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The Return: Compass Cay To Fort Lauderdale

The Return: Compass Cay to Fort Lauderdale

FROM: The Captain –

After weeks of wind in the Exumas the forecast finally shifted and a pattern of settled weather was arriving allowing us to start making our way back to the states.  We needed three good travel days in The Bahamas and one to cross to Florida and things were lining up perfectly.  Here’s a recap of our return travels…

Compass Cay to Highbourne Cay

Conditions: Mostly cloudy.  Winds from the north/northeast 10 mph. 2 foot following sea.

Distance traveled:  31.4 nautical miles

Time underway: 3 hours 20 minutes

Average Speed: 10 knots

Max Speed: 15 knots

Fuel Used: 48 Gallons

After an amazing final evening at Compass Cay we had our morning departure planned down to the minute.  Because of where OLOH was located within the marina we wanted to leave as close to high tide as possible, but also when the tide was slack as the current can move quite swiftly around the docks and the southeast wind was still blowing at around 15 knots.  And then as departure time was upon us we looked to the west and saw a line of ominous storm clouds that were not showing up on our internet weather sources.  We snapped on OLOH’s radar and saw the very organized cell which stretched for six miles to the southeast and moving north – a storm we would have piloted right into.  At around that time, Bart from Dusty Sea and our new friend Jamal from Compass Cay both said – “I would wait.”  Two voices we trust implicitly so wait we did.  Of course that threw off my whole departure plan but sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with it.

That’s what we would have been heading directly into if we kept our schedule (the worst thing to have on a boat).

The six mile storm cell as seen on OLOH’s radar.  And if you look closely you’ll see a triangle representing another boat that was heading right into it.

So an hour later as a few other boats that had been waiting started to leave we said our quick goodbyes, pivoted OLOH around in its own length using the wind, a stern line, our engines and thrusters and after a three night stay that turned into fifteen, navigated out of one of our new favorite places without issue.

Send off. Our Compass Cay Tour Guides and Honorary Dock Mayors (and now dear friends) Bart and Natalia from Dusty Sea pose with the always friendly, helpful and fly, Treyvon, who is part of the family that makes this place so special. We gave him an OLOH shirt which he surprised us by wearing for our departure! He’s officially crew now.

I’ll get you my pretty… You can run but you can’t hide! This cell taunted us all the way to Highbourne.  Fortunately, we were running a little faster than it was so it never quite caught up with us. There’s no place like home…

With the south/southeast wind still blowing at 10 – 15 knots we had a 1 1/2 to 2-foot swell following us and putting our stabilizers to the test.  Fortunately, we were able to flush our stabilizer’s heat exchanger with some barnacle buster courtesy of Salt Wind while at Compass and that seemed to help them operate more within their normal parameters.  As we traveled we stayed just a couple of miles away from some more storm cells that seemed to be chasing us and arrived at Highbourne Cay Marina’s fuel dock to top off the tanks around four hours later.
Jasper enjoyed being back in familiar territory and while we already missed our friends and the vibe at Compass, Highbourne was the other top highlight of this trip when it was just beginning and it was very nice to be back – and get a big welcome back from the folks there.  Our friends from Wet Dreams who we met at Compass were now also at Highbourne and Tim, overhearing someone mentioning that they had a hankering for Mac & Cheese, whipped up a dish of his gourmet truffle and smoked salt Mac & Cheese and delivered it to a wildly enthusiastic crew.

We were happy to arrive at a friendly place with friendly faces.

It’s official…we are now part of the family.  We’ll fly it proudly!

We sat quietly beneath a sun-kissed moon, the three of us, knowing we would miss this place where myriad blue seas caress powder-soft sands.  This place, that asks for nothing but for you to breathe a little deeper, to exhale a little longer and to let your spirit sway with the undulating dance of the waves.  Farewell, Highbourne, we will be with you again.

Highbourne Cay to Chub Cay

A beautiful morning to depart Highbourne Cay.

Conditions: Sun & clouds.  Winds from the south/southeast 15 mph. 2 1/2 foot following sea.

Distance traveled:  76.3 nautical miles

Time underway: 7 hours 38 minutes

Average Speed: 10 knots

Max Speed: 16 knots

Fuel Used: 103 Gallons

We were off the docks just shy of 8:00 am for the first of two big travel days.  On our way to Highbourne from Chub Cay, we broke up the trip by stopping in Nassau.  While the conditions weren’t expected to be perfect, they were reasonable enough for us to do the entire haul in one run.  We always knew that if things were too sloppy we could stop in Nassau again.  The wind was still blowing behind us solidly and the ride to Nassau was definitely squirrelly but manageable with a 2 1/2 foot following sea.  We had no problem navigating the Yellow Bank (see our original post about it here) and arrived at the eastern end of Nassau Harbor at 11:15 am.  It is possible to skip the harbor and go around the island of New Providence but it doesn’t make the trip shorter and we had a feeling we would need a break from the swells before continuing on to Chub.  And we were right.  When we cleared into Nassau Harbor (watch how we do that here) and proclaimed that we were just passing through, we asked the Harbor Control official we spoke with if we needed to clear out as well since we weren’t stopping.  His reply, we kid you not, was, “you can do whatever you want to do.”  Alrighty then.

Entering Nassau Harbor from the east.

We departed the western side of the harbor forty-five minutes later, pointed OLOH across the Tongue of the Ocean (where depths rise to nearly 10,000 feet) towards Chub Cay and held our course for the next 36 nautical miles before making our approach.  It wasn’t a terrible ride but it wasn’t completely comfortable and by the time we were safely tied we were exhausted.  When we were first at Chub Cay Marina on our way to the Exumas it was intended to be for a one-night stopover and turned into a one week stay because of the weather.  Perhaps that’s why we were so recognizable to everyone who worked there and welcomed us back.  It was more likely Jasper.  After eight hours aboard he was eager to get off the boat and so were we.  The winds were finally starting to calm down and it was stunning out.  We walked to the beautiful beach and Jasper, now a seasoned beach dog, was happy to get in the water and just soak with us for a while.

He may not have known it was his last Bahamas beach fling for this trip but Jasper certainly enjoyed himself like he knew.

As there was a fishing tournament basing out of Chub over the weekend a lot of sportfish boats were showing up and the docks were much more populated than they were during our last stay.  And our friends from Wet Dreams were also now at Chub.  They had a very successful day of fishing and wanted to thank us for their Mac & Cheese surprise at Highbourne the night before by gifting us with pounds of cleaned and filleted Mahi and Tuna that they had caught that afternoon.  What a huge treat!

Delivery: Brett and Uncle Hank popped by OLOH to ask if we’d like some of the fresh fish they caught. Oh yes, we would! What a great treat – thank you to the entire crew of Wet Dreams.

One of the amenities at Chub Cay is an air-conditioned fish cleaning house.

It doesn’t get any fresher.

Chub Cay to Bimini
Conditions: Sun & clouds.  Light to no wind. 1 foot easy swell to flat seas.

Distance traveled:  86.7 nautical miles

Time underway: 8 hours 37 minutes

Average Speed: 10 knots

Max Speed: 15 knots

Fuel Used: 121 Gallons

When we awoke for our next big travel day we almost couldn’t believe it – there was barely a breeze blowing.  The last time we had a day without wind was when we arrived at Chub Cay more than a month earlier.  We place these days under the category of “boating karma.”  For every day on the water where you get beat up by the conditions, you should be rewarded with a day like this.

What lake did we wake up on? It can’t possibly be this calm out, can it? Boating Karma.

That, of course, doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges.  Chub Cay Marina has a very manageable but somewhat tricky entrance.  It is narrow and really not suitable for two big boats passing in opposite directions and there’s really not enough space for many boats to comfortably turn around once you’ve committed to the cut between the marina’s basin and the open water.  So before entering the cut, I place a “sécurité” call where I announce our intentions on the VHF and ask for any concerned traffic to contact us.  With nothing heard we proceeded ahead and once we were a little more than half way through we were met by a guy in a small boat screaming towards us and someone on shore waving us down.  A fuel barge at the island for a delivery was tied up at the end of the cut and their line was in the water.  The man on the small boat was able to retrieve the line and we were waved on by a relieved crew member on the barge.  Had the wind been blowing or current running it would have been a much more tense situation as there’s not a lot of room for error in this relatively tight space.  But all’s well that ends well and once we were clear the dockmaster announced on the radio that all traffic should hold off on departing the marina until notified.  We were sure glad we made it out before they closed the channel and are sure there were a lot of unhappy, impatient sport-fisher people that were planning to leave after us (that’s also a form of boating karma to be discussed in a later entry).

Watch how it all went down…

After twelve easy miles, we passed “the stick” that marks the beginning of the bank and we were once again in very calm, much shallower water (read more about the transit from Bimini to Chub Cay here).  For some very long stretches, we saw no boats and you have no land in sight (and no cell service) for hours.  It was our first truly calm day on the water since we did this very leg in the opposite direction which was a huge relief.  And that calm enabled Tim to work in the galley while underway to take advantage of the amazing fresh fish we had just received.

Cornmeal dusted Mahi tacos with fresh guacamole, shredded spinach, red onion and a chipotle mayo drizzle. It was so calm that Tim broke out the cast-iron skillet and did a light fry on this delicious fish using the Motor Yacht Tuff Life method (Lori and Robert’s “Louisiana style” recipe) which was no egg, no flour, just seasoned cornmeal (Old Bay, onion powder, cracked pepper). Just wash the fish, dust and drop into about a half-inch of oil. Simple and delicious!

Another obligatory picture of “the stick.”

We left the bank and rounded Memorial Rock at the north side of Bimini at around 3:10 pm and were eager to be done for the day.  While we had a terrific stay at Bimini Big Game Club our last time through we were eager to try something different.  Brown’s Marina looked good to us when we walked by last time so we arranged for a slip here.

Easy in, easy out. The entrance/exit from North Bimini is just minutes from our slip.

OLOH safely tied at our own nearly private marina for the night.

The docks are very well-kept, the power pedestals seem to be new since some storm damage last year so we were surprised to see only two small boats tied up here when we arrived.  Dockmaster Cecil welcomed us warmly and we were just happy to put another long day in the books.  We were looking at this as more of a utility stop as we were pretty tapped and expected to be off the docks relatively early the next morning to make our crossing back to Florida.

A little bit of Bimini color next door to the Brown’s Marina docks.

The sun sets on our final day in The Bahamas – this time around. We are looking forward to coming home.

The Crossing:  Bimini to Fort Lauderdale

Conditions: Mostly sunny.  Light winds from the southeast 10 mph. Mostly flat, calm seas.

Distance traveled:  53.2 nautical miles

Time underway: 5 hours 12 minutes

Average Speed: 10 knots

Max Speed: 18 knots

Fuel Used: 64 Gallons

Boating Karma.  We now are sure it’s real.  After an easy departure from Bimini we were out in the Atlantic for our 48 nautical mile crossing of the gulf stream with the Port Everglades sea buoy of the Fort Lauderdale coast our only waypoint.  The water was dead calm.  Glass.  As smooth as it could be.  And the visibility was so clear we were able to see the Miami skyline come into view when we were still 32 nautical miles from the coast of Florida.  It was nice to get the “lift” from the Gulf Stream and average around a mile per gallon, even with our occasional run-up of the engines to 18 knots.

Barely a ripple in the ocean as OLOH departs Bimini after five incredible weeks in The Bahamas.

Farewell, Bimini. Jasper settles in for an easy day on the water having carefully arranged his pillow collection just to his liking.

After a perfect crossing, we entered Port Everglades inlet at noon on a beautiful Saturday – which makes it like rush hour in Manhattan on a Friday afternoon.  Boats of all kinds were everywhere piloted by captains of all levels of experience and courtesy.  Cruise ships lined the harbor and law enforcement was out doing what they could.  So there was a bit of heightened stress as we maneuvered from the inlet to the Bahia Mar Yachting Center but it’s familiar territory to us now and we arrived at our slip without issue.

OLOH entering Port Everglades inlet after a successful crossing from The Bahamas.  My how the colors have changed.  We were captured on camera by the Port Everglades Webcam.  You can see the clip in the video below.

We spotted several traveling tiki bars – if something happens to the motor do you think they have a designated diver…ahem.

When you return from the Bahamas you have to clear customs just the same as returning from any foreign land.  There is a system in place for pre-registering your boat so when you return you can check in by phone and avoid reporting to a customs office – which is what we were expecting to have to do.  But in the last couple of days, I was able to learn about the ROAM app which somehow had previously eluded me.  It’s a government app which allows you to register your vessel and everybody on board with all of their information including pictures of their passports.  Then when you are back in the states you register your trip by answering pertinent questions and submitting it at which point someone reviews everything, usually within a few minutes, and sets up a video conference to interview you and clear you in.  Everything worked seamlessly for us and once our trip was processed we received a message that we were cleared in and no video conference was necessary as we are members of a trusted traveler program (Global Entry in our case).  Wow.  That was easy!

And then we celebrated with a strong arrival cocktail and some self-congratulations.  This was a big deal.  It was exciting, stressful, an immense amount of fun and, for us, a long time to be away.  We saw so much, we learned so much and definitely had the adventure of a lifetime.  But it was good to be “home.”
Check out this time-lapse video and travel with us from Compass Cay to Fort Lauderdale in two minutes…

Please be sure to subscribe to the blog on the top right of this page to get notified when updates are posted.  And please leave any comments or questions below – we love to hear from you & know that you’re along for the ride!  You can also follow us on Twitter at @MYOLOH and for plenty more pictures and video find us on Instagram.   Please like us & follow us on the M/Y OLOH Facebook Page as well.  And that concludes your OLOH instructions. 
This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. “Too many times we stand aside and let the water slip away, and put off ’til tomorrow has now become today. So don’t sit upon the shoreline and say your satisfied, choose to chance upon the rapids and dare to dance the tide” - Garth Brooks (The River) Bravo!
  2. Great post and videos! Jasper was on point with that fuel barge. Maxy says to give him many treats for keeping such a good watch. On the guy passing in front of you with the green wind scoop, wow! That was my day every day when I ran the tour boat. Used to dream about paddleboarders, kayaks, and wave runners crossing my path. Love to the OLOH crew⚓️
  3. Enjoyed all of your travels thru the Exumas... beautiful area!!!! If you ever cruise to Abaco please look me up, I live on Man -o - War Cay and would enjoy showing you our island. I would like to know more about your boat, and the engines on how they performed on your trip. Thanks for sharing......scott
    1. Hi Scott - So glad you enjoyed our travels and we will be making it to Abaco at some point - thank you for your kind offer. We'll be posting more specifics about our boat soon but she's a 2004 Jefferson 60 Marquessa, one of nine built of this particular style. She's powered by Detroit/MTU Series 60's at 825hp which performed flawlessly on our trip. When we cruise at 10 knots we get an average of around 1mpg. Cheers!
  4. It looks like you as well as Jasper had a great couple of weeks in one of the most beautiful places on earth with some of the most beautiful hearted people on earth. The Beard family is so grateful that our paths crossed in Wardrick Wells. Blessings on the rest of your year and your next travel adventures!

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