Crossing the Gulf Stream to The Bahamas… Third Time’s the Charm

The alarm went off at 4 am (ouch) and we were raising anchor at 4:30. It’s so crowded in No Name Harbor that another sailboat was sitting literally on top of our anchor. I took the helm and inched ever so slowly forward and Capt. Mike brought in the rode, using a boat hook to push the other boat just far enough away for us to sneak our anchor out from underneath. I made one super tight turn to starboard, and we were out of there!

Not very comfortable leaving a harbor in the dark, we carefully followed our old track on the chart plotter, making sure to avoid two shallow shoals on the way back to the channel. Each time we spotted a light ahead, we had a quick urgent debate over what it was (Channel marker? Reef light? Another boat?) and whether we needed to take action to avoid it. My favorite moment was making a 20 degree turn to starboard to avoid what appeared to be a super bright masthead light….. but actually turned out to be an airplane. Whoopsie! This morning’s sunrise was the most beautiful yet, and we overheard the two boats behind us ooh-ing and ah-ing about the beauty and the photos they took of a sailboat silhouetted by the rising sun (Sanitas!). I WILL stalk them in Bimini and get them to send me that photo!

Both wind and waves were extremely calm all day, which made for a safe and uneventful crossing, but also required us to motor all day. That’s ok by me. I consider crossing the Gulf Stream something to get over with so we can enjoy the Bahamas, not really a pleasant day of sailing for its own sake.

We left the Miami channel heading southeast with a COG of about 135 deg. This allowed us the get a teeny bit south of Bimini, so that once we really experienced the effects of the Gulf Stream current it could carry us north and east without overshooting our goal. In the stream, we gradually adjusted our heading over about an hour from 135deg to 110deg to 95deg. Then we pretty much set the autopilot to steer to a heading of 95deg and left it alone for the rest of the trip. In the fastest part of the Gulf Stream flow, our COG was 75deg, but it eased to 85deg later in the trip. We made good time because we were able to benefit from the flow, rather than fighting hard against it, and we arrived at Bimini Sands Marina on South Bimini by 1:30 pm. That’s more like it! Why cross overnight and arrive sleep deprived and stressed from all the cargo ship traffic when you can cross calmly on a cool sunny day with absolutely no drama?

After raising the yellow quarantine flag, our good luck continued as Capt Mike caught a $5 taxi to the airport, and breezed through customs and immigration with no issues. Filled out a whole bunch of papers, handed over $300 in cash, and we are free to stay in the Bahamas for the next four months. We replaced that Q flag with the Bahamas courtesy flag and celebrated this big milestone. After all, we’d been working since the end of September to prepare for this, and making significant boat repairs right up until the day before!

We had a champagne toast with Jeff and Trish of SV Elixir who were also feeling the sense of accomplishment. They are a sweet newlywed couple from Sarnia, Ontario who are cruising for a year on their Honeymoon. Making it out of the ICW and out of the US winter is certainly something worth celebrating!

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