Unfortunately, most anchorages in Bimini are only protected from the west…not helpful for us!
We’ve survived our first week as cruisers and so far, we love it! After crossing the Gulf Stream last Saturday, we’ve been (not so) patiently waiting for good weather to cross the Great Bahama Bank in Bimini and exploring the north and south islands to the fullest. While we tried one night at anchor on Monday, with wind from the east and swell from the south, it was just far too uncomfortable to tolerate more than one night. Luckily, Bimini is one of the few areas in the Bahamas where protected anchorages are in short supply so we aren’t anticipating too many nights in marinas past our first week and possibly one night in Nassau.
The nature trail was beautiful!
Does anyone know what lives here? We didn’t stick around to find out!
The good aspect to staying at the Bimini Sands Marina on South Bimini was the opportunity for easy walking access to some of the natural areas on the island. On Sunday we decided to walk over to the Bimini Nature Trail on the south island. The scenery was beautiful, complete with ruins back-lit by the setting sun, poison bark trees and a crazy looking hive on the path. We decided to retrace the first half of the trail rather than pass by the hive as we weren’t sure what might be living inside, but Carter was convinced that he could scare off anything that might try to attack.
Do we look younger yet?
Another fun spot to visit on South Bimini was the Fountain of Youth. The legend goes that Ponce de Leon set out to discover the Fountain of Youth on his voyages, which he had heard would be found in Bimini. He never found it, but we did! A quaint little well in a wooded clearing made for a pleasant outing and a fun history lesson for Carter.
A trip to Bimini wouldn’t be complete without a few loaves of Bimini bread!
All along Kings Highway were huge piles of discarded conch shells. One man’s trash is another’s treasure I suppose.
Multiple trips were also made into Alice Town and Baileytown on North Bimini. These two small towns were a extreme shock after being in the hustle and bustle of South Florida for a year! It took me a few times of people beeping their horns on the road to realize that they weren’t saying “Get out of the way, $&%*@(*#$!” but rather just honking and waving at friends they saw walking down the street. We became well acquainted with Kings Highway, the one lane (two-way mind you) main road of town, as we searched day after day for a store that had a BTC SIM card in stock for our phone. Just another reminder that things are different in the Bahamas. Luckily, we finally have one working now which should help with our communications and being able to check the weather easier throughout our trip.
Next, we head out for Cat Cay before our trip across the bank. We’re hoping to be in Nassau by Sunday evening and then on to the Exumas assuming the weather cooperates a little better this time around!
Our first sighting of Bimini after a long day on the water.
“Land ho!” Dan called to Carter and I as we neared the end of our Gulf Stream Crossing. As we completed the final few miles of our day, it felt as if a huge weight had lifted off of our shoulders. The stunningly clear waters of the Bahamas greeted us after our first “major” crossing and what a reward it was! As I stood on the bowsprit coming into the Bimini channel I called back to Dan that I could see the bottom to which he responded, “We’re still in 80 feet of water!”
The beautiful sunrise over the Gulf Stream
Our morning started early due to a night full of wakes from power boats going in and out of No Name Harbor. When we both realized the other was awake at 3 am, we decided to pull up the anchor and head out rather than try to go back to sleep for only another 2 hours. Conditions were somewhat rocky going out of Cape Florida with waves at 3-5 ft at around a 4 second period, but once we got onto the ocean everything smoothed out quickly. Thankfully we had a rather uneventful crossing… a good thing!
The beautiful waters of the Bahamas, just look at that blue!
The most excitement (other than the morning 5ft waves) was a few container ships that would have come rather close. We were able to call them on the radio by name thanks to our AIS receiver and ensure that we would stay out of their way… one even changed course for us because we called them early enough. The ship was more than 7 miles away from us but our AIS had calculated that in around 25 minutes they would been less than half a mile from us… AIS is truly an amazing safety technology. Dan radioed this information to the ship’s captain and the ship graciously turned a few degrees off course to change our closest approach to over 5 miles. All in all, our trip took about 9 ½ hours from No Name Harbor to Bimini.
Dan raising the quarantine flag.
Horizon docked at Bimini Sands Marina
We decided to stay at Bimini Sands Marina on South Bimini to avoid the strong current along Alice Town. The marina has a nice large basin that is very easy to get into and is well protected from any wind and waves. The marina staff called the bus for Dan clear in at the airport customs station on South Bimini and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly he was able to get back with all of our paperwork completed. With the official issues taken care of, we are happy to start our adventures in the Bahamas!
Would you like to see more photos of our trip? Check out our Flickr page to see the ones that don’t make it into our posts!
As of April 1, we have officially joined the ranks of full-time cruisers! (And no this is not an April Fool’s joke.) Dan finished off his last few days at work and brought home an awesome cruising gift from his boss David that will be a great addition to our interior. We also off-loaded our remaining car to some friends of our marina neighbors who were kind enough to let us use it all the way up to our departure. With all of our last minute tasks wrapped up, we were ready to go!
This beautiful anchor light now has a place of honor in our main salon.
The only problem is how much mud the anchor brings back up with it!
Though we had never anchored over night before, our first couple of nights have gone smoothly thanks to our over-sized Mantus* anchor. It was important to us to have an anchor that we could trust and after many hours of online research and talking to other cruisers, we think we have made the right choice. The ease with which our anchor has set these first few nights has been very important for our confidence in anchoring, which is a must if we want to keep marina expenses to a minimum. We’ll do an update on our anchoring experience after the first couple of months, but thus far we are very happy with the performance.
The opening was a little too close for comfort…
After a full 4 hours of ICW bridges on Thursday (and 11 hours from Lantana to Hollywood in July), I’m happy to report that we are free of the drawbridge prison that is South Florida. Hopefully, the next time we come through the area we’ll be able to do more of that time on the ocean side, but at least it was mostly uneventful. The Broad Causeway bridge in Miami was having construction done on it when we went through, which meant that only one side was opening. Talk about a tight squeeze! We also made it through the Julia Tuttle bridge which the the only fixed bridge under 65 feet along the entire East Coast ICW. The story goes that the architect accidentally made the plans for 56′ instead of 65′ and now a good percentage of larger sailboats can’t fit through.
That’s 95 feet to the top!
Thursday afternoon and night were spent checking out South Beach Miami, where there are certainly a lot of interesting people, to say the least. One night was enough for us though and we are now anchored just outside of No Name Harbor on Biscayne Bay. We got to tour the old lighthouse on the island and even Carter made it up the 109 steps to the top! It was a beautiful view from the top, though Dan wasn’t too happy about the swaying old staircase as we came to the end of our 95 foot climb. Then back to the boat to finish preparations for our Gulf Stream crossing tomorrow! To Bimini we go!
Carter loved the view
*Mantus gave us a generous discount on the purchase of our anchor and bridle in exchange for honest reviews of their products. While this a factor in choosing to go with them, we would not have agreed to the arrangement if they were not already on our top choices list.
Over the last year, we’ve been hard at work updating our 1976 Irwin 37. A lot of blood and sweat went into the process, as well as a substantial amount of money. We’ve cataloged all of our boat related expenses for the full process and were amazed at the amount spent on auxiliary items such as clothing, cooking accessories and new tools. I’ve broken the expenses down into groups and categories to be able to show all of you just what goes into updating an older boat. Just a note: when we purchased Horizon, she had recently had all of the rigging, sails, and most of the electronics upgraded. These are major ticket items that would significantly increase total cost if your boat had older systems.
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Which brings our overall total to $32,796.93. No small thing considering we paid only slightly more for the actual vessel itself. We are fairly confident that the work and money we put in this year will pay big dividends in decreased costs for a couple of years as well as a big increase in overall safety for us and the boat. And with that, we’re off!
After hours in this position, I could barely stand up!
As part of the preparations for our upcoming cruise to the Abacos, I wanted to square away a few things in the engine room. First and foremost was to do the routine maintenance including changing the oil, oil filter, and fuel filters. I also wanted to add an hour meter to aid in keeping up on these critical maintenance tasks. Seems pretty straightforward, right?
Once the work began, however, it was anything but. Since the last oil change was my first on my new engine, I had hired a mechanic to show me the ropes. He had an issue with his oil extractor fitting down the dipstick tube and recommended I purchase one with a smaller tube. So, thinking I am prepared, with my narrow tubed oil extractor, I begin to suck the oil out of the pan. Unfortunately, the dipstick is located in a high spot of the oil pan and does not allow for the full extraction of the oil… it actually only allows around 1 quart to be exact. Not to be deterred, I located the actual oil drain plug and began awkwardly loosening the bolt while laying on my stomach with my hand behind my back (ok, not really, but if you’ve ever tried to work UNDER a boat engine, you understand the predicament).
Two rolls of paper towels were sacrificed to the cause…
The plug came freely the first few turns and then essentially stopped. I fished out Michele’s old makeup mirror and held it under the engine to see what was impeding my progress to find out that the drain plug’s flange was rubbing against a bolt that holds the transmission to the engine block. After much finagling and squirming and consternation, the drain plug was freed and then the flange ground down to a more reasonable circumference that will allow it to freely be removed and replaced in the future. A drain plug gasket also ensures that the pesky oil seepage from the never-before-removed plug is now a thing of the past.
Thinking the worst is behind me, I unscrewed the old Sierra brand oil filter and lovingly tightened on my shiny new top-of-the-line-for-eight-times-the-price Napa Gold filter and refilled the oil reservoir with Delo 15w-40. Side note: there is much discussion online on which weight of oil and which brand to use etc… I went with the recommendation in the official Perkins service manual.
Thinking I am done, I fired up the engine and checked my exhaust first for flow (a habit) and then watched for oil pressure. I hadn’t refilled the rather large oil filter, so I knew it might take a few seconds to fill the filter and then pressurize the oil system so I wasn’t worried when I saw 0PSI to begin with. Around the 30 second mark I became worried, however. I soon realized that no oil was flowing and killed the engine.
The first thing I checked was for proper oil level in the reservoir and found that, indeed, it was full. I then moved on to checking for leaks around the oil filter or any hoses and found that everything looked as normal. Perplexed, I fired up the engine again to the same results after 60 seconds… Even more worried now, I disconnected the oil line feeding the remote oil cooler and had Michele crank the engine. Oil immediately squirted out of the line, to my relief.
The oil sender looked quite corroded so we figured that must be the problem.
It was now appearing as though the oil was, in fact, flowing through the engine properly but I was getting an incorrect reading on my gauge or the oil pressure sender. A gaze at my sender let me know that it had likely given up the goose and a quick run to the boat bits store rectified that and the old oil gauge.
Fully expecting my issue to be resolved, I fired up the engine to 0PSI oil pressure yet again. Truly perplexed, I took a break from hands on work and began researching. Unfortunately there are an enormous amount of Perkins 4.108 variations, so this task is made significantly more difficult. My engine has also been customized with a remote oil filter kit (larger filter capacity) and oil cooler.
I tinkered around, tried different oil filters, different oil filter brands, etc all to no avail. Eventually I put the old filter back on out of curiosity and the pressure immediately went to normal! I couldn’t believe this… why would the old filter work and the Fram and Napa Gold filters not? Thinking it is a filter density issue, I researched the Sierra micron rating and found that it was in the same ballpark as my other two brands…
Totally dumbfounded, I ran the issue by my father and his immediate response was, “is the oil flowing in the correct direction through the filter?” I hadn’t thought about this despite having tried several other fixes. I swapped my oil supply and return lines on the side of the block and put my Fram filter back on. Immediately upon firing up the engine my normal oil pressure returned! The oil had been running through the filter backwards! The older Sierra filter from the previous owner worked with this scenario because it didn’t have an internal check valve to prevent it from draining while the engine is off. Both my Fram and Napa Gold filters had this valve, with a side effect of only allowing the oil to flow in one direction.
So, several hours and a full day after beginning, my pre-trip engine maintenance is completed. Oil is flowing in the correct direction and all is right with the world.
Hopefully the knowledge gained and changes made to the drain plug (and oil flow) will make future oil changes take significantly less time than the significant investment this process took.
We are normal (well ok, not so normal) people that have a dream to see the world and live life as it was meant to be. We both have successful careers in the healthcare industry, even in this terrible economy. We want to break free of the current cycle of trading time for dollars and dollars for more and more things we don't need. So, we have decided to forego the fruits of our economic success and "retire" well before we are 30 and set out to see what is over the Horizon.