We are now unofficially in the Bahamas. We moved up our planned 12am start time to a 6pm departure when we saw the parade of familiar boats moving toward the inlet, and Godspeed hailed to let us know the pack was heading out. (We had left the good anchorage the previous day in order to accomplish some tasks more convenient to the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad anchorage and were out-of-the-loop.) We hastily conferred and decided we might as well get going too, so we made our last-minute preparations and were underway, slipping out of the Lake Worth Inlet as the sun went down, following the pack in stealth mode as we were too far behind to hail anyone on the radio.
We encountered about 9 knots of wind from the north and a 2-3 foot easterly swell. Both nervous about entering the Gulf Stream, we stayed awake together for the first few hours of motor-sailing. We saw and heard over the radio, that a few boats from the cavalcade were turning back due to equipment issues. Soon, because of our distance from shore, we knew we had entered the Gulf Stream but noticed nothing had changed except perhaps the swells were subsiding a bit under the influence of the northerly current. Although the wind had been blowing out of the north, it wasn’t of the strength or duration that would cause us any problems. So while technically we had turned another well-known sailing “don’t” into one of our sailing “dos” by heading out in north winds, we were relieved to find that our patience in waiting for a truly good opportunity had paid off with what would be an uneventful passage. And after about three hours the wind clocked around to the east anyway, right on the nose, so we had to take down the sails.
Once we’d assured ourselves that we weren’t about to die in The Gulf Stream, we each took two short and two long shifts at the helm through the night. In the early hours of the morning, for the first time I had to deal with a huge freighter coming toward me in the dark. I was tempted to:
A) wake Jon
B) turn on the radar (not a bad idea but would mean unintentionally causing (A)
C) distract myself trying to figure out just what kind of giant ship this was by comparing the configuration of lights I was seeing to a reference book we have (again, causing A)
D) hail the ship to ask its direction and speed (totally reasonable but often futile if the ship doesn’t respond or the captain doesn’t speak English)
E) commence panicking.
Instead I watched the lights for awhile and was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the ship would pass well in front of us, but I slowed down a bit and altered course just in case, until I saw the lights on the stern heading away from us. The only other element of concern was the electrical storm activity, both straight ahead and off to port, but neither storm ended up reaching us. Toward dawn I thought that we had finally escaped any threat of rain when I entered a dense fog and we were briefly but thoroughly doused by the last of it – and just as the clouds had almost cleared! When the rain was over I was rewarded with what I’m sure is the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen, complete with rainbows.
In the night we had crossed from waters over 2,500 feet deep, onto the Bahama banks with average depths of just 20 feet. Jon woke up as the wind was becoming more favorable. We raised the sails and they stayed up for the last 30 miles left to reach the protection of Great Sale Cay. The sailing was perfect; easy enough for us each to take advantage of the privacy of the open ocean to enjoy a quick solar shower. We arrived feeling – if not refreshed – at least clean for our first foreign anchorage, where we dropped the hook just behind the rest of the pack and promptly fell asleep in the sun.