Bahamaspedition #1

When I started looking for a boat a few years ago the idea of self supported diving trips to the Bahamas was at the forefront of my daydreams. The crossing seemed challenging but the remote yet paradise-like potential of tropical karst was very appealing. The C-Dory is an excellent vessel for this kind of trip with an adequate fuel and water range, decent fuel economy and ability to maintain handling in as big a sea as I’m comfortable being out in. There were however, a few extra adaptations for this trip:

-A second, 15hp outboard was added for redundancy. This will move the boat at 5 knots
-An additional 12 gallon fuel tank was carried as a reserve
-I installed a powered freshwater system to rinse and flush the motor of salt water as needed
-I purchased an EPIRB and carried multiple GPS devices with charts, plus a compass
-I buffed/waxed the boat and installed new teak handrails (can’t look rough in a pretty place)

Questions I’ve gotten a lot:
Launch point: We launched from Currie Park Boat Launch in West Palm Beach. Van/trailer parking was $10 a day and despite security patrols the area appears a bit sketchy. We had a horrible interaction with someone while we were pulling the boat, I would absolutely stay in pairs and keep a watchful eye over one another.
Weather window:
I used Marv’s Weather for forecasting, it was very close to what we observed. General recommendation is to avoid the crossing if there is any northern component to the winds, we crossed with ~10 knot winds from the ENE producing 2-4′ waves and were fine.
Crossing time:
The first leg took 4hrs with a cruising speed of 10 knots (due to rough conditions) and a nice swim in the abyss halfway across. On our return we averaged 18 knots and were home in a little over 3hrs including another swim.
Customs process:
We completed Click2Clear paperwork online, paid $150 for a 3-month cruising/fishing permit and printed that out. You will also need passports and a copy of your vessel registration. Once you enter Bahamian waters, fly the yellow quarantine flag and head to customs. We cleared at Old Bahama Bay and although there were 3 people in line before us, we were in and out in 20 minutes. On the return to the US there is a CBP app to download, we filled in our info and were cleared to enter with no further effort.
Why didn’t Sheck come?
Dogs are able to travel to the Bahamas but require additional cost and a vet inspection within 10 days of the crossing. In future trips I would absolutely love to bring him along, but since this was my first trip and I was figuring out logistics I didn’t want to complicate things further. He’ll be along soon 🙂

Vital stats:
Crew: Teddy and Kadi
Miles/duration: ~230 miles over 6 days/5 nights. May 4-9, 2023
Fuel consumed: ~60 gallons (about 3.8mpg)
Fuel cost: $5+/gal in Bahamas (we filled 42 gallons there)
Costs: $200 food etc, $300 fuel, $50 2 stroke oil, $150 cruising permit
Hours on motor: 1161 to 1179 (18hrs)

Day One:

We launched from Currie Park Boat Launch in West Palm Beach around sunset. We motored out to the north end of Lake Worth and anchored just to the south of Peanut Island.

Day Two:

Woke up and were on the water around 6:30am, conveniently in the wake of another boat making the same crossing. We stopped twice to go swimming. The deep blue of the water matched the accent color of my boat, and when we arrived in the Bahamas around 11:40am it reminded me a lot of the cushion color. The crossing has 2-3’ waves with occasion 4’s, but the spacing made it so we couldn’t go very fast. We averaged 13-14 knots on the crossing, reducing our fuel economy pretty significantly. Navigation the marina wasn’t too difficult, lots of people to help out. Customs was pretty simple since we’d filled out paperwork online. I went for a quick run from the marina and then we topped off fuel, paying over $5/gal for the 21.5 gallons needed to cross. Due to the waves and our slow speed, averaged 3.2 miles per gallon. After topping off fuel we headed west and did some snorkeling north of the inlet, seeing a large shark and lots of pretty fish. We set off for Mangrove Cay and were fighting the wind the entire way, causing us to cruise at about 10 knots. It was a rough ride. We tried (unsuccessfully) to find a sunken Piper airplane but had fun fighting the wind on our stand up paddleboard. We spent some time playing in the mud on the beach, lots of cool things to look at.

Day Three:

Woke up to a rough anchorage, but in the best location possible given the conditions. We took our time this morning and actually made coffee and breakfast. Unfortunately the wind continued to pick up, making it impossible to get to our next planned spot even further northeast. We swam ashore pulling the SUP behind us. There was a nice channel that looked like a spring run and had a distinctly colder temperature to it, making us think we were hot on the trail of a nice cave spring. We took the right turn first, and about 1/2 mile into the mangroves we had to take to swimming to get any further. We saw tons of fish, a few sea turtles, puffer fish and at one pint there was even a large tarpon that ended up in my lap as it attempted to evade me. It was quite the day. No caves to be seen. We returned and then went up the other turn as far as we could, finding much of the same. On the way back we stopped along the low tide shoreline and went for a mile run, finding some cool old bottles along the way. We also explored the ruins of an old lighthouse tower, and I found a really cool old bottle that was square in shape and said “Dr. J. Hofstetter’s Stomach Bitters”. We returned to the boat, now sitting in low tide at 1.9’ and doing just fine. Dinner and a movie, Life Aquatic. Windy all evening, there are two other boats taking advantage of this anchorage.

Day Four:

Wavy night with high winds, anchor held firm and we didn’t move anywhere. Up at 7:30, waves and wind should die down later in the day. Pancakes for breakfast and then on the move. We tried to go to some blue holes on the north side of grand Bahama, the first one about 10 miles away. The NE winds were making it really difficult, 4-6’ waves with 20 knot gusts. We had a lot of leaks pop up, both hatches and the starboard navigation light. The first blue hole we stopped at had marginal success, tons of fish and some possible cave entrances but there were literally sharks blocking all entrances. We had 26 marked sites to check out but ended up deciding that it was too rough. We returned to west end and did some really awesome snorkeling in the afternoon, then fueled up the boat at Old Bahama Bay. We went back out and headed south, to a wonderful anchorage I’d seen on google satellite imagery. It was a series of channels cut into the island and partially developed, so there were roads and the water but not much else. Had a nice run and paddle around, fixed the leaky navigation light in the dark.

Day Five:

Headed east from our anchorage to some other possible blue holes, came up dry on caves but Kadi found the engine, transmission and propeller from a shipwreck. We spent the entire day out on the water and found a lot of cool limestone features and coral reefs teeming with life. Kadi got an introduction to SCUBA and seemed to really enjoy it. At night we anchored near our previous night’s spot, just as peaceful and secluded as before.

Day Six:

On the water at a reasonable 9am. We stopped outside of the channel and did some last minute snorkeling before setting off. The journey home was wonderful, with light gusts from behind us and barely any waves to speak of. We ran wide open for a little while just to stretch the motor’s legs, but mostly cruised at our most fuel efficient speed of about 18 knots. We stopped another time to swim in the middle of the ocean, then made it into West Palm around noon. We pulled the boat and headed to my house for some R&R and a thorough washdown of the very salty C-Dory.