Crossing The Great Bahama Bank In A Trawler

After 3 lonnnggg weeks in Bimini, the relentless winds were finally letting up for a couple of days. Anyone that owns a trawler in our size range understands the need for the right sea conditions to make a long open-water passage. Even smaller seas can become very uncomfortable from the wrong direction. Our destination was the Berry Islands and from our marina to Great Harbor would be about a 12-hour day. Needless to say that as the first light of day broke over the eastern horizon, we had the dock lines off and were underway. As luck would have it, the tides and currents were slack as we motored out of the harbor and back into the edge of the Gulf Stream. Winds were less than 5 knots so other than some small swells, it was flat. Perfect trawler weather. Thanks for the photo and the great Photoshop work Larry.

It was a short hours' run from the Bimini harbor entrance buoys to the light at North Rock, just north of North Bimini. The light is just a post on a flat rock and seldom is lit. But it must be rounded to stay in deeper waters and make the turn east across the Banks. We were traveling with another trawler, Our Time with Brooks and Sara on board. They, too, were heading for the Berrys. Another trawler had left just a little before we did and were just ahead of us. Our neighbors on a sailboat were coming out behind us and they were planning to head for the Northwest Channel Light and then on to Nassau.

We could not have placed an order for more perfect weather to cross the Great Bahama Banks from Bimini to the Berry Islands. Winds were directly on our nose and so were the wind waves. But the winds averaged 5 to 8 knots all day and the seas were about 1 foot, so it was a comfortable trip. That was probably a really good thing, not only because it was comfortable and we could make good time, but Susan was not feeling well and it allowed her to rest on the trip. We had left the dock at about 7:15 AM and knew we would be racing the clock to get in and anchored before dark. Sunset would be at 7:21 PM.

We reached the outer waypoint near Great Harbor at 7:00 PM and knew we had at best 45 more minutes of daylight. It was approximately 5 more miles to the harbor entrance and we knew that was just a little too late. The harbor entrance is very narrow and not something we wanted to try in the dark. Our decision was to get as close to the Cay as possible and get the anchor down while we could still see the bottom and there was still some light. We made the approach toward the inner waypoint at the harbor entrance, and as the sun began setting behind us, we turned toward Cistern Cay. There are no obstacles or hazards to worry about and we could have gotten almost up to the beach if we wanted. With the light fading fast, we found a light sandy spot in the heavy grass bottom and dropped the anchor. All we needed was for it to set without any problems. The chart guides indicated that the holding here was poor in grass. Once again, luck was on our side and our Manson Supreme dug in the first time and took hold. It was 7:30 pm and the last light was disappearing in the west. Our Time had dropped in off our port side and they, too, were securely anchored. It was indeed a long day, but we were absolutely delighted to be on our way again. The next day would be spent exploring the settlement at Bullocks Harbor.


  1. Glad you made it safe and sound. Almost a perfect crossing! I'll be following your blog closely. Have a great time!

  2. Thanks. I will try and do a post tonight on Great Harbor and we plan to head for Nassau tomorrow. Stay tuned.

  3. You really had me going with that top photo!

    Thanks for including the chart. I'm not familiar with the Bahamas. I wish everyone did that.


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