You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

25 May

After spending a lovely month and some change in Miami we are faced with the approaching hurricane season which officially starts on June 1st and lasts through October. Not feeling like we have really fulfilled our obligation as cruisers to make it to a tropical island yet we decided to make a slight zig-zag course back to our summer “safe port” of Vero Beach, Florida by way of Grand Bahama Island.

The Bahamas are, for many East coast cruisers, the very first experience venturing out into the ocean and landing in a literal tropical paradise. Their proximity to the United States makes them an attractive destination as the nearest island to Florida, Bimini, lies less than 60 miles from Miami. The trick to making it to the islands safely and soundly is to navigate the sometimes treacherous Gulf Stream.

The Gulf Stream is a strong current that runs northward from the tip of Florida and makes its way all the way to the western coasts of Europe. It flows the strongest between Florida and the Bahamas. One can use the stream to their advantage by using the current to gain some speed while traveling north. This was what we counted on when we departed in the afternoon on what would be a 17 hour overnight motor sail from Government Cut in Miami to Freeport, Bahamas.

The winds were blowing out of the south east which made for a pretty smooth sail. The treacherousness of the stream that I alluded to earlier is that it can go from calm to terrifying and potentially deadly with just a shift in the wind. When the winds are blowing from the east, west, or south, things are generally pretty stable. However when the wind shifts to a blow from the north then it is time to stay clear of the stream. The problem is when wind, moving south, meets up with the current, moving north. The resulting effect is that very large swells can build very quickly. It is not unheard of for people to get stuck out in the middle with near gale force winds and waves of over 30 feet high. Needless to say we aren’t looking for THAT much adventure in our lives.

Apart from the nervousness that we all shared because it was out first time out in the ocean with Tango, the trip was very pleasant. We traveled with our friends Hank and Lisa who were aboard their vessel Haanli. Their presence eased our tension because we knew that we had someone to call on if we ran into trouble. Plus it was fun jabbering back and forth on the radio all night.

We were treated to a gorgeous evening on the ocean. Swells were no more than two feet and the wind was light and unthreatening. As soon as the sun set a full moon crept over the horizon in all of it’s orangey glory. The girls enjoyed dinner in the cockpit and made animals out of clay as we made our way north east.

This locale was a perfect time to really test out our radar system. It has a range of 24 miles and I could very easily pick out the various freighters, tankers, and cruise ships that were making their rounds. I felt much safer because of it. It’s nice to have an electronic set of eyes as a backup to my own. I was really impressed with how far out into the ocean our cell phones worked. I even made a call to my mom (well…her answering machine) as we were about 15 miles out in the Atlantic. In the middle of the night I noticed that my cell phone had picked up another cellular carrier that I didn’t recognize. Not wanting to incur any ridiculous data charges I quickly put my phone into airplane mode. In retrospect I think that what I picked up was a passing cruise ship’s cellular system.

The first thing that struck me was the color of the water. As we left Miami the shallows of Biscayne Bay with its lightly colored aqua marine hue gave way to an almost indigo blue color as we went from depths of 15 feet to near 2000 feet deep in a matter of minutes. I took pictures but they don’t do the color justice. Some things just have to be experienced in person.

Around midnight the winds picked up to around 12 to 15 knots which, had they been blowing more south than east would have enabled us to shut off our engines. Such was not the case but the wind still gave a big push anyway. Robin and I took three hour watches overnight. I was never really able to relax during my off time because I am always worried about the engines acting up. I’m getting better at fixing our diesel engine but it is still not my forte.

As the sun rose we were still about 15 miles away from Freeport and the crew from Tango and Haanli noticed that we were not making good headway through the water. Very slow going to say the least. We have subsequently decided that what we were experiencing was a back current that runs along the gulf stream on the sides. It was annoying as we were all pretty tired but the thought of white sandy beaches kept my spirits up.

We arrived at our marina about 9:15 AM. I mention this because Lisa and I made a bet about our arrival time. I said 6:30 AM and she said 9 AM. We need to take her to Vegas with us some day. Clearly I lost the bet and as a result I had to provide them with “Dark and Stormy” cocktails. All is not lost though because I didn’t have any of the ingredients for the drinks but Hank and Lisa had everything I needed. I consider that a win for me!

After we checked in through customs and immigration I immediately collapsed in bed for a quick nap after being up for over 28 hours. I was awakened in the afternoon for a walk to the nearby beach. I almost said no because I was still very tired but I figured I could nap on the beach. I’m glad I went because the beach was the prettiest beach I have ever been to. The waters around here, again because of the gulf stream, are absolutely pristine. The sand is white and the consistency of sugar. I’m a fan. After cooling off in the ocean I fell asleep on a towel and woke up with a very impressive sunburn. Yes…I forgot to sunscreen.

We plan to stay here for a few days and then start looking for another weather window to cross the Gulf Stream back into U.S. waters for our summer stay in Vero Beach. The winds are expected gain strength and blow from the east to northeast for the next few days so I think we may be trapped here for awhile. Darn.

Heading out for our first oceangoing voyage!

Heading out for our first oceangoing voyage!

Hank and Lisa aboard Haanli.

Hank and Lisa aboard Haanli.

The color of the ocean in the Gulf Stream is amazing. Photos don't do it justice.

The color of the ocean in the Gulf Stream is amazing. Photos don’t do it justice.

Watch out for these guys.

Watch out for these guys.

A gorgeous sunrise. Just a few more miles to go.

A gorgeous sunrise. Just a few more miles to go.

Yeah, I'm excited about this trip!

Yeah, I’m excited about this trip!

 

Our Bahamian courtesy flag. We are all checked in!

Our Bahamian courtesy flag. We are all checked in!

Madi enjoying the crystal clear water between our hulls.

Madi enjoying the crystal clear water between our hulls.

Perfect.

Perfect.

I'll be right here if you need me.

I’ll be right here if you need me.

Time to play!

Time to play!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

  1. Jenna Robertson May 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Send me pics!!!

    Sent from my iPod

  2. Jennifer Graham May 26, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing your life of adventure, Beck Family. I love reading about Tango, all that is required to keep her up and running and the accounts of your Live Aboard Family. After spending bits of childhood aboard my grandparent’s boat Barshi, sailing the San Juans, I have always dreamed of a life on the water. Love reliving those memories as I follow your life on Tango.

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