Recap: Crossing Over

Finally leaving the U.S. behind as we exit Lake Worth Inlet

The forecast called for a light southeast wind clocking around to more southerly. And there was about a forty-eight-hour window of benign weather. It was time to go. And I’d decided that rather than head to West End, on the extreme western tip of Grand Bahama Island, I would tack on another three hours or so and head to the Port Lucaya area of Freeport. There was a customs office there and a marina, too, where we could assess the trip over and wait out (again) the impending weather on the other side of the window.

We left the dock in Riviera Beach at 10:35 p.m. and almost immediately ran into trouble. Rounding Peanut Island I saw pilot boat just drifting in the channel south of the island, and looking east I could see the lights of a large cargo-type ship coming into the inlet. Dammit, that meant it might be tight in the channel, I might have to slide into the anchorage on the north side and let the ship pass.

Actually, it was going to be a lot more than tight in the channel: the lights of the cargo ship weren’t out in the inlet, they were already inside the jetties and bearing down on us…fast. I got confused trying to differentiate the ship’s lights from those on the houses on the shore on either side of the inlet. I did a quick 180 and turned back north toward the marina—I knew the ship wasn’t going that direction but rather was headed into the big shipyard directly across the lagoon from the inlet. Once that behemoth was past the channel, I resumed course toward the gap in the jetties and we departed Lake Worth Inlet at 11:05 p.m.

First Bahamian sunrise…

To be perfectly blunt: it was a pretty boring passage. The wind was right on the nose and never moved to a southerly direction, and even if it had, it was so light that I’d still have run the engine. It was a lovely night filled with stars, we only encountered a couple of big ships and they were far enough off to not be a factor, and the trip I had planned for thirteen hours took only twelve. Boom! We were in the Bahamas. Finally.

FINALLY! The trip that had started on the twenty-second of October finally arrived in the Bahamas on the sixteenth of February. Well, better late than never, right?!

We cleared customs, topped off the diesel tank and moved to our slip. The Grand Bahama Yacht Club—it’s a marina, not a yacht club…marketing—itself is a big facility, with concrete docks and the usual amenities. Showers, laundry, a pool, water, electricity and a security gate…it was a good way to enter the Bahamas. There was also a convenience store just outside the marina (cans of Coca-Cola were cheaper than in the U.S.) and the marina ran a free shuttle to the nearby grocery store. And on the property was a great restaurant/bar that featured very good pizza. Really. And the mojitos were pretty good too.

There were also some great people in the marina too, in addition to the crew working there who were really helpful and friendly. Geoff runs dolphin-viewing trips around Bimini aboard his catamaran that he keeps at the marina, and Junior was nearby too, an ex-pat Canadian living in the marina on board his motor vessel.

Hoisting the Q (for “quarantine”) flag signifies that you are a new arrival and need to clear customs

And a short dinghy ride away from our slip took us to Rumrunners, an outdoor bar/restaurant in the Port Lucaya Marketplace. The marketplace is a collection of small shops, a performing-arts stage, several restaurants and a marina that sits empty waiting for someone to buy it and get it going again. Lacking that on-site source of pedestrian traffic, the marketplace seemed a bit forlorn. It’s in great condition, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed strangely empty, strangely quiet. Not that I wanted more crowds, mind you, but yeah, it just seemed a little sad.

Rumrunners, however, did not. My friends on Kiana had mentioned it so we checked it out and, boy howdy, am I glad we did. Half-price drinks during happy hour so $5 mojitos? Yes, please! And the burger was one of the best I’ve ever had: thick and meaty, cooked how I liked it, and only $14 with a huge pile of excellent fries. For just $16, the lobster roll was excellent, filled with local lobster meat and also with the copious supply of fries on the side. No, it’s not Maine lobster but back home in New England you can’t find a lobster roll for less than thirty bucks. And the wings were without a doubt the meatiest wings I’ve ever had in my life–and during happy hour, they were a-buck-a-wing.

Yes, please!

A very Hotel California-esque sunset courtesy of the Grand Bahama Yacht Club

But I didn’t sail to the Bahamas to be in a marina. Unfortunately, the ongoing weather situation kept us pinned down there for nine days. It wasn’t so much really crappy weather (although there were a couple of good stormy days) but rather the wind. To get down south where we wanted to go required an eighteen-hour sail to the Nassau area, and then another day sail to the northern Exumas. With a newbie sailor for crew, I really didn’t fancy doing a nonstop trip to Nassau, so a stop in an exposed anchorage in the Berry Islands at about the halfway point would be required. I wanted a settled couple of days in which to get to that anchorage, to another one east of Nassau and then on to the Exumas. And after yet another waiting period, the forecast became promising. So on Feb. 25 we got an early start—6:45 a.m.—and departed the channel at Port Lucaya bound for points south…