Feb. 25 – March 2: While this is really about our arrival into the U.S. from Bimini, I have to back up a bit to give you the proper perspective.
We spent six days in Nassau waiting on a three-day weather window that would take us to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands, across the Bahama Bank to Bimini, and then on to Fort Lauderdale. When it looked like we would have at least two days, we decided to move on and get to Bimini so that we would cross the Gulf Stream when the wind and seas permitted.
Now, Chub is usually a great stop — wonderful floating docks, experienced dockhands and a great restaurant — that is, when they have electricity. An hour after we fueled and docked, the power went out. Twice we were assured it would be back on “soon,” and the restaurant had a generator so no problem there. Turns out the generator went out, and the restaurant didn’t open. The power never did come back on.
We ate dinner on board and finally went to bed in the heat because we needed to get up at 3 a.m. for a 4 a.m. departure to get to Bimini in daylight. Departing in the dark is always a tense experience, but we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.
We had a long 13-hour, easy crossing under power, arriving in Bimini by 4:30 p.m. only to find out the best restaurant in Alice Town was closed. Dinner was the most disappointing one on the entire trip, and for those of you who know Ed, this is a serious problem — particularly after our experience on Chub.
We intended to stay over in Bimini at least a day to recover our lack of sleep and the long crossing, but the weather forecast in the morning indicated the next day would be the only day we could cross for the next week. Still not totally recovered, we were not eager to stay another week, so we topped off the fuel and departed for Fort Lauderdale at 8 a.m.
Our crossing started out even better than the forecast. We did get five-foot northerly swells in the Gulf Stream, but even that subsided once we got closer to Florida.
But then the seas became confused. In nautical terms, this means the waves come from one direction and the wind from another. Everything gets mixed up, and controlling the direction of the boat is a challenge. Plus, we were functioning on two long days on the water and very little sleep.
Now understand, Port Everglades, known to all of us as Fort Lauderdale, is a very active port — cruise ships, freighters and all sizes of pleasure craft come in here. So the really demanding part started just as we approached the outer marker for the channel into Fort Lauderdale. A very big container ship was also coming in under the guidance of a pilot boat. Add his wake to the already difficult seas, and Ed was trying to make the 3 o'clock opening of the only bridge before the marina.
Needless to say, we didn’t make it. So, we joined all the large sailboats and motor yachts standing off in the harbor waiting a half hour for the next opening. This is tense work making sure you don’t run into someone or someone doesn’t run into you. I don’t take the helm under these circumstances — it's all on Ed.
Then we heard over the radio that a 120-foot motor yacht was approaching the bridge under tow. He asked for an emergency opening, and the bridge tender said all vessels northbound could follow him through if we “bunched up.” Imagine boats jockeying to get through the bridge.
Next, our turn into Pier 66 Marina. We’ve been here many times, but not since they refurbished the marina and put in new docks. The person directing us to our slip assumed we knew the entrance had changed. We did not, and we weren’t the only ones. The sport fishing boat ahead of us backed up and came as close to hitting us as we have encountered. They have two engines to maneuver with — we don't. Only by yelling at them did we get their attention. Close call.
This marina is filled with very large luxury motor yachts, like Steven Spielberg’s $200 million yacht Seven Seas. You can charter it for a mere 1$.3 million per week — which includes staff but not fuel. That's not a yacht you want to damage.
It is very difficult to see around these huge yachts, and we couldn’t find our slip. We turned around, headed back out to the waterway and radioed the marina for clearer instructions. When we finally got to our slip, there was a dockhand to help tie up. But he didn’t get the stern line, and we came very close to hitting Brian France’s (owner and CEO of NASCAR) 107-foot yacht Finish Line docked beside us.
I must say kudos to Ed. He handled all these situations with outward calm but later admitted how tense (I think he’d admit to scared) he was. We were exhausted, more mentally than physically. It was just one thing after another. Fortunately we had a great dinner at Grille 66 and lots of red wine. Looking over the docks on the way to dinner, we realized we were the smallest boat in the marina as you can see. In fact, we were the only sailboat. Wonder why they tucked us at the far end of the marina?
One more problem remained. Since we are registered in the frequent boater program, we generally clear customs and immigration with a phone call. But since our last arrival into the U.S., Ed got a new passport. The next day we had to go to customs (a $20 taxi ride) to show his passport.
After everything that happened, we were happy to sit and recover for a few days in sunny South Florida.
— Janet and Ed on Sable