Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ready for a cold beer under a palm tree...........

The weather window for the crossing was 2 days, but the next one was at least 2 weeks away. So you assess yourself, your boat, listen one more time to the newest predictions and forecast, and make your decision. We decided to go. We left Stuart for the days travel to Riviera Marina. Staying at the marina would allow us to nest closer to the West Palm inlet, saving an hour from our previous anchorage that we stay. It wound up costing only $1.75/ft Cheap when you consider the other benefit of not having to lower the dinghy in the dark, walk Blue and retie the whole dinghy thing again for a crossing, saving another 1- 1 ½ hour.

The trip down the ICW had winds on the nose at 20 knts and a fare amount of boaters with the same idea and plan. There is current according to the tides in the ICW so we had slow boat speed fighting it from time to time and other times it really carries you a lot faster. Added boat speed is always good, moving you to the next bridge opening quicker. The last 5 bridges open on the hour, and half hour. One bridge is quite far for us to motor the distance from the previous one and we usually get there too late, the bridge tenders are pretty stern about this. This year we where running with several boats, all the fast ones pulled away from us headed for this bridge, we were running our engine a little faster than I normally do, trying to stay close to the other boats. Then the gap between us and the pack started to open up and again we were sure we’d miss it. We had to be at the marina by 5pm to check in and it was going to be close. Then we’re not to surprised that another boat passes us, but by doing so he filled in the gap between us and the other boats. By the time the 1st boats got to the bridge there was a steady line of 10 boats, all within a few boat lengths. The bridge tender had no chose but to leave it open for all of us. That was a ten minute opening,..if you where a car that day, Sunday, at the 2:30 opening on the Donald Ross Bridge, I’m sorry for the long wait. We get through the bridge and now realize that we only have 20 minutes to make the next bridge which is going to be way too close again. But the long line of boats and current now with us, again made the timed opening. Then only one more which is close and opens on the quarter and ¾ hour, but its right around the corner, no issues.

Riviera Marina
Pulling into the Marina we are told it had all new floating docks and they put us right next to a brand new Beneteau 55 ft monster of a beauty of a boat, this is a Beneteau dealer so 4 other new boats all lined up. Arline reminds me there is current and wind (still 20 knts) and not to hit anything. Thanks Dear. We landed fine and shared a finger with another big 47 Beneteau that was headed out in the morning and another 36 Beneteau ready to go.

We got up at 4 am and got ready. The wind sure did sound big and still from the south which was predicted. The waves on Saturday and Sunday, in the north flowing Gulfstream, where 10-15 ft, this was because of a week long blow from the north, thanks Canada. The wind on Sunday switching around to the south should have settled the Gulfstream down to 3-5 ft for us on Monday. Did it settle down or are we going back to Stuart, which was the golden question. The marina is right on the ICW, still dark, and everything ready to go for us. I look at my AIS (Automatic Identification System) and other instruments and see that a boat has just cleared the inlet, I have his boat name but he doesn’t answer my call on the VHS. Another moment passes and I see another sailboat just passing the marine on the ICW. Again I see his boat on my AIS. Ursa Minor answered my call, I asked if he’d give us a report on the waves when he got out there. He was traveling with another boat that had been out there an hour already. Another moment passed and we had his report that waves where 3 ft and nothing breaking! We’re Off!

sun rising out side of Lake Worth.

Blue just waiting to get there
Still dark, the inlet was calm but the incoming current had us down to only 3 knts SOG but boat speed was 7 knts, aghhhh. The opening itself right at the ocean had some really big rollers that knocked us around for a short bit, but we were out and going. Once we set our sails, pointed the boat on a close reach to start making as much south as we could we realized right away that we were not going to be able to make Port Lucaya, it would be West End.

In the Gulf stream
All the way across it really was sailing as close to the wind on a Starboard Tack, as possible, a little too close and our speed would drop off. Off the wind the boat speed would increase but we would miss West End to the north by miles. Did that both other times to West End, this makes for a long makeup south at the end of the day heading right into the wind. Our heading is where the boat is pointed, that was about 115 degrees, but our Course Over Ground (COG) was 93 degrees which is the heading to West End. That’s how much the Gulfstream was pushing us north. Just afternoon we began to see a difference. The COG and heading came together meaning we were out of the Gulfstream, Our boat speed picked up and we were pointed right at West End, this is when Kasidah started to Fly. The auto pilot (Auto) had been on all day and doing well, but the seas where just a little too much and the boat speed would very too much. Rather than try and remember how to make adjustments to Auto, I decided to sail her. I really don’t get to sail her that much so I put my gloves on and sailed for about 2 ½ hours. It was fantastic, she would hold her course and speed, the wind picked up a bit and the helm was a little strong. But the boat speed was great and we were right on our rum line headed straight at West End. The wind picked up a bit more and we where starting to worry about getting into West End before 5 PM when they leave. I rolled in a little of the head sail and her speed picked up again. Arline took over and steered for a while and took it all the way in till we took down the sails just outside West End at 4:20 PM. It really was a great sail and the straightest line we've ever made sailing,…..anywhere.

The channel
We needed to make the Silver Cover cut taking us to ORYC no later than noon, which was 2 ½ hours after high tide to have enough water below Kasidah. So we were up at around 3:30 and out before 4:00 am for the planned 5 hour sail. Dark as could be, no moon at all and some pretty good SE wind on the nose (As always). We tried tacking out and back in only to find we really weren’t making any headway down the coast to Freeport. Once we could round that point we could turn more east and sail. So the main sail came down and we motored for a few hours into the wind. Arline steered most of that time and got a good rhythm of steering around the waves to keep out boat speed above 4 knts. The waves were indeed bigger than yesterday in the Gulfstream. We put up the staysail which really did balance the boat, and gave us a little speed. We are a sail boat but the window weather had closed in a bit and the tide was going to hurt us if we didn’t make it. We could see Freeport now and about 10 tankers, most of which were anchored just off the inlet. It was interesting sail around them and keeping an eye out for the one that just went onto port and the one just coming out. I think the wind shifted a little south and Kasidah was off again. Boat speed was now close to 6 knts and we were going to make the tide. We were right at a point where the depth comes up from thousands of feet to 100 ft so there really where some big waves. I had the wheel now with 2 hours to go and as I looked out over the boat I could look through the top few feet of the waves and see that gorgeous turquoise blue color telling me the waves were big. Arline and I were guessing 8-9 ft because of how much water was coming over the bow. We have that sunken area on the fore deck and I have never seen waves fill that and then boil onto our flush deck making its way back to the cockpit. Bruce King had an excellent design with that, as much water as there was it never made its way to the cockpit. Finally we could see the Silver Cove Inlet which faces south. All writings about the inlet say do not do it with any south over 15. Opps it’s 20 south wind. Looking through the binoculars I could see it wasn’t breaking over the rocks on either side of the inlet but knowing the inlet I saw we had still a lot of tide left, so I felt really good about getting in. I would not have tried it if I thought I was putting us and Kasidah at risk. As we got closer the waves started to settle down but the wind was really right behind us. Kasidah did get rocked back and forth quite a bit until we surfed one or two waves coming in, lots of steering and some engine RPM,..Very Exciting! Once in and the calm overcame us, we knew we had done it. Passing a few tourists inside on the wall fishing they screamed that was awesome! “You have no Idea!” was my thought, but thank you.
Blue getting a full view of Thanksgiving turkey.

We invited Kevin from Connecticut out for a ride on the dinghy..
Kasidah settled into the same slip we had last year and fellow boats came in to say their hellos. Later that day we find out 2 other boats turned away from the channel, one big trawler came in and said wow, everything in his boat was trashed and somebody else flipped their dingy in the channel. The local dive shop canceled his afternoon dive and all claimed that the waves were well over 9ft. Thanks Kasidah.

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