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  • Writer's pictureDeanna Sansbury

Homeward Bound

It’s the beginning of the end of our trip.  Bummer.  It’s been a quick five months, that’s for sure.  Good news is that we’ve finally made it out of George Town, after 18 (!!) days of being at the marina.  Thank God for that.  I think we were both ready to just start swimming north – seas be damned! – if we didn’t make a break for it soon.

Jeremy left us on a Thursday and Alex & Char left us on Friday.  They met the owner of a 70' motor yacht who was looking for crew to help him and his wife make the trip south to Turks & Caicos / Dominican Republic / Puerto Rico.  Sounds like a hell of an adventure, and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t slightly jealous.  We’ll be sad to see them go – meeting them was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

We’ve (finally) have a fantastic weather window and have been busting out some serious miles on our journey north.  Sunday we left Emerald Bay and made it to Black Point, just off Great Iguana Cay.  It was a little hairy getting out of the marina… the sea was still pretty swelly from all of the crazy wind we’ve been having for the past two weeks.  Once we were out a bit, the swells subsided and it was smooth sailing – pun intended – the rest of the way up.  Matt even caught another mahi!  Whoop!  Not as big as the first one, but still plenty enough for a few dinners.  They are probably the prettiest fish I’ve ever seen, especially when they first come out of the water.  It really does pain me to kill them because of this.

Wait who am I kidding?  They’re freakin’ delicious.

We threw the line back out and said something crazy like “I really don’t want to catch another today”, just as the line hit and we turned to see a massive wahoo on the end.  He ended up snapping the line and taking our little rubber Ballyhoo bait with him.  Not sure what we would have done with all of that fish, especially since we ‘re on our way home. We decided that it would probably be a good idea to pull in the line in after that.

We spent the night in Black Point and headed to Staniel Cay on Monday.  Here we gave the bottom of the boat a good scrub (we had some growth from being stagnant at that marina for so long), and went up to the yacht club for one last cheeseburger in paradise.   Mom, I tried to call home, but for some reason the phones weren’t working…

From Staniel we made the long trip up to Highborne Cay, under pretty much perfect conditions.  There was hardly any wind, so you could see straight down to the bottom of the water, which wasn’t too far down, maybe 20 feet at best.  The whole bank looked like one giant pool, and our boat was just a toy floating along in it.  We could make out tons of fish swimming about, beautiful coral heads, and tons and tons of starfish, as if they were only in a few feet of water.  It kinda blew our minds.  You don’t see stuff like this back home in the Bay, that’s for sure.

Alex and Char recommended Highborne Cay to us and said that we should grab a bike from the marina and ride around the island to take in the views.  We haven’t ridden a bike since Key West, so this sounded absolutely fabulous to us. 

Unfortunately we didn’t.  Highborne was a bust.  The marina office quickly (and quite smugly, I might add) informed us that it was a private island and if we weren’t staying at the marina then we’re not allowed to explore the island – out of respect for the privacy of their guests.  But if we wanted, we were more than welcome to spend our money at their general store or bar.  What a joke. Guess we should have took the huge mega yacht that nearly ran us over just outside the channel as a sign. 

That’s right… our trip (and our boat) was nearly cut short very abruptly as a mega yacht in the 120-150’ range came barreling at us, full speed, trying to beat us into the channel entrance going into Highborne.  Matt tried to hail it on the VHF to make sure that they saw us, but got dead silence on the radio, which we think they were ignoring us since we just heard them call the marina moments before.  We were in quite a pickle here…. we have a huge yacht approaching us rapidly with no signs of slowing down, with no one answering our calls, and it looks like they’re going to take a huge chunk out of our port side or completely demolish us.  When they get to the point where we can practically read the writing on the deckhands t-shirts, Matt whips out the air horn and just lets it rip.  Like… Lets.It.Rip.  The crew and guests onboard the yacht turn and look at us startled, like “What the hell are YOU doing in OUR way”?  Matt threw our engines in reverse to avoid a collision, but we still got rocked by their wake.  What a jack ass.  I guess it’s true… money can’t buy you class.  Thank you “BLACK SHEEP, mega yacht” for almost killing us (I suggest no one ever charter them, especially after their incompetence).

We couldn’t wait to leave Highborne as soon as possible the next morning.  We pulled anchor as the sun was coming up and made our way to Nassau – Athol Island, just to the northeast – where we anchored Wednesday night.  I forgot how many coral heads we had to pick our way through across the Yellow Bank en route to Nassau.  The sun was low in the sky and partially obstructed by clouds making the water very hard to read.  We were so eager to get the hell out of Highborne, and were making some great time sailing at 7-8 knots, that we got to the bank earlier than expected.  Matt was at the helm and I was on the top of the roof trying to spot any dark spots in the water that were best to be avoided. Needless to say, it was a pretty stressful stretch.  We dropped anchor in the early afternoon and proceeded to watch movies until after dark.  Here we are, our last days in Paradise, and we’re holed up on the boat watching movies!

Thursday morning, and another long day of travel.  We pulled anchor super early again and headed west across the Tongue of the Ocean over to the Grand Bahama Banks.  The Tongue is a super deep trench with depths of 2,000-3,000 feet, nestled in between the Grand Bahamas Banks and the Exuma Banks which range in depth from 8-25 feet.  We had anchored in about 9 feet of water by Nassau, and within a mile we were in 1,000 feet (or so we thought… our depth finder stops working around 500 ft and was blinking dashes or something weird like 3.5 feet at this point).  Crazy, right?   This is the final stretch of nothingness on the way to Bimini, and as we watched the towers of Atlantis grow smaller on the horizon, we knew that would be the last bit of land we’d be seeing for quite a while.  It was a slow day with hardly any wind, so we cranked up the engines and listened to some podcasts to get us through the day. 

We anchored right smack in the middle of the Banks that night, and let me tell you how unnerving it is to anchor with no land or lights or signs of life anywhere on the horizon to comfort you.  You feel so utterly alone.  But man, you can’t beat that sunset.  Time seems to almost stop in those few moments it takes for that big ball to slowly sink down into the ocean.  It’s the most magical part of the day.  With no moon, the stars were out in full force and kept watch over us ‘til morning.

After a week of intense traveling, we finally made it back to Bimini today, almost two months exactly from the day we arrived.  We were hurrying because our perfect weather window is closing on Monday, and we wanted to get to Bimini ASAP so we could cross back over to Florida in the same window.  After the hellish two weeks of 20mph + winds and big seas that kept us pinned at Emerald Bay, we’re all for taking advantage of good weather while we can.

We’re a little bummed that our trip is over, and were wallowing in silence when a pod of dolphins came up and swam with us.  This made me so darn happy, you have no idea.  I love, love, love watching dolphins swim off the bow of the boat – it’s probably my favorite thing about sailing, actually – but we’ve hardly seen any during our time in the Bahamas, which was a little disappointing.  Having these guys pop up and give us a little love definitely made my day.

Finally arrived in Bimini around 1:00, marking an end to our week long trip up from the Exumas.  God, it feels good to be here.  This past week has been nothing short of aggressive, with 8-12 hour sails every day and a different island every night.  We were relieved to see the entrance to the harbor was calm and flat… MUCH better than our initial arrival a few months ago.  I really don’t know what the hell we were thinking coming in, all guns-a-blazing like that.  Instead of crashing waves, we had a strong outgoing current, making our top speed an excruciating 2.5 knots.  Oye.  I’ll take that over surfing down waves any day of the week.

Looks like this guy under estimated the tides!

And so we find ourselves back at the Bimini Blue Water Resort, one slip over from the one we had when we cleared into the Bahamas two months ago.  It feels so good to step foot on land again after a week of straight cruising.  And they have Coors Light here!  The only island in the Bahamas that stocks Coors Light!  God bless them.  Looks like Sunday will be the day to cross back over to Florida.  Pretty excited to be coming home again!

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