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Safe Passage

Once again, the Bahamas courtesy flag flies beneath our starboard spreader!

As planned, we left Boot Key Harbor on Tuesday. Our departure, as well as the following voyage were a bit more eventful than we would have cared for, but in the end, it was a safe passage. Two humans, two animals, and one vessel arrived to Great Harbour Cay in much the same condition they left Marathon in. For that, we are grateful to God, and our trusty Born Again.

It was about 1100 when we cast off the lines Tuesday morning from mooring ball R9 where we had been secured for over a month. After completing an extensive list of checks and tasks, I was sure we were ship shape and ready to go. We were... all the way to mooring ball R10.

As per our usual routine, Amy was on the bow and hollered back, "We're free!" as soon as the lines were loosed. I gradually hit the throttle to pull away, but within about 5 seconds, I determined we had no steering! I was spinning the wheel, but nothing was happening. We were adrift with no control over where we would go or what we would collide with in a crowded mooring field. I noticed we were drifting in the general direction of mooring ball R10 (fortunately, that was a vacant ball), and after calling Amy for the boat hook, managed to reach out and grab it. We still had some forward momentum from my initial burst of power and I'm not sure how I managed to stop 28,000 lbs from continuing on its course by holding onto a mooring line with my bare hands, but I did. We quickly tied off to our new mooring ball to assess the problem.

We lowered the dinghy back down off the davits and into the water to get a better view of the rudder. We began inspecting the steering, but it appeared to be working perfectly. The wheel, rudder, auto-pilot, and hydraulics were all doing exactly what they were supposed to do. After about 10 minutes of checking and re-checking, it hit me, and I said aloud to Amy, "I know what it is! We forgot to pray!"

I had said a couple times before we cast off that I felt like we were forgetting something, but ultimately decided it was my imagination. Wrong. I forgot to invite Jesus along for the ride. It is my intention to call on the Lord anytime we move the boat even a mile, let alone 200 miles, but in this instance, I got too caught up in the physical and forgot all about it. As I have replayed it in my mind several times now, I am quite certain that our steering issue (if there even was one) was simply God reminding me that He is the one holding it all together for us and I must depend on him every step of the way. That includes remembering to call on Him.

We gathered together in the cockpit, called on Him to guide and protect our voyage, then untied the lines again and departed the harbor. There were no further steering issues. On our way out, we stopped to fuel up, and by 1200, we were through the channel and under way.

Conditions were not mild. They were not dangerous, but they were far from comfortable. The seas averaged three feet, which means there was the occasional five or six footer that would come right over the bow. We beat directly into the wind and waves the entire way. It was our third Gulf Stream crossing, so we knew what to expect regarding sea state, but on my midnight to 0400 watch on Wednesday morning, I was shocked by the number of ships out there. I felt like I was on a slalom course. At one point, I had a cruise ship passing me at the stern, a tanker crossing at the bow and another tanker bearing down on me from the starboard. Granted, they were all a mile or more away from me, but considering their size and speed compared to mine, it was a bit unnerving. I was very thankful for our radar that night, as it helped me to keep track of the various ships' speed and position.

About 0700 on Wednesday, on Amy's watch, we entered onto the Great Bahama Bank at South Riding Rock. Being through the Gulf Stream and into shallower water, meant the seas were a bit milder, and there were no more ships to worry about. The hard part was over. We kept at it until about 1800 that evening and then anchored on the Bank in about 20 feet of water. It is very surreal to drop anchor when you're out of sight of land, but we were ready for the break. It was pretty rolly out their, but we slept well anyway from the sheer exhaustion of getting beat up for 30 hours straight.

In the morning, we awoke to a beautiful Bahamian rainbow, weighed anchor and motored the last 4 hours, arriving at the marina at about noon on Thursday. With a significant breeze blowing my bow around, I managed to get Born Again safely into the slip after one aborted attempt. Customs and Immigration happened to be on site for another arriving vessel, so we didn't even have a chance to get tied up properly before I was ashore dealing with the clear-in process.

When we arrived here last year, we had jumped through lots of hoops and red tape to bring the animals into the country. Forms and fees and vet visits had taken many hours and many hundreds of dollars, only to have the officials ignore them completely, so this year, we didn't bother with any of it. Oops. Shouldn't have done that. It was a problem.

I'll spare you the details, but $450 dollars and a couple hours later, we had it worked out. I'm not positive if that money is going in someone's pocket, or to the department of agriculture. I can tell you I didn't get a receipt, and I don't care. It was still cheaper and less hassle than last year. That being said, I won't forgo the correct paperwork again. I wish there was some way to lay a guilt trip on a pet.

We'll be staying here in Great Harbor for one week, catching up with friends from last year, and hopefully making new ones. But all that is for next weeks post!

Fair winds and following seas, and may God bless you all!

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