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royalld | profile | all galleries >> Sailing Vessel Shibumi >> Shibumi's 2007 Winter Cruise >> Crossing to the Bahamas tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Crossing to the Bahamas

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If you have been following along you know we left Miami for an overnight sail into the Bermuda Triangle to Nassau in the Bahamas. We departed with two other boats.... Rick and Doreen aboard the sailing vessel Breathless, and the sailing vessel Ragtime. We had not met Ragtime' crew other than over the radio. All three ships stayed in radio contact as we traveled. Breathless led the fleet. Breathless and Shibumi planned to travel through the night and sail straight through to Nassau. Ragtime intended to anchor in the shallow waters of the Great Bahamas Bank to get some rest before contining to Nassau in the morning.

When it turned dark there was no moon. A few stars peeked in and out of the broken clouds. Breathless's stern light ahead and Ragtime's tri-color, steaming light and nav lights behind us, were the only things visable other than the peek-a-boo stars.

In the dark of night it was hard to judge the distance in the pitch black darkness. However, both Breathless and Ragtime have radar aboard. Their radar helped us maintain our spacing in the dark.

Around nine o'clock the clouds disappeared and the sky was a fantastic field of jewel-like stars. There was no way for me to capture the beauty with my little Fuji camera in the darkness coupled with the motion of Shibumi in the waves.

The wind was 10 to 15 knots, 30 degrees off of the starboard bow. It was not the best sailing conditions but it was a lovely night.

My only concern was going through the Northwest Channel Pass in the dark of night. The NW Channel Pass is a narrow passage from the Great Bahama Bank to the Tongue of the Ocean. The pass is lined with shallow coral heads and the depth of the water rapidly goes from 12 feet to 2400 feet. With the wind out of the east, such as we had, and a ebb-tide flowing east the water in the pass can get very rough.

The bouy marker light at Macky Shoals was not working, nor was the marker light at NW Shoal. However, the radio reports from boats anchored ahead indicated that the marker light at NW Channel Pass was working.

Jill and I took turns at the helm. I sailed for three hours while she rested and then we switched.

In the middle of the night, every change in boat sound puts you on alert. When in choppy water the prop will at times come out the sea and momentarily change pitch. In the dark of night, this makes you check all engine gauges to satisfy yourself that all is well.

Some time before midnight an opposite direction freighter passed us then made a hard turn and cut right in front of Ragtime. needless to say that caused a bit of a stir on the radio as Ragtime took evasive action to avoid collision. Shortly after that Ragtime chose to pull out of the fleet and drop anchor for the remainder of the night. Breathless and Shibumi bid farewell to him and continued on toward NW Channel.

An eerie moon rose just as we first spotted the NW Channel light. We altered course to the south to avoid a charted but unlit shipwreck near the entrance to the pass. You have to wonder what happened to her.

I could feel the surge begin to build as we approched the pass. Given the east wind direction, I could only hope that surge was not a tide ebbing from the Banks.

We sailed in 20 foot deep water. The moon lit the path. Then 26 feet of water... 34 feet... I tried to peer throught the moon light on the water to see if there were any waves in the DEEP WATER ahead. 61 feet of water. The water started getting bouncy. 141 feet... the rapidly 537 feet... then all dashes on the deep sounder. That indicates water too deep to read. But the ride was fairly smooth.

After the Pass, we continued straight towards Nassau and were greeted with a marvelous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.

We thank Rick and Doreen aboard Breathless for leading the way over the dark Banks and through the moonlit NW Pass. This was Jill and my second trip through the Pass at night... this was Rick and Doreen's 16th trip. Great job Breathless... it was a terrific crossing.

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