The Gulf Stream current runs strong south to north between Florida and The Bahamas and opposing winds whip up steep, choppy waves that create nasty to hazardous conditions for vessels. With frequent north winds from winter’s gales, savvy sailors wait weeks or longer for light to moderate winds and settled seas to venture a crossing.
We had a gnarly Gulf Stream encounter on our first trip on Vinyasa in 2017, and no desire for an encore. We now monitor the weather closely through PredictWind, and this week we also signed up for Chris Parker’s Marine Weather Service. We heeded his recommendation and delayed our departure from Ft. Lauderdale from noon on Monday to Tuesday morning to increase our chances of having a better sea state, and were glad we did.
Still, I felt butterflies flutter in my stomach as we made our final preparations to depart. Another earthquake had just awakened friends in Puerto Rico, and our thoughts were with them as we hoisted anchor at 5:30 am to get through Las Olas Bridge’s 5:45 am opening, and the 17th Street bridge at 6:00 am. We aimed to exit the Port Everglades inlet as first light appeared on the horizon, and be across the Gulf Stream before 2 pm.
Our destination: Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, which we would reach before dawn on Wednesday.
I’m sleep challenged under optimum conditions, so on this trip I opted for frequent catnaps, resting well enough to stand solid watches throughout the day and night.
Allan had been working hard on Vinyasa in the days leading up to our departure, and it felt good to to drive the boat while he got some much needed rest or worked on the boat some more.
It was a busy week.
Last Saturday, as soon as Allan commissioned the watermaker we checked out of Bahia Mar Marina in Ft. Lauderdale and anchored in the nearby New River Sound, just north of the municipal Las Olas Marina, happy to shed the $203 per night docking fee.
We’d left Vinyasa at dock countless days, and often on a mooring ball. A “first” this week was leaving her alone at anchor while we ran errands around town.
Before dinghying away, we spent a windy night without dragging – with Allan on anchor watch – so we were confident in our ground tackle’s strong hold, but still…it’s a weird feeling to wonder how we’d carry on with the clothes on our backs and the contents of our pockets and phones. This will soon be second nature, but for now, it induces a slight bit of anxiety.
Arriving in The Bahamas is worth that and more.
“I feel like I’m finally retired,” Allan said with a big grin when daylight revealed the contours of our initial anchorage.
We were soon on our way to nearby Great Harbour Cay Marina to check in with the Bahamian authorities, and spend a week easing into Island Time mode. It was only 2 nautical miles away, but required entering through a narrow cut. Not an entrance to be navigated at night!
The formalities with immigration/customs were easy. The marina provided the required forms, and a friendly government agent processed our entry, along with that of seven other vessels, beneath a nearby gazebo.
We took advantage of the marina’s grocery store run to check out the local offerings. As we’d anticipated, selection was slim but given the delivery boat had just come the day before we bought a head of broccoli, a bunch of green onions, a plantain and an orange. The bill came to $10.47, which wasn’t too bad. The marina also was offering “pizza night” via which a large pizza is delivered to your boat at your selected time ($30 for a 16 inch meat lover). Nice!
Thursday morning, the day after our arrival, was perfect for an initial walkabout. Being able to easily get off the boat to walk was a primary factor for docking rather than anchoring out this week. High winds in St. Augustine had kept us pinned to our mooring ball for days at a time, and we didn’t want that to be the case during our introduction to The Bahamas, where the wind is forecast to blow hard for another few days.
Vinyasa is rocking gently in her slip and the wind is whistling as I get ready to publish this post, reminders to relinquish expectations and relax into what is.
Which Bahamanian anchorage we go to from here, when weather allows, will be influenced by the wind’s direction. So more about that in our next post.
Wishing us all, on land or at sea, a peaceful and happy week.