Sailing South on Solitude

John, Penni & Timmy


I slept really well before our long sail. That's a first! I was looking forward to a day of sailing despite my concern about the height of the waves. We left exactly at 6:30. John had said that we could come back if it was too rough but I knew he didn't mean it. We were off. Greg had said it was rough right outside the marina so I was relieved to see only low waves. 'This is going to be okay' I commented. John smiled. 'What are you thinking?' I asked, the smile not quite giving me enough information. 'I think it will be like our trip back from the Dry Tortugas'. I cast my mind back. As far as I am concerned, every big trip has been perfect because we completed it. I remembered that the waves made it hard for me to helm, but that it was a comfortable trip. This was gPing to be even better because I was more confident. Within the first 45 minutes we got into the dark water of the Gulf Stream. The waves were getting bigger. I monitored the situation carefully. John was very happy. Before long the waves often seemed bigger than 5 foot, but they were smooth and did indeed push us in the right direction. We had the sails up and planned to leave them in that position all the way. We were doing 7 knots, then 8 knots. We tried putting the engine to idle and only dropped a knot of speed. It was great sailing weather. However, with the distance of more than 80 nautical miles and the alternator on the blink, we decided to keep the engine on for the trip. Despite this, it was still amazing. It is the first time we have really flown across the ocean. Yes, if you want the wind, you will have waves. Waves are not as scary as I thought. John was right(again), the interval and direction are more important. There is also some calculation with swell and wind. What that means for me is that the waves seem bigger than I was promised but Solitude was unfazed. John was loving it. 'I have a new top speed of 9.4!' Half an hour later- 'I have a new top speed of 10.7'! Our final top speed was 11.1! Although I did not helm much, I did help by looking out for ships, making lunch and keeping Timmy and I safe. I moved around the boat as little as possible. Solitude could be heeling one minute and upright the next. Even with holding on, I still got shoved around. Solitude's movements were not predictable because the waves were not predictable. I have an impressive bruise on my bottom to prove it. Speaking of bottoms, they are as useful as arms and legs when trying to hold on. The time passed very quickly. John helmed most of the way and it was not as easy to nip up and down to get things, but I really enjoyed the faster sail. When we came from the Keys to Bimini, we were struggling to maintain 5 knots. It was calm and stunningly beautiful. The wind would have been in the wrong direction so a stronger wind would not have helped. When we did the night sail from Chubb to Bimini, we had a fair wind and calm seas (the Bahama Banks are shallow). However, I am really glad I have experienced such varied crossings. We got to our marina in exactly 11 hours, triumphant and hungry. Picture of our friend Scott (John's stand in brother). They crossed from the Abacos (further North) to Lake Worth and arrived an hour or so before us. The dragged lines on the way over and caught this mahi-mahi. That might be us one day...