While sitting on a park bench, Forrest Gump shared the wisdom his mama gave him: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” If I may, I’ll borrow that proverb and apply it to cruising. You just never know what you’re gonna get.
It began on Monday morning. I ran some errands and returned the rental car while Cindy did a load of laundry. As planned, we departed Harbortown Marina around 10 a.m. and pointed our bow eastward down the Canaveral barge canal toward the Atlantic. I somehow failed to know that the lock and bridge are shut down during the day due to construction/repairs and do not open until 5 p.m. A 64’ bridge just south of the canal on the ICW forbade a southward jaunt on those protected waters. What to do? Well, we returned to the marina and filled up with diesel, and then returned to the lock where we anchored just south of the lock entrance in 9 feet of water. There we spent 6 hours at leisure, reading and relaxing. Finally, five o’clock rolled around, so we weighed anchor and prepared to transit the lock. By 6:20, we were through the lock and the bridge. You just never know what you’re gonna get when you pull out of the marina.
We followed the Bahamas-bound Disney Dream out of Port Canaveral Harbor and directed our vessel in a southerly direction. We pointed directly into what was supposed to be a 10-knot breeze, but turned out to be 20 knots with gusts to 25 for at least three solid hours. On the nose! The slamming and heaving was not fun. My crew member was nearing mutiny at one point, suggesting we turn back. We sure weren’t expecting those conditions! However, before midnight the winds slackened to their forecasted strength and the sea state became much more tolerable. By 3 a.m., the winds had clocked around to the west and diminished further making for a very comfortable ride. Throughout the entire night, we saw no other vessels on the water, staying about 3 miles offshore as we made our way to the south.
I had initially planned to get as far south along the Florida coast as I could before turning to the east to cross the Gulf Stream, but conditions were so benign during the day on Tuesday, that I decided to go ahead and cross a little more to the north. When we arrived at Jupiter inlet we turned to port and put the ship on a bearing just south of West End, Grand Bahamas Island. How different was this Gulf Stream crossing compared to the one last November! Last year’s crossing provided some of the worst conditions we’ve endured. Tuesday’s crossing consisted of 3 knot winds from the west, with gentle 2 foot ocean rollers coming from the north with a period of about 9 seconds. It was nearly perfect. The bright sun spread its rays across the waters as schools of flying fish glided across the sea’s surface to escape from our path. Again, with cruising, you just never know what you’re gonna get. This time we got a delicious, sweet, chocolate covered cherry-type Gulf Stream crossing.
By sunset, we had reached West End, then sliding along beneath the southwestern corner of the island making our way in a southeastwardly direction. The night couldn’t have been more relaxing. Well, except if there were a few less cruise ships and tankers in our path. There were quite a few in transit along the Northwest Providence Channel throughout the night. But the winds were less than 5 knots and the seas were flat. While on watch, there were, once again, billions of stars pasted on the blackness overhead punctuated with the occasional flash of a shooting star blazing across the sky, accompanied by a dinoflagellate light show in our wake as we motored along. We slowed down around midnight so as not to arrive at Great Harbour Cay before light. Around 3 a.m., I noticed on our AIS that there was a biblically-themed trinity of vessels heading toward the Berrys. The catamaran, Amazing Grace was a few miles in front of us (Beatitude), while Milk and Honey brought up the rear, a few miles behind us.
Just before 9 am, we pulled through the narrow man-made entrance into Great Harbour Cay Marina where we were greeted by our good friends aboard Largo, Jay and Karen Campbell. They were our neighbors for a couple of years in Regatta Pointe Marina in Florida. Now we are both out cruising, and our boats are located in adjacent slips in the Bahamas. How cool is that! Clearing into the Bahamas through Customs and Immigration was a breeze and took all of about 15 minutes. The marina is sheltered and secure. We look forward to a little exploring today, since tomorrow morning we will be out of here before sunrise.