Threading the Gulf Stream

After a week and a half of waiting for a weather window, we made our first attempt to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas on Tuesday, January 28. We departed Lake Sylvia at 0200, made the 0230 opening of the 17th Street bridge, and were out of the channel into the Atlantic 15 minutes after that. Unfortunately, we found ourselves driving into a strong easterly wind and pounding into steeper-than-forecast seas. Not sure if these were the result of the outgoing current going into the wind, but at times we were making less than 1 knot over the ground and the whole thing just didn’t feel right. We decided to turn around and, after going back through the 17th Street bridge, anchored in the exact same spot from which we’d departed just two hours earlier.

Inventorying provisions in advance of our departure.

Inventorying provisions in advance of our departure.

One of our Bahamas cruising guides characterized the Gulf Stream crossing as “a board game with squares marked ‘THROW A SIX TO MOVE ON’”, and that resonated with us. We were content to wait to roll a six. Luckily, our next window came only two days later.

On the day in between we went ashore one last time via the dinghy dock at the Southport Raw Bar, a dive-y Fort Lauderdale institution.

Southport Raw Bar.

Southport Raw Bar.

That afternoon we met many of the other residents of the Lake Sylvia basin at an Australia Day party hosted by Monica (Australian) and Jay (American) aboard their sailboat. Soren and Elsa arrived aboard their self-proclaimed Republic of Docklandia, a piece of floating dock that we salvaged from the basin.

“Docklandia”. Have republic, will travel.

“Docklandia”. Have republic, will travel.

For Thursday’s attempt we decided to leave earlier and make for Lucaya, along the southern coast of Grand Bahama Island. We made the 0100 bridge opening and exited the channel into easterly winds and choppy seas, but far less severe than our previous attempt. For the first 7.5 hours we motored into the wind until, as forecast, it clocked south and we were able to raise the (reefed) main. Our progress by then had been slow enough that we decided to head instead for our back-up destination of West End, on the very northwest tip of Grand Bahama. We didn’t see much vessel traffic, and AIS helped make navigating through the traffic we did see relatively straightforward.

We shortened sail (including a second reef in the main) as a couple of thunderstorm squalls rolled through, dumping torrential volumes of water and reducing visibility considerably. Near the end of the trip, we made our one and only gybe to point West End. As the depth shoaled up from thousands of feet to dozens, the seas began to steepen and we found ourselves surfing as we approached the channel entrance. Our landing into the slip in the 20+ knot cross wind was not the mose graceful ever executed but, as my dad used to say, “any landing you can walk away from…”

Partially-furled Genoa and double-reefed main. (Photos never make the seas look as big as they feel in person.)

Partially-furled Genoa and double-reefed main. (Photos never make the seas look as big as they feel in person.)

NB the new (and long-overdue) dinghy registration numbers.

NB the new (and long-overdue) dinghy registration numbers.

We cleared into customs and immigration and made ourselves official, lowering the yellow quarantine flag and raising the Bahamas courtesy flag on our starboard spreader. We secured the boat with a spider’s web of lines and were able to sleep soundly as the the winds built to 30+ knots later that night, feeling very happy to be tucked into West End.

EXIT flying the “Q” flag prior to clearing in.

EXIT flying the “Q” flag prior to clearing in.

Yesterday, in mill-pond calm, we had an uneventful (almost somnolent) motoring passage to reach our original destination of Lucaya. We’re at a marina, away from the bustling resort area, and expect to continue heading further south in the next couple of days.

Departing West End in conditions that Caribbean weather forecaster Chris Parker described as “very benign”.

Departing West End in conditions that Caribbean weather forecaster Chris Parker described as “very benign”.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. I feel almost guilty that I took the cruise ship across the same passage. My biggest challenge was locating the Chardonnay at the buffet…..

  2. Congrats on making it across!!

  3. What a fantastic adventure!

  4. Gavin is such a slacker! Although I bet they have Chardonnay on the boat too… 🙂
    Sounds like it was a rough passage guys, but glad to hear you made it ok and left the continent!! How exciting.

  5. Sounds like you’re underway and have some good provisions, since both Elsa and Soren are in charge of taking inventory. The description of crossing the Gulf Stream is intriguing. Tossing a stick definitely doesn’t track with technology…but guess it’s a traditional tool. Hope all is well. Love, Aunt Mindy

  6. You made it! You’re finally off the mainland. We’re very jealous here in SF. Just sailed in the 3 Bridge Fiasco race on Saturday, and we actually had wind! Not sure how we did, but it was a blast– But nothing compared to your ongoing adventure! Nicely done with the chocolate chip and onion quesadillas, btw. I don’t think I would have considered that combo as an option, but I guess when the supplies are low, you make due. Enjoy the islands!

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