This sailing motoring passage of 79 nm from Grand Bahama to Florida gave us everything from flat calm seas, to beam reach sailing to marine warnings over the VHF to thunderstorms, lightning, rain and reduced visibility. Overall, with 8 crossings of the Gulf Stream, this one was by far one of the calmest and smoothest sea states we have seen.
First, we exited Port Lucaya on Grand Bahamas where we ran out a very narrow rock-lined channel. There is zero chance to turn around and no opportunity to pass another yacht in this channel. Any SOUTH winds blowing into this narrow channel would create a serious problem. We departed at 7 am with the 10 knots of crosswinds. It looked like this.
Here we go
Radeen and I keep out boat moving at full speed whenever we are on a passage. We are not out here for a day sail. We want to make the passage as short as we can make it, so we do whatever it takes to keep the boat moving at or near hull speed which is 7.2 knots. With the motor in flat calm water, we can motor about 6.2 knots, add some sail and we can motor sail at 6.5 knots. Give us 10 knots of breeze and we can motor sail at 7 knots. That is what we do. We find that in the ocean, Island Packet Yachts need 15 knots to push the sea state due to their beam and weight. If the winds are 15-20 knots then these boats sail at hull speed. We can always sail faster than we can motor, but we need 15-20 knots of wind in the ocean. Here we are with a reefed main and a staysail because the winds were only 5-8 knots that morning, so all we wanted to do was stabilize the boat in the seaway.
Then the Winds Die
AS forecasted, the winds died. This weather situation is what is called “diurnal” which means that the winds are based on the thermals off the land. So, while we were near Freeport Bahamas, we had the land pulling in the wind from the sea. Then once we got out to sea, no more thermals, so no winds. Flat calm sea. This was the situation until we reached the south winds blowing along the Florida coast. Look at the ocean, this is amazing, it is never this calm!
Gulf Stream 3 knots
When crossing the stream, we need to plan for the 3 knot current that is flowing north. With a 36 mile wide stream and our boat speed at 6 knots and a 3 knot flow northward, that means we would be in the stream for 6 hours (36/6) Six hours drifitng 3 knots northward will move your boat 18 nm northward. So, that means when you come out of the stream you will be 18 to 20 miles north of where you were heading, Planning for this common set and drift navigation challenge, you need to point your boat 15-20 degrees south of your actual rum line. In this example, we were pointed 270 but we were going course over ground of 300. This ran us right to our destination. In the next photo you can see the effects of the Gulf Stream flowing northward at 3 knots. Look at the compass and then look for COG on the B&G screen.
OH NO, Thunderstorm ahead
As forecasted, the late afternoon thunderstorms would develop over South Florida, and sure enough, there they were. The VHF radio was going off with NOAA weather alerts and severe weather warnings. We were 20 miles offshore when they said…”BOATERS SHOULD SEEK SAFE HARBOR”….great, we are 3-4 hours out at sea and there is no safe harbor. The next thing you know, the temperature dropped rapidly and the winds shifted. We moved into a full out Chinese fire drill, reefing the jib and dropping the full mainsail. The winds picked up rapidly to 25 knots. They were forecast to be 40-60 knots with hail. The most we had was 27 knots, thank goodness.
LAKE WORTH INLET, a CLASS A….ahhhhh
We really like CLASS A inlets, they are deep, they are wide and they are straight in and easier than non-class A inlets. In this area we have Lake Worth and Fort Pierce as class A inlets with St. Lucie in between. We chose to come into Lake Worth in case we could not make it in daylight, then we knew we could enter this inlet at dark and via radar. Lucky for us, we arrived at 7 pm and sunset was at 7:50 pm so we had daylight to enter. Just inside the inlet and to the south we dropped anchor and enjoyed watching this old cruise ship heading out. It was nice we did not meet it in the inlet. Welcome HOME, we are back in the USA.
Welcome to West Palm Beach, Check in with CBP
Since 2011, we have been checking back into the USA from the Bahamas using the LBO, Local Boater Option. We also use the SVRS, Small Vessel Reporting System. Both of these systems have all our biometrics, passports, photos and all info about our vessel. While in the Bahamas, we filed and processed an SVRS/LBO float plan and activated this plan when we’re ready to depart which then gives us a Float Plan number. This float plan number is all that Customs and Border Patrol needs. When you call, they enter your float plan number and you are checked back into the USA.
Surprise! NOT anymore.
You are supposed to use the CBP ROAM app on your smartphone. When you go to download and to use this app, it tells you straight up that it is in BETA form and is experimental to use. I downloaded it but was unable to log-in. So, I called in with my float plan number and the officer refused to take it, he said I must use ROAM. I called back in 3 more times getting a different CBP officer each time. I explained my problem and kept trying to use my float plan number. Finally, on the 4th call, the officer believed my difficulties and asked me for all my data, never using my float plan number. He then cleared us in.
CONCLUSION: You need to use CBP ROAM app, enter all your personal data, your yacht data, your passport, home address, LBO numbers, etc, then you can check in via your cell phone on a conference call with the CBP officer. Other friends have used it successfully. I just wish our government would perfect the APP and get it out of BETA because I never use beta software. I do not trust it at this point in time. The float plan filing website should be discontinued since the Float Plan numbers are no longer used. Filling it out was a waste of time.
That is a WRAP
Year # 7 to the Bahamas is now a wrap. Yes, we were supposed to be in the Caribbean, but the Bahamas are a dream as well. So, it was down with the flag, and store it till next year, when we will once again be on our way to the Caribbean Sea!
PS: We crossed Island Spirit’s Shipping Track
If you look at this live tracking map, you will see that on this trip, Florida to Abaco to Berrys to Lucaya to Florida, we crossed the shipping track that Island Spirit traveled inboard from St. Thomas in January. How interesting to study that. We really enjoy using this Inreach device by Garmin.