June 1st, 2016
Bimini to West Palm Beach, Florida
Crossing the Gulf Stream
We get up in darkness to navigate out of the marina and (typical of our luck lately) discover a storm is approaching. By this time Angie has become an amateur meteorologist, consulting multiple weather, wind, and radar apps. We wait an hour to let it rumble on. At least it's not going our direction but hours are precious when you need to travel almost 80 nautical miles and want to reach your destination by dark, well before dark...
80 nautical miles doesn't sound like much. You can drive your car 80 miles an hour what's the big deal? Well, depends on your boat. There are power boats that blast back and forth across the Gulf Stream just to go fishing for the day. Not ours. Top speed under power and our average sailing speed is 7 knots (which is great for a sailboat). Also, a nautical mile equals 1.15 land miles so we're looking at a full day. With the help of the Gulf Stream current we should make 7 easily and probably more but we plan conservatively, hence the early departure.
Just getting out of the marina, in the dark, got us sweating. You'd think the entrance would be all lit up and marked. Nope, just piles of dark jagged rocks on either side and a nice little jog to the left at the end. We successfully get out into the small channel and look for the buoys we saw on the way in. Ha! No lights on those either! That just isn't the Bahamian way. Which I can kind of understand. Why invest too much in something that's just going to get carried away in a storm eventually and why would you be out here in the dark anyway? We pass thru a few anchored boats, most of which have their anchor lights on, and one of them appears to be our friends, First Look, but it's too early to hail them. Sadly we never actually met them in person!
Bimini is now in our rearview. We head into the darkness almost straight west for a couple of miles until we know we're in deep water and begin to turn slightly northwest. Soon we'll pick up the Gulf Stream current which will help propel us north. The Gulf Stream is a current that runs up the east coast at anywhere from 1-3 knots, depending on the time of year. It can also be closer to Florida or the Bahamas depending on the season. Because of the current running north it's best to cross with a wind direction that cooperates with it. If the wind is blowing against the stream it becomes a washing machine. Basically, never cross when the wind forecast has an N in it. We had waited for an east/southeast breeze.
The wind was light, as we left, but after sunrise it picked up enough that we actually got to haul up the sails! Once we hit the stream we turned northwest and picked up speed. So far so good. Decent wind, mellow waves on the stern, and a nice 2-3 knot kick from the stream.
I don't remember exactly what time we dropped anchor in West Palm Beach but with all the elements finally working in our favor we made it easily by mid afternoon. Navigating the inlet, ICW markers, and boat traffic was harder than the Gulf Stream but I won't bore you with all that. We were exhausted but it was a great day and we had succeeded in bringing the 4 of us safely back to Florida. In 2 days Wings would be hauled out for repairs.
We owned Wings until October but this was the last time we actually sailed her.
It was fantastic and somewhat bittersweet to look back upon. We touched 11 knots a few times on the return from Bimini. The fastest she ever went for us and it was effortless and smooth. At the time we didn't know that we'd never
get another opportunity to sail her.
The last leg...
That's equivalent to 12.5 miles per hour! Woohoo!
That's a big boat...
We did it!