Thursday, April 6, 2017

Return to the U.S.A.

Monday April 3, 2017
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

This time, our stay in Bimini was short, as a good weather window for a westbound crossing of the Gulf Stream was opening up in just two more days.  This gave us time to sherpa red jerry jugs of gas to the boat to top off our fuel tanks, and then sherpa blue jerry jugs of clean RO water to the boat to refill our water tanks.  Tedious and time consuming.

It also gave me a chance to re-hoist the radar reflector.  The flag halyard that it had been attached to parted back in Warderick Wells during the windstorm there, and I had been temporarily hoisting it using a sail halyard. 

Of course, I had to give Joan at least one afternoon on the beach, and a shopping trip to the straw market! 

The last evening, at the nightly gathering of cruisers for sundowners by the poolside, everyone was exchanging weather information and course selection ideas.

For this crossing, we were going to try and do it completely in daylight, as the days are significantly longer now then they were back in January when we made our overnight eastbound crossing to the Bahamas.  This extra daylight more than makes up for the slightly longer distance to our destination, Port Everglades Inlet at Ft. Lauderdale. 

Even so, at 5-6 knots (what we expect to do),  the ~50 mile trip should take around 10 hours, and with only 12 hours of daylight this might leave us hunting for an anchorage in Lauderdale as the sun set.  So we wanted to get as early a start as possible.  This meant getting going in the pre-dawn "first light".

We left Bimini at 6:30 am Wednesday morning.  The winds were light but favorable, so we motorsailed with the sails set in a beam reach. The sun rose behind us as Bimini fell astern.

Bimini falls astern as the sun rises
The waves built to 2-3 ft out of a southerly direction, as predicted.  This situation was described as "not ideal, but doable".   We thought it was going to be rollier than it actually was. The sails steadied things up quite a bit. 

Since the Gulf Stream travels North at a good clip (sometimes up to 3 knots!), our course had to be set to compensate for this so we didn't overshoot Port Everglades inlet.  This also meant that the stream gave our speed over ground a big boost. We maintained a minimum of 6 knots the whole time, and saw over 9 kts over ground at one point!   We made great time!

While we were still 29 miles out, Joan says "I think I can see the Florida skyline!"  I sad "Naw, too far.  It's got to be a container ship with stacks of containers."  But soon, more rectangular outlines appeared, and sure enough, it was the high-rises of the Florida coast!   By the time we were within 10 miles, that was all you could see!

Florida from 10 miles out

It got a little rough as we came up onto the shallows outside of Port Everglades, but we got the sails down without incident.  The tide was with us and we got into the channel easily.

Entering Port Everglades Inlet

Because of the big speed boost we got from the Gulf Stream, it took us just 8 hours to cross the Straights of Florida from Bimini to Port Everglades Inlet!  And another hour to get in and up to our anchorage in Sunrise Bay just north of Las Olas.   

Much harder than the crossing was the customs & border patrol's "streamlined" clearing in by phone. Felt like it almost took longer than getting here! But eventually we prevailed and successfully cleared in. 

 And so, we're back in the US, the three month Bahamas portion of our adventure complete.  We still have another six or seven weeks of travel back up the ICW to be back in the Chesapeake by June, the official beginning of hurricane season.

We plan to do more sightseeing on the ICW, especially catching places we skipped on the way South when we were running to stay ahead of the cold.

At this point, I plan to reduce the frequency of blog entries, reserving them for new places that we visit, or significant events.

And since we're back in the land of Verizon, with widespread reliable Internet, we'll again be broadcasting our position to the Marine Traffic web site so people can check on our progress.

Life is very good.

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