Monday, December 19, 2016

December 12, 2016 Ft Pierce, FL to Great Sale Cay, Bahamas

Since this was a new route for us, I will start with the technical details and add the human factor later.  Others may want to read this just to see the route we took. 

There had been a north wind for several days, but it was expected to be pretty calm for 2-3 days now.  It was recommended by Kenyon/Chris Parker to move south along the coast to let the seas settle down in the Gulf Stream, and to get a better angle towards the Little Bahama Banks.  He actually recommended going as far south as Lake Worth.  For the past 2 years, we have left from Lake Worth and crossed into the Little Bahamas Banks at Memory Rock.  We didn’t want to go that far south again.  So we decided to angle SE, move E or NE with the Gulf Stream, then correct our angle to the SE, if need be, once we were across the Gulf Stream.  We planned to motor the entire way, especially with the light winds that were predicted.   We did set the main sail and left it up for the entire passage. 

We left our anchorage at 10:00 am.  Once we were out of the Ft Pierce Inlet, we set a heading of 115 degrees towards Memory Rock.  About 2:30 pm, after about 20 nm, we were in the Gulf Stream.  We could tell because our heading was 115 degrees towards Memory Rock, but the COG, course over ground, showed us moving at 90 degrees.  That meant we were being pushed north by the Gulf Stream.  We changed our heading to 110 to pick up a little speed.  Since we were fighting the Gulf Stream we had slowed to 5.8k.  Changing our heading brought us up to 6.6k. 

About 6:00pm, we had to slow down to let two cargo ships pass ahead of  us.  They were traveling south.  We figured we traveled about 30 nm across the Gulf Stream.  Once we left the Gulf Stream, we had to correct our heading to the SE again, but not a significant amount.  At about 8:30pm, we entered the Little Bahamas Banks at White Sand Ridge near Matanilla Shoal.  It then took 9 hours to cross the banks to Great Sale Cay.  We anchored on the north side of the island at 5:40 am before sunrise. 
traffic jam in the Gulf Stream. hard to get a clear picture with everything moving
We liked this route and would take it again.  Next time, we would go directly to Grand Cay or Great Turtle Cay to check in and not stop at Great Sale Cay.  But that all depends on the conditions. 
the red track is this year's passage
Now for the personal side of the passage.  We didn’t set any alarms to leave early.  We wanted to be well rested.  And we didn’t care if we arrived in daylight or in the dark.  And a later start gave the seas time to settle down.  The Gulf Stream flows north.  So when there has been a north wind, they oppose each other and the seas can get rough. 

It was a sunny 77 degrees, the warmest we have been since we left GA.  And there was a 5k south wind.  As we left the inlet, it was approaching low tide.  That gave us an ebb tide flowing out of the inlet.  We were moving along at 9k until we met the incoming waves which created standing waves.  That slowed us to 5K and we “hobby horsed” our way out of the inlet.  People along the shore were watching and taking pictures of us.  We had our main sail up to help control our movement through the inlet. 
Good-bye USA

Once we cleared the inlet, we turned SE towards Memory Rock, which is north of West End, Grand Bahamas.  We also put up our jenny sail.  We now had a 10k SE wind and not a very good angle on the wind.  So we brought the jenny in, but left up the main sail for the duration of the passage.   We were in some rolling swells averaging 6 feet in  height. 

At about 2:30, when we hit the Gulf Stream, the seas were a little more rough at first.  Both Dave and I were feeling just a little queasy.  I guess it was from being land locked for almost 6 months this summer.   But neither of us were ever actually sick.  We were able to have our pasta salad with no problems.  We saw a small Man of War floating on the water near our boat.  We saw dolphins as we left Ft Pierce, but not during our passage. 
Great to have a full moon to guide our way

Neither of us felt like having a hot dinner.  So I put together a bag with crackers, cheese slices, ham slices, carrots, celery and peeled oranges.  We shared some crackers, then I laid down for a nap to be able to take the graveyard shift.  I laid down about 7:00pm but didn’t sleep until about 9:00pm.  I slept until midnight, then gave Dave a break.  He likes being at the helm and had been sitting there for about 14 hours now, and more than ready for a break. 

We were now in the Little Bahamas Banks.  The seas were pretty flat and only about 15 feet deep.  There was a great full moon that lit up the sea.  Lots of people wish you “fair winds and following seas”.  But Dave thinks he is going to start wishing for “fair winds and following moon”.   It was also a little foggy, which was unusual for what we have seen in the Bahama Banks. 

I had put about 6 Christmas CD’s in our CD player and set it to play only in the cockpit.  That really helped keep me awake.  By about 5:00 am we were close to Great Sale Cay.  So I woke up Dave to help anchor.  We had never anchored on the north side of Great Sale, but the wind was from the south, and this was an easy, straight in to the coast line type of anchorage.  Dave was out on the bow and I was at the helm.  We moved in close to shore to see how close we could get if the boat would swing towards shore.  When it started to get to less than 2 feet under us, we wanted to turn around.  I panicked because I couldn’t turn the helm and thought we were stuck.  Dave yelled back to me “take it off of auto pilot”!  Boy did I feel stupid.  We usually use hand signals for anchoring, but it was still dark.  The full moon helped, but we tried shouting to each other, too.  Afterwards, Dave realized that he still had an ear plug in that he was using while he was sleeping.  Sometimes we just have to laugh at our selves, and thank God we made it through another passage. 

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