Sunday, February 19, 2023

Magic on Mackie Shoals

Dave pointed to a spot on the chart in the middle of nowhere. "We'll spend the night here".

I zoomed out the chart, and then zoomed it out again. There was no island anywhere nearby. The spot Dave pointed at was 37 mi from the backside of Bimini, and 50 miles or more to Chub Cay or Andros. I squinted my eyes and chewed on my lip. This goes against everything I know, but... this is our buddy boat and they have been here many times. They know the area. We do not. Why even have a buddy boat with local experience if you're not going to trust their guidance?

And the conditions did look perfect for it. Light winds in the morning going our way, then 2 days of peaceful calm.

And so began our journey to Mackie Shoals.

Beachscape under sail

The next morning we motored out of Bimini. As we approached the shallow sandbar that separates Bimini from the outside world, Lance was behind the wheel and I was perched on the bow watching carefully for any random coral that might cause trouble to Minerva. A giant ray glided past, and I could see the individual sand as we motored over it. In the Bahamas the clarity is such that you can see this level of detail even in 15 ft of water, so it all has the effect of looking alarmingly shallow. We followed our track out, made the sharp turn across the shallow shoal (holding our breath as if that somehow makes us lighter), and exited safely out into the open ocean. Minutes later we had Minerva's sails up.

As we turned East around the North side of Bimini, the royal blue water turned to turquoise and stretched on as far as the eye could see. Soon the depth readings under the boat were showing at a steady 10 feet. We sailed alongside our friends and other boats that followed us out, until the wind died as predicted at midday, then we fired up the motor and made some ice to stow away for the evening's cocktails.

Godspeed followed us out of Bimini and sailed along with us for a while

With nothing but turquoise water and blue sky in every direction for hours, it seemed out of place when we finally did come upon a lit marker and a few boats already at anchor. It's all 10 ft deep in every direction, and it's not like there are proper channel markers, it's just more or less casually understood that the direct line between Bimini and Chub Cay is the preferred highway, so we motored about a mile or so out of the way and dropped the hook at the outer edge of the other boats already anchored there.

I was still tidying up the boat from the journey when I heard the splash of Lance swimming. Cocktails and dinner soon followed, and that sunset disappearing into the beautiful turquoise water was something I will never forget.

Beachscape at anchor on Mackie Shoals

In the Bahamas cruisers show their appreciation for the sunset with the blow through a conch horn. Since we don't have one we make do by ringing the ship bell or howling with Chloe. 

Our buddy boat Beachscape in the late afternoon light on Mackie Shoals

Then the evening show began.

We brought the cushions and cocktails up onto the aft deck to witness the stars. So many stars; more stars than I've ever seen ever before. With no visible land in any direction, there was simply no light pollution. All the stars were so bright we couldn't even make out the constellations we're used to seeing.

We counted shooting stars and satellites until we passed out lying under the blanket of stars.

It was the most magical night.

As predicted, there was no wind the next morning and we motored the rest of the way to Chub Cay. For once, Lance wasn't grumbling about the motor running instead of the sails being out. We happily sipped our coffee as we motored along on the flat seas, both still under the spell of those crazy stars and a magical Bahamas night.

Motoring to Chub Cay with the sunrise on flat seas