February 26th – March 5th 2022
So after the long silence of 2 months, now you’re hearing from us twice in the same week. We just wanted to give you all a quick update on our crossing to the Bahamas : Yes, we made it safely! But before going into those details, let me start again from where we left last time…
We left Green Cove last Saturday, Feb. 26 in a light breeze that allowed us to sail almost all the way to downtown Jacksonville. It felt SOOOOOO NICE to sail again, to feel the movement under our feet, to glide on the flat protected waters of my old racing grounds. We stopped downtown for the night. We got there at rushing high tide, we knew it was not a genius idea, but I had a webinar to host in the morning, so there was no way to leave early enough to avoid it. Let’s say that it made the docking maneuver a bit ungraceful (hey, we were rusty, we hadn’t practiced in over 2 months!), but Sage was tied safely with no scratch.
Next morning, Rosanne and her youngest son Eian were joining us for the next few days. There was some kind of African event on the Metropolitan park grounds. Despite many discussions with the not so helpful police officers around, Rosanne (and her goodbye committee – now I understand why they have a minivan, and so many other cars!) had to dodge the security to make it to the dock to be dropped off. They managed flawlessly, like real James Bond experts.
We took off towards the ocean, which was another 20 miles or so away. The new prop shaft and Mr. Perkins did an excellent job taking us there. When we reached the ocean, the winds were still too light to sail, so we motored a few more hours until the wind picked up. From there, we sailed all the way to Fort Lauderdale (310 nm) following the coast line and giving plenty of room to round Cape Canaveral and its few shoals.
It’s funny how everything depends on perspective in life. Last year, someone asked me what’s the longest non-stop leg I sailed.
- Not very long, 30h maybe? (Gaspé to the Magdelena islands (150 nm), and similar for Magdelena islands to Anticosti)
Since then I sailed longer legs, like Shelburne to Cape Cod (270nm), and most of our hops down the East coast this fall. But it’s only recently that I realized that I had sailed much longer legs than that before. On Salsa Verde (my old J/30), we sailed from St Augustine to Fort Lauderdale (250 nm) in 2008 before going to the keys and then crossing to Bimini. Same when we came back after the trip. And also when I brought the boat to the West coast of Florida in 2010. All that to say, the perception of far is only a perception. In my mind, it felt further to sail from Gaspé because it’s offshore, there’s nowhere to stop in between. Whereas sailing down the East coast, there’s many options to bail out if need be.
Talking about good old times on Salsa Verde, it was exactly 14 years ago that Rosanne and I sailed this same leg to Ft Lauderdale together with Kristin, Erdem, Luis and Gaël. We had fun remembering that trip. Her oldest son was 6 months old and he almost did not recognize her when she came back 3 days later. (I hope he recognized her this time!) Erdem left in shorts in the morning, and was wearing all he had brought with him at the end of the night, letting only 2 square inch of face skin stick out of his tight hoody. Kristin was steering a tiller for the first time in her life, and made a few 360s. Luis had never sailed either. And to add to the challenge, we also broke then boom just before arriving. Ah! Fun memories of a dense learning chapter of my life (and I’m not saying that just because I was a student at UF!)
Ok, enough of the good old days and back to the good new days! We sailed downwind almost the whole way; sometimes with the main and genoa; sometimes with the main, genoa and jib; sometimes with the genoa and jib; and sometimes with the jib only. Oh boy were we happy that we took all the big sails down before sunset Monday night… We were riding over 6kt with jib only for a bit, I think that’s enough for a moonless stormy night.
Eian was a real trooper, he did not get sea sick (I did. And it was as usual : “oh oh… look at my toes… feed the fish… eat something quickly and all is good afterwards!”) he stayed inside most of the trip, slept a lot, played games, did his homework with mom, slept more, sat in the companionway for some fresh air, slept some more. He never complained either. I’m impressed with this kid! His first overnight, his first offshore sail. Wow. Not surprising with a mom like Rosanne 😉
We got to our anchorage in Fort Lauderdale just before sunset Tuesday night. Anchoring was another thing we did not practice much in the last few months on the hard. And anchoring in a small area where there’s already 15+ boats… and everyone is in their cockpit looking at you… Urgh… It worked on the second try. So we dropped the dinghy in the water, and delivered our crew to the “arrival committee” who was waiting for them.
The next day, we rode the dinghy to the Raw Bar (free dinghy dock when you eat there). Well, free dinghy dock if you GET there too. The outboard quit while we were on our way… Luckily, one of our anchorage neighbor was riding ahead of us and saw that I was starting to pull the oars out (before Remy dislocates a shoulder pulling on the started cord for the 1000th time), so he turned around and gave us a tow. Our Raw Bar experience ended up including an extra beer for the neighbor and an interesting discussion about boats and salt life.
We went on with our to do list… Rapid covid tests, grocery, Bahamas travel health visa application, cruising permit application, wind and crossing planning, cell phone plan setup, dinghy back on deck, boat is ready to go! But by then, we were pretty tired, so instead of leaving in the early evening we decided to get a good nigh sleep and leave at dawn. The difference between those 2 options was :
- option 1 : bumpier first half (gulf stream crossing), smoother second half
- option 2 : smoother first half, bumpier second half
which is exactly what happened.
We left in 10kt breeze from the ENE, so we motor-sailed on a port tack with the main up to give us just enough heel to take the waves comfortably. It was a surprisingly nice sail all the way across the stream. We had to head a little too far south to make a straight line to the mark just north of the Bimini flats, so we tacked north before exiting the current. Once out of the stream, the wind calmed down unexpectedly and it made no sense to keep the main up, so we dropped it and continued motoring. After sunset, the wind picked up again and increased to its expected 20kt right on the nose. That part was not very comfy. Thank goodness we were not sea sick, it would have been a horrible night. I even got hit in the face by a flying potato on my way to the head (it was in the hanging hamocks, but it was swinging so hard, I didn’t see it coming!) If we wanted a smoother ride, we could have motor sailed and tacked instead of going straight into the wind. But we were not motivated enough to go to the mast to hoist, as it meant getting completely wet and salty head to toes. I’m pretty sure the shrouds got salty that night…
Anyway, remember that crossings don’t always have to be like that, we chose our ‘not so good window’ and knew what to expect. We traded a rough night for an extra week in the Bahamas, instead of a waiting game in Fort Lauderdale. And you know what? We’re pretty happy about our deal right now 😉
Entering into Great Harbor Cay was easy despite the many missing markers. We cleared customs right at the marina and took a slip for 2 nights as the wind was forecasted to blow pretty hard (plus, we hadn’t had a shower in 1 week, plus, all the other reasons to get a marina once in a while – like getting WiFi to send you all a quick update!) So here we are, finally sailing in warm turquoise waters! Get your Margarita and Pina Colada mix ready for the next episodes! Ahoy!