Winter is on its way and we are outta here! And to get “outta here” we are undertaking our most ambitious and longest ocean passage yet: a non-stop, 1100 mile sail into the Atlantic from Florida to the Virgin Islands. Read on…
We left NY just as the chill arrived in late October. We drove to Genevieve in Georgia overnight and started the exhausting process of putting her back in order: scrubbing the bird poop off; washing, waxing and polishing every single inch of gelcoat and stainless; bending the sails back on; engine maintenance..the list goes on and on. But at least it was warm, there was free beer at the marina lounge, and we had wifi…kinda.
November 1 we welcomed two crew joining us for the ride south to Ft Lauderdale, Florida: Nancy, One of John’s many, many, many sisters, and Bob, old pal from West Gilgo Beach. Both were not new to sailing, but for both it had been some years since either had been ocean-bound on a sailboat. Following a detailed orientation and safety briefing we slipped the lines and, with Nancy at the wheel, we meandered out of the Brunswick inlet, dodging a couple of massive inbound cargo ships. We aimed down the narrow channel, pulled out the sails and had a lively sunny sail into the Atlantic.
As the land dropped away to starboard things got a little boisterous! Once pointed directly at our Cape Canaveral waypoint we were on a close reach with a big beam sea which made for a rolly, fast ride about 25 miles offshore. It was not long before we had to break out the Heaving Box (designed by Tupperware) and the Puke & Vomit seats on the stern. But everyone stood their watches and were alert and eager troopers.
The wind stayed brisk between 20-25 knots most of the way so the engine remained mostly idle. There was not much traffic to dodge and, despite having no moon, the inky blackness was broken by a view of the shoreline lights during the second half of the trip, the coast sweeping back towards us as we rounded Canaveral and headed towards West Palm Beach. We had a dolphin pod visit to welcome us to South Florida and with an average speed above 7 knots we arrived at the mouth of Port Everglades inlet ahead of schedule.
We called for passage under the 17th Street draw bridge–no doubt delaying/annoying some morning commuters–and were soon motoring slowly up the 14th Street canal to our berth. Our pal Pam Wall was ready and waiting to catch our lines and we were quickly tied up and ready for a late breakfast complete with a bottle of Veuve to celebrate, all queasiness apparently banished. We made it! Thanks crew!
Now we are doing the Fort Lauderdale thing, which is to say we are working our way through a list of boat upgrades (water maker, satellite phone, etc), checks and maintenance tasks. But we do take some time off to hit the gym, beach, the movies and enjoy a bit of shopping before we are ripped away from material delights.
Next big challenge is to sail from Ft Lauderdale directly to the Virgin Islands. Looking at a map it would seem logical to meander to the VIs from Florida by way of the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and then onto the VIs. But that is not a good idea! As soon as one gets south of 25 degrees you would hit the Easterly Trade winds blowing right from the direction you needed to go, pushing against large, steep seas. Some people do take this route, but it can take them months and months to get east to the Virgin Islands…and they and their boats get severely beaten up in the process.
So we are taking the much more direct and adventurous route called I65, which is to head due east from Florida–threading between the Bahamas–and into the Atlantic for 700 miles until we reach 65 degrees west. Then we will take a sharp right turn and sail south to the Virgin Islands for 400 miles, theoretically on a nice beam reach. This is an exciting plan made all the better by the fact that we have a boat that relishes this kind of open ocean sailing and a crew that is hardy and keen (Bob again and new crew member Lee). We are loading the dice by undertaking all the necessary exhaustive preparation and planning to mitigate any issues. Planned departure is January 2, 2017.
For now we have to get back to our To Do list (and maybe the beach). But watch this space for I65 updates.