To Go or Not to Go

All Clear

We had been in Miami for three days. The weather window was opening for a couple of days meaning that the winds had shifted or “clocked” around to east and southeast. Once that happens the waves on the ocean need time to settle down. My client had talked to another captain friend who suggested that the window was now and we could  make it from Miami. I wasn’t so sure, I wanted to head farther south to Angelfish Creek, near Key Largo to let the seas calm a little bit and to use the current to increase our speed but I was told this other Capt. had made over 300 crossings so we headed out anyway at 0730 with a falling tide.  The problem with this is that the winds are out of the east, the tide is going out meaning we have wind blowing the opposite direction of the current so you get waves, lots of them, close together. So it was a little bit rough getting out. The winds were supposed to be out of the SE at 9 to 10 knots with waves 2 to 3 feet in the Gulf Stream.

Once we finally made it out of the channel and to the Safe Water buoy the winds were out of the east and the south east and then back to the east.  The waves were out of the east.  Because the Gulf Stream runs from south to north and we have to sail across it, you have to compensate for the current carrying you north of your destination.  You do this by steering farther south than you would normally.  The slower your boat the farther south you have to steer. Gulfstar sailboats are not known for their pointing ability, in other words it tends to side slip, alot. We tried for about two hours to make some headway but we kept drifting north and not getting very far towards Bimini.  I pulled the plug at 0930 and decided to head back toward Biscayne Bay. We had drifted up to North Miami by this time and I didn’t want to fight the current all the way to Bimini and get there after dark.  You need sunlight to read the water depths in the Bahamas. Once we made it into Biscayne Bay, near “Stiltsville” it was getting late and decided to head to Boca Chita Key for the night.  We had been here last year and everyone had good memories of the place.  On the way into Biscayne Bay I found out the other Captain had made all those crossing in a power boat.  A perfect teaching moment.

Boca Chita was good and we headed out the next morning for Angelfish Creek and Key Largo. I started asking about Plan B if we missed the window which had been to go around to the Gulf coast of Florida when we started out.  Not anymore, it was Bahamas or bust.  The weather window was closing, there was a trough of low pressure over western Cuba, winds were going to shift back to the north and we would have thunderstorms soon. I start talking about a night crossing.

We made it down to Pumpkin Key and anchored out early in the afternoon. We are not far from the bayside entrance to Anglefish Creek. The winds are going to clock around by 1500 (3pm) the next afternoon so it’s on the table: Up at 0200(2am), leave by 0300(3am) and get to Bimini at around 1200. Or, wait until another window, which looks like a week away.  I don’t want to get to Bimini too early either, with the sun in my face.  At 1830 (6:30pm) the decision is to go. We all went to bed early and I actually slept pretty well.

The alarm went off at 0200 and I started checking all the weather inputs, buoys and double checking my charts.  I’ve never been through Anglefish Creek before but you gotta love Google Earth and charts to give you a pretty good feel for things.  I didn’t count on the fog and the fact that the full moon was going in and out behind the clouds. The fog was light but I was on the bay side, what would it be like ocean side.  With two people on the bow with flashlights and Jane relaying info back and forth we slowly, very slowly worked our way into and through the creek. the fog did get a little heavier on the other side but we still had four to five miles of visibility. We worked our way across Hawk Channel and into the deep water and we were off, 54 miles to Bimini on a course of 66 degrees magnetic.  Winds were light, around 9 to 10 knots,  seas were calm 1 to 2 feet with 9 second intervals.  We made between 7 and 9 knots the whole way.

We kept a sharp lookout for other ship traffic and we did run into a few showers just outside of Bimini.   The entrance in to North Bimini, Alice Town, is not very well marked, not like the US.  Two markers show you the entrance and then you are on your on, with a reef between you and the channel.  I didn’t feel comfortable going in the “new” channel so I went around and took my chances in the old channel. The boat only draws 3’3″ and I was following other boats so I felt a little better doing that.

We made it inside and docked at Sea Crest Marina. Only the Master of the Vessel can get off the boat and go to Customs and Immigration to clear every one in.  Once that was done everyone was able to get off the boat and stretch their legs. Welcome to the Bahama’s, Mon!

Coconut water and jelly!



1 comment for “To Go or Not to Go

  1. Bruce Moore
    March 11, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Great description. I followed it all. It’s time for you to write an article. Will you be coming back north or settling in the Bahamas?


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