Wednesday, May 10, 2017

West End to Vero Beach FL - 2017

--Blogpost written by Bob

The marina was almost full last night--mostly with power boats (one about 100 feet long) but still a fair percentage of sailboats.  Even though it is not allowed, a sailboat was anchored in the turning basin last night. 

A lone sailboat was anchored in the marina's turning
basin at dusk on Monday, May 8.

We've been plagued with "no-see-ums" here the last two nights without winds to keep them away from us.  It almost makes you want to pull your own skin off!  It is little consolation to find many of them (maybe 50 or more) dead in the dish drainer this morning.  Apparently, they gourge themselves on our blood, need a drink of water, and, then, they just die.

Planning for Crossing the Gulf Stream

We've spent a fair amount of time reading the weather forecasts and monitoring the weather conditions over the last couple days for our upcoming Gulf Stream crossing.  We decided to cross the Gulf Stream to Ft. Pierce, FL on Wednesday (5/10).  The winds are forecasted to be light and variable.  We expect to leave West End at 3:30 AM--that's well before sunrise.  To make it easier to depart we will be leaving the marina Tuesday evening (May 9) and anchoring in a sufficiently deep area just north of the marina entrance.  We're doing this so we don't have to navigate through the marina in darkness.  We can simply pull up the anchor early in the morning and set our chart plotter and autopilot for the sea buoy at Ft. Pierce--a distance of 82 nautical miles away from West End.  This would be the longest straight-line course that s/v Rainy Days has ever traversed, as far as I know.

Our average boat speed will be heavily dependent on sea state, which we are not going to know for sure until we are through it.  With very little impact from the sea state, we should average a speed of 6.5 knots--this will take us 12.6 hours (the best case scenario).  In this scenario, we would arrive at the Ft. Pierce sea buoy at 4:00 PM.  If we encounter modest sea state, our average speed could drop to 5.5 knots--this will take us 15 hours.  In this scenario, we would arrive at the Ft. Pierce sea buoy at 6:30 PM.  

These above calculations do not include the boost that we will get from the Gulf Stream.  The boost from the Gulf Stream could reduce our trip by 1 to 2 hours.  Once we get to the sea buoy at Ft. Pierce, we have to motor in the approximately 4-mile long distance from the sea buoy to our anchorage along the ICW headed north--this will take another 45 minutes to an hour.  So, the boost from the Gulf Stream roughly equals the additional time to motor from the sea buoy to our anchorage.  So, my estimate is that we will anchor along the ICW sometime between 4 PM and 6:30 PM.  It will be a long day, but doable for us old folks.

We will be simply following the rhumb line to the Ft. Pierce sea buoy and making adjustments as necessary to minimize our cross track error during the trip, assuming the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

We will maintain 2-hour shifts at the helm throughout the crossing.


This morning, Tuesday, May 9, several sailboats (at least 5) left at dawn to cross the Gulf Stream, most of them crossing to West Palm Beach (the shortest distance from West End).

So that we achieve an uneventful Gulf Stream crossing, we accomplished the following list of tasks today while still in the marina:
     (1) checked all fluid levels in engine
     (2) cleaned all raw water strainers
     (3) replaced dinghy painter (it is worn)
     (4) topped off water tanks
     (5) got two bags of ice cubes
     (6) verify weather for tomorrow (light and variable winds)

After a nice lunch (cheeseburger & fries with a Kalik) at Teaser's Tiki Hut by the pool, we spent a couple hours at the marina's pool and generally rested in preparation for the long day tomorrow.  (I can't remember a time when I spent that much time at a swimming pool in the middle of a day.)

About 4 PM we left our slip in the marina and motored out to an area directly north of the marina.  Our initial anchoring attempt resulted in getting the anchor stuck on a large rock--we could see the anchor and see the rock in about 8 feet of water.  Once we got the anchor free of the rock we moved out into deeper water (22 feet) and re-anchored.  Even though we could no longer see the anchor, we seemed to be skipping over rocks as we tried to set it under power.  At one point, we seemed to be anchored OK even though I would never trust it in any significant wind.  Since the wind was predicted to be light and variable, we did not re-anchor again.

Just to our north, inside of Indian Cay, a catamaran sat on the sea bottom, sunken.  It was probably sunk some time ago.  It was sad to see this.


We pulled up anchor at 2:50 AM, a little earlier than planned, on Wednesday morning, May 10, and set off directly for Ft. Pierce.  I took the first helm shift, 3 AM to 5 AM, so that Maggie could have her shifts at the helm during the daylight.  The moon was full and seemed to light up the entire ocean.  When we left the ocean was completely calm, hardly a ripple on the water's surface.

At our first watch change we identified a commercial ship that was on an intersecting course with ours.  We could tell this through our AIS system and we could see their red and green running lights to our port, as well as their image on the screen of our chart plotter.  I called them on the VHF radio to confirm that the ship could see us on their radar but as a precaution I slowed our boat's speed to insure that they passed in front of us.

Dawn and sunrise came during Maggie's first watch.  It was magical to see the first light of the day over the water.

Dawn over the ocean on May 10, 2017.

Sunrise over the ocean on the day of our
Gulf Stream crossing. Note how
calm the water appeared.

We had to slow down and allow this ship to pass
in front of us in order to avoid a collision.

One of the two major experiences we had today was a little bird, a yellow finch, that came to visit our boat when we were nearly 40 miles away from the Bahamas.  He looked identical to the bird that visited our boat on the way to West End a few days earlier.  He came and went several times, one time flying into the cabin.  I had to go in and get him and keep Lizzie (our Maine Coon cat) from getting him first.  We fed him some bread crumbs and eventually he flew away.

This little yellow finch landed on our boat and
visited for almost an hour.

The other major experience was a pod of dolphins that visited us while en route.  There must have been a dozen of them, including two babies.  We enjoyed watching their acrobatic moves (flips, etc.).  They hung around for maybe 10 minutes before going on their merry way.  (I was not able to get any photographs of them since they appeared out of nowhere and were quickly gone.)

We reached the sea buoy at the Ft. Pierce Inlet at 2:10 PM--11 hours and 40 minutes total time to travel the 81.5 nautical miles.  Our average boat speed was calculated to be 6.98 knots--this is great considering that we deliberate slowed down to allow a ship to pass in front of us just before sunrise!  At times, we were moving at 8 knots when in the center of the Gulf Stream.  This was a good decision crossing to Ft. Pierce since it took only marginally longer than it would have taken than crossing to West Palm Beach and it saved us a full day going north on the ICW afterward.  (The Gulf Stream ended up giving us a 2-hour boost!)

This is an image from our chart plotter after completing our Gulf
Stream crossing between West End in the Bahamas and
Ft. Pierce in Florida.  The red line is our actual track.

Coming in the Ft. Pierce Inlet was another experience--we battled against a 2.5-knot outflowing tidal current--it slowed our boat speed down to only 4 knots.

Since we got to Ft. Pierce so early in the day, we decided to proceed north on the ICW directly to Vero Beach, another 13 miles or so.  We got to Vero Beach City Marina at 5 PM and got a slip before they closed.

Our next blogpost will be about our 1-week stay in Vero Beach City Marina before proceeding north on the ICW..

Thanks for following our blog!

1 comment:

  1. As always, the photos are fantastic. Glad you had a safe crossing.