Underway on Southern Star

We departed Old Port Cove Marina for our first passage on Southern Star on Dec 28. We had delayed a week already as we waited for a weather window to allow us to make the 60 mile passage across the Gulf Stream. And the weather window finally presented itself. 

We planned to make the passage at night, so to arrive at West End, Grand Bahama in the morning with plenty of light to clear in and continue along the southern coast of Grand Bahama to Ocean Reef Marina. There are no anchorages on the south side of Grand Bahama, and the Abacos (of which Grand Bahama is a part of) are very open to the north and to the often strong winds generated by cold fronts coming out of the US. So we have decided after taking some advice from Dennis on Sea Fox (multiple Nordhavn owner- and current owner of Sea Fox N50 and soon to be Sea Fox N57) to visit the Abacos on the way back north at the end of the season for more settled weather. 

And so we are planning to GO SOUTH. West End our first stop.

Leaving the marina was exciting, and Scott and the boys from Yacht Tech, helped us with out lines and we were off, at about 3:00 pm.

We enjoyed the slow cruise to Lake Worth Channel exit with lots of boat traffic, as it is still Christmas holiday season, and the South Florida weather is amazing. 85 degrees F/28 C and perfect. No winds, flat seas.

We need to allow for the 3-4 knot Gulf Stream Current as it flow northerly, pushing you North. So with a 25 degree compensation south, we set our course to West End, departing Lake Worth inlet at about 4:00 pm.

The boat was running well, but I realized that the fan on the stack blower was not running when the main engine was running. I was concerned for the exhaust temperature in the stack getting too hot. Fearing big problems I called Yacht Tech and was advised that as it was so calm, I could run with the lazarette open to help to cool the engine room, and fix the fan upon arrival. 

And the crossing was uneventful. We arrived just south of our waypoint, with the 25 degree correction working perfectly at 4:00 am, a bit early for coming into the tricky cut. So we slowed and circled and waited for sunrise. 

Our radars and AIS giving us good notice of the shipping traffic going into Freeport. I made radio contact with two ships to communicate our intentions and to understand how closely we would cross. 

Finally with a beautiful sunrise, we angled northerly to West End- to clear into the Bahamas. 

We found the marina busy with visiting sportfish boats, and a few yachts that had come across in the ideal Gulf Stream conditions. 

Customs was fast and easy, and we were officially on our first cruising permit for 6 months in the Bahamas. 

We departed and planned to travel across the southern side of Grand Bahama to dock at Ocean Reef Marina and Yacht Club, between Freeport and Port Lucaya, about 25 miles away. 

Crossing Freeport Harbour was interesting, as it is a major shipping port, and had dozens of large container ships, tankers, and other commercial traffic. We meandered past the port, watching a pilot boat drop off the pilot on to a large container ship, and then two tugs coming along side while the ship continued at his 10 knot speed. Very nice to see professional seamen working. 

An hour later, we spotted our cut (Silver Point) for Ocean Reef and headed toward it. The winds had picked up and were from the south, right behind us, as we approached Siver Cut, piloting from the flybridge. The cut was very narrow, maybe 25-30 feet wide, and I could see shallow water and sand bars inside the cut. 

Hurricane Matthew had clobbered the Bahamas in October and we would see its aftermath over and over again. West End marina had no power, and now Silver Cut had silted up due to the storm. 

Some beachers were playing around in the white sand beach in the cut, and they hailed me on the VHF- “vessel coming into Silver Cut. “

My hands full with steering and controlling the throttle, Jenny answered. 

The beach goer announces that the cut is very shallow, right as we nudged the bottom in 1.6 m of water, and looking ahead there was even more shallow water ahead about 50 feet. 

No way were we going to make this cut. I reversed and steering back out of the cut in reverse. No room to turn around, backing slowly into the 10 knot breeze, using my thrusters to control my steerage. 

150 metres and we were back with some more room to turn around and head back into deeper waters.

Too much excitment but no harm no foul, we contacted Port Lucaya about 5 miles further east, to confirm space and DRAFT of the Bell Channel entrance. 

And so we tied up in Port Lucaya for the next 7 days, waiting for cold fronts to go by and to give us another weather window for our next passage to the Berry Islands. 


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