Tuesday, February 16, 2016

16 Hours to Great Sale Cay

Palm Beach to port
Our long awaited weather window having arrived, we were eager to get across the Gulf Stream.  We arrived at our desired departure location the night before, the port of Palm Springs located at the Lake Worth inlet from the Atlantic Ocean. We had provisioned THREE times awaiting our “window.”  Each time we added more to our store of items that we knew were going to be either extremely expensive OR perhaps impossible to get in the Bahamas; the biggest three on our list being all paper products, American beer and cuts of beef.  We had 140 gallons of potable water in our tanks and another 10 gals in two blue jugs, reasoning that if our tanks ran dry, we would have that buffer to hold us over until we could find a place to fill up again.   We were aware that we would be paying for water in the Bahamas.  Our diesel tanks were full and our holding tank empty. 
NORTHERN STAR on Little Bahama Bank

The night before departure, we tackled the last minute details…everything that could be secured behind doors or within bungees was secured and locked.  Carl attached the jacklines* to the port and starboard sides of the boat.  We dug out the tethers that attach to our sailing harnesses for humans and canine alike. The dinghy was firmly tied down and chained to the davits and the stern of the boat.  There were multiple sandwiches made, so that I wouldn’t have to spend much time in the galley on the crossing.  Carl plotted our course on the iPad which was then uploaded to our chart plotter.  “Data” (the name we had chosen for our autopilot) would be following that course whenever there was no human at the helm.  Carl filed our float plan** with a sister and one of our children.  We were ready to cross.

Sailboat on the horizon.
We raised anchor at 0400 and headed out through the Lake Worth inlet.  By VHF we knew there were three other sailboats departing from the inlet at about the same time—S/V Nemo behind us, S/V Cross Winds to our port side and S/V Celine (sp?) ahead by a couple of miles.  We could see the lights of all three sailboats and talked with them briefly, acknowledging the presence of each and traded our planned destinations.   It was a bit of comforting camaraderie in the darkness.  The winds were very light and the seas had some left over rolling swell from the previous heavy winds. We proceeded under power alone initially.
Sailing at last!

As the sky began to lighten ahead of us, the wind picked up just a bit, between 9 and 13 knots, so that we were able to raise the main with some effect on our speed.  We anticipated a very long day on the water and determined that whether by sail or by motor, we would try to maintain a speed of 6 to 7 knots in order to reach our intended evening anchorage within a reasonable time frame.  

Water temp reached 74.4 mid Gulf Stream
I found it fascinating to watch the water temperature rising as we entered the Gulf Stream, knowing that the water was the deepest there between the U.S. coast and Bahamas, and yet the warmth of the Gulf was pushing north beneath us. 
Astonishingly aqua blue water on Little Bahama Bank

After several hours, some distance ahead of us, perhaps a 1/2 mile or more, we could see a horizontal line of bright aqua water, the Little Bahama Bank.  On the charts, it is identified as an enormous body of shallow water, 12 to 28 feet deep.   In person, it is a brilliant shade of blue punctuated by swaths of deeper blue green which are floating or submerged grasses.  Being able to see the bottom nearly all of the time on the Bank is astounding!  
Jax refreshed after water and a few trips around the deck. 

As is customary for Jax, he wore his life jacket throughout the ocean passage, although he showed very little interest in going up on deck to do his “business.”   When the seas roll, he prefers to stay low in the boat, close to our feet.  He is not interested in food or water.  We can only assume his tummy feels a bit “off”.  We gave him small ginger doggie treats to help with that at the outset.  
Utterly silent seas.

As the seas continued to flatten, Jax seemed to be more and more contented although until we shut off the engine and sat still in the water for a bit, he would not drink, nor empty his bladder.  Therefore, later in the afternoon, we picked a spot somewhere on the Little Bahama Bank and just sat in total silence for several minutes.  The quiet and calm was rejuvenating.  Meanwhile, Jax drank lots of water, made his rounds on deck and then we were off once again.  
Sunset behind us

Crossing the Banks the waters become nearly flat by the end of the day’s voyage and the winds all but nonexistent.   We followed our course as planned, which took us to the southwest side of a small inverted J shaped island, called Great Sale Cay (pro. “key) where we put down our anchor in 12’ of water.   Beyond us were the lights of 5 other sailboats and one trawler, similarly at rest on the water for the evening.  We were in the Bahamas at last.

The first of many stunning sunsets in the Bahamas.
*Jacklines—sturdy, non stretchy lines that are attached tightly on either side of the boat, extending from the stern to the bow.  When a sailor needs to go forward on deck, a tether is clipped onto the sailor’s harness (part of the inflatable life jacket) and also clipped onto the jackline.  In the unlikely event that the sailor gets tossed off the boat, the tether and jackline keep him attached to the boat.  


**Float Plan—a detailed plan about the intended destination and timeframe within which the boat is expected to arrive.  The plan is “filed” with someone on land who has an interest in knowing of our safe arrival.  In other words, it is NOT filled with the Coast Guard or any other formal entity, but rather a family member or close friend.  The plan also gives the recipient of the float plan detail about the boat and what they can do if they are concerned that the boat has not arrived as planned.

1 comment:

Pat Collins said...

Congrats on the passage! Beautiful pictures too!