For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt about visiting foreign countries on a sailboat. Although we’ve been cruising full-time for 18 months, until the moment we made it to Bahamian waters, it didn’t feel real. It’s almost as if the time spent cruising US waters didn’t count. We were finally able to hoist a courtesy flag and use our passports!
Landing in the Bahamas was the culmination of everything we’ve worked for. We had finally crossed the gulf stream. A piece of water that comes with unique challenges which must be respected. Anything but could mean the worst for captain and crew. The stream flows north at a rate of 2-4 knots. If there is any northerly component to the wind, it can cause dangerous conditions. Large steep waves. You also must account for it carrying you north as you cross to the east.
I’ll admit, it was intimidating. To land in the Bahamas during daylight at high tide meant we had to cross at night. We would be far from land with no one to come to the rescue if something were to go wrong. It would be the first time we had been underway at night or out of sight of land since the night we lost Quixotic in the gulf. We never talked about it, yet I’m sure we both had subconsciously been putting something like this off. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do it alone. One of our buddy boats, SV Stray Cats, was right there with us the whole way.
The journey began with Covid-19 PCR tests being completed in Islamorada, FL. The next morning, we started heading north toward Key Largo. That would be where we would cross east from after getting the results of our tests. It was a good day of motor sailing and instead of stopping at Rodriquez Key as planned we went on another 18 miles to Angelfish Cut. That meant we were perfectly positioned. After anchoring at 7:30pm and applying for health visa’s, it was decided that we would pull anchor at midnight.
After only 2 hours of sleep, we woke, put coffee on, and pulled the anchor. It was time to rip the band-aid off and make it happen. Crossing the reef in the dark was stressful but once over it I set course for 90 degrees and sat back to enjoy the ride. Wind was directly in our face, so we had to motor the entire way. It was calm and peaceful. It felt good seeing Stray Cats 100 yards away slicing through the water on the same course we were on.
9 hours later, as the sun came up, I heard Van (Stray Cats) say over the radio “See Agua Azul, you can go out at night and see the sun come up in the morning.” It was perfect. After all, while we hadn’t voiced it, it was our biggest concern.
An hour later we were within sight of Bimini. I joyously yelled “LAND HO” which I’m sure Shannon didn’t appreciate being woken up by. That moment had been in my dreams for 10+ years. I couldn’t resist.
Crossing the GS isn’t easy, but it sure wasn’t as difficult as we had made it out to be. Instead, we studied and payed attention to many other cruisers who came before us. That allowed us to pick the right weather window which resulted in a beautiful crossing. We’re now in the Bahama, mon! Loving life.