We stayed in Lake Worth just two days, keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. The forecast on Monday, January 21st, was calling for 5 knot southerly winds and 1-2 foot seas. This was a good forecast to cross the Gulf Stream. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the wind was predicted to build from the north 15-20 knots. We opted to take this opportunity since the next window wasn’t predicted until Friday and we did not want to spend the week dawdling around in Florida.
While in Lake Worth we met new friends aboard sailing vessel Ching-Tu; Pierre and Deborah welcomed us aboard and we had an evening of wonderful conversation. We had to peel ourselves away to get home and prepare for the following morning’s departure. Thanks for a lovely send-off! We’ll see Pierre and Deborah in the Bahamas soon enough!
Monday morning we set out at 7:00am. Making complete hypocrites of our sailing selves, we planned to motor across the Gulf Stream. We’d heard so many cautions about the Gulf Stream; mind the current, maintain an eastbound course, absolutely do not attempt to cross with a north wind. This was a bit intimidating. We’d also heard of the changes we’d observe; warm, green water full of life. This was a bit exciting. We exited at the Lake Worth Inlet and our anticipation grew. Only four miles until we should be entering the Gulf Stream. I had visions of a green, flowing river filled with seaweed, fishes, and sea turtles. And so we motored…and motored…and motored. The chart told us we had entered the Gulf Stream, but we had few visible signs. It looked like the plain ‘ol ocean to us.
We did spot several Man’o’War jellyfish and a few patches of seaweed.
The US coastline was drifting farther out of view.
I made ready our quarantine flag; this would be raised once in Bahamian waters to indicate that we’d not yet cleared customs.
We motored for approximately six hours, eastbound, when the chart showed us we had exited the Gulf Stream. The 3-knot current had pushed us 13-miles north from our plotted course. As evening came, we set sails and headed south downwind. As predicted on Monday night the wind entirely stopped. Our main sail boom was banging loudly as each wave beneath knocked the wind out of it. It was a restless night.
Tuesday, January 22nd, the wind did build from the north. The waves grew to 3-5 feet. It was an overcast day. We cruised along downwind in the Northwest Providence Channel with a double reefed main and the jib. We hoped our speed would bring us to the Berry Islands by sunset. Unfortunately, it did not. By sunset we were still 7-miles away from the entrance channel to Bullock Harbor, our intended anchorage. We decided to sail through the night, a very long night. We sailed on a reach away from the Berry’s. This was entirely uncomfortable and the boat’s bow and starboard toe rail were repeatedly dunked into the water. We made sail changes, took down the jib and set the stay sail instead to minimize heeling. As Brian shares in sailing language, “We were sitting on our ear.”
Wednesday, January 23rd, morning came after what felt like days. We’d gotten the snot kicked out of us again and so when we approached the Berry Islands in the daylight our enthusiasm had dwindled. Our first view of Little Stirrup Cay (pronounced “key”) as we entered the charted channel. Little Stirrup Cay is owned by a cruise line, ships anchor out here and let off passengers to bask on the beaches and zip around on jet skis.
We’d arrived at the northern Berry Islands. As we neared, the water indeed became crystal clear. It was strange to sail over various shades of bottom; sand, grass, rock. Brian relied on the chart and the depth sounder to navigate safely to Bullock Harbor where we dropped anchor. Finally, not moving! We’d arrived at 11:45am and were ready to eat, dry out our soaked boat, and sleep.