Friday, May 18, 2012

Back in the USA

You're a grand old flag, you're a high flying flag...

We're back in the USA!

We had made our plans to head north of the Whale and wait for a good window to cross the Gulf Stream. The window opened up sooner than expected, so we made our way quickly over to Great Sale to get into position to execute our strategy. Of course, we were without wifi and had only one source for weather, albeit a good one. Chris Parker broadcasts 6 days a week on single sideband. On Monday, he indicated Wednesday night/Thursday, even Friday should be great. By Wednesday morning, all that had changed, and if you weren't going to get across by Thursday morning (which may be a little iffy as well), your best bet would be to wait 2 or 3 weeks. Even at that, he said there was so much going on it was just a best guess for him what was coming. Well, we had considered a 2-day to Jax or an overnight to Ft. Pierce. So, Ft. Pierce was then the only option, but we had pretty much decided that was all we were up for this time anyway.

Time to execute:
We made a couple of judgement errors in deciding the best way to position ourselves for the crossing. Instead of doing it all at once, we decided to overnight at Mangrove Cay then anchor off Little Bahama Bank to wait for the right departure time Wednesday night.

Hard to tell, but this is the anchor chain
coming from under the boat off the port stern.
First error: there is a very strong current around Mangrove Cay and it was opposed to the wind (causing us to face into the wind with the anchor behind the boat) which at times was pretty stiff along with the thunderstorms. Even though it is more open water, we might have had an easier night on the East side of Mangrove, for the current flow anyway. The worst part of that night was when the lightning struck so close and the crack was so loud, I thought we'd been hit. Tom assured me we were okay, and the electronics were still working. It was pretty spooky though. All in all that was not too bad since we later heard from someone at Great Sale that they got beat up pretty badly with strong storms that lasted much longer than what we experienced.

Second error: don't try to anchor off Little Bahama Bank. Current - crazy, wind - crazy, waves - lifting the bow so high the dinghy slapped the water from up on the davits then slammed us back down so the next wave broke over the bow. Needless to say, our plan to nap so we would be rested for the crossing that night did not go well. And, with the change in the weather report, we knew we were going to have to leave Wednesday evening rather than really early Thursday to get into Ft. Pierce by morning and avoid what Chris predicted to be some ugly stuff coming that afternoon.

Still with me?
Anyway, we started our crossing around 6:30 pm because we couldn't stand it at the Bank any longer. That was earlier than necessary, but we planned to just take our time. The crossing was pilot held a great course, no storms, it was lovely. Until, that is, about 2:00 am when we started running across some massive ships with odd light configurations and we had some difficulty in determining their paths. One actually turned off all of his lights for a minute or two several times. We've not seen anything in rules of the road to explain that, but we took a wide detour around the big stuff. It was around that time, or shortly thereafter the US Coast Guard started issuing warnings every 30 minutes or so for all vessels to seek immediate shelter from the severe thunderstorms with strong winds and possible water spouts in the Ft. Pierce area and offshore. If that wasn't just the icing on the cake! Pitch black, big weird ships, thunderstorms, strong winds, and possible water spouts that we wouldn't have been able to see a foot in front of us! Plus the fact that even at low RPMs the Gulf Stream had pushed us along so that we had to stall so we could enter this unfamiliar channel in daylight. We found ourselves navigating around fish traps, going against the current, even going further north while waiting for dawn, all in that dark rainy night.

Vero Beach mooring field
Vero Beach from the mooring field

Daylight did finally arrive and we safely navigated a very nice wide channel and made our way a few miles up the ICW to Vero Beach. We are staying here a few days to decompress before heading to Jax.

Whew! That was a wordy report, and hopefully we didn't lose you along the way. We'll keep you posted on the trip up to Jax, then to the Chesapeake Bay.

Here are a few of the pics that didn't make the earlier was beautiful and fun!

Hope Town

We enjoyed Hope Town, and even though one boat broke loose one night, we felt very secure and slept well!

Sailboat off of Treasure Cay Beach

Treasure Cay Beach is so amazing with sand so white and soft it's hard to even describe.

At anchor No Name Cay

No Name Cay was a great anchorage. We were the only boat there and that's where we went ashore and found sand dollars.

Crazy old tractor at Nippers

This crazy thing has been there for many, many years. I'll bet it was fun to decorate!

The flowers are everywhere and the colors are beautiful. What a wonderful trip!

Thanks for traveling with us!