For the last three and half months Romain and I have been in hard-pressed go mode. Every morning we’d wake up and try to cover as many nautical miles as we could in the attempt to reach our first monumental milestone, getting to Miami. By the time we got to Fort Lauderdale we began to feel a worthy sense of accomplishment – we were so close . If we got the right weather window we could leave for the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale rather than Miami. This was big news. All along the plan was to sail the Caribbean. Reaching the clear, turquoise waters of the Bahamas would be the starting point of our adventure. The months it took to sail down the US East Coast was a rewarding experience in the end – one with many, many lessons learned – but it was not the grand trip we had imagined. Instead, it embodied a necessary nuisance, which was enjoyable at times but we mostly treated it as the first checklist item on our to-do list. It had to be accomplished quickly so we could get to the better, warmer, more exciting places. Being still became a hinderance.
So we pushed – sometimes too aggressively – to meet timelines. Our constant on the go mentality was not only exhausting but it also forced us to sail in unfavorable weather conditions. Risking your safety to reach a location by a specific time always leads to bad news. At one point or another we’re all guilty of violating this golden rule. In our case, when we did, the outcome was painful. Tangled lines, major sea sickness, and waves so big we couldn’t get anywhere. Our ETA on the GPS literally went blank and our boat knot reader showed nothing but zero. What should have been an easy 11-hour passage in fair conditions turned into a miserable, praying for your life 20-hour nightmare. It was the kind of awful passage that makes you realize the risk is not worth it; weather always wins.
After that hard learned lesson we arrived in Miami with a new manta: go with the flow. We would get to the next port whenever we’d get there. Our plan was to wait for the right weather window and then we would accomplish our second milestone, crossing the Gulf Stream. When it came to preparing for the crossing I was a ball of nerves, psyching myself out once again, and imagining the worst case scenarios for the crossing. We’d heard horror stories about the crossing and of course I’d look for videos on YouTube capturing the worst conditions. “Just wait for the right weather window, and you’ll be fine,” is what our salty friends would say. But what if we wouldn’t get a weather window? What if we would get caught in a nasty northerly storm? What if, what if, what if. Guess what, it was absolutely fine.
On December 13th we woke up at 2:30 in the morning, prepared a big coffee, and thirty minutes later we made it out of Governors Cut, the main channel in Miami, towards North Bimini in the Bahamas. As we headed east I looked back off our stern to watch the full moon and the Miami lights drift away. This was it. This is what we’d been anticipating for months, and it was beautiful. The seas were so calm and the southeasterly breeze so mild we found ourselves wishing for more wind. After four hours out we watched the sun rise, twenty nautical miles offshore, with no land in sight and thousands of feet of water beneath us. It was the furthest offshore we’d been and by far the deepest waters we’d ever sailed. Waters that were a stunning rich indigo, so blue that you’d think the entire ocean was dyed with ink. Our depth meter stopped working somewhere around 500-feet so we couldn’t get the exact depth from our instruments, but we could see on the GPS chart that at one point we sailed over waters 2,900-feet deep.
To account for the northerly current of the Gulf Stream, which can be anywhere from two to four knots in speed, we pointed slightly south of our destination and adjusted our heading when needed. After ten hours we slowly began to see land in the distance. The Bahamas! We approached the channel to North Bimini, and for the first time ever, we could clearly see the bottom of the ocean floor. From thousands of feet deep we were back in 10-feet of water, except now we could see the white sand, rocks, and patches of grass beneath us. At the bow, I did my best to look for rocks and identify deeper water for us to pass through safely. “To port, to port, there’s darker water there,” I yelled back to Romain. We didn’t ground coming into the channel on our arrival, but we did touch the bottom another time. Yes, we’re still learning how to read the water.
Once we tucked ourselves in at Brown’s Marina we ended up staying in Bimini for two weeks. We could have left earlier but we were finally not in a rush. It was time to go with the flow. It was time to slow down. We had to change our perspective consciously in order to do this but once we did the ride became much smoother. And so much more fun. Life is good in the slow lane. I guess you can say we’re on island time now.