From the moment we arrived a few days ago here at the boatyard in Fort Lauderdale we have been busy either getting things done, or coordinating other people getting things done. This is our last maintenance stop for many months, so we want to be sure that everything we want done gets finished.
In addition, we are both traveling over the holidays back to visit family, so what would otherwise be a relaxed pace is pretty hectic.
After much back and forth with battery suppliers, who are themselves slaves to the manufacturer’s supply chain, we have decided to stretch our current batteries for another season and move that not insignificant number of dollars to other projects.
We have some basic repairs to the floors in the forward lockers which have some rotten plywood that needs replacing. We are lucky to have found a local contractor who just finished the identical job on a sistership to Harmonie, S/V Lola. Lola is still here in the yard so we had a chance to get to see the end result, and it looks great. This was a job I was actually looking forward to doing myself, but Karen has correctly pointed out that my time is best spent on other things. Lola also has some great looking sunshades that we are likely to copy because they look like they will bring us 90% of the utility of the full canvas cover but require 10% of the effort to put up.
At 10:30 tomorrow morning we get lifted out of the water. I need to replace the seals on the prop shaft, inspect the bow thruster, and then the boat is turned over to the painters for fresh bottom paint. We should be high and dry for about a week. Then it is vacation travel, then another week of projects, and then–we are off to the islands again! Yippee!
Well… this is an anticlimax.
The first thing we see as we come around Grand Bahama Island are two 28 foot open cockpit fishing boats just finishing their run over from Florida. Obviously, not quite as rough and tumble as I had been lead to expect in these weather conditions.
Our next challenge will be figuring out what to do when we get to the Inlet many hours ahead of schedule. Do we pick an anchorage for the night? Or thread our way up the New River and it’s many narrows and bridges? Decisions, decisions…
Time 1010 local
Lat N 27° 31.4′
Lon W 79° 12.2′
Nautical miles from Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia : 618.2 Nautical miles to Port Everglades Entrance : 97.9
We are just rounding the treacherous shallows of Little Bahamas Bank. The nearest land is tp miles away, well over our horizon, yet just a few miles to our south are reefs less than ten feet deep. I am sure they have claimed more than a few ships trying to cut the corner a bit too close. Rounding this hazard sets up our crossing of the Gulf Stream toward the Florida coast.
Over the past several days the steady winds from the northeast, that have been so good at pushing us here, have built up a significant seaway. Waves of three to five feet are sliding under the boat. That’s not a problem here because those waves are quite widely spread, about eight to ten seconds apart and the boat is riding over them smooth, fast and rather flat. That will change in a few miles. Harmonie, and those waves, all happily moving southwest, will run into the Gulf Stream flowing north at speeds of up to four knots. Those nice, widely spaced waves will quickly pile up on top of each other, becoming closer together, taller and steeper.
The generally accepted advice on crossing the Stream here off the Florida coast is to never do it when the wind is from the north, and especially not if the wind has been blowing for a few days. But…here we are! We’ll have the advantage that we will be going downwind, not trying to bash our way north.
I do not expect anything dangerous to a boat like Harmonie, but I do imagine we’ll get bounced around a good bit for the eight hours or so it take to come out the other side. If things really are too nasty, we can always turn back, and hide in the Bahamas until things lie down.
Time 1315 local
Lat N 29° 41.1′
Lon W 77° 49.7′
Nautical miles from Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia : 477.1 Nautical miles to Port Everglades Entrance : 246.4
We continue sailing straight downwind to our destination pushed along by the northeast trade winds. Sailing in the trade winds anywhere in the world means that rain squalls will be around. Usually small and compact areas of rain and wind, during the day they are easily visible on the horizon. At night our radar picks them up. Today we are seeing a few small and relatively weak squalls around. Sometime we can dodge out of their way, other time we just go for the ride and are thankful for the freshwater to rinse some of the salt off the boat.
Up ahead about 150 miles is our only real navigation hazard on the route, Little Bahama Bank, a shallow area of sand and coral extending to the north and west of Grand Bahama Island. Once we leave that to our port side, we again cross the Gulf Stream, and then sail south close along the Florida coast west of the Gulf Stream to Port Everglades Inlet. It looks like we’ll be getting in there at a reasonable hour on Sunday morning.
Time 0845 local
Lat N 32° 00.5′
Lon W 76° 24.6′
Nautical miles from Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia : 331.9 Nautical miles to Port Everglades Entrance : 403.7
Now that we are at the latitude of Savannah, Georgia, about 200 miles offshore, I think we can officially claim that we have moved “south.” Sometime this afternoon we’ll cross the halfway mark for this trip. Models forecast our arrival at Port Everglades Inlet for Sunday mid-day.
Speaking of Savannah, we both were a bit disappointed that we are too far offshore to pick up the Savannah Ship Pilots radio traffic. From passing by last year we remember a woman who staffs their radio room who has the voice of an angel. I’m sure there are dozens of sailors who frequent those waters who are in love with that voice.
For the past 12 hours or so we have been sailing with our “tradewind rig” of twin poled out headsails. When we are sailing greater than 150° off the wind this is an easy and reasonably efficient way to sail. If the weather forecasts hold up, we be under this rig almost all the way to Port Everglades. Current weather is about 78°, partly cloudy and wind of 15 knots from the Northeast.
Time 0915 local
Lat N 33° 45.9′
Lon W 74° 48.7′
Nautical miles from Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia : 238.3 Nautical miles to Port Everglades Entrance : 535.6
After motoring last night, and most of yesterday afternoon as well, we are back to sailing in a slowly building comfortable breeze. We are now on the east side of the Gulf Stream, it is warm and sunny, and it looks like from here we are pretty much on a straight run to Florida.
When we motor, we don’t use the lights on top of the mast, rather lights down at deck level. After the moon set, and it was well and truly dark, I was at the bow of the boat. Here, our red and green light shine out.where the light hit the water, I noticed a distinct difference. In the glow of the green lamp, the phosphorescent plankton was lit up and twinkling, on the red side of the boat, nothing. Cover the green lamp with my hand, and the plankton also immediately turned off. Uncover, right back on came the bio lights.
Now you know: Plankton can “see” green light and turn on their own little green lights in response.
Time 1015 local
Lat N 35° 18.8′
Lon W 75° 06.5′
Nautical miles from Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia : 146.1 Nautical miles to Port Everglades Entrance : 609.7
Beautiful, sunny, and clear skies, calm seas. The wind has gotten a bit light and fluky in the past hour, and the forecast says we’ll have to put up with that for much of the daylight hours today before it stabilizes and strengthens again.
We have no cause to complain after covering almost 150 miles in the 24hours since we weighed anchor. For now we are still going in the direction we want to go and enjoying moderate temperatures and bright sunshine. Life is good!