Week 9: Crossing Over to The Bahamas’ Great Harbour Cay

The Gulf Stream current runs strong south to north between Florida and The Bahamas and opposing winds whip up steep, choppy waves that create nasty to hazardous conditions for vessels. With frequent north winds from winter’s gales, savvy sailors wait weeks or longer for light to moderate winds and settled seas to venture a crossing.

We had a gnarly Gulf Stream encounter on our first trip on Vinyasa in 2017, and no desire for an encore. We now monitor the weather closely through PredictWind, and this week we also signed up for Chris Parker’s Marine Weather Service. We heeded his recommendation and delayed our departure from Ft. Lauderdale from noon on Monday to Tuesday morning to increase our chances of having a better sea state, and were glad we did.

Still, I felt butterflies flutter in my stomach as we made our final preparations to depart. Another earthquake had just awakened friends in Puerto Rico, and our thoughts were with them as we hoisted anchor at 5:30 am to get through Las Olas Bridge’s 5:45 am opening, and the 17th Street bridge at 6:00 am. We aimed to exit the Port Everglades inlet as first light appeared on the horizon, and be across the Gulf Stream before 2 pm.

17th Street Bascule Bridge opening in early morning darkness
Waiting to pass through Ft. Lauderdale’s 17th Street bascule bridge, just before sunrise.

Our destination: Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, which we would reach before dawn on Wednesday.

Allan napping in the cockpit at sunrise
Allan, who had been up for hours, getting a few minutes rest as we head east from Fort Lauderdale early on Jan. 7th.

I’m sleep challenged under optimum conditions, so on this trip I opted for frequent catnaps, resting well enough to stand solid watches throughout the day and night.

Allan had been working hard on Vinyasa in the days leading up to our departure, and it felt good to to drive the boat while he got some much needed rest or worked on the boat some more.

Tubing from the watermaker pours briny water into sea
First fill up of our fresh water tank using the Cruise RO watermaker, as we made way to Great Harbour Cay. The red tube is shooting briny water back into the sea, and the gray tube is putting fresh water into one of our two water tanks…an interim solution until Allan drills a new through-hull above the waterline.

It was a busy week.

Last Saturday, as soon as Allan commissioned the watermaker we checked out of Bahia Mar Marina in Ft. Lauderdale and anchored in the nearby New River Sound, just north of the municipal Las Olas Marina, happy to shed the $203 per night docking fee.

We’d left Vinyasa at dock countless days, and often on a mooring ball. A “first” this week was leaving her alone at anchor while we ran errands around town.

View of New River from Las Olas bridge
The arrow points to Vinyasa at anchor in the New River, viewed from Las Olas bridge.

Before dinghying away, we spent a windy night without dragging – with Allan on anchor watch – so we were confident in our ground tackle’s strong hold, but still…it’s a weird feeling to wonder how we’d carry on with the clothes on our backs and the contents of our pockets and phones. This will soon be second nature, but for now, it induces a slight bit of anxiety.

Arriving in The Bahamas is worth that and more.

“I feel like I’m finally retired,” Allan said with a big grin when daylight revealed the contours of our initial anchorage.

Anchorage in Bullocks Harbour
When the sun came up, we were able to see our surroundings in Bullocks Harbour.

We were soon on our way to nearby Great Harbour Cay Marina to check in with the Bahamian authorities, and spend a week easing into Island Time mode. It was only 2 nautical miles away, but required entering through a narrow cut. Not an entrance to be navigated at night!

Allan helming Vinyasa through a Bahamanian cut
Allan deftly helmed Vinyasa through our first Bahamanian cut.

The formalities with immigration/customs were easy. The marina provided the required forms, and a friendly government agent processed our entry, along with that of seven other vessels, beneath a nearby gazebo.

Allan filling out Bahamas immigration and customs forms
Allan filling out Bahamas immigration and customs forms, as the government agent processes another cruiser’s paperwork at the next table.

We took advantage of the marina’s grocery store run to check out the local offerings. As we’d anticipated, selection was slim but given the delivery boat had just come the day before we bought a head of broccoli, a bunch of green onions, a plantain and an orange. The bill came to $10.47, which wasn’t too bad. The marina also was offering “pizza night” via which a large pizza is delivered to your boat at your selected time ($30 for a 16 inch meat lover). Nice!

Thursday morning, the day after our arrival, was perfect for an initial walkabout. Being able to easily get off the boat to walk was a primary factor for docking rather than anchoring out this week. High winds in St. Augustine had kept us pinned to our mooring ball for days at a time, and we didn’t want that to be the case during our introduction to The Bahamas, where the wind is forecast to blow hard for another few days.

Pickup truck on a Great Harbour Cay road
Love how almost every other passing driver waves a friendly greeting as you walk along the road.
Beach Access sign
A promising sign!
Side road to Ship Yard Beach
Getting closer to Ship Yard Beach after making two wrong turns…
Ship Yard Beach
Ship Yard Beach was deserted on a Thursday morning.
Sand and rocks at Ship Yard Beach
Another view of Ship Yard Beach. The different hues of blue are so pretty on a sunny day.

Vinyasa is rocking gently in her slip and the wind is whistling as I get ready to publish this post, reminders to relinquish expectations and relax into what is.

Which Bahamanian anchorage we go to from here, when weather allows, will be influenced by the wind’s direction. So more about that in our next post.

Wishing us all, on land or at sea, a peaceful and happy week.

10 thoughts on “Week 9: Crossing Over to The Bahamas’ Great Harbour Cay”

    1. Tara, thanks so much for reading and for the kind words. Knowledge acquired – and friendships formed – at Cruisers University are an integral part of this path we’re charting!

  1. Glad your crossing was safe and that you are making that well earned transition to island time and life.

  2. Great post! Looking forward to reading about your onward stops. Great Harbour Cay is already on our list.

    At Ease, in the Keys

  3. Love being able to follow your adventures. And hoping those Bahamian winds blow you Barbados way, would love to see you here. Carlisle Bay is a beautiful calm spot to anchor in, and we can cook you pizzas to exceed your greatest expectations!

    1. Would love, love, love to see you guys…so who knows, maybe the wind will blow us your way!

      Sending lots of love in the meantime!

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