Diary excerpts from Saint Martin to the Bahamas and on to Miami – Part 2.

May 12, Nassau

To get to Nassau you have two options: either take a big detour going around the islands on the outer side, or cross a huge, very shallow bank.

When crossing the bank, you have to be aware of the timing of the high and low tides. It’s ideal to start the crossing at high tide and if you are lucky, you have the sun shining from the right angle onto the seabed. The current can be very strong due to the tide, so it requires skill to cross without hitting the bottom. There are some moorings where because of the current, the wind hits the boat from the side and not from the anchor as we are used to. We haven’t anchored in a place on this trip where we had to deploy two anchors, Bahamas-style. They do this as the current can shift 180 degrees and turn the boat around. They resolve this by using two anchors at the front to minimize the turning diameter and thus avoid running aground when the current suddenly changes. 

We decided to cross the bank. It took us a day to cross over intact. It was exhausting. Similarly to earlier, we sailed on the inner, shallow side of the islands. I had to be on coral alert not just for an hour but the entire day. At times there were a lot of coralheads to get around, but it saved us a lot of sailing time and the ride was more gentle than further out on the open ocean. Domi was looking at the downloaded satellite images and the maps contemporarily while I was trying to keep an eye on the landscape with reefs, sandbanks and sharks…We only had to back out once from a sandbank where the depth would have been a few centimeters below the keel …

Late afternoon in the distance we could make out the silhouette of gigantic buildings. It was so strange, didn’t belong. Welcome to Nassau. It was weird to return to an urban environment. Maybe we felt this way because we had gotten so used to emptiness, or at most dusty streets with poverty stricken but colorful and athmospheric buildings.  We loved the uninhabited islands most, and the moorings far away from strong currents. 

It was difficult to get to our stopping place for the night. We were heading West with the Sun in our eyes, so it was almost impossible to see the potential underwater obstacles. Once in the channel to Nassau, we asked and received permission from port authorities to enter and anchor somewhere in front of the marina. It was quite exciting to navigate in strong current among various strange shacks on the water and construction work going on in the channel. We spent three nights here altogether.

Poor Domi is still in Miami. The certificate from the Bahama health service had not arrived there. He tried to call them, 140 other people in line in front of him, he had to hold the line for 90 minutes. This reduced the number of people ahead of him to 110 … then the connection broke. Now he is very tired, deadbeat and disillusioned. The trip to Miami was already much longer, the flight had a four hour delay. And now instead of being on the next flight back he had to watch the plane take off without him. The next flight is not until tomorrow. 

You can enter the USA as a Hungarian citizen without a visa, you only have to apply for an ESTA online.  It took us only 20 minutes and we were granted the entry. The only problem was that you cannot enter the US on board of your own sailboat, your first entry to the country has to be on board of a commercial vessel or flight. That’s why we could not stop at the American Virigin Islands or in Puerto Rico earlier. Our plan was for Domi to fly from Nassau to Miami then return quickly and sail the boat to US waters while we, girls, would take a ferry to Miami. He had to have tests done both ways as the Bahamian authorities required a test at the reentry as well. No problem, he got it done, unfortunately he did not receive the permission from Bahama to board the plane in time so he had to watch his plane take off from the terminal. And the family is waiting back on the boat in the meantime. Once he arrived back, we immediately hoisted the anchor. It took us a bit more than a day to get to where we boarded the ferry. There was a bit of a risk in the exercise, as you ought to have a return ticket when you enter the US, we only had it one way, in the end it did not matter.

His hardships were not yet over. Sailing towards Miami he hit a big storm; looking at the bright side of it some fuel was saved as there was plenty of windpower. When he arrived at the marina around 1AM, the girls had been sound asleep on the dock. Our bum luck continued, as we received a message through the registration application that we had to report immediately to the closest customs port. We tried to call them to make sure this was really what we had to be doing at 3AM, but no one picked up the phone. It’s not a good idea to fool around with the US authorities, immediately means immediately. We headed for the nearest port in the middle of the night trying to find our way through the channel system. Upon arrival we managed to sqeeze in between the world’s two largest ocean liners without a real chance to get to shore. Suddenly a police car appeared with its sirens on. Huge search lights started beaming at us, and we were told to leave the site immediately. Luckily, we managed to explain why we came. We registered next morning. 

Afterwards we could take it easy a bit. It’s so relaxing that the waves are not rocking the boat, we can go to the store any time, the store actually has a wide range of goods and we can finally order all items from our long list of “things to buy”. We have a long and exciting trip ahead of us.