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2008 Bahamas Cruise – Sequenced Log June 6, 2008

Posted by Kim in Bahamas, Cruising, Fishing, My Trip Logs, Travel.
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Bahamas08 Collage

I have been asked to re-sequence my log entries into a first-to-last chronological order to make them easier to follow. A few related photos have been placed within the text. Clicking on any one of these photos will open a new window containing thumbnails of many others taken during the cruise. Note too that these photos are in chronological order and those images close to the thumbnail of the image you clicked to get there will have been taken during the same period as it was. I also took the opportunity to make some clarifications and correct some of the more noticeable errors. Any of the crew members reading this may also add additional notes as comments. In fact, comments by anyone are always welcome. Note that the over 100 photos taken during this cruise can be found in my Flickr Album Set titled “Bahamas – 2008”. If you are interested, Links to earlier cruises can be found under the “My Trip Logs” heading in the left column. (scroll down a ways…)

5/07/08 – Leave Tampa

Leaving TampaWe finally leave on this year’s adventure and proceed to navigate our way out of Tampa Bay under near ideal weather conditions. Its 8:30am when we leave the dock and after a sea test of a reconditioned auto pilot unit, we conclude something is still wrong as it’s not working as it should. As we continue the trip down the Bay, Tommy makes a call to Ray Marine for further instructions. Following a brief troubleshooting session, it is concluded that we have a defective Rudder Reference Transducer and one is placed on order for overnight delivery to Plantation Marina near Islamorada in the Keys. If all goes well we should arrive there tomorrow evening. Our destination tonight is Pelican Bay just inside Boca Grande Pass north of Fort Myers. As we proceed south along the west coast of Florida, Ralph is driving when he notices that the oil pressure gage for the port engine is showing a significantly lower value than does the starboard engine. Tommy decides to stop and check out the oil levels and finds that the port engine is down a couple of quarts… unexpected as Duke, the boats mechanic, had just serviced and checked out the engines a few days earlier in preparation for this trip. A cursory inspection showed no real evidence of a leak and since the pressure returned to normal after adding the oil, we continued our trip keeping a close watch on the oil pressure gages. We arrive in Pelican Bay around 1800 hrs to join a fleet of several other boats, mostly sailboats, already at anchor. Bahama Mamas are congered up while I fix boiled franks, sauerkraut and (I know) coleslaw for supper. The winds are near calm and we have a nice evening enjoying the sunset before retiring for the evening.

5/8/08 – Pelican Bay & Gasparilla Marina to Naples

Gasparilla MarinaWe arise with the sun… everyone is psyched for the trip. During the regular morning routine of servicing the engines, Tommy finds that the port engine is once again low on oil… three quarts this time. Seems we may really have a problem. While the engines are cool, Tommy crawls behind the port side and finds a high pressure oil line that is leaking. Not a catastrophic break but a leak none the less… big enough to cause 3 quarts to dump into the bilge in about 3 hours running time. We have a problem… something that will need immediate attention. Following several telephone calls to local marinas and the engine manufacturer, we proceed to motor on one engine into Gasparilla Marina about ten miles north of us at Placida. There we find a mechanic that is able to get a replacement hose built for us in Puntagorda and mount it. He also has two spare hoses built as back-ups. After repairs and refueling, we leave the marina around 1440 and cruise south and arrive at Naples just at dusk where we find a cozy little cove and gunk out for the night. We had hoped to be in the Keys tonight but this will have to do. This is turning into a little more of a “shake-down” cruise than we had hoped for…

5/9/08 – Naples to Plantation Key

Another early rising… This morning, everything goes as planned and we are under way by 0630. This mornings engine inspection shows all oil levels normal and we leave for a long run to the middle Keys in an attempt to regain some of our schedule. The trip is uneventful and we arrive at Plantation Marina around 1500 in plenty of time to pick up the part we had delivered to their office before they closed for the evening. After a leisurely dinner at a nearby pub, we return to the boat where Tommy and Bill spend several hours installing the rudder position transducer only to discover that it probably wasn’t the cause of our auto pilot problem in the first place. Oh well… looks as though we will be manually steering the boat this trip. Tomorrow, weather permitting; we will be crossing from Plantation Key directly to Bimini.

5/10/08 – Plantation Key to Bimini

By 0730 the crew is up and we get under way. The morning weather is calm and we need only fuel the boat before starting across the Gulf Stream to Bimini. Fuel will be a problem this trip. Each trip to the fuel pumps relives us of at least $1,000 in cash. Plantation Marina is undergoing major upgrades and currently do not have a fuel dock so we motor to Smugglers Marina to fuel and load up on ice. We enter the Atlantic around 0930 and away we go. The seas are like a mill pond… not a ripple. If it holds, this will be the calmest Gulf Stream crossing I have ever been party to. Many times when we cross the Stream, we hook into one or more good fish. Not this time though. With seas still calm enough for a canoe, we enter Bimini harbor and tie up at Bimini Bluewater Marina about 1600 hours. Ralph works his wonder once again and Bahama Mamas are enjoyed by all before a great dinner at the Bimini Big Game Club restaurant. The conch fritters and conch chowder were particularly good. Everyone crashed when we returned to the boat.

5/11/08 – Fishing off Bimini

You will note that the title of this entry is “Fishing”… not “Catching”. Today was definitely a “Fishing” day. Like good fishermen, we depart the marina early and proceed north deciding to troll out to Isaac Rock Lighthouse. The wind is light when we leave port but will gradually increases becoming quite stiff by the time we return to port around 1500. 1 Blue Runner, 5 small barracuda and 5 disappointed fishermen… That just about sums it up. We have dinner at the Anchorage Restaurant on a hill overlooking the Gulf Stream. The food is good with Cracked Conch being my choice. It was a large portion which I had trouble finishing. We return to the boat and a couple of us take advantage of the marina’s swimming pool to cool off before retiring for the night.

5/12/08 – Bimini

We awake to a brisk wind coming from the south west. Flags are standing straight and shaking their masts. To the east are seen flashes of lightning. Not a good sign for our planned trip south to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands. The captain decides that this will be a “stay-in-port” day. A disappointment to the frustrated fishermen, one and all, but probably the best decision none the less. We have been traveling for several days now and it really is time to do some laundry. As the day progresses, this decision to remain in port is reinforced when boat after boat come to dock with harrowing stories of the treacherous seas outside the harbor. We also use the opportunity to do some housekeeping and one final attempt to get the auto pilot working. A call to Ray Marine using a local wi-fi connection and Skype determines without doubt that the head unit that Tommy sent them for repair before out cruise still has a problem… something that will require its being returned to their factory for further repair.

5/13/08 – Bimini to Chub Cay

Over night the winds have abated… A light breeze from the north greets us as we arise shortly after dawn. Since we had refueled following our fishing day off Bimini, and since ww had settled our dock bill yesterday evening, we motor out the harbor a little before 0700 and head south to the Gun/Cat Cay pass in route to Chub Cay. Though we troll we have no strikes until we are well east of the pass in the middle of the Grand Bahama Banks where we hook and release a decent sized barracuda. Seems that’s all we can catch this trip. Around 1300 we exit the Banks and enter the deeper waters of the “Pocket” west of, but near Chub Cay where recent reports indicate good catches of Dolphin Fish (Mahi-Mahi). There are several other boats fishing the area, but by 1630 we have yet to get a strike so we decide to call it quits and head to fine safe anchorage for the evening somewhere near Chub Cay Club. We do not plan on staying in the club’s marina this year as we have heard that following a major overhaul last year, their dockage rates are now sky high.

5/14/08 – Chub Cay

As the sun rises above the horizon we cruise out of our anchorage behind Chub Cay and head once again in search of fish in the “Pocket”. We find a large number of birds hovering and diving but can see no fish slashing the water. In a three hours fishing, we land onlt 2 Cero Mackerel and several barracuda. Not really a successful mornings fishing so we decide to head east again and troll our way to Nassau. Thirty minutes east of Chub Cay on the way to Nassau, we finally catch our first Mahi-Mahi. It’s only about a fifteen pound cow, but the ice has been broken. Perhaps our luck is changing for the better. There is a ragged weed line that we attempt to follow north but it soon becomes too disorganized to fish effectively. As the day has progressed the wind has freshened to the point where we decide we had better fish this area and spend another night at Chub. As we turn and head back toward Chub, Bill has a heavy strike and the fight is on. This fish acts different from the others… it seems much bigger as it strips out many yards of line. After several long runs, Bill is finally able to gain some of his line back. Suddenly, after another long run this fish becomes very easy to haul in. As it nears the boat we see why. Only half the fish remains. Something (shark?) has bitten off the tail half of the fish which turns out to be a Wahoo. Even though it is half gone, there remains enough of the fish for us to have for supper with some left over. We have another quite night anchored off Chub Cay.

5/15/08 Chub Cay to Nassau

Another early start… this time we intend to troll from Chub Cay into Nassau. Early on, we hook and land another Mahi-Mahi. The seas aren’t as choppy as they were yesterday but the closer we get to Nassau, the bigger the swells become. As we near the shores of Providence Island, the location of Nassau, we can see these big “rollers” crashing onto the beach and surrounding reefs. It reminds one of the Hawaiian surf we have all seen in videos and movies. We would find out that these were twelve foot rollers being caused by some disturbance farther north along the US mainland coast. Anyway, this is the first time any of us have “surfed” into Nassau harbor. We rode a wave in right between the red and green buoys where, on the outside of each, there was nothing but breaking twelve foot high waves. Exhilarating for the moment… We find dockage at the Nassau Harbour Club where we have stayed on previous visits to Nassau. It is early so we use the time to do a little grocery and tackle shopping. For supper, we walk to a nearby Outback Steak House. We all return to the Arcon and call it an early night. Tomorrow we will be heading across the Yellow Banks for the Exumas and Highborne Cay to start what we expect to be the most exciting fishing part of this cruise.

5/16/08 Nassau to Highborne Cay

The trip across the Yellow Banks is uneventful. When we arrive in the vicinity of Highborne Cay, Tommy radios the marina to ensure we can reserve a slip for the night and we exit through the pass and start fishing. The fishing is unexpectedly slow. We catch only one Cero Mackerel before going to dock at around 1700. As we arrived we noted the boat docked near us was unloading a decent catch of Mahi-Mahi. He suggests that we should spend our time trolling along the 200 feet deep line just outside the drop off and to use Ballyhoo trolling at about 7 knots. He is even willing to sell us some of his frozen Ballyhoo for tomorrow’s fishing. In addition, he gave us enough Mahi-Mahi filets for tonight’s supper.

5/17/08 Thru 5/19/08 – Highborne Cay

Highborne CayIt’s Saturday, and we are the second boat out of the marina. Just outside the pass, we hook into our first fish of the day. It’s a nice Mahi-Mahi cow and she makes it into the fish box. In quick succession we hang, and loose several others. Most throwing the hook during their aerial acrobats but some lost due to broken lines and leaders. There was one fish of note, a very large Mahi-Mahi hooked by Tommy that very quickly stripped out several hundred yards of line while giving spectacular leaps skyward. This was truly a monster that would have tipped the scales well above the 40 pound mark. Following a 30 minute battle, with hardly any recovery of line possible, he finally breaks the line during one of his jumps. It was a beautiful bull that will live to fight another day. By 1300, we have limited out for the day. Two Mahi-Mahi and four large Cero Mackerel…one weighing in at twelve pounds is the total catch for the day. We fish the waters around Highborne Cay for the next several days and limit-out each day with several large Mahi-Mahi and large Cero Mackerel. Absent so far this year, are the Marlin and Tuna we usually catch. We do land and release several Bonita and, of course, the ever present Barracuda. Highborne Cay is a beautiful, quiet little island. It is a private island with the club marina and supporting personnel its only permanent residences. Everyone we meet here is friendly and we are made to feel welcome. The island is located 35 miles southeast of Nassau and is the most northern inhabited island in the Exuma Chain.

5/20/08 – Highborne Cay to Nassau

As much fun as we have had, there comes a time when we must start our return home. Today we will fish our way back to Nassau where we will lay over for a full day of sightseeing. Before we enter the shallow waters of the Yellow Bank, two additional large Mahi and one Cero Mackerel are added to the fishbox. We arrive at Nassau Harbour Club’s dock around 1300 and spend the remainder of the afternoon doing laundry and just relaxing. We walk down to a Chinese restaurant a few blocks from the docks for dinner before retiring for the night.

5/21/08 Nassau – A Day Off

Nassau Dock

We are spending the day in port at Nassau… doing laundry, general house cleaning and some sightseeing. We have lunch at Nassau’s Hard Rock Café and some of the crew visit the Aquarium at the Atlantis Hotel/Casino on Paradise Island.

5/22/08 – 5/23/08 Nassau to Hoffman Cay then Back to Nassau

Though we are away from the dock early, it is 0800 before we cruise out of the harbor. This is the Bahamas and one must remember that everyone here is on “island time”. Fifteen minutes after pulling up to the first fuel dock we find out that they have no diesel. This after they passed the hose aboard and a failed attempt on our part to pump fuel… We also purchase several bags of their $7.50/bag ice to find that their 3 foot high sign advertising the price is wrong and the actual price for the past year is $12/bag. We then proceed to a second fuel dock and here have to wait another 20 minutes for the attendant to show up and figure out how to start the pumps. So much for an early start…

Before we loose sight of Nassau, we have our first fish on board. It is a large Mahi and the first of several that would make up the best day of fishing we have had so far this trip. Between Nassau and Hoffman’s Cay, one of the Berry Islands, we run into a large area of ocean covered by tennis court sized patches of floating grass. There seems to be large numbers of very big Mahi under each of these and we hang into many of them. Early, around 1300, we have our limit of fish and head for our anchorage behind Hoffman’s Cay.Blue Hole We anchored at this spot several years ago and Tommy wanted to show Bill the “Blue Hole” that’s located on Hoffman’s Cay. A blue hole is a deep, cavernous, land locked hole connected underground to the ocean. This one on Hoffman’s Cay is probably three, four hundred feet across with no bottom in sight. This also gives us a chance to use the inflatable boat we have with us for the first time this trip. Tommy and Bill launch the boat, attach the small outboard motor, check the fuel and set out for the island. It takes them a couple of landings before they find the path to the blue hole. On the trip back from their visit to the blue hole, the boys find out that just because you can see fuel in an outboard motor’s fuel tank doesn’t mean there is enough fuel to complete a trip. They run out of gas just after leaving shore to return to the Arcon. Here they are, behind the island and over a mile away from the boat in the grips of a raging, sea going current. Out come the oars and very quickly they learn that these small oars are not sufficient to fight these strong currents. One step forward and three steps back. Bill jumps overboard and pulls the raft to shallow water where they both wade and pull the boat over the shallow reef dodging rays and other denizens of the deep. Two hours later, tired and rattled, and minus one oar, they make it back to the boat. Memories are made of this… It is a quiet evening following all this excitement. We have a simple supper of hot dogs, sauerkraut and baked beans before turning in.

The weather report indicates that a cold front is expected to pass over Nassau Saturday night and there will be high seas over the Gulf Stream for the next several days. Tommy decides to return to Nassau to wait it out and to let Col. Bill fly home as the chance now of us reaching Tampa by the 27th, Bill’s deadline for a previous engagement, is remote. We will have a couple of additional days in Nassau to unwind.

5/28/08 – Nassau to Bimini – Homeward Bound

Near BiminiFollowing a disastrous attempt at motoring to Lucaya (Freeport) yesterday, we are docked at Bimini Bluewater Marina and hope to cross the Gulf Stream tomorrow for Florida. Yesterday morning when we left Nassau, it was breezy but the seas were tolerable. We decided to head for Lucaya and spend an extra day or two in the Bahamas before returning home. However, the wind and seas picked up to an uncomfortable level and we ducked back into our anchorage of a few nights ago behind Hoffman’s Cay.

There we had a rough night but safe anchorage. By this morning, the wind had calmed and we decided to head directly for Bimini instead of spending extra days in Freeport. We arrived in Bimini around 1630 and hopefully will be able to get a good nights sleep tonight. Last night was spent being tossed around on the floor trying to fight the roll of the boat.

6/03/08 – Back Home in Tampa

Ralph & Wahoo

We arrive Back at the docks at Tampa Bay Marina around 1730 Saturday afternoon. Our cruise from Bimini to Plantation Key, while not quite as calm as our trip out, was none the less comfortable. It also produced two additional nice fish.

A beautiful Wahoo caught by Ralph and a large Mahi caught by Tommy. Both were taken in the Gulf Stream. The remainder of the return trip to Tampa was uneventful. We spent one night at Plantation Key and another at anchor in a bayou near Naples before cruising up Tampa Bay to our home port. It was a great adventure, but after almost a month away, it is great to be back home. I have uploaded the final photos from the cruise to my Flickr site. Titles have also been added to each photo.



This is the end of this re-sequenced log… Below here are the original writings posted during the cruise with the most recent postings on top and the older postings below. The above post is just a re-sequencing of these posts going back through the May 16, 2008 entry.