Criss Crossing the Gulf Stream

We’ve crissed and crossed the gulf stream 4 times. Notorious for being challenging and at times down right dangerous – we made our best crossing as a family.

The challenge? We set a date and place – Nassua Dec 22 for flights to Nashville. Never set a date and place far in advance when sailing. It almost always adds stress and causes potentially unnatural decisions to make the ‘date and place’.

The key? Patience & flexibility. We stayed in North Palm Beach for almost 2 weeks. 12 days longer than planned. Plans change. Our watermaker died and the weather was persistent out of the NE, E. 

The good news, Beard Marine was excellent. They found the problem – our ‘Energy Transfer Device’ ($4,500) died. The better news, it was covered by warranty and Sea Recovery upgraded our entire unit to the new model a no charge. The new model is supposed to be more ‘bullet proof’ than the old design. We were thrilled.

We also took the time to connect for drinks with and old colleague and had lunch with friends from Deloitte. It was fun for me to stay connected with the latest news from Deloitte while in Florida.

We made the decision after getting the water maker fixed to scrap Abacos and keep heading south while the wind was out of the east.  We set a date and place - and time was not on our side to see the Abacos.  The farther south we sailed, the more comfort with seas aft of beam for our crossing.

Kids in Cockpit as we sail
We set sail to Miami on the outside (Atlantic vs. ICW). We wanted to stay longer than our 18 hours, but the weather window was opening (winds SE – SSE) in 24 hours. We watched the boat Christmas parade on the hook near Star Island, provisioned up at Publix and sailed south to just north of Longboat Key. This was our staging area for the crossing.

The best laid plans. We anchored about 300 meters from the entrance, and planned to get underway at dawn. We didn’t plan on the entrance being shoaled in 1m of water at low tide – 6.30am. The charts showed 2m at MLW. So, we pulled out the charts and headed south to another channel. That channel had warnings posted about shoaling and 1m of water in portions of the channel. Nope. That won’t work. At this point we were thinking about plan “C”. Wait for high tide – noon, and then head over. 

Sunset at anchorage near channel in Florida Keys
That would have been a challenge, as we would have to enter the ‘cut’ at dark in the Bahamas, and there was only one night navigation aide. Too risky in potentially bumpy seas and shallow waters. I checked the charts again, and found a second entrance to our original channel. In shallow water, but just deep enough for Field Trip – about 1.5m. We slowly navigated our way, slightly touching the sandy bottom a couple of time to squeeze out. We made it! 3 hours later than planned, but still time to make the crossing and have light to see the cut.

Kids at helm - learning early!
Sarah was dreading the crossing. We had crossed the stream a couple of years earlier with a class – in 15-20kts NNE. Seas were 8-10ft and the ride was bumpy (but fun). Sarah didn’t really want to do this again with kids. I knew with the wind blowing 10kts SSE for the previous day, it was not possible for the sea state to be even remotely bumpy. Forecast was 1-2ft following seas. It was a great day.

Field Trip in middle of gulf stream...flat seas, sunny day!
I’ll let the video below tell the ‘Rest of the Story’….

Here is the NEW LINK to all our videos.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

- Mark, Sarah, Michael and Elizabeth


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