01/24/2012, West End, Bahamas
We upped the anchor at 4:15 am from the anchorage south east of Peanut Island and made our way out the channel on what turned out to be a very dark night. Going out the channel in the pitch black I must say was slightly eerie but we cleared the channel and set our course for West End, Bahamas about 57 miles away in flat seas and light winds.
The darkness gave way to a most glorious sunrise about 2 1/2 hours later and that led into a nearly perfect day for a Gulf Stream crossing. All three of us were enjoying the day, watching the US shoreline disappear, and marvelling at the power of the Gulf Stream even on a placid day like today. We soon found ourselves about 10 miles off the coast and we were already about 2 miles north of the rhumbline. For you non-sailors that means we were being pushed at nearly 5 knots (about 8 mph) north away from our destination. We decided to give up a little bit of our forward progress to head into the current to move closer to our course. Not only did we have a buddy boat travelling with us but there were about a dozen other boats spread out across the horizon both ahead and behind us.
Our small navigation correction was working and we were slowly making our way across and enjoying our adventure when we received a radio call from Tranquility, our buddy boat. They were about as far south of the rhumbline (a better navigational position) as we were north and a couple of miles behind us. But, they were currently adrift because their engine suddenly quit. Laurence & Joan Wright, our travelling buddies, live near the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto and I met them in Indiantown while we were both working on our boats. They bought a lovely 1984 Tartan 33 sloop that was new to them this year and they worked like crazy in the boatyard getting the boat ready for their trip. But, despite all the planning in the world any new boat will present all kinds of daunting challenges to new owners. Unfortunately, for the crew of Tranquility this current challenge came in the middle of the Gulf Stream with only light and variable winds.
Leeway altered course and in about an hour rendezvoused with Tranquility which was still without power. The decision was made to take Tranquility under tow while Laurence continued to troubleshoot the engine problems. And so, the tethered boats continued eastward towards the Bahamas.
Now, they say that you should never tow your dinghy behind your boat while crossing the stream and suddenly here I was towing a 10,000 lb boat. Oh well, we all do what we got to do and we all carried on with Leeway chugging away at about 2900 rpm to keep up a decent pace while the crew of Tranquility had to hand-steer the entire day. Anyone who has helmed a boat for an hour knows how tiring it can be and Laurence and Joan (I'm told mostly Joan) had to do so for over 5 hours.
Slowly we made our way across the stream strapped to each others' hip getting closer and closer, but Mother Nature wasn't through with us yet. As predicted the winds picked up in the afternoon out of the east (and of course, what direction were we travelling?) and slowed our forward progress to less that 3.5 knots for a couple of hours. So we all settled in for a long afternoon, but fortunately, as we got closer to the Bahama bank the waves abated somewhat and allow our speed to creep back up to about 5.5 knots.
We contacted Old Bahama Bay Marina and they were ready for our arrival and sent crew out to the dock to help the disabled Tranquility get into a slip. We entered the channel just after 6pm in rapidly diminishing light and by the time we handed over Tranquility to the dock crew, turned around and found our own slip it was dark. To say the least it was a very interesting day - good, productive, one that you have a good feeling about - but nevertheless interesting.
We hadn't even finished tying up the boats and the dock crew were hustling us off to Bahamas customs and immigration so we could clear into the country. We walked around the marina basin to the customs office and in a flurry of paperwork were cleared into the country, paid all our fees, been granted fishing licenses, and we were all back to our boats by 7pm. Try that in Canada.
So we're here. In the Bahamas. Currently residing at Old Bahama Bay at West End, Bahamas. Tomorrow we'll try to solve Tranquility's engine problem and figure out where we're going from here. But right now, I just want to catch my breath.
01/20/2012, Lake Worth, Florida
Our close friends, Derek & Susan Bernard, arrived on the 11th to spend a couple of weeks with me on the boat and help with the crossing over to the Bahamas. The first couple of days were busy ones filled with getting provisions (yes more) and taking their car down to West Palm airport so it would be there upon their return to the States.
Initially, we thought that we might have a weather window to cross over on the weekend but that failed to materialize but hope sprang eternal for the following Wednesday. So, in anticipation of a favourable forecast we cast off from the mooring in Stuart on Monday the 16th and headed down the ICW towards Lake Worth. Derek was with me for much of the passage down the ICW last year but Sue had never seen it before and she seemed to get a kick out of seeing both the wild side of the scenery interspersed with the ever present development that never seems very far away.
We arrived in Lake Worth mid-afternoon and joined up with our buddy boat Tranquility who had moved down a few days earlier. Soon after our arrival, we started concentrating on the Cruisers' Dance -- watching the weather and waiting. It's a complicated dance that involves intricate footwork - one step forward, two steps back. We caught every forecast, discussed what we heard and sought out the opinions of anyone who would listen. We thought that Wednesday would be our chance, but by Tuesday morning it became apparent that that window was collapsing rapidly and our trip would have to wait a little while longer. So our little flotilla of two, along with dozens of others, sat anchored securely waiting for the next opportunity.
The weather is supposed to cooperate on Saturday and Sunday by moving a high pressure system into the region. We will give the Gulf Stream a chance to lay down on Saturday and have made our plans to cross over on Sunday, January 22nd.
So late Saturday afternoon we will move from the north anchorage down to the Peanut Island anchorage at Lake Worth which gives easy access out the channel to the ocean. We'll stage ourselves in the anchorage so that we will have as little to do to get underway in the wee morning hours as possible. Everything will be stowed carefully, sail covers off, spotlights charged, and the boat will be on a short rode. Our dance is almost complete.
Derek, Sue, Cindy and I have been sailing together for over 30 years and here we are again having one more new and exciting time together. But, we all miss the Admiral. It's hard to dance alone.
01/10/2012, Stuart, Florida
As Cindy said in her blog she's back home and has left me to my own devices here in Florida. And, so I'm "baching" it again. At least swinging in the anchorage at Stuart is a little more scenic than the work yard in Indiantown.
I'm waiting for our friends Derek & Sue to join me for a few weeks. They are currently on their way south and should be here tomorrow or the next day. They'll help me with crossing the Gulf Stream and then spend a couple of weeks in the Abacos.
So I've been busy get ready for our initiation with the Gulf Stream. For those of you that are non-sailiors the Gulf Stream is a fast-moving current that moves north from the Carribean through the narrow Florida Straits between the Bahamas and Florida coast. The Gulf Stream moves at an average of 3+ knots and when it meets any winds coming from a northerly direction sets up steep, sharp waves that quickly can turn into a dangerous rip current. So the right weather conditions are paramount for any safe crossing over to the Bahamas. Most cruisers wait until a cold front comes through the area which, most often, brings cooler temperatures and high winds. After the cold front passes the winds clock around from the North towards the East and then South, the temperature rises, and winds often drop substantially. This is the ideal kind of weather for a crossing provided the window is long enough.
That's currently what we're watching for and a cold front is forecasted to pass through on late Wednesday or early Thursday. Current forecasts seem to indicate that we might be able to cross early next week.
So I'm busy getting the last minute things done (the lead picture is of the Admiral with just some of the provisions we put aboard for the season) and when Derek and Sue arrive they'll have a busy day or two getting everything accomplished so that we can go down to Lake Worth and wait for our weather window.
And, then with any luck, next week I can cross another thing off my "bucket list" - taking my own boat to the Bahamas. Stay tuned I'll update the trip when I have Wifi available.