For the past week, we have been watching a possible weather window for crossing to the Bahamas – this coming Sunday and Monday. Our preferred route is to cross the Gulf Stream and continue to Great Sale Cay, north of Grand Bahama Island– about 20 hours – then rest for a few hours and continue another 10 hours to Green Turtle Cay, (east of Little Abaco Island), where we can clear customs and get fuel and food. At that point, we’re only a day from Hopetown. It’s 30 hours underway to Green Turtle, plus the rest stop. The potential window would get us to Green Turtle. Wind on the nose, so not a comfortable trip, but doable.
Of course, we want to get to the Bahamas, but now we are approaching the dates our daughter and son-in-law will be there – the third week in February. We would really like to be there with them, although I am certain they will have a perfectly lovely vacation in Hopetown without us.
Our practice is to monitor various weather sources, including NOAA, Passageweather.com, and Chris Parker. The window continued to look quite promising – light easterlies on Sunday, gradually diminishing to light and variable through early Tuesday. Enough for our trip. We left Vero Beach to stage in West Palm, stopping after 40 miles to anchor in Peck Lake.
Peck Lake is a lovely spot off the ICW just south of the St. Lucie River. You can dinghy to shore, where the beach is just a short walk away.
Shortly after we anchored in Peck Lake on Wednesday, the wind started howling from the north. The entire time, day and night. Dancing on the anchor – sometimes rockin’ and rollin’. Not uncomfortable, but unsettling.
The front came in strong – an opening puff of maybe 30-35 mph broadsides. A bottle of wine on the counter fell over (open but re-corked). Goldwin picked it up and put it in an undisclosed location to secure it, i.e., he can’t remember what he did with it – uh, oh. It’s a small boat – and we’ve looked and looked. Only my empty glass remains – a silent reminder of what could have been.
Two nights of 25-30 out of the north did not embolden us. Plus, with each weather forecast, the window got smaller. We debated and considered, then re-considered and debated some more. We could go partway and wait for the next good traveling day, but when? How “light” would light easterlies be on Sunday and would they weaken or intensify? Could we keep up our speed motoring into waves and wind on the nose? If we couldn’t, where would we bail out and how long might we be stuck there? We looked at Great Sale Cay as an anchorage, the marina at Spanish Cay, and the marina at West End on Grand Bahama Island. All good possibilities, but none would get us to Hopetown by next week-end.
Time to decide. Do we continue south to stage at West Palm, (we depart from the Lake Worth Inlet), or do we go back to Vero Beach, put Motu Iti on a mooring and buy plane tickets? Is that a reasonable solution?
Friday, the weather window had shrunk to just the 30 hours we needed to arrive in Green Turtle – no rest stop. Did we have the stamina for that – it depended on how hard the first day was. By Saturday morning the easterlies were predicted to stay in the 10-15 range most of Sunday and squalls up to 40k were possible late Monday, with a cold front/strong northerlies just after sunset. The weather window was shrinking again. Enough to overnight to West End, but what then?
Do we just go for it and see what happens? Are we not intrepid, seasoned sailors? Who can take whatever Mother Nature throws at us? If we don’t go, are we being overly careful? Pitifully lacking in bravado? What would you do?
My father, a pilot all his life, used to say: “There are bold pilots and old pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” Okay, we’re not going to fall out of the sky, but it’s supposed to be fun, right?