Aaron's blog

Crossing to Bimini in the Bahamas

By aaron.axvig, Sat, 02/01/2020 - 11:49
Windy app showing currents predictions for the Gulf Stream near S Florida

On January 7th we left No Name Harbor just as the sky began to lighten.  As the sun rose above the horizon we were clearing the last channel markers off of Cape Florida.  A few boats were ahead of us and as we went a few more appeared behind us.  There were about 10 boats visible in total.

We held a course maybe 20 degrees south of straight towards Bimini in order to make a little headway south before reaching the Gulf Stream which would swiftly carry us north.  I don't remember the exact characteristics of the Stream that day but let's just say that about 5 miles out it became strong, so I altered course to maybe only 5 degrees south of straight east (yes, that would be 95 degrees).  I altered the settings of the chart plotter so that lines indicating both heading (direction the boat is pointed) and track (direction of boat movement over ground) angles emanated from our location marker.  It was interesting to see them differ by 15 degrees or so due to the combined current and boat movement through water.

The chief risk of crossing the Stream is that you end up heading so far south to keep from drifting north that you don't make much speed in the east/west direction, making the trip much different than planned.  This was almost not a concern for us since we started somewhat south of where we needed to be.  But still, I figured it was most efficient to get out of the Stream as quickly as possible, hence the almost straight east heading.  And after we got out of the Stream I could make up a couple of miles to the south without needing to motor against the current.  I didn't dream this strategy up on my own; it is described in the Explorer Chart books.

All the other boats seemed to be steering whatever heading would keep them on a line drawn straight between No Name Harbor and Bimini (again, not a big deal for a destination that is a little north of your start anyways).  With our almost straight east heading we drifted a few miles north of the main group of boats, crossed paths with SV Make Way and SV Twin, and drifted a mile or so north of them.  At that point we were within about five miles (I think?) of Bimini and I was surprised that the current still had not really abated.  The current ended up holding pretty strong until just one or two miles out so my plan of making up southerly distance out of the current yield any real advantage.  But we arrived in Bimini at about the same time (2:00pm?) as the other boats anyways.  (When I took the screenshot of the currents in the Windy app for this article I realized that it probably typical, I just didn't remember to look at the currents forecast that day.)

For the crossing we had a great breeze that would probably have let us sail at 5.5-6 knots but we motored at about 50% throttle too to put us at a solid 7 knots (IIRC).  When we started out in the morning there were some 2-3 foot waves coming from the north so it was a little bouncy but we did fine.  Those died down later in the morning so overall we had really nice conditions.

On the final approach to the island of South Bimini we followed another sailboat; they bumped a sandbar and backed off.  So we followed their new route and made it through the very narrow approach through the small jetties into the Bimini Sands Marina.  It was pretty shallow at one point in that channel, just shy of six feet maybe half an hour after low tide.  But we made it and docked successfully.  They had a rate of $150 for a week so we planned to stay there for that long as the wind was forecast to blow strongly out of the east for several days...and we wanted to go east!

I took a shuttle bus to the airport a couple miles away and went through customs and immigration for myself, Anna, Louise, and the boat.  Once I got back about two hours later Anna and Louise were able to finally step on shore.

Sailboats on the horizon
Sailboats visible on the horizon as we depart Florida
What we see on the chartplotter
Here is what our chartplotter looked like at one point. We have drifted north of the purple route line. The black line shows which way the bow is pointed, and the blue line shows the direction that the boat is moving over ground. With no current the blue and black lines would be very close to each other.


Randy arrives

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:45

My dad arrived around midnight, having driven from the Orlando airport to meet us at the marina in Stuart.  The next morning we used his rental car to buy some groceries, soda (10 12-packs), and beer (maybe 150 cans or so?).  At the time it felt like we were making a significant dent in our provisioning for the Bahamas but in retrospect it was just a small start.  It was enough to fill up half the rear seating area of the rental pickup.  Then we rode the marina bicycles about 20 minutes to Total Wine to stock up on some liquor.

After a day or two of rain, the weather was OK for sailing outside so we departed early in the morning to head south.  The bridge right by the marina was just opening for some other boats so we skipped our planned stop at the fuel dock for diesel and water and just kept going.  Sailing conditions were brisk with a sustained 20 knots coming from shore.  By staying within a mile or two of shore we kept the waves below a foot or two but they were still splashing off the hull and then the wind would blow the spray sideways into the cockpit.  We might have enjoyed being even closer to shore.  As we approached Port Everglades we determined that we would be stuck there for 3-4 nights due to weather so we decided to push on to Miami.  We fired up the engine to make maximum speed (there was plenty of wind but it is only desirable to heel so much) and were able to anchor in marine stadium just before dark.

The next day (Christmas Day!) we set off towards No Name Harbor for a cruisers potluck that afternoon.  We got the anchor up but then noticed that the engine exhaust sounded suspicious and quickly determined that it was not getting water for cooling.  So we dropped the anchor and Randy and I jumped in with snorkel gear to find out why the seacock was jammed (I hadn't been able to close the valve even).  I found a plastic bag that had been sucked in, pulled it out, and we were back in business.  We had a bit of a tailwind so had a nice leisurely sail for the few miles south to the harbor.  It looked pretty full based on our count of masts visible before even going in the harbor so we anchored outside.  The potluck was great fun and many of the other cruisers were also waiting for decent weather to cross over to the Bahamas.

More rain and winds were predicted so the next day we went over to the Dinner Key area and found a mooring ball available at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club.  Their mooring balls are protected from the waves of Biscayne Bay so we had a very comfortable few nights there.  We spent some time exploring the area and some time preparing for the Bahamas.  Anna decided that a major reorganization was in order so everything came out of the back bedroom storage shelves.  Almost everything got repackaged into plastic bags and stowed away in a much more compact manor.  Lots of work! With many items no longer in their boxes we needed some structure so that things would sit nicely in the shelves, so we ended up with a bunch of small plastic totes and a few milk crates.  The totes stack pretty well and so far have stayed in place during some moderate heeling.

There was a possible weather window right at the end of my dad's stay but we had a prescription that needed to be picked up still and didn't quite feel ready.  So he didn't get to see the Bahamas with us and had extraordinarily rainy and windy weather...sorry we couldn't deliver an excellent vacation!

In the few days after Randy left we did so much more provisioning that it seems comical that we thought we were ready before (I'm sure we would have survived just fine, but still...).  We overflowed two shopping carts at Wal-Mart and right before crossing filled a cart at Publix.  AND we still did a couple last minute grocery runs after that.  Time after time Aaron would declare that there was no more room, then we would agree that we needed some stuff, and then we would rearrange yet another compartment and create just a little more room.

And then finally we went over to No Name Harbor with intentions to leave early the next morning to the Bahamas. (And did a quick trip to the grocery store and liquor store there for MORE stuff!)


Sewing a new cockpit canopy

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:21
Sewing on the boat

We arrived in Stuart on December 13th.  All the mooring balls were full so we anchored between the mooring field and shore for two nights.  We went to the marina office to get a couple packages that we had shipped in.  We could not find one package, and the next day someone had returned it after they realized they had mistakenly taken ours.  Then in the morning I was out and about in the dinghy and saw that a mooring ball out in the far field was open.  So I tied a fender to it and then we prepared to move over there.  On the way we stopped at the fuel dock and a guy was there on his dinghy.  Somehow we found out that he was hoping to get on that mooring ball which we had just claimed, and he was currently on one closer in.  But he had a bigger boat than was supposed to be on his current ball.  So we agreed to trade and got the closer mooring ball (after some debate with the office about technicalities of whether even our boat was too big for that closer mooring ball).  We enjoyed the marina's Christmas party that night with Steve and Susie.

Then construction of the new cockpit canopy (combination spray dodger and bimini) started.  I installed the new stainless steel bow and then rigged all the tubing in place with strapping tape.  Then I put up pieces of patterning material, basically building a temporary complete canopy in place.  We removed those pieces and traced them onto fabric in the marina lounge late one evening when it wouldn't bother too many people.  They were big pieces--most of them 12-14' long and 3 feet wide.

My dad was going to be arriving in a few days to spend the holidays with us and hopefully cross to the Bahamas with us, weather dependent of course.  So we needed to get south towards Miami to work towards that goal, but we decided to stay in Stuart to finish the canopy.  So for the next three days I spent 8-10 hours each day sewing on the boat.  The first day was hot so it was a sweaty process slinging around all of that heavy fabric.  The next couple days were cooler so then it was just normal exhaustion by the end of the day.  It was fascinating to see how slowly and poorly I would sew on the last stitches of the day but then the next morning the very same thing would seem easy and turn out so well!  You have to know when to call it a day.

Eventually all the pieces were assembled so it was time for a test fit.  Amazingly it went up and stayed up!  It was slightly loose but to go from patterns to a fitting assembly of 5 pieces summing to about 12 feet by 20 feet felt so good.  Then we took it back down for another day of sewing--lots of finishing touches.  But we got those done and had it up by the time my dad arrived.


Frontier justice

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:12

Some people love frontier justice
But then all they can do is miss
They run out of ammo
Bad guys hit them Blam-Oh!
So they must put on a poultice.


Dog with black fur

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:09
Louise on the boat

Louise was a dog with black fur
She loved to run network fiber
Lash it to her tail
She'd pull without fail
For each run I would reward her.


Doggie loved to whine

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:07

My good doggie loved to whine
When she wasn't given our time
She wanted a sratch
On her white chest patch
Eventually I said fine.


Apple crisp

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:04

My fiancée makes apple crisp
And not just when we have a tryst
Better than apple pie
Makes me a lucky guy
I won't fade away to a wisp.


Humbolt County

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 08:57

(Anna was watching a Netflix series on people growing marijuana in Humbolt County.)

Joe passed time in Humbolt County
Of weed he grew quite a bounty
Thieves came for his crop
And he made them drop
On police he could not account-y


The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories by Mark Twain

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 01/22/2020 - 08:29
Date completed
4 years 4 months ago

A collection of enjoyable stories by Mark Twain.  I have only previously read his most famous works, and that many years ago.

As the foreword alludes, these stories get darker as you go further into the collection.  I enjoyed the lighter ones more but the darker ones did make me think.

Strangely, this book did not have an ISBN number in it.

Completion status

Abduction by Rodman Philbrick and Lynn Harnett

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 01/13/2020 - 20:54
Date completed
4 years 4 months ago

Wacky. It's about people being abducted by aliens for mind control purposes, so basically all of the stereotypical stuff with a mild plot wrapped around it. A little cheesier than I expected.

Completion status