Gulf Stream Crossing – The Nautical Stuff

We had been expecting to watch the weather for a long time for a window, but it popped up very quickly. We had left the marina to spend a few nights on the ‘the pick’ in the South of North Lake of Hollywood, which was like camping in your parents back yard, with luxury homes and jetties backing onto a larger canal than usual. The previous two nights had felt like wild weather, with south westerly winds to 25 knots and rain squalls. Even the canals had waves, which made for a rocky night, but I was very confident of the oversized anchor and chain.The NOAA said the front would be followed by 10 knot southerly winds, going to the east, which is good for crossing the north flowing Gulfstream.  The Gulfstream seems to get a lot of hype, with people buying life rafts especially for it, and weather routers making good money out of it. It is only 50 nautical miles (100km) to get across from Florida to Bimini, meaning 10-16 hours of sailing, but the chop from the wrong wind and current combination can make life miserable.

Our trip was a dream.


We woke at 4:10 to catch the 4:30 Hollywood Bridge opening, but missed it due to the chain jumping off the gypsy a few times, but had a much needed second cup of tea and got moving at 0500 hrs. The intra-coastal waterway current was against us, so we finally got out through the Fort Lauderdale/Port Everglades seaway at 6:30. It was still dark, with lightning flashes from the front we had experienced the nights before visible in the dark clouds preceding us in the east. The wind we were experiencing was only 10 knots from the south. I turned on the autopilot, and discovered it was totally inverted 180 degrees, and struggling. Fortunately, we had some gigabytes left on the sim card, and called up the Raymarine ST6001 manual, and did a fluxgate recalibration in front of the high-rises on the beach. This involved slowly turning in multiple circles at 1 knot till the machine said it was happy (a bit like an iPhone compass). Fortunately, the kids slept through all the way till we were well on our crossing, with sails up.

The rest of the passage was a dream, 10 knots freshening up to 15 in the afternoon. The engine turned off for the afternoon. The bearing I had chosen to accommodate the Gulf Stream and any leeway had us spot on for Bimini.  Less than a mile out. I had ignored the GPS and waypoints because the current would play havoc with a yacht sailing to fixed waypoint and so I planned it like an English Channel crossing. It took us 10 hrs from the seaway, averaging nearly 7 knots, despite the current.

Coming into Bimini through the bar was just like the Tweed river, a bit swelly and very shallow. In fact, the place looked like any northern New South Wales coastal area with the same plants and buildings! We anchored near the Big Game Club that Ernest Hemingway drank and fished at and cleared in through immigration and customs within half an hour. A glass of Prosecco and early bed after watching a DVD with the kids.

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