Posts Tagged ‘long distance cruising bow rider’

My Monterey Bow Rider Runabout to Bimini, Bahamas Island off Miami, FL

miami inlet atlantic ocean

Heading out towards Bimini

There was no other boat in sight. No land to see off in the distance. Nothing. I was alone on the Atlantic Ocean about 11 miles off the coast of South Florida, heading to Bimini in the Bahamas Islands chain. The boat’s sounder had stopped reading the water depth long ago. My cell telephone no longer had a signal. I had the VHF on channel 16 and heard other boaters, but they were beyond my horizon. I slowed to idle to take it all in. I spun the boat a 360 and saw water in every direction. I was very, very happy.

The waves really were not bad at all. It was the broad spacing between the 5’ high swells that allowed me a rather gentle cruise to an offshore island. The boat slowly would rise and fall from the Gulf Stream waves under my keel.

This little adventure was a long-held dream of mine. I had been to the Bahamas several times, but always on other people’s boats. This time the good ship was mine. The Monterey bowrider that I had taken delivery of in Miami earlier in the month had been equipped. I’d also tested it for over 20 hours on short trips around the greater Miami area as I closely followed the weather forecast, waiting for the right day.

On the eve of my departure, NOAA’s marine weather indicated that the sea and wind conditions for a Bahamian Crossing would be close to perfect on Sunday. I checked out of my hotel, dropped off my rental car and prepared to sleep onboard in a sleeping bag so I could get an early start…

I wasn’t nervous. I’ve been boating for near 50 years and logged several thousand miles of cruising. I passed the first of four CG courses before I was a teenager. I’ve owned many boats and been on a variety of waterways across the country. I had confidence in myself and my boat. So I was cautious, but confident.

This boat is a 2006 Monterey 268 SS bow rider, powered by a single Mercruiser gas engine coupled to a Bravo III outdrive. In my test drives, I had proven that the hull had the bow shape and other design elements to make it a top-shelf choice for running in bigger water. She’s a deep boat and heavily constructed using top fiberglass materials. The stainless steel hardware is beefy. Most of the finer details are the best that the industry offers. The folks at Monterey had built me a very good boat.

I used Richardson’s chartbook, Florida Keys and Bimini, as well as Maptech’s Florida’s East Coast Chartkit for navigation. Both had pre-printed course headings overlaid on their charts. Since I didn’t want to leave from either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, which were already charted in these books, I eyeballed a course using theirs as a starting point. BTW, the pre-charted routes differed in each book slightly, as one edition had been corrected to 1990 and the other to 2002. Courses can change over time due to magnetic North movement.

I checked and confirmed my course heading using a hand-held Garmin 48 GPS, putting in a lat/lon for my Bimini arrival point as a GO TO point. I was pleased that my roughly calculated course was within a few degrees once I was underway. My excuse for not developing a “better” course? I was crossing on a top weather day—and in a faster boat. And land would only be out of sight for about 30-35 miles.

But what about that Gulf Stream?

Think of the Gulf Stream as a “river”, running north within the Atlantic Ocean between the South FL coast and Bimini Island. It drags all boats northward as they try to cross East-West between Florida and the Islands. The slower the boat travels, the longer it’s in this current, and the more off-course any compass heading becomes. The Garmin GPS really adjusts for this nicely.

land fall entrance to north bimini and south bimini

Bimini Ahead

My trip over to Bimini was a dream cruise. The boat lifted up on plane and headed its bow into the rising sun. I was exhilarated, for together, my boat and I were finally fulfilling this life-long goal. The hotel and condo high-rises that cried out “civilization” dropped behind the stern and then went below the horizon.

The boat had a low rise-and-fall as it was lifted over the gently sloped Gulf Stream waves that marched north below the boat. To keep on course, I positioned the boat so the sun would shine through the windshield at the same spot. I flipped open the Captain’s Call exhaust to entertain myself and then closed it when it seemed out-of-sync with conditions. When I got to feeling a little spooked from knowing that the nearest land was 400 feet straight down, I listened to the VHF to reconnect to the human race.

 

Wham! A dolphin flew up out of the water aiming straight for the side panel of the boat’s glass windshield. I didn’t even have time to duck. I just stared at him like a deer caught in a car’s headlights. But, it turns out he was just fooling with me. He dove right back under the water and passed under the keel. I almost wet myself over that one! Then I decided he was just a youngster who played a joke on me with this close call. I was sure that he flashed me a broad grin in reaction to my facial expression.

What is Bimini like? It’s two low-lying Islands. After last year’s bevy of hurricanes, there’s extensive damage to many buildings and some trees. But the water is every bit as magnificent as it looks on the commercials. Turquoise—an unbelievable turquoise color. You can see bottom even when it’s fairly deep. Experienced islanders can navigate by looking at the water’s colors and tone.By the time I arrived at Bimini’s doorstep and cruised around locally, the weather forecast for the next few days was far worse than I expected for a return crossing. Most likely I would have to wait at least three days to get good crossing weather again—maybe longer. Since it was still early on this picture-perfect morning, and I had plenty of fuel for a quick run back to Miami, this trip turned out to be an “over-and-back” in the same day. And it was a good decision.

 

chalks sea plane base in bimini

damaged building on North Bimini Island in the Bahamas

 

As it turned out, a 26’ center-console fishing boat went down off the FL coast the very next day. Three fisherman went overboard, but the tow service saved them and then the Coast Guard transported them back to land. If I hadn’t paid attention to the forecast and just got caught up in the splendor of my Bimini adventure, I could have been caught out there in those sea and wind conditions, too.

So I was back stateside. Bimini was glorious, but there’s still so much more to see along the East Coast. Now it was time to plan for my next destination…

see the bottom clear water off bimini bahamas

One can see the bottom in the clear turquiose blue water around Bimbini Island,in the Bahamas