How we sailed across the Gulf Stream—with Kids!
Just outside of No Name Harbor, near the tip of Key Biscayne, we had anchored the night before. We said our goodbyes to our friend and dropped her off at the nearby restaurant where she caught an Uber back to Coconut Grove.
Once we no longer needed the dinghy, I began to deflate and strap it down on the deck for the crossing. After making all other final preparations for the journey we hit the sack about 10pm.
The next morning we woke up at 5:30am refreshed, excited and ready for crossing the Gulf Stream. Bethany made coffee while I took in the anchor and we began motoring away right behind three other sailing vessels. One was clearly headed in the same direction as us as he was blaring a song with these lyrics: “I’m sailing... to the Bahamas... at night.” The other two (silent as the night) were bearing off towards the Florida Keys.
For the next 2-2.5 hours we motored in light winds on our projected angle of 93 degrees magnetic towards Bimini. Just after a stellar sunrise, all of the kids were awake and joining us in the cockpit for the glassy water of the Gulf Stream.
While motoring along, Orli noticed we had an extra passenger aboard. Riding on the lifelines was a small yellow bird just hanging out with us. We aren’t sure exactly when he joined in on the journey, but we suppose he must have been there since we left Key Biscayne. The small, curious bird was not shy. He allowed us to get some up-close photos and even came inside the cockpit to check things out. The bird stayed with us for about a half an hour and suddenly flew back off in the direction we had come from.
About an hour later the winds began to pick up enough to get the sails out. Once out, the southwest wind, blowing around 10 knots, quickly began to carry us along. We turned off the engine and were carried by the breath of God all the way to the shores of Bimini.
Just offshore, near the entrance of Bimini, we put away the sails and began to motor towards the inlet. At that point, the wind started to blow a little harder. The increasing wind combined with the outgoing tide to form some interesting conditions for our arrival. By interesting, I mean the kind of conditions you should always pack emergency underwear for—and probably even a backup on top of that! Swells higher than the eve of our boat were thrashing us around like a rope toy in a dog’s mouth. The entrance, notorious for its shoaling (shifting sands that create shallow water), also served up inaccurate markers (some friends of ours had warned us about the markers not being in the correct locations—and that is what we encountered). At one point I looked down into the crystal-clear water and swore I could’ve reached over and touched the bottom. I shouted to Bethany asking, “Does it seem deep enough!” As if either of us had a clue what “deep enough” looked like in these waters. Our depth sounder was also not giving a reading which was probably due to the soft bottom and rough waves carrying us. Alas, we were able to pilot to what seemed to be a deeper and somewhat calmer channel, and we motored safely through the entrance.
Once our heart rates began to settle, we called on the VHF to the Big Game Club Marina and asked for a spot to dock up. We felt we deserved a little bit of luxury (our boat safely tied onto a stationary object) to aid in our recovery/decompression after crossing the Gulf Stream and negotiating the infamous entrance to Bimini, HOWEVER, our pants-filling was not over yet! As we rounded the final pier to approach our dock, the outgoing current was drawing us swiftly towards the pilings. Trying to reverse (never a good idea in a sailboat) several times, and still not being able to make the turn into the slip, I was advised to bear away from the docks and do a full 360-degree turn to come back in. Once engaged in the turn, I noticed we had yet again drifted uncomfortably close to the pilings—and our solar panels (which hang off the back of our boat) came within 4-6 INCHES of colliding with the post. God spared us and we came around for a perfect and calm docking. Whew!!! We had safely arrived!
As we opened the doors of the companionway we looked down into the cabin and took in the aftermath of the final, and very bumpy, end to our journey. The main cabin was total chaos! It looked like a episode of hoarders where there was not a surface of floor that could be seen. Stowed items had come flying out of cabinets, off the shelves and slid from benches. Thankfully nothing was broken!
We also discovered that the swells had lulled Noah to sleep in her safe haven in the v-berth. As Bethany and the kids began the disaster cleanup, I completed customs and immigration paperwork and set off to get our passports stamped/cruising permits in order. Then we ventured to the pool for some fun and celebration!