On February 22, 12 adventurous Belgians boarded Juliet for an amazing diving trip through the Bahamas to head back to Miami. The weather report was calling for some not-so-nice weather later in the week so we booked it to Hogsty reef to get the cruise going – the boat needed to be in a very particular part of the Bahamas for the strong north winds that were predicted and we had some ground to cover to get there in time.
Hogsty reef did not disappoint with it’s dramatic walls and healthy reef systems. We gathered some lionfish, took it all in, and said goodbye to Hogsty until next year, as we continued to head north to safe waters. The short-term forecast was absolutely gorgeous and we were all loving it, though the threat of bad weather ahead loomed over us.
Next stop: Crooked Island, the newest addition to the Repositioning itinerary. The walls up north by Bird Island were chock full of life, and as we were hauling anchor from the second dive, Kat started screaming incoherently and pointing wildly as two humpback whales were headed straight for the boat. The next surface interval was spent – you guessed it! – whale watching, as we carefully followed these giant creatures towards the north as they started their long journey back home to their feeding grounds in New England and Canada.
Conception Island held some amazing surprises as well. At the end of the first dive, one of the Belgian passengers started yelling in Flemish about something the crew couldn’t really understand, save for the lucky coincidence that the Flemish word for “dolphin” sounds just like the English word – and there she was, a solitary bottlenose dolphin, just hanging out, swimming among the divers at the surface. Divers got out, took off their scuba gear, and got back in for over 45 minutes to play with this curious creature. She even followed us to the next dive site and continued to entertain us! Later in the afternoon, a second dolphin arrived, played for a few minutes, and then the two of them took off. We felt a little used, but were very glad for the incredible day spent with this beautiful creature!
Kat had been raving about Jake’s Blue Hole since the beginning of the trip, and Liza couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about. We arrived at Eleuthera early on the 26th and Liza and Trevor went for an exploratory dive. Jake’s is a premature blue hole, that’s really just a crack in the ocean floor at only 25′ down, but it must open up to somewhere since the tide flows through there very strongly. We could see the boil on the surface of the tide flowing out of the hole, and when you tried to dive down into it, it would only spit you back out again. Better than being sucked in! The surrounding coral reef was absolutely gorgeous as usual, and the passengers were happy to have found their first nudibranchs and lots of gorgeous sea life. We took the rest of the morning off from diving to go fishing across the Exuma sound, and even hooked a few fish, though we weren’t able to land them. The rest of the day was spent diving the walls off the Exumas and chatting with old friends on the radio from Blackbeards and other dive boats. It was good to hear some familiar voices – and to get an updated weather report. It sounded like the forecast had completely changed and we were stuck with this beautiful weather until the end of the trip!
The next day, we dove out front of the Exumas again and then headed across the Yellow Bank towards Nassau. The water was glass as we pulled up to Periwinkle reef for the afternoon and night dive, where more nudibranchs were found. The plan was to dive the Blue hole in the morning, and then a wreck dive out front before heading into Atlantis for some waterslides and gambling! Mother Nature, however, had other plans.
Kat awoke to a leaky captain’s quarters hatch dripping on her head at 5am and the sound of hard rain. It was still dark out, and hard to see what was going on, other than it was wet. The radar didn’t seem to indicate a squall, this was a pretty big rain cloud by the looks of it. As it got lighter, the winds picked up and it was obvious this wasn’t just a passing storm. Winds were hard out of the north, and even though we were anchored in 20 feet of water, the seas were beginning to build. By 6am almost everyone was away as the boat got a little rocky and the passengers were a little excited by the change in weather. Liza and Kat estimated the winds were pushing 30kts and warned the passengers to be careful out on deck. Turns out the initial forecast wasn’t so wrong after all!
*Cue dramatic music*
A loud bang sent Kat and Liza and the rest of the crew out on deck to see what was going on. Nothing obvious had fallen or was out of place, but then another bang. The bow was getting buried under waves while we were at anchor and the chain was jumping out of the windlass! Next thing we knew, the entire chain paid out and we were adrift in 5′ seas and next to no visibility! Rusty started cursing as breakfast went all over the galley and the boat turned broadside to the wind and waves while Kat tried to muscle Juliet back into the weather and Trevor marked where the anchor was lost on the GPS. The next few hours were spent pacing back and forth in the shallow but still wickedly rough water south of Nassau waiting for the seas to calm down enough to recover the anchor. Ground tackle (anchor and chain) on a boat is arguably as important – if not more so – than the engine itself. If we couldn’t recover the anchor, we’d have to head back to Miami.
By 9:30 the seas had laid down enough to put Trevor in the water to look for the anchor, and within 45 minutes he found it, and it was back on board by 11. Somehow we even managed to get a dive in at the Blue hole, and went around to Atlantis for the afternoon, where Kat took a nice long nap to calm her nerves and the rest of the crew blew off some steam on the waterslides with the passengers.
A dive at the famed James Bond Wrecks and a hooked (but not landed!) Marlin later, we were in the Berry Islands and less than 100 miles from our old stomping grounds. We headed to Cat Cay and Bimini to dive Nodules, Bull Run, Tuna Alley and the rest of the amazing dive sites over there before we finished out what some of the crew is calling the best repositioning trip yet in Miami, right on schedule. Thanks to De Buddys dive group and all the crew and Juliet herself for an amazing trip!