The alarm wakes us at 3:30 AM. At 4:15 AM, the anchor is up at Fisher Island. In complete darkness, Cutter Loose inches her way towards a right-hand turn into Government Cut. At 4:30 AM, there is already considerable activity in the channel. Two inbound ships with tugs hug the green (outbound) side of the channel. Obviously, they require the entire width of the channel to maneuver. Just our luck to be transiting Government Cut at such a busy time. Beyond the entrance channel two other ships are hovering, awaiting pilots beyond the sea buoy. In darkness, it is difficult to decipher the light patterns and movements of these behemoths. It is a stressful way to begin the day.
The wind today is 8 to 13 knots out of the southeast. On an outgoing tide, wind against current kick up a lumpy chop in the channel. The waves are invisible in darkness. But once at sea, the motion becomes rhythmic as we make sail and turn the bow northeast towards West End on Grand Bahama Island, a distance of 74 miles. Within just a few miles of the Miami sea buoy, the depthsounder screen becomes blank, no longer capable of measuring the ocean depths. We will not see soundings again until we approach West End.
The effects of the Gulf Stream are felt within five miles of Miami. Speed over ground increases to 9.5 knots as Cutter Loose is swept north by the current. We are making excellent time to our destination. At first light, the outlines of clouds become faintly visible on the horizon. At dawn, we see white sails on the horizon that correspond to the targets we have been following on the radar. It is reassuring to be able to make visual contact with our buddy boats, if only tiny specs on the horizon.
Sunrise is a special time on the ocean. The indigo color of the water is phenomenal. Flying fish skim atop the crests of the waves. It is a good day to be sailing to the Bahamas.
At 1:30 PM, the water tower at West End becomes visible through the binoculars at a distance of 8 miles. By 3 PM, Cutter Loose is securely tied in her slip at Old Bahama Bay flying her yellow quarantine flag.
The first order of business is clearing customs. Thankfully, we can accomplish this at the Immigration Office right here at Old Bahama Bay. There is a mound of paperwork to be completed. And there is a $300 cash payment to be made for our four month Bahamian cruising permit.
Once back aboard Cutter Loose, the Q flag is lowered and the Bahamian courtesy flag is raised on the starboard spreader, whereupon Cutter Loose is rewarded with a well-deserved bath. This marina and resort feature a pool and a tiki hut restaurant, where our group of fellow travelers gather in the evening to celebrate our long-awaited arrival in the Bahamas. After an eleven hour sail, sleep will come easily tonight.