Whew! In the Nick of Time!
March 23rd, 2020
The day started out great! We put the jib out and had a nice downwind sail and once we turned toward Long Island, we had to put up both the main and the jib. We encountered an odd boat that didn’t show up on AIS so it gave us some concern for a while. It was a large trawler like ship with men aboard, some wearing black and a guy up top with binoculars. They came towards us and approached us for a bit, then waved and moved on but it still gave us a bit of a scare. We think it might have been some sort of mailboat in the Bahamas that transports goods. Another sailor on AIS hailed us on VHF later in the day because the boat spooked him too.
Later that night, Kevin and I were doing our typical night watches and about 1:30 a.m. as we were rounding Acklins Island, I happened to check Facebook for any updates on the Bahamas situation and got a signal. The prime minister that night had decided to close the boarders at 9:00 a.m. My heart sunk. We may not make it in time. I woke Kevin up and we made the decision to douse the sails, and gun the engines to hopefully make it.
We arrived just at daybreak waiting till we had enough light to enter the anchorage. Again, coral heads are everywhere so you need to pay attention, one of us at the helm, one of us on the bow. As we enter, we locate the marina where you are supposed to check in and decide to take a brief look at it to figure out where we should pull up. Before we get there, the VHF goes off…. A guy yells at us “Counting Stars, What are your intentions?” Doesn’t say who it is or where he is calling from. Kevin gets on the radio and says “Is this Flying Fish Marina?” The guy says yes and we explain how we called the customs guy yesterday and need to pull up to check in. He yells back at us that the borders are closed since 7 p.m. last night and we have to insist that the statement said 9 a.m. and we rushed to get here. Kevin pitifully says “We really need a little help here to check in and get some fuel,” and the guy says, “OK, call the customs guy. Only he can give you permission. Without his permission you can’t dock.” So we anchor and at 7:15, I call the customs agent. He sounds like I woke him up and he says, call the marina. I explain that the marina said to call him and he says to call the marina back in a few minutes. I wait about 20 minutes and hail the marina on the VHF and they say he hasn’t contacted them. So I call the customs guy back again who says he will contact them and the marina ultimately says they will let us know when he is there and then we can pull up. Well, the 9:00 deadline passes and we still haven’t heard anything. We are beginning to think this is all for naught. About 11:00 I call the customs guy again and he says he is finally on his way. Yea! We get permission to dock at the marina in gusty conditions. Since I am the captain, I am escorted to the customs agent and he processes our cruising paperwork. Hallelujah, we have officially entered the Bahamas! We were probably the last people in the whole country to check in! Before leaving the marina, I had to again beg for fuel-dockhand had to ask supervisor ,but eventually we were able to fill up. Pulling away from the dock was my most challenging conditions yet but we got off without a scratch.
With anchor down in 6 ft of crystal clear water, we took many deep breaths, until exhaustion set in. Listening to other cruisers on arriving on the VHF, all were denied entry. We were the last ones granted permission to dock and last ones to fuel. Grateful.