The weather is cooperating, finally. There seems to be some stable air to keep the winds down as we travel the Chesapeake Bay. Heading on the west side of the Bay our nest stop will be at Solomons. It is a very popular stop for boaters with all amenities available.
The Chesapeake is so calm today and running 50 some miles at 8 knts is comforable. Solomon’s is up a river that feeds the Bay. It has a wide mouth leading into the many marinas available. We are staying at Calvert’s Marina where loopers pay $1.00/foot. That is a heck of a deal. The docks are in great shape. The transient docks are floating and the best in the marina. There are restrooms and showers that need a good scrub but they work. The property itself is a potential beauty. The overgrown gardens and foliage need a haircut. The pool is in great shape and very clean but it was way too cold to swim. We were in sweats with this cold north wind. The marina is well protected too.
There isn’t much to do other than head out for a walk however the other side of the river offers the cute town which we had seen already. For some reason we are really tired today. We know we have to push for the next few days with the weather window we now have. It looks like we may make it on all these open waters to New York City.
Osprey is so secluded and quiet place on this east side of the USA. Fresh water clear with rich tanins make up a portion of our journey today. The quiet tranquil area of the area quickly becomes a space with large homes along the banks of the narrows and no wake zones. There are several along this path as we make our way to Southport, NC. The homes and boat traffic increase throughout the morning. Instead of solitude we are surrounded by large and small boaters enjoying this beautiful spring day. We are lucky to have the tides with us most of the way but with no wake zones we do step it down. At least the scenery is fun to watch and keeps the Captain on his toes while he boat and people watches. It makes his day more entertaining.
We were originally going to go to Deep Creek Marina but Scott noticed that once we “turned the corner” into Cape Fear there would be a 4 knt push against us. So I attempt for a marina prior to that “turn”. Southport Marina could accommodate us which turned out to be the best decision. There were so many Loopers here. Off Leash, Orion, Make it So, Ryker, and so many more. The local harbourhost invited us all over to his place for porchtails. That’s a BYOB and a snack if you wish and enjoy each others tails. As it turns out there were 23 of us Loopers. We were one short of tying the largest porchtail record.
The marina has everything you need with well kept docks. Water, power, showers, laundry, a nice boat lounge. They were wiped out last year with Hurricane Isaias so docks and amenities are only a year old. We didn’t wander around Southport as we came in late in the day and then set up for the Looper party.
Scott plans out our route for the next day. I managed to get all our marinas booked to Norfolk, VI where we will get our windlass manual part. It came into our friend’s place and he has resent it to Tidewater in Portsmouth, VI directly across from Norfolk.
We did chat with a few of the Loopers on the dock once we got back but as everyone knows Loopers midnight is 9:00. It is always nice to meet new friends along the way. We come and go and always seem to cross paths again at some point. We still meet up with friends from the loop we completed in 2017.
We leave Charleston in breezy but stable conditions. The winds have been following us this entire journey. Since Scott did not find an issue with the windless we don’t want to be stuck out on anchor and not have it come up. He did note that the windless had no manual backup so he did order the part and had it shipped. We were told it could be 2 weeks before coming in so we sent it to a friend. If it comes in we will ask to have it reshipped to a nearby marina. At least once we have the manual lift we can anchor again. This marina living is not for us.
We must pass through some more skinny waters but saw nothing under 8 ft. Although nerve wracking so far the depths have been really good. We have heard that South Carolina dredges and tries to keep ahead of the shoaling that continuously occurs.
Although not a long day we will stop at a local oil company where there is a dock available and reserved for us. The town is really small but it is a good stop for a 50 mile day. Lots more grasslands and lowlands. The scenery really doesn’t change other than the colour of the water from inlet to inland waterways. Although all part of the marine highway of the ICW.
Upon arriving at LeLand we find well kept docks. The cleats are not really secure but it is very protected here so winds should not be a problem. We decide to take a walk which did not disappoint. The trees are thousands of years old, from what we are told. The spanish moss hangs on the massive branches like Christmas lights. Along with the century old homes this place is a really nice find. The scenery and beauty of untouched trees and bush is so beautiful. We even found a well redone old Ford truck. Someone will have to tell me the year and model.
We wander over to the fish shack to see what is on today’s catch. We find salmon and flounder for an amazing price. We grab a few pounds of each for the freezer. Another great reason to stop here.
Back at the boat it is flounder for dinner, a good night’s sleep and a good push on in the morning.
The wreck of the Sapona is about 5 miles off the west coast of Bimini. The winds this morning are not favourable for a visit but are to lie down a bit by this afternoon.
Assessing the winds are favourable we jump in Heliopause with Patti and Todd from Alcyone and venture out to see the famous cement ship.
She was purchased and moved to Bimini, using it as a warehouse for alcohol during the era of Prohibition The owner also intended to use the ship as a floating nightclub, although this plan never came to fruition. In 1926 the ship ran aground in a hurricane and broke apart during a rum run.
During WWII the wreck was used for target practice by the US Army and Navy. Flight 19 vanished while returning from a bombing run to the Sapona.
The wreck lies in about 15 feet (4.6 m) of water, the stern broken off and partially submerged by hurricanes that struck in 2004. Little concrete is left on the hull because of the effects of bombing and weathering.
It is a great space for snorkeling and fishing as well. Scott quickly jumps in the water and checks the anchor hold. He snorkels around the wreck where people are swimming in the crevasses and jumping from what is left of the deck. As the engineer scans the wreck he quickly realizes that no one should be anywhere on or under the remains. It is barely being held together and will fall at moments notice. He only swims at a safe distance from what is left of the hull.
Coming back to the boat he notices the grasses move and determines there are conch living here. We are allowed 6 conch per day per boat. He only takes 4 and the larger ones of the lot. Conch in The Bahamas is a staple for the locals. We foreigners have restrictions but it seems the locals do not based on the amount of thrown out shells we see.
Heading back before the winds pick up yet again Patti and I contemplate how to cook this delicacy. Scott researches the internet to learn how to shuk the conch properly. He does figure that part out but the cleaning of the conch is more difficult. A local watches him struggle and comes to the rescue. He shows Scott how to do it properly but I think those skilled hands won’t be happening any time soon.
The winds were calm for the night for a good night’s sleep here at Pumpkin Key. In the morning 5 boats head out Angelfish Cut on route to Bimini. The cut is a narrow well marked channel to the Atlantic. We did not see less than 7 feet at high tide. As One Eye Dog and another Catarmaran, Queen of Virginia, make their way across at 15 knts, Alcyone, Santosha and ourselves take the slow rate of 9 knots across. The crossing was amazing with only 1-2 foot seas with rollers just off our beam. Winds were calm out of the south. The amazing royal blue colour of the Atlantic Ocean is fascinating. The colour is such a deep royal it mesmerizes you as you cross into the Gulf stream and have an extra couple knots of push. Scott takes advantage of the push and sets a heading so the boat will follow the heading but not have to compensate very often for the extra push on the beam.
Getting into The Bahamian waters we put up our yellow quarantine flag. Not for covid, but a custom of going into another country by boat, until you clear customs and immigration. The Captains hop in the jelopy, where Scott pulls the door closed and the entire door skin and handle fall off, and there they go to customs at the airport in South Bimini. Bahama style. The fellas get through all the government regulations and we are now legal in The Bahamas. They are chauffeured back to the boat and we replace our yellow flag with the flag of this new to us country.
We are slipped in South Bimini at the Bimini Cove Resort Marina. Water is metered as is power. There is an infinity pool that is the same colour as the ocean. Beach and snorkeling on premises and the ability to fish in the marina. Our fishing licenses come with the Custom fee paid online and our cruising permit. There is lots to see but our first priority will be SIM cards for our phone. Too late in the day to get that now so we head off to the pool where we meet our You Tube Channel Canadian influencers, C-Shels. We have been watching their videos for years. We spend about an hour with them at the pool and head back to the boat for dinner as the noseeums begin to appear.
We have reservations at Marlin Bay until April 14 however when the weather aligns for a crossing to the Bahamas you take it. They are few and far between, especially this year, with these crazy winds we have been having. So we choose an anchorage north of Key Largo and begin our day with at least 5 other boats heading out. Some are continuing north and others are crossing. There are some shallow waters we will traverse today however those will be done at high tide. Always watching tides, weather, winds while traveling is a must. The channels are narrow in parts as well but large enough for us to still enjoy the sights. We pass Islamorada and Key Largo. Along this trek we are welcomed by a family of dolphins who give us a show for about 15 minutes. I did manage to take some video. This experience is such a wonderful experience that it is hard to put into words.
Approaching the anchorage our friends One Eye Dog are there along with 2 other boats. This is a large anchorage and a good 10 foot depth for a longer day of travel from Marathon. It took us the better part of 8 hours and 75 miles behind us.
We are so excited for the next part of our travels to the Bahamas.