We returned from the Bahamas to Fort Pierce, Florida May 13th. With an inaccurate forecast, it was not a fun crossing, the way our trip over on March 1 was. Click on first pic for gallery, more text below.
The high pressure area moving east stalled. The inverted trough to the south dissipated in place; Northeast winds lingered and built a NE swell N of the Bahamas. When we left Mangrove Cay at 4 am, the updated forecast was for East winds, with SSE the following day. Wrong. [Had the original forecast held, we would have gone to West End on Sunday and crossed on Monday. Ah, well.]
When we crossed the edge of the Little Bahama Bank at Memory Rock, there was a southerly component in the wind we attributed to a local effect of wind being bent by the shape of the west end of Grand Bahama Island–we thought it temporary. Wrong.
We motorsailed with main only because the downwind rolling would have made the genoa jib useless (and worse). We had criss-crossing 3-5 foot swells from S, SE and NE. “Rolling” is generous. Drunken lurching would be closer to the truth.
We pressed on, on port tack, toward the center of the Gulf Stream. But the Stream was running further west than predicted. We jibed near the geographic middle of the Florida Strait. On starboard tack we sought out the fastest flowing current and saw our speed over the bottom go up to 10 knots. But the lurching continued and was now augmented with swooping as we got into the NE swells. When these added to the other swells we would sometimes see 7 foot walls of water loom next to us and then disappear.
The only water we took aboard all day was through the scuppers when we rolled so deeply the water came up the drain hose. No waves or heavy spray came aboard.
We jibed again where the western wall of the Stream was supposed to be. Unfortunately, we had to fight the Stream for about ten miles crabbing as much as 40 degrees off course to make Fort Pierce. The northerly winds from the stalled high had nudged the Stream west.
The Fort Pierce ebb started early, and was running at about 2.5 knots and was breaking when we arrived. They were 3-4 footers at right angles to the channel and about sixty feet apart. So we positioned ourselves on the back side of one and used throttle to stay there. It lasted about five minutes. Only had to reposition twice. It was easier than the prior ten hours, but at no time was I tempted to hang ten.
We made the 14.5 hour trip in 14.6 hours.
Starting with getting up at 0330, the day was not fun, but neither was it especially dangerous. The boat handled it superbly. The autopilot deserves a medal. We were never out of control. And when sailing maneuvers were required (jibes, furling sails, etc) they were not particularly difficult. And we had a great homemade deli tuna salad with whole wheat egg noodles.
Cleared Customs with a three minute phone call.
We slept till 1000 the next morning.