After an almost two day mini-passage, starting Thursday morning (2/4), Rhett and I entered the Great Harbour Cay Marina on Great Harbour Cay on the Berry Islands. You can see our full track of progress here*.
We had a variety of wind conditions from dead calm through 25 knots of wind. I felt good that we made the passage with a minimal amount of engine usage (just to get out of Hillsboro Inlet, Florida and into the marina). Many other modern day sailors would have just fired up their diesel engine and “steamed” (motored) toward their destination when the wind dropped below 5 knots or even 10 knots.
We had a funny start to our crossing of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is one of the most powerful open ocean current in the world and crossing it requires care and a good eye toward the weather. Since “The Stream” flows northward (to the north) if the wind blows (or starts to blow) from the north during your crossing of it, the sea surface conditions (waves) can get nasty in a hurry.
Our original plan was to sail from Hillsboro Inlet south 30 or so miles past Ft. Lauderdale and Miami and anchor in Biscayne Bay for a night or two and wait for good weather. However the wind on Thursday was lighter than predicted and instead of reaching Biscayne Bay by sunset, we had only made it to just south of Ft. Lauderdale. The wind had also veered from the northeast to southeast and was predicted to veer further to the south. So, as the sun set over mainland Florida on Thursday, we were “beating” (“tacking” or zig-zagging into the wind slowly southward). The good news is that the wind had increased to a comfortable 10-12 knots and on one of our eastward tacks, I looked at our heading and did some mental and GPS calculations and determined that if we could hold that heading and speed, we could cross the Gulf Stream and enter the Bahamian Northwest Providence Channel.
I looked at Rhett and said, “Well, what do you think? Shall we make our attempt?” When it comes to sailing, Rhett trusts me (her first mistake). Even with her trust in me, she didn’t much like the use of the word “attempt.” Long story short, when I turned Hazel away from the Florida beach and onto the starboard tack, I had anticipated being on that tack for a half hour or so, then tacking back to port and continuing south to Biscayne. Instead, we held that tack for 30 hours or so.
If you look at our track*, you can see the effects of the Gulf Stream. It lies between the Florida peninsula and the Bahama Banks. During our whole crossing, HJ was headed east. However, when we were in The Stream, the stream’s ~2.5 knot drift to the north pushed us to the north. Once we got out of The Stream, we were able to make some southward progress.
We made landfall at Great Harbour Cay about 3 AM on Saturday morning and “hove-to” in safe water until the sun came up and the harbor master came on duty. If you look carefully at our track, our heaving-to explains the seemingly random squiggles just west of Great Harbour Cay. As the sun rose and we marveled at the coast of Great Harbour Cay, we enjoyed a breakfast of grits and avocado toast in the cockpit.
It was fun to watch the Super Bowl last night in an open-air pavilion at the marina and enjoy conch fritters!
More to follow! We will depart the marina this morning or tomorrow morning and work our way south to Chub Cay in the southern Berry Islands for a required follow-up COVID test that we need to take on day 5 of our visit to The Bahamas (Thursday 2/11).
The internet is on island time so no pictures on this post.
Fair winds and following seas!
* Hazel’s PredictWind tracker defaults to “Map” view (a wind map). However, it’s best viewed in “Satellite” mode. On a computer, you should see toggle buttons on the page to switch back and forth. On a phone, click on the hamburger stack in the upper-right to change the “Map Mode”.