25 March, 2012
20 March, 2012
Position: N 28 40.160 W 079 59.932
Location: 30 miles east of Cape Canaveral, FL
The Gulf Stream is a strong ocean current. It rounds the west end of Cuba, follows the north Cuban coast then curves around Florida and heads north and then east across the Atlantic to Great Britain. It is wide and strong, sometimes moving at 4 knots or more, especially off the coast of Florida. We've talked about this before, but it bears repeating - the might of the Gulf Stream is not to be sneered at. On a good day we can be in the current making almost twice our normal speed. On a bad day if the wind shifts to the north and we have wind opposing current it can become a wild and crazy washing machine, swirling, twisting, and leaping. Or, to take aline from that old nursery rhyme, “When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid!!”.
We had a good 3 day weather window to leave Miami and bypass the entire east coast of Florida to Cumberland Island, GA, one of our favorite stops. If the wind gods were in our favour we would have been able to complete the trip in about 48 hours. The forecast was for clear skies and east to southeast winds 10-15 knots for almost the entire trip – dream weather, for us.
Sunday morning we arose at 3:30am for one last weather check. Then we hauled anchor at 4am, as we wanted to get out of Miami at slack tide. There are 2 channels to get out of Miami, one is used by the cruise ships and the other is for everyone else. If there is no more than 1 cruise ship in the channel us lowly recreational plebs are allowed to traverse. Otherwise, for security reasons, we have to take the more southern channel.
As we headed toward the turning basin we saw only one cruise ship at the docks, so we decided to go ahead and go that way. It trims a bit of time and what the heck, since we could, why not? We got to the turning basin and the huge Norwegian Pearl was turning. Julie tried to call them on the radio to find out what their plans were but they didn't answer, so off we went around them and into the channel.
The ship finished turning around and we assumed it was heading out to sea so we slowed down and hugged the docks to let it go by us. But then it slowed down, too. What the heck? Then we noticed another big cruise ship coming into the channel from the ocean. Ooops!! Now there are two cruise ships in the channel – and we're no longer supposed to be in here.
The Norwegian Pearl called us on the radio and said they needed to get into their berth just ahead of our location. They asked if we could stop and let them pass around us. Of Course, we said, no problem. It would have helped if they'd answered our initial hail so we could have just headed straight out, but, oh, well. So we pulled way over to the side and had one huge ship passing us really close and the other passing him on the other side going in the other direction. At about 100 feet it was about as close as we ever want to be to one of these things. A very humbling experience.
When we finally got outside Miami harbor the waves were a little weird but after a few days of NE winds this was to be expected. We were not too worried, figuring that once we got out a couple of miles it would settle down. Well, not so much. The day was wild from beginning to end. There was just enough north in the wind to make the seas in the stream really rambunctious. Basically, we sat in the cockpit all day and got flung around with short choppy waves coming from all directions. Even Rachel just couldn't get into her usual groove. By 3pm we were just off the coast of Lake Worth when we decided we'd had enough and headed in to shore. We dropped the anchor south of Peanut Island, ate a scant meal, and went to bed exhausted.
Ever the optimists, we were up again at 6am the next morning, even though we were still really achy from our workout the day before. We checked the weather and checked the current wind at the offshore buoys and found it really was going to be E 10-15 today. Oh Joy!! We decided if we got outside and didn't like it we'd turn right around and come back in. We did not want another day like yesterday! We poked our noses out of the harbor. Hmm, no squirrely waves, no north in the wind. We just looked at each other nodded agreement. “Let's go for it”.
28 hours later we've had a lovely day. Reasonable winds, 2-3 ft seas, sun, no weird boat motion and...we're making just under 10 knots. We have a good 4 knots of current which means we can make the trip in just over half our originally planned time. Wonderful.
Most of the day we traveled north with a tug boat, named Sea Robin, with a long tow rope pulling a huge barge about a mile off to starboard. We thought it was weird as usually they blast past us. We figured he must have a really heavy load to be going only 10 knots in the Gulf Stream. Towards the end of the day he called us on the radio to see where we were going - he was going to Savannah, GA. He said “I've never had a sailboat travel at the same speed as me”. We laughed and thought “bet he doesn't ever tell his tug boat buddies about that!”