Tuesday March 19, 2013
Since Matt knows I hate to be up for the ‘dark’ part of shifts (I usually one get one from 12-3, and then the sun is rising by my next shift at 6), he played the good husband and let me sleep until 5 am so there wouldn’t be any more near disasters like a few hours before where at least this time I could tell how close any ships were before they were right on top of it. What he had also done though was turn off the engine and put the sails back out at 4 am leaving me once more to worry how to escape any near collisions that may come up. Luckily for me, most cruise ships were getting close to pulling into port and the traffic in the channel had dropped dramatically. There was only one case of something coming on a near collision course with us, but it was only a 160 ft pleasure boat that definitely had the maneuverability to go around us, but for some reason still decided to cut about ¼ mile in front of our bow. We were making good speed with our sails up once more, but the wind was still on our nose and we were still trying to make any progress south we could get while tacking across the bay. We did get close enough to the Berry Islands for me to see them as we passed by, and as much as I wanted to yell “Land Ho!”, it just didn’t feel right since that wasn’t even the land we were headed toward. When Matt woke up I made him assure me that we’d be in Nassau before the sun set that night because we still had the option to check into the Berry Islands and I was getting desperate to get off the boat after two days now. He said it would absolutely not be a problem.
Riding the winds as far SW as we could go, once they began shifting and making us fall off even further, we decided it was time to tack. Trying to put ourselves on a SE course now, the winds were just not being cooperative and we were left headed due east. Since we did need to go east as well as south, we left it alone for a few hours until our speed dropped down to just over three knots. This was not going to get us to Nassau before dark. Knowing that we still had about 9-10 hours of engine time left, I finally convinced Matt to let us put it on just after noon. The winds and waves were now fighting us and keeping us still moving at only 3 knots, but at least now it was in the right direction. Time dragged on all afternoon as we meandered closer to our destination and I continued to calculate the distance and time to make sure we would not be coming in after the sun set. I even sat with my hands pressed against the boat, willing it to go faster, which actually did help bring the speed up one full knot. Now if only I could will a winning lottery ticket to fall in my lap. Getting closer, I threw our Waterway Guide at Matt and told him to pick out an anchorage.
I had already read through the information stating that this was a horrible harbor to anchor in, and although people still do it it’s because ‘the wallet was thin and necessity outweighed common sense’. Being a little weary I asked Matt if he was sure he wanted to anchor in an area known for poor holding and strong currents. He initially said it would be fine, but apparently he had not read the information I had in the guidebook discussing how horrible the conditions were including sunken ships and discarded tackle. Once he found that out we decided that a marina might be a better choice. Good thing too, because before entering the harbor you’re supposed to clear in with the harbor master and get permission. They ask where you have a reservation, and if you tell them you’re going to anchor they may be a little weary of letting you in. Having listed to a few other boats coming in so I could get a feeling for the protocol, it was time to call in myself. Although it seemed to be working fine everywhere else we’ve gone, our radio was not transmitting a strong signal this day (probably due to all the other traffic in the area) and the harbor master was having a very hard time making out our information. After being asked for our boat name a third time I finally gave up repeating just the letters and thought he might understand it better if done phonetically. Starting out quite sure of myself I called into the radio “Sierra, Echo, Romeo, Echo, November……Uhhhhh”. My mind was drawing a blank. Looking to Matt for help he started feeding me words which I then mumbled into the radio. It came out all confusing and I completely forgot the P. Ugh. Where was my over-caffinated insomniac mind when I needed it?
Eventually the harbor master got all of our information down, or I just let him think that whatever he had was correct, and we were given permission to enter. Getting the sails ready to come down, Matt went up on deck to pull down the main while I remained in the cockpit to handle sheets. It came down smoothly, and while we were both back in the cockpit tidying up lines when Matt noticed his e-reader under a pile of them and also noticed it had been stepped on by me. Personally I don’t remember stepping on it at all, and who leaves things sitting around in places they could get stepped on anyway, but apparently it was hard enough to break the screen and the device was now useless. Needless to say, Matt was not very happy, and we made the rest of the journey in without speaking to each other, except for him to tell me that we weren’t spending our money at a marina anymore because that now needed to go to buying a new e-reader. I could have argued the fact that possibly damaging the boat due to poor holding could come out costing a lot more than a new e-reader, but I don’t think he wanted to listen to that. Just past the basin for all the cruise ships though, we did find a area with a group of huddled masts, and the bottom was clear enough to see that we were dropping into sand and grass, and Serendipity would be just fine sitting there. Putting our disheveled boat back together, we then made dinner and promptly passed out by 9:30.
First thing in the morning I had an important job to do, and that was to get us checked into the country so all three of us were legal and the boat was legal as well. Only the captain is allowed off the boat until check in is completed, everyone else is quarantined to the boat until this is finished. You might be wondering why I’m being sent out instead of Matt, but between us, we decided I’d be the best one for the job. Matt isn’t the most fond of waiting in lines, being sent on goose chases around town to find buildings, and probably most importantly, is an admitted failure at learning a new language (for all the Spanish speaking countries we plan on visiting). I used to think he was joking until he honestly could not retain the phrase “Yo soy Americano”. This also brought me back to a story his mom likes to tell of when she was getting him ready for preschool and teaching him the alphabet. After the third time of her asking, “Matt, what letter comes after B?”, he replied “I’m sick of this sh%t!” and stormed off.* So as far as check-ins are concerned, I am captain and master. Getting dressed in my finest khakis and button up shirt (it’s respectful to clear in wearing your nicest clothes), I hopped in the dinghy and waved good-bye to Matt and Georgie, in search of a local restaurant with free use of their dinghy dock.
Walking the mile or so up to the cruise ship port I was escorted inside by security where I was pointed in a few different directions before finally being pointed towards the immigration room. Handing over all my paperwork I began answering multiple question including when we had gotten in. When I replied it was the previous night around sunset, the one seemingly unfriendly women in the building asked me why I did not come to clear in at that time. Let’s see…single white girl roaming through an unfamiliar country in the dark, is that a good reason? I told her the honest answer that I didn’t come in the previous night because I thought they were already closed, but wondered what would have happened if I gave the smart-ass reply of “Cause I be on Island Time mon!”. I’m pretty sure I would have been told I was not welcome and to go back from where I came. Getting our passports stamped and heading over to customs, I paid my $300 and in return got a temporary cruising permit. We were now legal in the Bahamas. Feeling quite proud of myself for getting us checked in, even though I did need to ask for help on a couple of questions for the forms, I put all of our paperwork in my backpack to start the hike back to the boat. Which happened to be in a frickin’ downpour. By the time I was back in the dinghy it was a complete white out. Having Matt go out in his swimsuit to lower our quarantine flag and raise the Bahama flag in it’s place, I pulled out all of our now wet paperwork from the backpack and laid it out across counter tops to dry. Note to self, next time bring a dry bag as well as a backpack.
Still having a good portion of the day to explore Nassau we changed into dry clothes, even though the rain was now subsiding, and went back to the dinghy dock. First we knocked out a few errands like buying a new back-up belt for our engine, and a new bilge pump switch at the marine store since we just found that ours had been damaged in the accident. Since the marine store happened to be right across from the bridge that led to the Atlantis Resort we walked across it to check out the grounds. I had some thoughts of gambling on the penny slots just to get a few drinks in return, but walking through the casino floors it didn’t sound as entertaining anymore and we kept walking through the building and all the way out to the public beach. It was completely packed and at every turn there were locals trying to sell something to you. Beach chairs or umbrellas, towels and sarongs, and even the promise of a never ending glass of cocktails for $20/day. We weren’t in our suits, in fact I wasn’t even in sandals, and we wanted to explore more of the town.
Crossing the bridge back over to town, one of our main goals was to try and find internet service so we could let our family know that we were still alive. It took two stops at Dunkin Donuts and then finally a McDonalds when we were able to get service that was slow enough for Matt to reply to one email and for me to put a quick post on Facebook. Also having kept our eyes open for an electronics store on our way up the crowded tourist covered streets so we could replace Matt’s e-reader, we hadn’t seen one so we ended up asking the security guard on our way out of McDonalds. He suggested we go up to Marathon Mall and told us what bus we would need to take to get there. Getting on the jitney full of locals and school kids, we were whisked through the outskirts of town and dropped off at the local mall where all the older school kids were hanging out in their uniforms after class. Three different electronics stores and all we could find was a Kindle for a few hundred dollars. Not quite what we were looking for. So instead we settled for a data plan for our cell phone where we’ll be able to get internet service on it whenever we’re near a tower.
Taking the bus back to the waterfront we realized we forgot one more thing at the marine store and stopped in just before closing to pick up some Explorer charts for the Exumas. Saddling up to the bar where our dinghy was sitting, we threw back a Kalik and looked through our new charts. We had never been paper chart people before, we used electronic charts the whole way down the states and into Nassau, but we kept hearing great things about this brand and figured it would also be smart to have a paper back-up. While looking through all the islands we discussed in length we’re we’d be going now that we were here and how long we would stay. I had only put 30 days on our permit, assuming we might be out of the Bahamas within just a few weeks. Discussions veered from doing the Eastern Caribbean, the Western Caribbean, or even the Bahamas and back to the states to work for the summer. That one was quickly ruled out but we, although are inclined to one particular side of the Caribbean at the moment, figured we work our way down to George Town Exumas within a week, get some of the real cruising lifestyle in, and figure it out from there.
*Matt has since lost his potty mouth. He rarely swears anymore, and I’m not allowed to either. (Apparently I’m too sweet for such foul words to come out of my mouth (mostly agree)). Which is why I always make sure to drop a few F bombs when I’ve been drinking.