Monday, March 9, 2009

Amazon Adventure # 9. A night crossing of the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

Our destination. West End, Bahamas.

The morning brings the news we have been waiting for. A light west wind is predicted for the coming night. We plan to sail overnight so that we will arrive with the dawn and have good light for our landfall at West End. A day passage, while less spooky, would have us arriving at dusk at a strange landfall - a much more difficult kettle of fish as we will discover on the way home. We must also plot a course that takes the Gulf Stream current into account: like crossing a river, we must angle across, steering at an angle to the current so that we will not be swept far to the north by morning. We haul Amazon in to the beach to adjust the lashings that hold our hulls together, buy some last bits of rope, rescue our charts that we forgot in a store and complete the electrical wiring for the navigation lights and the compass. We check out of the USA with customs and Immigration. Finally we find a marina with a drunken attendant (it`s close to Christmas) to fill up our gas tank and then motor out to sea. Heather tells the story of the crossing.

The Journal:
Dec. 18 &19th.
Cleared harbour at 5pm feeling exaltation, excitement and not a little fear. Winds from the west - very light- so we motored away from a beautiful sunset and skyline and into an increasing ocean swell from the north-west. We noted the beautiful purple colour of the Gulf Stream and watched fireworks behind us in West Palm Beach. We were quite awed by the immensity before us and the beauty all around us. Anne and I steered for the first three hours: a course of 126 true to allow for the speed of the Gulf Stream and our approximate speed of five knots. Elaine and I cut grapefruit by flashlight and we ate supper. Then one by one everyone not on watch disappeared below. A lovely moon appeared to the east and lighted our way for the whole night.

Out into the Gulf Stream.

Bill and Gwyn had the next watch and I slept in the hull til 11:30 pm listening to the noise of the engine and creaks and groans of the boat. By then poor Gwyn had fallen asleep once at the tiller so I sent her to bed. They reported seeing dolphins playing close to the boat for about twenty minutes. They could see them clearly playing beneath the water. Bill and I decided that the wind was increasing - time to douse the engine and raise the staysail. We moved along at a great lick of speed. By then there was no glow of lights on either side: just four foot high and steep ocean waves.
Time to wake up Anne at 12:00 midnight. Bill not feeling well enough to risk going below so he stood in Anne`s bunk until 2:00am while Anne and I split the steering between us. Wind rising at this point (and shifting more to north-west) and it was sometimes difficult to maintain course. Anne became seasick too, after we finally persuaded Bill to go below. She soon felt better. Elaine popped out at 3:00am and declared cheerfully that she had n`t slept a wink! So we all three giggled around for an hour or so trying to get up on a galley box to see our beacon at West End ( spotted at 4:00am. Exactly on course) At 4:00am Anne curled up beside the toilet: refusing to go into Elaine`s messy hull. At about 5:00am Bill emerged and we sent Anne into her own bed. I could n`t wait for the dawn either and thoroughly appreciated Elaine`s bed.

Heather and Anne steer Amazon through the waves.

Bill and Elaine sight land and flying fish at dawn.

Bill and Elaine saw flying fish and sighted land shortly after dawn. We stood off for a while, not making much headway against the current and knowing we could not check into the Bahamas at the Jack Tar Marina until 9:00am.

Entered the pass through the fringing coral reef, were startled by the clarity of the water. We motored into the Marina flying our yellow quarantine flag. We were excited to have made it and to hear Carribean accents once again.
A hot wait at the marina and then with ice, water and gas replenished we headed out to a small island with a beach. We rigged a sun shelter, and Bill slept while Heather made bread (we have a folding oven for our propane camp stove.) and the girls sunbathed. A much appreciated supper as we chatted about our successful adventure. A chapter of ‘A light in the Forest’( a school book) and then early to bed.

I forgot to mention our ‘shower’: we tried using salt water first and then rinsing in fresh. Seems to work! Heather.


2 Arndts and a Gardam said...

Now that I've done my MARS training with the Navy I can't believe that we managed to get to the Bahamas strictly by EP...considering the set of the Gulfstream! Yikes! It worked though, didn't it?

Bill said...

Yep, it did. Like they say, 'if you don`t step beyond what you can control, how can the Gods help you?' Of course it also helped that I had taken that course on coastal pilotage and figured out vectors and similar stuff.Dad.