Antigua to US, day 11 – leaving Bahamas

by Glen (via IridiumGo)

Thursday 7 Jun: Bimini Island, Bahamas to level with West Palm Beach, FL
Early alarm today, to get ready for a scuba diving trip. Glen checks the sky and comes back to bed: still overcast, sky didn’t clear after the thunderstorm last night. Too bad, it would have been nice to squeeze a dive here. So leisure morning instead, few admin tasks, and finishing off Martinique video.
Then time for a dinghy trip to the other end of the island, the rich end, where there are two large resorts, casino, super yacht marina, and expat vacation homes. We have a very hot walk through Resorts World and Hilton resorts, they have a very American feel, with nice lawns, and pretty looking villas. We guess the tourist season must be over here too, as there are very few people by the pools or driving around in golf carts. And when we fly the drone over this end of the island, we don’t see many people at Paradise Beach Club either. Amazing view though, with the usual white sand and light blue water.
Back at Cloudy Bay we prepare for departure: outboard off the dinghy, sunshade off, tighten backstay and halyards, etc. 15 mins before we are ready, the wind comes on our side, pinning us hard against the jetty. Hmm, just what we didn’t need!
And by 3.15pm we are ready to leave. It is a bit tricky to slip off the dock, especially that a large barge is now moored perpendicular right in front of us. But we manage a nice exit with Glen’s trick of moving away from a jetty sideways, using bow thruster and full rudder towards the jetty we are trying to get away from.
It is a better experience going through the channel this time, with the sun behind us and a higher tide. As we motor out, our position is clearly out of the channel on the plotter, but our depth and the boats in front of us are telling us we are on the right path. Maybe the previous channel was washed off by Irma.
The wind is only 4-6kts dead behind us, and the Gulf Stream pushes us 1kt also, so no chance of sailing. We keep the engine on bracing ourselves for a long time of motoring. Maybe we can fly the spinnaker later.
2h into our journey, a very large black cloud develops in front of us. 10nm away according to our radar. Although we don’t see any lightening, it looks quite threatening, so we change course -80 deg, to try pass behind its south tail. As we start to put the cockpit tent up, we feel the stronger wind and within a minute it goes from 4 to 22kts. Oops, the situation could get interesting, and we are very glad we don’t have the spinnaker up, as we were contemplating flying it 20mins ago.
Looks like it was a good call to change course to west, as the cloud moves north-east fast and we might just make it on the other side of it without any issues. What would we do without the radar to track where they are developing and direction of movement. With the new breeze the waves are picking up and we get lots of spray over the windscreen. Which quickly gets washed as it is starting to pelt it with rain.
Another storm cloud is approaching from the south, and we change course +40deg to escape between the two. We also hear thunders but couldn’t see any lightening. The wind is now 16-19kts and we hope it won’t be the same on the other side, otherwise it’s going to be quite uncomfortable with such wind against 4kts of the Gulf Stream current which we are planning to be in the center of. Finding exactly where the center is, where the sweet-spot of flow is, will be interesting. We monitor our speed vs SOG, our track and the water temperature which is now up to 29C and rising. All the years of knowing about the Gulf Stream we never knew it was so narrow and fast. Maybe the scene with turtles in Finding Nemo wasn’t too inaccurate after all!
By 7pm the dark clouds are gone and the wind stays 10-13kts on our beam, good enough for sailing. Both genoa and main are now out, we do a boat speed of 8.5kts, and with the Gulf Stream current resulting SOG 10.5kts. Nice! But this is not long lived. After sunset the wind dies to 6kts SE as per forecast, so the engine is back on.
To our port we see the light glow over Florida’s coast line. Lots of AIS markers around us on the plotter, and curious enough some cruise liners just bobbing around at 4-5kts, going in circles. Do they just park themselves out here inbween having passengers on board, to save dock side costs?
By midnight we seem to be firmly in the narrow Gulf Stream, our SOG is 3.5kts more than our speed through water. We are sitting on a steady 10kts speed over ground … cool. Long may it last.

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