Weather? We Always Talk About The Weather!

Written by Randy Whaley on January 24th, 2011

(24⁰15.671′ N by 076⁰30.770 W -  Mile 4704.54 - Compass Cay, Bahamas)

After a summer of down time away from the boat and spending the fall of 2010 in Vero Beach living on board in Loggerhead Club & Marina waiting out hurricane season, Prime Time V is back in Bahamas cruising the waters around Compass, Samson & Staniel Cays.

With over 500 days under the keel it occurs to me that either directly or indirectly we’ve talked about the weather frequently in our conversations with friends or in nearly all of the posts in this blog.  In fact, weather drives our itinerary both in the long and short term and dictates when we have the opportunity to drop the anchor in a secluded cove or take cover in the shelter of a marina.  Walk the dock and talk to your neighbor and immediately some reference to the atmospheric conditions and the forecast will come into the conversation.

For those of us used to cruising on the Great Lakes adjusting to the weather conditions on the Bahamas Bank takes some getting used to.  Simple facts like, “good Bahamian weather comes from the east and the south” don’t mate with our experience in the north that good weather and sea conditions generally arrive with a west wind.  If you are faced with a forecast for west wind in Bahamas it is a good idea to start to look for shelter with protection from the west.  Unfortunately, anchorages with western protection are few and far between and when bad weather is expected, they fill up fast.

Of course, really bad weather in the Bahamas is limited to the hurricane season which officially runs from roughly the beginning of July to the end of November with the highest risk time being between August and October.  While extreme wind speeds are a high risk factor storm surge really creates the biggest problem for boats seeking shelter in a marina during a hurricane.  Of most concern to the captain is the boat rising with the surge and them being holed against a piling or on to a dock when the water rises or subsides.  Other boats breaking free are also another major risk.  Talk to every captain and they have formulated some kind of hurricane plan but, the truth is the only safe way to weather a hurricane is to avoid it if at all possible.

January to July is the peak cruising season in Bahamas.  I must admit thought that during January through March there is a disproportionate number of Canadian seeking warm weather at this time.  Our American cousins seem a little smarter in that they prefer April through July after the winds of the first quarter start to die down.  And perhaps that is why we talk about the weather as much as we do.  January through March is a time when cruisers constantly check the forecasts for changing wind, wave and atmospheric conditions.  Typically, new weather patterns develop every three to five days resulting in winds that clock 360 degrees that frequently exceed 20 knots.

When you couple these weather conditions with tide changes that can run as high as 4 feet and develop tidal currents as much as 3 to 4 knots you begin to appreciate that anchoring in a crowded anchorage requires some forethought (what happens when we swing or another boat slips anchor), some understanding of the local conditions (holding & current) and with all these factors considered, “Does it make sense to stay here?”.

So, what is the best way to handle the weather conditions and live safely and comfortably?  Here is a list that I have started to compile and by no means is it complete.  (For those of you cruising the Bahamas, jump in and add your own comments!)

  1. Get a new weather forecast as frequently as possible.  The weather forecast changes every day or even more frequently.
  2. Use multiple sources to gather weather forecast information.  Weather forecasters are frequently wrong.  If two or three of them have consistent forecasts the future weather conditions are more probable.  (Check the weather links at the end of this blog.)
  3. Never trust the forecasted time of the weather change that is predicted.  Weather has a mind of its own so be prepared for conditions to change earlier or later than forecast.
  4. A herd mentality is not a bad thing.  If every one in the anchorage has left but you - check the forecast again!
  5. Plan to have no surprises.  Check how your anchor is holding and have confidence those around you will hold as well.
  6. If you’re doubtful about your security at the anchorage, take a slip in a marina for the night.  Slip fees are cheaper than storm damage!  You will get a better nights sleep too.

The good news is that there are too many wonderful days to believe that we only have bad weather in Bahamas.  Most days are glorious opportunities for warm weather and a tan.

May you have clear skies, light winds and calm seas!

Some Weather Sites For You

Here are a few of the web sites that we find useful.

Compass, Staniel & Sampson Cays

Written by Randy Whaley on November 22nd, 2010

(24⁰11.005′ N by 076⁰26.912 W -  Mile 3467.80 - Big Major’s Spot, Bahamas)

At Anchor Near Compass Cay

At Anchor Near Compass Cay

On January 18th, 2010 we left Wardwick Wells traveling south 15 miles to Compass Cay.  We were now far enough south to enjoy the tropical winter sun which allowed us to stop and explore different anchorages and the occasional marina when either wind, current or wave conditions precluded staying in an open anchorage.

We quickly found our favourite place in Bahamas in the area of Compass, Samson and Staniel Cays.  Not only were the islands post card perfect examples of what you think the Bahamas should be but, the area had special attractions such as Thunder Ball Cave, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, the swimming pigs at Big Major’s Spot and the sharks which swam around the docks at Compass Cay.  The area also afforded us the opportunity to frequently dinghy between these cays and to visit the local watering holes and beaches.

The cut into Compass Cay allowed us our first real experience in anchoring in tidal currents.  For five to six hours we would be pushed in the direction of the ocean as the tide flowed away from the islands only to reverse for the next five to six hours with the incoming tide.  At three to four knots we would test the limits of our Bruce anchor’s holding power.  From this anchorage, we could dinghy a very short distance to the Compass Cay Marina to enjoy the noon hour burgers cooked on an open grill on the deck and watch the sand sharks circle the short pier by the office looking for their daily rations.  Many people would climb into the three feet of water surrounding the dock and join

Sharks At Compass Cay

Sharks At Compass Cay

the sharks as they swam around in lazy circles.  No need to fear these creatures.  Sand sharks have no teeth and virtually inhale their food rather than biting it.

We also made our mark (literally) in Compass Compass Cay.  For those that chose to stay overnight, Tucker, the owner has brushes and paints to paint your own sign with your boat name on it.  These are mounted around the marina office.  You only have to find a piece of drift wood to use as your pallet.  We chose to leave our mark with the largest piece of

Our Sign At Compass Cay

Our Sign At Compass Cay

drift wood we could find.

The beach on Compass Cay is also one of the most beautiful and unspoiled in the Exumas chain of islands.  White sand, that feels like walking on icing sugar facing the ocean to the east.   From north to south it extends more than a mile in a gradual arc.

The island itself is virtually deserted except for the buildings and cottages near the marina.  Take a walk to the north and the path winds across the small hills for

Yes, Swimming Pigs!

Yes, Swimming Pigs!

roughly five miles to Rachel’s Bubble Bath a small lagoon which rises and falls with the incoming and outgoing tide.

After four or five nights at Compass we decided to move south about three miles to Samson Cay and Big Major’s Spot.  Samson Cay is a lovely marina location that is protected from nearly all winds.  We sought shelter at Samson Cay a couple of times seeking protection from the strong westerly winds which sometimes made sleeping at anchor without protection nearly

Staniel Cay

Staniel Cay

impossible.

Big Major’s Spot is a large island located between Samson Cay and Staniel Cay and it was here we were introduced to the swimming pigs that live on the island.  Yes, I said swimming pigs!  A local farmer leaves the pigs on the island year round letting them forage for food on the island.  Pigs are smart though and they soon learned to swim out to the boats and beg for bread, vegetables or any other thing you chose to feed them.  Don’t get too close.  In their

Island Homes on Staniel Cay

Island Homes on Staniel Cay

competition to get food they have been known to climb right into a dinghy to get right to the source.

Around the corner from Big Major’s Spot near Staniel Cay is grotto named Thunder Ball Cave from the movie of the same name.  If you go to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club you will find pictures of James Bond and all of the production crew from the 1960’s when the film was being produced.  Staniel Cay has quite a history if you read about it and today it is one of the largest settlements in the Exumas after

Cruising The Caves Near Staniel

Cruising The Caves Near Staniel

George Town.  Its long, paved runway makes it a great spot to change crews or welcome guests aboard since there is both regular scheduled airline service and charters available.

Highbourne Cay to Wardwick Wells

Written by Randy Whaley on October 14th, 2010

Click to continue »

To Chub Cay, Nassau & Highbourne Cay

Written by Randy Whaley on August 10th, 2010

(24⁰43.181′ N by 076⁰49.894 W -  Mile 3423.13 - Highbourne Cay, Bahamas)

On January 13th, 2010 the winds died in Bimini so, we left early that morning to run 87.5 miles east (9 hours) across the Bimini Bank to Chub Cay.  The run was uneventful and with barely five feet below the hull and props we crossed this section at a leisurely 8 to 9 knots enjoying the warming air and for the first time, the very clear Bahamian water allowing us to see the flat sand bottom below.

Bahamas has reasonably good charts but, since the British Admiralty were the last to conduct official hydrography and sand bars tend to shift while coral heads grow over short periods of time you need to keep a watchful eye and learn how to read the colors which reveal visual clues to the water depth.  Light green means shallow water, dark green could be plant growth or coral and dark blues tell you that the water is very deep.  If the bright sun is behind you the bottom contours are there to be read.  These would be the new boating realities that we would have to learn to navigate in the Bahamas.

Sunset - Chub Cay Anchorage

Sunset - Chub Cay Anchorage

When we arrived in Chub Cay Melanie Bear and Prime Time V would experience their first time at anchor in Bahamas and overall it was a pleasant night off of a sand beach protected from the mild northwest wind.

By morning we were ready for the last 34.2 miles to Nassau.  As we crossed the Tongue of the Ocean the seas built to 2 to 3 feet from the side.  The Tongue of the Ocean is the name of a deep oceanic trench that separates the islands of Andros and New Providence.  The depth of the water drops from 115 feet off Andros Island barrier reef to over 6000 feet and the drop is nearly 100 miles long.

The US Navy runs small, highly restricted navy bases along Andros Island’s eastern shore and it is said that the Tongue is lined with hydrophones and is an excellent training area for American submariners.

You will never know for sure because you won’t see them but, my guess is that whoever and whatever is below the surface in the Tongue of the Ocean knows who is above them at all times.  And for Tom Clancy readers perhaps there are not just US Navy submarines under the surface but other nations stealthily probing a territory the USA and Bahamas assume they control.

Carnival Conquest

Carnival Conquest

When we arrived at the west entrance of Nassau Harbor on New Providence Island we passed Nassau’s newest cruise ship docks which have been dredged and improved to accommodate the newest and largest cruise ships in the world.  While the Carnival Conquest you see in the picture to the left is impressive in its own right it pales in comparison to the newest and largest cruise ship, the “Oasis of the Seas”.

Oasis of the Seas is 1,187 feet long, 208 feet wide and towers 236 feet above the surface of the ocean.  By comparison it holds 5,400 passengers nearly double Conquest’s 2,974, weighs in at an impressive 225,282 Tonnes compared to 110,000 for Conquest and is driven by six 25, 290 horse power engines.  It is the same size as the aircraft carrier “Nimitz” and more than double the size of Titanic.  Needless to say, you don’t want to be in Nassau’s straw market or try to hail a taxi when this ship comes into dock!

While the south side of the channel holds cruise ship and freight docks as well as the downtown business core of Nassau the north shore of the harbor is protect by Paradise Island home to the hotel and casino complex called “Atlantis”.  Paradise Island is the home to up-scale condominiums as well as a PGA caliber 18 hole golf complex surrounded by single family homes on the eastern tip of the island.  A large causeway spans the harbor from Paradise Island to Nassau’s business center.

Highbourne Cay Beach

Highbourne Cay Beach

After a fuel stop at Brown’s Marina and a rocking and rolling overnight stay at Nassau Yacht Haven, Prime Time V and Melanie Bear left the harbor to meet Dealers Choice who was ahead of us at Highbourne Cay.  Highbourne is only 38 miles from Nassau and only four hours at a slow cruise.  We arrived in time to remove the dingies and enjoy or first beach experience in Bahamas.  White sand, 78.5 degree F water and sunshine.  Finally, we had arrived!

Highbourne is near the northern tip of the Exuma Island Chain.  Unlike the Great Lakes Basin, good weather does not come from the west it comes from the east and if you quickly study this chain of islands it becomes apparent there is little shelter on the western side of most of the islands from bad weather.  The eastern side of the islands drop off quickly in most cases are you are typically exposed to the open ocean.

This night would be our first experience sleeping in a westerly blow and the boat in spite of it size bucked and rolled in the anchorage all night making sleeping almost impossible.  While the winds push you to the east strong currents may be to the side of the hull inducing a rocking motion front to back and side to side at the same time.

Can you get used to it?  You can but, it makes sleeping very unpleasant when it happens.

About the Bahama Islands

Written by Randy Whaley on August 5th, 2010

(25⁰43.4580′ N by 079⁰17.8755 W -  Mile 3250.64 - Bimini, Bahamas)

To quote Kurt Russell, the star in the movie Captain Ron -  “This isn’t the Pirates of the Caribbean boss!  This is the the Spanish Main!  The land of who-do, voodoo and all sorts of scary stuff!” We have finally arrived in Bimini, Bahamas the destination that we had dreamed about visiting by boat for many years.

Pirate's Plunder?

Pirate's Plunder?

Bahamas is the location of the pirate stories that you heard when you were a kid.  History records Christopher Columbus as the first explorer to reach Bahamas but, he was just the first to record his landing. In the 10th century, Lucayan Indians (a branch of the Arawaks) settled in The Bahamas. The Lucayans had fled the Lesser Antilles to avoid the Carib Indians, who were their enemies, astute warriors and cannibals. The Lucayan Indians were a very peaceful people, who farmed, lived in thatch huts, used stone tools and made their own pottery. They were politically, socially and religiously advanced. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 on San Salvador (the former name of Cat Island), he enslaved them and coupled with new diseases brought by Columbus and crew, wiped out the entire tribe within 25 years.

The Bahamas became a favored hunting ground for privateers, pirates and wreckers from the late 1600’s through the early 1700’s. This was largely due to the ineffective governors and the many inlets, islands, islets, shoals and channels that provided hiding places to monitor the main passageway for merchant ships and Spanish Galleons.  Of course, England, France, the Dutch and other European countries turned a blind eye to the privateers who plunder the Spanish fleet.  Spain after all, was profiting from the New World and they wanted their share without the investment.

Notice the "Down-Filled Vest"!

Notice the "Down-Filled Vest"!

Today, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas consists of 700 Islands and nearly 2,500 cays. About 30 of these islands are inhabited. The capital city of Nassau is located on New Providence Island. Close by is Paradise Island which is accessed by bridges from Nassau. The nation’s second city, Freeport, is located in Grand Bahama Island along with the port city of Lucaya. The other populated islands and cays are called the Abacos, Andros, Eleuthera and Exumas chains of islands, the later being commonly known as the Family Islands.

The many islands and cays of The Bahamas stretch southeast off the Florida coast.  The closest Island to the U.S. is Bimini, about 45 miles off the coast of Florida. The islands and cays sprawl across nearly 100,000 square miles of ocean, beginning at the northern point east of Palm Beach, Florida and spanning practically 350 miles to the southeast where they come as close as 50 miles of Cuba and Haiti.

For our first trip to Bahamas by boat our plan was to cross to Bimini where we would clear Customs & Immigration then move on to Nassau and finally move south to the Exumas Chain farther south.  The logic in our minds was simple.  The further south you go, the warmer the weather.  True but, we were to learn that winter of 2010 proved to be one of the coldest and windiest since the 1960’s.

570-274-0879

570-274-0879

We crossed the Gulf Stream on January 9th, 2010 leaving Fort Lauderdale early in the morning.  The forecast predicted low winds and calm sea conditions and for once, the weatherman’s predictions proved to be correct.  Steering 130 degrees opn dead flat water conditions we cruised at a leisurely 8 to 9 knots across to Bimini.  Good thing we did not wait for another day because, as predicted the next day brought winds out of the North West at 20 knots which kept us pinned in Bimini for the next three days.

The weather did give us a chance to walk around North Bimini and we found that as an island that is dependent on fishing and tourism from the United States the US recession had direct effects on the local economy.  Bimini Big Resort once noted as a destination for the South Florida game fishing community was closed and you could tell that unemployment was rampant in the village of Alice Town.

The little village that once advertised Hemingway’s Bar (lost to fire) is now in a state of disrepair waiting for the next economic boom to build its economy.  (This is where Hemingway set his book Islands in the Stream when he wrote it in the 30’s.)

Bimini Bay Island Resort

Bimini Bay Island Resort

To the north of Alice Town on North Bimini lies Bimini Bay Island Resort a new development carved from the mangrove swamps.  Environmentalists fought this development over their concerns to the damage it would do to the eco-structure but, in spite of numerous protests the development proceeded.  Today, the development has its own electrical, water and sewage treatment plants as well as a small shops, a hotel, single family homes and condominiums.  All of this sets the back drop for a full service marina.

We had finally arrived in Bahamas and our education was about to begin to learn how to survive on a boat in the islands!

A Guide to Crossing From Florida to Bimini, Bahamas

Written by Randy Whaley on February 27th, 2010

(25⁰43.4580′ N by 079⁰17.8755 W -  Mile 3250.64 - Bimini, Bahamas)

Leaving Fort Lauderdale

Leaving Fort Lauderdale

When you cross from Florida’s east coast to the Bahamas Bank you will encounter one of nature’s most formidable forces, the Gulf Stream. This stream of warm water runs northward along the American coast traveling from two knots up to four knots with a mean average of 2.5 knots.

In fact it is part of a much larger ecosystem which constantly circulates in a constant, clockwise rotation north along the Atlantic coastline past the US and Canadian eastern seaboard, north easterly past Greenland and Iceland touching Great Britain then turning southward along Europe’s western shoreline to the Azores then westward back to the Caribbean.

This constant clockwise rotation brings life to Bahamas steadily streaming warm water and plays a large role in determining the weather for the region.

For the cruising sailor several factors must be considered before attempting to cross from Florida to the Bahamas Bank.

Wind velocity and direction play a major role in determining the frequency and the height of the waves in the Gulf

Leaving Fort Lauderdale Cut

Leaving Fort Lauderdale Cut

Stream. Winds from the southwest (traveling with the Gulf Stream) typically tend to quell the height of the waves while winds from the northeast tend to “stack” the Gulf Stream waves making them higher and with shorter wave intervals. The higher the waves the rougher the crossing will be not only making the trip unpleasant but possibly dangerous as well.

Crossing the Gulf Stream in a slightly north bound direction will give you the advantage of a free push from the current. Remember, for every hour you are in the Gulf Stream the current will push you two or more miles north bound. Why not use it to your advantage? Conversely, taking a course with a south bound direction will only add more miles to your trip.

Plan to arrive on the Bahamas Bank during the day. If you are crossing from Florida to Bimini for example, the sun will be at your back and will give you excellent visibility of the bottom contours and obstructions.

Prior to leaving, purchase up-to-date charts (both paper and electronic) to help you avoid the hazards of Bahamas shallow waters. Experience tells us that Explorer Chart books are an excellent source of hard copy information. Nobeltec VNS charts as well as Garmin and C-Map charts provide a wealth of information while Navionics charts

Arriving In Bimini

Arriving In Bimini

(used by Raymarine on their latest chart plotters) leave vast sections of water with little or no information.

If possible, travel with another boat to ensure if difficulties arise assistance is near.

Ensure you have suitable safety gear on board with redundancy where practical. For example, take an extra GPS if you have one and include a 406 EPIRB in your emergency kit.

The Gulf Stream is 10 to 15 miles off the southern coast of Florida around Miami and Fort Lauderdale. While waves might be a moderate four to six feet off the American coastline seas in the Gulf Stream could be considerably higher. Watch NOAA weather reports or internet weather resources such as www.passageweather.com, www.buoyweather.com, www.hamweather.net or www.windguru.com . If you find wave and wind conditions are worse than forecast, don’t be afraid to return to shore and wait for a better day to cross.

On arrival in Bahamas territorial water you are required to display a solid yellow “quarantine flag” indicating to authorities that you have not cleared Bahamian Customs and Immigration. Once you land the dock master will either direct you to the local Customs and Immigration offices or the authorities will visit your boat.

Even The Pro's Can Miss The Bimini Cut!

Even The Pro's Can Miss The Bimini Cut!

It is a good idea to have the following ready to present.

a)   Ship documentation with an extra copy to give to customs officials;

b)  Passports, photo drivers license or birth certificate for each crew member;

c)  If you have weapons the serial number for each along with a count and caliber of the rounds;

d)  Documents for your dingy indicating the serial numbers;

e)  Serial numbers for value items like computers, GPS, scooters or bicycles.

Once the lengthy forms are completed you will be cleared to Bahamas. The cruising permit for vessels 35 feet and under is $150 and for vessels over 35 feet the fee is $300. This fee covers the captain and up to three crew members with an additional $15 to be charged for each person in excess of the first four on board.

Normally, cruising permits are good for up to one year while immigration permits may vary from 90 days to 12

Sunset In Bimini

Sunset In Bimini

months.

If you have safely crossed the Gulf Stream and negotiated your way through Customs and Immigration, “Welcome to the Bahamas!” Cruising in paradise is about to begin.

Christmas In Florida

Written by Randy Whaley on February 27th, 2010

(26⁰07.040′ N by 080⁰08.465 W -  Mile 3171.29 - New River Marina, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Karen & Peter In Florida for Christmas

Karen & Peter In Florida for Christmas

On December 22nd, we left Stuart, Florida on our way to West Palm Beach where we would meet our daughter and her boyfriend on the 23rd. They were flying in for a week on board for Christmas and they would cruise south to Fort Lauderdale and Miami with us since neither had been to the boat when it was in Florida in 2007.

West Palm Beach Marina has been refitted with new floating docks, new electrical power and water lines and when we arrived the Captain’s lounge was still not open. It was a great place to stop since you are literally only four or five minutes to the downtown business district of West Palm. There are a number of good restaurants and entertainment in the area. We’ll stop back here once we get back to the ICW just to enjoy West Palm’s ambiance.

The weather in December leading up to Christmas was still cooler than normal with periods of overcast and occasional rain.  As long as the rain held off we were content to travel in the comfort of the bridge on Prime Time albeit with the heat on making it a comfortable ride south to Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Two Manatees (Note The Prop Scars)

Two Manatees (Note The Prop Scars)

Unfortunately, with the dismal weather we did not encounter very many manatees or dolphin as we traveled along the ICW.   Manatees are a hazard since their nose barely clears the water when they breath and their 600 to 800 pound body lies just below the surface easily within striking distance of the propellers on the boat.  These two were spotted sleeping in the Miami Beach Marina their propeller scars clearly visible on their backs.


An ICW Bascule Bridge

An ICW Bascule Bridge

On Christmas eve, we pushed south on the ICW taking seven hours to travel 36.5 miles to the Swimming Hall of Fame Marina in Fort Lauderdale. It is a slow process since there are 19 bridges between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Prime Time V’s air draft (from the water’s surface to its highest point) is 18.5 feet which requires us to wait for many of the bridges to open. All Southern Florida bridges that open are either single or double bascule bridges and while most open on demand some are on a half hour operating schedule requiring you to wait some times.  There are also a few bridges that are 65 feet or higher that do not open thus restricting the air draft for very large sail boats.

Ely's First Florida Christmas

Ely's First Florida Christmas

We arrived in the Swimming Hall of Fame Marina to meet the crew of Melanie Bear once again. This time the “crew” had grown from two to seven. This was a special Christmas for Bob and Debbie since not only did they have their son and daughter and their spouses there but also their three week old granddaughter who came to Florida to visit grandma and grandpa.

With only one day left to Christmas and the boats decorated with lights around the decks and garland and lights on the interior it seemed like a perfect if not different Christmas celebration with family. Christmas day dawned and we spent the morning opening presents on the bridge with the television on showing a picture of a fireplace with a decorated mantle and fire burning on the hearth. The Christmas presents were arranged around the television.

The Christmas Television

The Christmas Television

On Christmas Day, we received a call from a friend of ours who’s daughter and son-in-law asked us on the spur of the moment to join them for Christmas dinner. While at first reluctant to take them up on their offer Neil’s daughter Marilyn explained she would be pleased to have us. After all, four more people in addition to the ten or eleven that were already at the table wouldn’t be a problem. It was a great evening for a traditional Christmas Day dinner in a very beautiful home on the ICW with their boat parked at their back door by the pool.

We cruised to Miami to stay at the Miami Beach Marina within walking distance of Miami Beach with Karen and Peter on December 28th allowing them to see the sights of South Miami Beach for the first time. For those of you who have not been to Miami Beach it is a great spot to spend a day on the beach, chill out in a restaurant, catch the night life in one of the bars along the strip or just chill-out watching the people. It is what you have seen of South Beach on television and more.

If South Beach not your cup of tea try Lincoln Road which has been turned into a pedestrian mall for about six or seven blocks and has many of the fine shops you read about but seldom see. It is another great spot for dining as well as watching the beautiful people of South Beach and frequently their dogs.

Karen and Peter had to get back to Canada to visit Peter’s family so, they left to go home on December 30th from

South Beach At Christmas

South Beach At Christmas

Miami while we ran the Atlantic Ocean from Miami back to Fort Lauderdale our kick off point to Bimini, Bahamas.

It was a great family Christmas before we were to leave to cross the Gulf Stream.

Getting Ready For Bahamas

Written by Randy Whaley on February 27th, 2010

(27⁰12.662′ N by 080⁰15.424 W -  Mile 3076.90 - Stuart, Florida)

Having traveled 101 days since leaving Honey Harbour in Georgian Bay we arrived at Harborage Yacht Club and Marina in Stuart, Florida on November 13th ready to relax and enjoy the club’s pool over the next five weeks and to start provisioning Prime Time V for our journey to Bahamas in the New Year.

Harborage is a new condominium project near US1 with excellent docks, power and water and a surprisingly low monthly rental rate due to a local marina dockage price war which was a great benefit to us.

Time For Some Maintenance!

Time For Some Maintenance!

It was also a great place to work on some performance issues that had been plaguing Prime Time on our journey south. The port engine was showing signs of sluggish acceleration and both engines were smoking under load. A visit by a qualified Caterpillar mechanic identified three problem areas. First, the inter coolers needed to be boiled out and pressure tested as part of routine maintenance to ensure they were not leaking. Secondly, the turbo chargers were out of spec showing signs of wear on the blade tips to the body and third, the exhaust risers were showing early signs of leakage and needed to be replaced. Annoying mechanical issues to deal with and costly but, not unexpected for high performance diesels. All the engine work was completed and a short sea trial proved all was well once again.

On our list of “Things to Do” was the addition of a reverse osmosis water maker. Water in Bahamas can cost up to $0.50 per gallon to say nothing of the inconvenience of finding a marina that has it for sail. Prime Time has 200 gallons of water storage on board and while this amount can last up to a week with conservative use with the two of us on board it can also disappear in as little as a day if we decide to wash the boat or do laundry on board. Little did we know how valuable the addition of a water maker would be until we arrived in Bahamas. It certainly proved to be a great investment for Bahamas cruising.


A Trip To The Farmers Market

A Trip To The Farmers Market

While all of this was going on the captains were constantly making daily trips to the local chandleries stocking up on replacement parts and conducting maintenance that was due or pulling the maintenance forward in anticipation of our cruise time in Bahamas.

Provisioning the boat was the focus of the chef. From previous visits to Bahamas we knew that finding specialty foods and spices, fresh fruit and vegetables and red meat would be a challenge. (Surprisingly, fish has been a challenge as well something we thought would be easy to find.)

What else should you bring to Bahamas? Here is a quick lesson in provisioning economics. A case of beer in Florida costs $16.99 per case. The same case of beer in Bahamas costs $42.00 per case. A case of Diet Coke in Florida costs $6.99 per case while the same case of Coke costs $24.00 or one dollar per can. Wine is similarly priced and far more expensive in Bahamas. Guess what was in our hold coming across?

It was a busy five weeks provisioning the boats and for the record, we never did get to the pool but, we did manage to get to the marina pub most nights to discuss what we had to do the next day in preparation for our trip to Bahamas.


Jacksonville Beach, Florida to Stuart, Florida

Written by Randy Whaley on February 5th, 2010

(28⁰24.474′ N by 080⁰40.673 W -  Mile 2988.20 - Stuart, Florida)

Following the ICW South

Following the ICW South

When most people think of the Intracoastal Waterway they think of Florida’s ribbon of protected water on the eastern shoreline. Florida boasts the greatest length of protected coastal shoreline access of any state on the Eastern Seaboard. It stretches from Fernandina Beach just south of the Georgia state line to Key West in the Florida Keys a distance of 572 miles.

Don’t be fooled in thinking that is Florida’s only protected waterway though. The western shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico has another 406 miles stretching from Key West to Apalachicola on the Florida Panhandle.

This does not even count the St. Lucie/Okeechobee Waterway system that runs from Fort Meyers on the Gulf side to Stuart/Port St. Lucie on the Atlantic coast or the fresh water access provided to the inner state by the St. Johns River. Certainly count the Sun, the Surf and Florida’s Waterways as the things that attract tourists and residents to the Sunshine State.

Most people, when they think of Florida will inevitably also imagine a picture of unprecedented develop with new homes, shopping malls and high rise buildings and that would be an accurate picture. But, we were about to stop in St. Augustine a town know for some of the oldest history in North America with many of the original structures still standing in place.

Flagler College - St. Augustine, FL

Flagler College - St. Augustine, FL

St. Augustine was founded in 1565 as a Spanish military outpost. It is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. Traces of the city’s Spanish heritage are everywhere and the Spanish Quarter where the conquistadors strolled has been recreated for the 21st century visitor and we were keen to take in its charm.

Before getting to the old-town, we walked from the boat along King Street to the downtown district to Flagler College which occupies Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel, built in 1888. Henry Flagler is honored in many places in Florida (primarily on the East Coast) since he was the business man who built the ribbon of steel which carried the railroad from the northern border of Florida all the way to Key West opening up the state for commerce and tourism in the late 1800’s. You will find a street named after Flagler in nearly every city and town in Florida.

Across the street from Flagler College is the Alcazar Hotel (also built by Flagler in 1887) which has been carefully restored to its original condition and now houses the Lightner Museum. Nearby, the Casa Monica Hotel houses an upscale restaurant and bar and the city offices are located within the court yards of these two structures.

From here, we walked down the narrow streets which were lined by homes that were built as early as the 1600 and 1700’s. We took a tour of a small local hotel which was operated by a single woman and her staff. The tour guide told us that at the time, St. Augustine although prosperous and was protected by a military garrison was under attack by the local Indian population. Consequently, most stayed within its walls for security and protection.

Alcazar Hotel (St. Augustine City Offices & Shopping)

Alcazar Hotel (St. Augustine City Offices & Shopping)

After lunch, we went to the local tourist district, San Augustin Aquino which has been recreated to depict Spanish colonial life. Of course, being America, all of today’s tourist attractions are there (Starbuck’s, Ice Cream, Taffy, Tee-Shirts etc.) but, the buildings and the interpretation of life in the 16th century is accurately depicted.

From here it is just a short walk past the ramparts of a fortified city and on to the battlements and dungeons of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. This fort has been maintained in as close to original state as possible today.

On November 4th, we left St. Augustine promising that we would return to this city to explore it once again. Our objective now was to travel south on the ICW to Palm Coast and New Smyrna Beach to reach Harbortown Marina on Merritt Island near Port Canaveral which is just south of the Space Shuttle launch sight.

Over the next three days we slowly worked our way down the ICW watching the scenery change from deciduous trees to palms, from mangrove to sandy banks and to see dolphins and manatees for the first time. For the most part, we were also required to go slowly to not only protect the manatees and ourselves from prop strikes but to protect the boats and the shoreline that were on either side of the ICW.

We arrived in Harbortown Marina on the afternoon of November 6th to park down the dock from Dealers Choice, the first time these boats had parked close together in a year. Although Brian was not at the marina, he had given us the name of some local skilled tradesmen who could conduct some engine tests and repairs as well as cabinetry repairs

The Walled City of St. Augustine, FL

The Walled City of St. Augustine, FL

that we were anxious to take care of before leaving for Bahamas in the New Year.

Six days later, repairs and maintenance completed for now, we headed south to Stuart, Florida with a stop overnight in Fort Pierce.

Stuart would be our home for the next five weeks. This is Prime Time V’s original winter home port and the place I first discovered the boat in the fall of 2006. When we bought the boat in 2007 it became our winter home port as well (part of the deal) for four months.

I felt comfortable here since we knew where most of the needed marine supplies could be purchased and that the local shopping allowed us to provision with the staples we would need when we crossed to Bahamas. It was also a good place to finish some key maintenance to the diesels as well as to install a water maker, something we considered essential for longer term cruising in the islands.

For Melanie Bear, this was a good time to stop as well. Not only for repairs and supplies but, as an easy access point to the Palm Beach Airport. After all, they had to get home for the arrival of their first grandchild.

Charleston, South Carolina to Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Written by Randy Whaley on January 29th, 2010

(30⁰17.421′ N by 081⁰25.915 W -  Mile 2854.06 - Jacksonville Beach, Florida)

We left Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday, October 29th continuing south on the Intracoastal Waterway and traveled 58 miles to Beaufort, South Carolina. Not to be confused with its namesake in North Carolina (pronounced Bow fort), Beaufort, South Carolina is pronounced B-you-fort. Pronounce it with the North Carolina pronunciation and the locals will quickly correct you and laugh.

A Beaufort, SC Home

A Beaufort, SC Home

Beaufort, South Carolina was established in 1514 and was first settle by the Spanish, then the French followed by the English. It endured Indian uprisings, occupation by the British and Union forces. It is in the heart of what has been aptly called “Low Country”.

As you will see from the pictures, film makers have used Beaufort as the location for movies like The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides and Forest Gump. The main attraction is the homes that have been lovingly restored to their original style which is unique compared to the homes of Charleston.

The style is more West Indian with a T-shaped floor plan, elevated first floors (rising waters in hurricanes and a place where the staff were sometimes housed), high ceilings and porches on the first and second floors which not only allowed a place to sit outside but offered shade to the inside of the building as well.

Magnolia and Dogwood trees take priority over sidewalks, roadways and traffic and some of these trees have obviously survived for over 100 years.

While we were here, the local merchants closed the main street of the town to hold a “Halloween Party” for the local

It's For Sale!

It's For Sale!

children who attended with their parents. Each shop offered the Trick-or-Treaters candies under their parent’s supervision and it was great to see all of the children dressed in costume.

Quick Fact (An Extract From Waterway Guide 2009)

Gullah Culture

The Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia is home to the Gullah people. African-Americans whose ancestors were transported from Africa to the Carolina Colony in the late 1500’s. The Gullah region is focused in the Low Country, which includes the (Carolina) coastal plain and the Sea Islands.

Slaves from the West African rice-growing region were selected for transport to the American plantations for the skills in cultivation of the crop. Those slaves were retained and sent to the colony through the ports of Savannah and Charleston. By the 1700’s, the Africans had transformed the agricultural Low Country into a booming cotton and rice industry. A large, enslaved work force combined with disease and the Civil War, forced many white inhabitants out of the region and resulted in African dominated populations, complete with its traditions and language, throughout the Sea Islands.

Magnolia Crossing - NO TRUCKS!

Magnolia Crossing - NO TRUCKS!

The group became known as the ”Gullah”. Gullah speak an English based Creole language which has its roots in African language. In addition to their language, their cuisine, music, crafts, farming practices and folk beliefs all have strong ties to the culture of their West and Central African ancestors.

On Friday, October 30th we fueled up and took a 26 mile passage on the ICW to Hilton Head, South Carolina, a community literally built by sea-side golf resorts. It was a short day but we were setting ourselves up for the right sea conditions and visibility to jump from Hilton Head, bypassing Georgia and coming back to shore at Jacksonville, Florida a distance of 122 miles.

Georgia’s section of the ICW has long been ignored by the US Army Corp of Engineers the agency that is responsible for maintaining it. Silting and tides have created many sections which are today impassible by cruising boats with drafts greater than four feet. Many have claimed to successfully negotiated the passage while others tell of their groundings along the way. We chose wait for the right day and leave Georgia to others more adventurous.

We arrived in Hilton Head to stay the first night in Palmetto Bay Marina, nothing special but we felt we only needed secure overnight accommodation for our early start the next day. The next morning we woke to find a fog bank that

Halloween In Beaufort, SC

Halloween In Beaufort, SC

literally swallowed cruisers going into this curtain.

After two tries which took us late into the morning we decided to stay for the night at Harbour Town Yacht Basin closer to the channel leading to the ocean. This is also the home of the large, candy cane lighthouse you see in many of the post cards and pictures of Hilton Head. Climb to the top and you can see the 18th hole of Sea Pines Golf Club one of the more famous on the PGA Tour. By visiting the marina’s website you can see what we saw from the top of the lighthouse by live, internet camera. Just visit www.harbourtownyachtbasin.com and follow the links to the camera.

The next morning the fog had cleared and off we went on our first open-ocean running since we left Cape May. The sun was shining and the waves were less than two feet. Just a perfect day for a 122 mile, 8 hour ocean run!

We’ve made it to (northern) Florida and although Jacksonville is not quite the warm sunny weather we are looking for crossing into America’s southernmost state takes us one step closer to our goal. Warm winter weather.

From Harbour Town Lighthouse Internet Cam

From Harbour Town Lighthouse Internet Cam