Wednesday 20 May, passage Cayman to Chesapeake day 6: Alarm goes early. Too early. We could have slept for several more hours in this peaceful Lake Worth anchorage.
After breakfast, we set off to the CBP office at the West Palm international airport for check in formalities and to get a new US cruising permit. This will be our 3rd cruising permit. We’ve got to cut this umbilical with US and move on someday! We are glad we waited till today for check-in. Yesterday would have been a wet dinghy ride, plus we were so tired. Today it’s flat calm as we cross Lake Worth to West Palm Sailing Club dinghy dock. 10 minutes in Uber and we are at the CBP office. More patience needed here. We are 2nd in queue but it still takes more than 2 hours of waiting and processing. For some reason they are so very slow.
While we wait we look at weather windows to continue our passage north. There is a good window right now for about 3 days, with southerly winds before it turns to a strong north around Hatteras. The Gulf Stream at Hatteras is no place to be with any north in the wind. If we leave as soon as we can today, we may just make it around Hatteras before that. And if not, we can stop in the small bay on Cape Lookout or go into Beaufort town (North Carolina) and wait it out. So that’s the plan… if we can ever get our check-in completed and cruising permit issued. We should have brought a packed lunch!
Also waiting in line is a Canadian sailor. He just purchased a new American made Jeanneau 45. But he is far from happy with the build quality or after sales attitude. After just 6 weeks all the interior chrome fittings have started to show corrosion. A plastic cap on the fuel tank was broken and the bilge filled with diesel. And as he cleaned up that mess, all the bilge pumps got blocked with build debris that was never cleaned out by the manufacturer. Oh … and first real sea he sailed in, water got into the anchor locker and all the way inside the boat, soaking everything. So far, zero response to his pleas to Jenneau. Such a bad story. Taking ownership of new yacht should be nothing but pleasurable, right?
Finally, at 1pm we get our cruising permit and our passports back and we return with Uber and Highfield to Cloudy. We have decided to depart today. Otherwise we will be here for at least another week before the next good weather window north. We really just want to get there now. Especially Oana.
Several jobs to get done before leaving Lake Worth. First, a repair to the foot of the mainsail. There is a tear about 2m from the clew. A big wind could make this small rip a …… well, a bigger one. With potential to rip the whole clew area from the rest of the sail. So it has to be “a stitch in time saves nine”. Or in this case, 25 stitches and several pricked fingers saves the sail! With a bit of mainsail unfurled I can get to the repair by standing on a small stool. 30minutes later it’s patched with a piece of luff tape hand sewn across the damaged area.
As I push the needle through the main laminate fabric, I sense a lot of the material integrity has deteriorated. Definitely a good time for new sails. Which, by the way, we ordered from Elvström in Sweden just last week. 3 spanking new membrane sails. 5 years ago, I had thought $4000 for main, jib and spinnaker for our J22 was very expensive. Cloudy’s new wardrobe will make the J22 sails pale into insignificance. But now they are ordered, I need to forget the crater in our bank balance and focus on my inevitable ear-2-ear smile when we receive them. In the end, it’s a nice deal. 25% discount plus no Swedish VAT @25%, because we will ship them to the US. Let’s just hope the White House doesn’t start a trade war with Sweden any time soon 🙂 Our last shipment of parts from Hallberg was only 2.5% duty.
After the sewing repair the heavens open. A good time to go inside and download forecast images of the Gulf Stream. This year I’m determined we will not lose it, like we did last year, with no data. Then, in the rain, we lift the outboard then the dinghy and secure them. Then a quick hop up the mast (just to the lower spreader) where our Q-flag has got itself jammed. Lastly, we put the cockpit tent up. As we head north it’s sure to be very welcome at night, plus it will keep us dry in the rain cells that will roll off the coast every evening. And that’s it. Engine on at 4:30pm and we are off again.
Almost immediately after we are out into the sea we turn to port and note current already helping us north. At 20nm out, we have a healthy 4 to 4.5 kts under us. The sails are out on a gentle broad reach and we are doing 10-12kts SOG. Lovely. Once in the center of the stream however, the sea is a bit lumpy and as we start to bounce around, Oana gets instantly sick. She really is ready to get off the boat now, and get home. It’s the longest she’s ever been without a break now.
We have a lovely sunset. And our progress is 55nm in the first 5 hours. After dark we cross with a 950ft container ship. It’s odd to see its SOG at only 10.5kts (it is against the current) when our SOG is 11.5kts! Normally, they are going triple our sailing speed. Such is the effect of the Gulf Stream. Even 400 years ago the Spanish had discovered it could reduce their return sailing time from the new world by weeks. That’s why they set up shop in Florida (St. Augustine) to try to stop the English “pirates” pilfering their gold as they transited back to Spain along the Gulf Stream.
The remainder of the evening we have a fantastic sail. The wind clocks further aft and comes up to almost 20kts on our starboard quarter. With poled-out genoa and full mainsail our boat speed alone is 8-9kts. Then we are also in the highest Gulf Stream current of 4-4.5 kts. So SOG is sometimes touching 13kts! Wow. The miles are flipping passed. And at midnight we have covered 88nm since starting at 4:30pm.