We learned early in our cruising days that flexibility is critical and having a Plan B up our sleeves is always handy. It was Dec 23rd and the Captain and I had resigned ourselves to spending Christmas in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon. We were surprised to hear a fellow boater announcing on the Departures section of our daily Cruiser's Net that they were leaving for the Bahamas that afternoon. We checked online and sure enough the wind forecast had been downgraded from 15-20 knots to 5-10 knots out of the south.
We looked at each other over our late breakfast and thought the same thing. Let's go for it. Perfect or even near perfect weather to cross to the Bahamas can take days, even weeks waiting time. For the first 8 days we spent in Marathon the winds blew steadily out of the North or Northeast. We needed winds from the South to cross the Gulf Stream and all of a sudden there was not only a change in direction but a decrease in wind speed.
Plan B was quickly put in effect. We crammed activities that we had planned to spread leisurely over several days into a few short hours so that we could take advantage of this opportunity.
The Captain took the dingy to shore, filled up our four 20 gallon water jugs, biked to the bank machine for cash, stopped at the store quickly, dropped off some mail and loaded the bikes from the bike rack at the marina into the dingy. I stayed back at the boat and battened down the hatches, secured everything inside in case of rough seas, opened the windows upstairs, quickly vacuumed the boat, gathered together the garbage and had a quick shower. When the Captain returned we emptied the water into our water tank and jumped back in the dingy to fill up the 4 gas cans we carry for dingy fuel.
Half way to the marina we realized that neither of us had brought a wallet so back the boat we went, retrieving wallets and sunscreen since the day was turning out to be a scorcher.
After filling the gas tanks and disposing of our garbage, or trash as they call it down here, we headed back to the boat and John added the correct amount of oil to each of our 4 tanks, which are all different sizes. Normally we would pull our dingy out of the water and mount it on the back of the boat for traveling at this point but with 3 anchors out we needed it until 2 anchors were retrieved and we were hanging only on our main CQR anchor. I changed into a old bikini top and John removed his shirt, since pulling up anchors and anchor line is dirty business. John took 2 life rings with him so that if he wasn't able to pull up either of the anchors he could mark them and we could come back once our main anchor was up to pull them out with the boat.
Luckily both anchors came up easily after just a week at the bottom. John handed them up to me on the bow of the boat from down below in the dingy. I had to be ready to pull in the chain in on our CQR anchor as soon as the 2nd one was up as we started to swing towards the boat next to us. Even a week is long enough to grow a nice slimy coating on line in the warm, salt water so I used our wash-down pump to hose off the furry anchor line. I took over the helm while the Captain went down and put away the 3rd anchor and line and the 2nd anchor line, which was lying in a pile on the bow of the boat. It was 2:30 p.m. and we were finally underway. We adjusted our speed in order to arrive at Bimini as the sun came up around 7 am.
Taking turns driving and coming downstairs to read or rest made the time go slightly faster but it still felt like a long night. The radar showed plenty of traffic out in the dark and bright lights coming and going off on the horizon. It was creepy a couple of times on the flybridge while John was sleeping. A dot started blinking suddenly close by on the radar and I lights appeared from out of nowhere. Both the dot and the lights disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared, not slowly off into the distance like the other traffic, just gone. Submarines I say. The Captain thinks I'm nuts.
John woke me as the sun was coming up and I made coffee in time to enjoy it as we cruised into Bimini, exhausted, sticky and salty but glad to be there.