We were not really looking forward to go to Nassau: tropical deserted islands were way more tempting than a big city with cruise ships! But we had a visa appointment, and we wanted to be there a day early to check of where it was, print the required paperwork and make new pictures.
The sail to Nassau takes us 40 NM across the Bahama Bank, which is 3-8 metres deep. There are steep coral heads everywhere to keep an eye on. We plotted a route, felt unsure about it, plotted another one, looked what other boats did, changed our plans and then went for it. The wind was great and there were close to no waves so we were flying over the shallow bank with 7-8 knots.. on only the headsail!
Thomas was eyeballing at the bow (for hours) with a backup chart and our handheld VHF to avoid the usual yelling ‘WHAT WAS THAT?’ ‘WHAT DID YOU SAY?’ ‘DIDN’T CATCH THAT’ across the boat. And he wore SPF50 for the occasion. Good thing he was there because we had to change course often to avoid hitting a coral head that wasn’t correctly charted. With polarised glasses (like Thomas has) you can see underneath the water much better than with (my) normal sunglasses. Since mine are prescribed glasses, I had to combine the two to take over..
The depth situation got tighter and tighter as we approached Nassau, also because the tide was sinking. We managed to get across the last shallow part with just 10 cm under the keel and were exhausted as we dropped anchor. Some Swiss-French friends we had met earlier were already there, so we had a nice evening on their 34 footer (which they plan to take around the world!). They also had a visa interview, just a day earlier than we did. We met a few more boats (Polish and Dutch) with young sailors also doing their visa applications, so the anchorage was basically a big visa waiting area. Stories of declined applications were frequent so we were all preparing as much as we could (some even got haircuts).
The morning of our visa interview we got into the dinghy during sunrise and were glad to get it over with. The embassy was a big visa machine full of people trying to get into the USA. Many Bahamians were declined, a women in front of us was even going to miss her own wedding because of formalities! We got lucky and passed the first window although I forgot to note my married name (because its not in my passport yet). After the first window there was another line, another window, another line and finally a third window where we got our applications approved! On leaving the embassy, Thomas was almost arrested for having left our steel ruler outside (‘You are in real big trouble, sir!’) for reasons not quite obvious to us. But luckily they let it go. Some of our Polish and Dutch friends weren’t so lucky and had to re-apply because of unimportant minor mistakes in their applications.
The anchorage in Nassau was kind of a nightmare, with boats dragging all the time on changing tides and wind. But it was a great place to get to know people, we talked to everyone in the anchorage. There was a cheery couple from Canada, a few American boats, a party boat from Tahiti, some Dutch and the Swiss boat. But we were also glad to leave this tricky anchoring situation before we were the ones that dragged anchor. We followed our new Dutch friends to Rose Island, an anchorage just outside of town. It was a great tropical little island with a big beach, shallow water and a lot of fish. Although it was just 5 miles out, it felt like a different world.
We had to wait for our visas to be sent to Freeport, so we decided to sail back to the Exumas again. The Polish boat, Matenka, just got new crew on board and was headed the same way. They also have a deep draft (2.40 m, we have 2.20) so it was a perfect boat to sail with! We had heard from De Liefde, one of the Dutch boats, that they had sold their boat while cruising. This means that they don’t have to cross the Atlantic back. I have to admit that sounds very tempting to us, we already crossed the Atlantic once and would be glad to leave it to that. On the other hand, we would also love to sail the boat back to Holland. Not to make that decision ourselves, we decided to go ahead and put the boat on the market. If we sell her, we don’t cross the Atlantic. If we don’t, we do.. 🙂