From our boat here in Ft. Lauderdale we would like to wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas!
As we sit in the cockpit in our boat this morning and feel the warming rays of the sun, it’s only 60 degrees yet but promises to get warmer, we feel blessed to be on our boat and in the warmer climate of Florida. It certainly is a different kind of Christmas for us, but it’s good. We walk along the sidewalk fronting the beach and hear Christmas music from the restaurants and it feels strange without the cold and snow. But we’re ok with that! However, even though we were in Michigan with our family last weekend, we will still miss them on Christmas Day.
We arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale this past Tuesday, Dec. 18, and were so excited to get Max back! He also was very excited to see us and has promised to not be mad or hold it against us that we left him while we were gone. We have to say it was strange to be back home without him. But the reunion was great and he’s all settled back into his routine here on the boat.
After arriving back at the boat the weather patterns started looking quite favorable to cross to the Bahamas maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday, Dec. 25 or 26. The more we have been researching weather windows the more we are learning what to look for, and it all looked good. So on Wednesday we began our provisioning and planning for a crossing. Sharon spent hours at Walmart buying provisions for three months, and I spent time getting the boat ready. We ended up having to get two new 13 lb. propane tanks as our old ones were apparently out of date to have them filled, so I got the new ones filled and ready to go. We had rented a car for the day so I was also able to get more jerry cans and a few other things from West Marine.
There was more planning and getting the boat ready on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Apparently the Bahamas has a new law that any pets arriving there has to be micro-chipped, so Sharon spent a bunch of time with Max at a different vet’s office getting him and his paperwork set. I got our diesel jerry cans/jugs (we now have four 5 gallon jugs) filled and lashed on board and I got all the water jerry cans/jugs (we now have four 5 jugs) filled and lashed. On Saturday I also got the boat heads pumped out and ready to go. So we were set.
Unfortunately, the weather window for us to cross in the next couple of days closed! We had huge, high winds all day on Thursday and Friday and it seems like it really goofed up the long term weather patterns as well. Sitting in our boat on Friday we were reading 32 knots of wind, and I know there were gusts throughout the day that were even more than that.
Back in the first part of December we made plans to go to the west side of Florida, the Clearwater/Tampa area, to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the Kett family, our Uncle Dave and Gloria’s family, and then travel to the Marco Island area and stay at Aunt Gloria and Uncle Dave’s condo with them for a couple of days. After our return from Michigan and the thought we could cross to the Bahamas on Christmas Day or the day after we called and told them we would not be able to come. Fortunately, when the weather changed and we knew we would not be able to cross yet they were gracious enough to let us come yet, so we will rent a car and join them on Christmas Day and then go to their condo in Marco Island. Will be fun!
So when will we be able to cross to the Bahamas? That’s a good question!! We have always heard you have to wait for a weather window, and that’s what we are doing. It’s best to wait for some type of south wind, and conventional wisdom is to never cross when the wind has any North component. If it does have some North in it, it should be 10 knots or less and not be building. For this next week the wind is from the North East turning to the East. Tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 24, the NE wind is lighter but looks like it will build during the day. Then on Tuesday, Dec. 25, it will be stronger out of the NE and clocking to the East, but will be in the 14 – 16 knot range. Whenever we have gone by predictions of weather in the past the wind always seems to be more than predicted, so we are leery. The rest of the week the wind is supposed to be either from the E or SE but in the high teens and lower 20’s in knots.
We contacted the leader of our recent Rally, who has crossed numerous times and is very knowledgeable, and he said he would not cross any time in the next week at least because of the persistent NE stronger winds. And he said you just don’t want to be out in the Gulf Stream with opposing winds as it gets so choppy and uncomfortable. He is the type of guy who is always perpetually optimistic, so when he says he wouldn’t go we are going to listen!
Our plans of where we are going to cross to in the Bahamas has also changed in the past week. We had thought we would head from Ft. Lauderdale to West End, and then head over to the Abacos and work our way south to Eleuthera. In talking with friends from Muskegon Yacht Club who are on their catamaran in Georgetown (their winter “home” the past bunches of years) it sounds like it will be a much better plan to head to Bimini and then on to Eleuthera and the Exumas and Georgetown first and then head north to the Abacos on our way back to the States next spring.
So, when we have a good weather window, which may actually not be until the first of the year, is to leave Ft. Lauderdale around midnight and head south to Miami. When close to Miami we will turn east into the Gulf Stream, which will head us back north in the current. Once we are clear of the Gulf Stream on the other side we will head south again to Bimini. The timing should allow us to arrive in the early afternoon when the sun angle is best to maneuver through the shallows. Whew!
All of this planning and figuring has taken a lot of time, but we really want our first crossing to be as comfortable as possible and non-eventful which means we need to wait for a better weather window than this week. We will have plenty of time to explore the Bahamas in the next 3 – 4 months, so other than having to pay a marina here there is no need to put ourselves in harm’s way by trying to cross when it is iffy.
The Hall of Fame Marina we are staying at has been a great place to be. We are surrounded by mega yachts and it is so fun to sit in the cockpit and watch them come and go. The largest one nearby is a 287 foot behemoth!
Before I end this I just want to add that the time we had at home in Michigan was incredible! It was so fun spending time with our family laughing, sharing stories and hearing about their lives. What a great time!
P.S. I hope to get back to posting updates on Thursdays, but we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for reading!