. Sorry no pictures of the whales. They were just below the surface and a good picture was not to be had.

Luna Eclipse

We passed this cargo ship on our way to West Palm Beach inlet. Notice his cargo. Looks like that boater took the easy way out. I have AIS on my boat so I was able to detect early enough that we were on a collision course with this ship. I was able to speed up and alter course enough so we passed with a mile to spare.

Land Ho! West Palm Beach in the distance.

This is going down the Intracoastal on a Saturday holiday weekend. It was a madhouse! We were tempted to turn around and go back to the Bahamas.
At the dock secured in North Palm Beach. What a trip and what an adventure. We hope you enjoyed our experience as well.


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