Saturday March 25th, 2017 through Sunday March 26th
We received an email from Chris Parker that suggested the traditional path across the Gulf Stream was the most logical for us. But our need of a route that we could sail without sailing dead down wind required us to go North to Mantanilla Shoal then run South West at 240°T until we detect the current of the Gulf Stream. When we detect the stream we were to head 270°T until we were 5 miles from the Florida coast and then North West to Fort Pierce.
This plan would work and not be a bad crossing providing that everything in the forecast for Saturday night and Sunday was correct. The hardest part of a crossing is to sleep in advance and wait until the planned time to leave. Every part of you wants to get moving and get it over with.
The Fort Pierce inlet is a narrow and relatively deep cut. There is a very strong tidal flow in and out of this cut. When the swells are onshore a ‘rage’ can set up in the inlet and make it very floppy to get in. So, we timed ourselves to arrive at 15:00 hrs on Sunday. This is an hour after low tide and the flow should be in the same direction as the swells. We used our log book from last year to determine that it took 23 hours for the crossing. The trap is to just divide the distance by your average speed and come up with a crossing time. Had we done that and left at 20:00 hrs on Saturday we would have almost missed the entry opportunity.
We left great sale at 17:00 on Saturday and the downwind run was floppy and sloppy, but we were committed. We made the turn south west but the wind wasn’t quite what we expected. We entered the gulf stream near the location Chris gave us and we were off. What we didn’t expect was a North swell was in the Gulf stream as well. The wind was ESE and the wind generated waves were with the wind. The North Swells set up the Gulf Stream washing machine that we now had to endure for the next 12 to 14 hours. It was not a swell crossing. The wind dropped during the night and in order to arrive on time at Fort Pierce required us to test our jerry rig.
We started the engine to give our headway a boost. I gently nursed the engine to 1300 rpm and that helped. We were wallowing and that concerned me about my jerry rig. If it dislocated again we would be a sailboat and in these conditions we might have to alter our course to get to shore somewhere. But the jerry rig held. The sea conditions precluded us following the plan and we set a GPS course to Fort Pierce and our heading was set about 50° off that to compensate for the Gulf Stream. We no longer were receiving a helping vector from the GS, we were fighting it.
This heading also set us in the agitator of the washing machine and it was a bitch. Just holding myself in my throne was a major work out. The boat held together, nothing broke. Lots of stuff was flying around down below. We had a game, “what was that”? Whenever a new noise would be heard we would try to guess what had joined the stuff sliding around on the cabin sole. Last Mango is a little smaller and lighter than Fracas and their flopping and slopping about in the washing machine would be much much worse.
I managed to grab a few short naps during the night. This crossing from Great Sale all the way to Fort Pierce was about 115 nm. In hind sight we should have gone to West End Grand Bahama on Friday or Saturday and rested and made the shorter cross from there. That also would have given us a good boost from the Gulf Stream.
When you are sailing at night it seems to take forever for dawn to come. I found myself looking at the celestial information on the chart plotter wondering why I couldn’t see the sun rising in the east. Eventually the sun arrived and regenerated the crew.
Radio communication with Mango and others became a hardship when our ICOM remote mic crapped out again. My opinion is that the ICOM remote handheld microphone of any model number or iteration is a piece of crap. Further, ICOM has made no attempt to ever answer any of my concerns about the four units I have purchased during our seven years of sailing FRACAS. This microphone is barely a year old and when we are not moving it is in a drawer below. Standard Horizon or Garmin VHF here I come.
We continued to flop around and endure the Gulf Stream through the fastest part of the flow which is the nearer part to the Florida coast. Then we were out of the current and most of the agitation was gone. Not enough wind to sail anymore. It seems to take forever for the last three hours of the trip to Fort Pierce.
Eventually we were through the inlet and on our anchor over by the North bridge at Fort Pierce.
My jerry rigged exhaust held together. You can’t see but the adhesive from the foil tape did in fact heat up and flow down the cool part of the loop. It is still holding together and hopefully we will be able to use the engine like this until we can get into the marina and get lifted for the season.