The day started with some sadness with leaving our friends at Marina Del Mar and optimism for our trip to the Bahamas. It is about 80 miles from Key Largo to The Bimini, a group of islands due East of Miami. The forecast had the wind on the beam (90 degrees from your direction of travel) veering to behind us through the day, a nice easy sail. What we got was wind from just south of due East, about 45 degrees off our course which meant we had to beat to windward (into the wind) all day.
The keys have two sets of reefs, an inner set and an outer set. If you don’t mind crab pots and you are key hopping than you stay between them in Hawk’s channel. If you are going to the Bahamas you get outside of them quickly as your course generally passes through them and you want to take advantage of the 2-3 knot push from the gulf stream. We got out past the second set of reefs and the boat motion began very uncomfortable as we were exposed to swell of the Atlantic Ocean.
Soon the kids were are sea sick and throwing up and Leah wasn’t feeling 100% either. I was fine but moving about the boat was not easy, and I was concerned that someone might fall and get hurt.
James was particularly concerned about the motion of the boat, worrying about Viatori not being strong enough. I wasn’t too worried about this; one reason we bought this boat is that it carries the highest rating you can get for seaworthiness which is CE rating A8. This means that the boat can house 8 crew for long distances in seas of over 20 ft tall and with high winds. This boat is also a proven circumnavigator with at least one boat that I know of making the trip.
The saying goes: “Gentlemen don’t sail to windward “
I now know why. In order to progress the boat must be heeled (tipped), the bow pounds through the waves producing loud bangs as water splashes over the whole boat, sometimes getting you wet in the cockpit behind the dodger (windshield) and the motion of the boat is violent making moving about the boat a potentially dangerous proposition.
I asked Leah if she wanted to head back, go to Miami which is 30 miles North or go to Bimini which was 50 miles but she was uncertain about what to do and was concerned that was asking her. In our marriage, I consult her on major decisions and we try to work out the solution together. On the boat, however I am learning that as the Captain it is up to me to make the decisions regarding the plan and changes to the plan. This is what Leah needs and expects. We were never in any danger but it was a new unpleasant experience for all of us.
As the boat rolled, the forecast predictions continued to say the wind would shift in our favor but there would be storms in the evening anywhere we could reach. Looking at the chart the closest place was back to the marina but that was about 4 hours of motoring against the gulf stream, Miami was about 4 hours north but we had not contacts or any clue where to go once there or the Bahamas which were 6 hours ahead. In addition they were calling for a small craft advisory that evening through the keys and in Miami – never a good time whether you are in a marina or not. I decided to get to the Bahamas, so I fired up the engine set it to full ahead and we pounded onward.
The boys slept, threw up, sat on laps, mostly Leah’s, watched a few movies and hung out. Ethan was the hardest as he would not take Gravol but kept asking for water which he would throw up on himself, Leah, his bed and his car seat. It was awful.
The wind never shifted, which meant we could not sail to the most southern island of the Biminis which is called Gun Cay as that was directly into the wind. This added about 4 nautical miles (7 km) to our trip or 40 minutes. This also meant that our nice downhill motorsail would be a beat to windward the whole way. Argh!
I spotted land and called “Land Ho!” the boys ran up to see. It was Gun Cay. We continued on and switched from chart plotter to paper chart navigation with cell phone assist.
The channel into the harbor is quite narrow and used to be unmarked, but recently markers were added which allowed us to enter relatively uneventfully with only one “let’s check the chart while we circle in place.” Leah found the channel before I did.
Docking was a circus. The current really strong and it took three tries to get in. Leah got the lines, fenders and the dinghy squared away twice, once on one side and once on the other as we had to alter the plan from a back into the dock to a nose into the dock. She hates changing the plan at the last minute because usually everyone is watching and generally docking is where the most trouble occurs. Kind of like rubber necking on the freeway when there is an accident, except with docking you get to watch the accident too.
To add insult to injury it started to pour as the storms caught up with us. It took four people to get Viatori secured in the rising wind and swell from the storm. I was soaked and Leah was soaked. We had supper, put the kids down and took showers and went to bed. The end of a long and gruelling day, but we made it.
The next morning I woke to this: