The Waiting Game

We are often asked what one piece of advise we would pass on to those planning a transit that is weather dependent. My answer is always three words...Wait, wait and wait. Well, our resolve has really been tested waiting for a good window to cross over from Key Biscayne to Bimini. Yes, we have had a couple of one-day windows that we might have been able to at least make the crossing, but then we would be stuck wherever we landed in the Bahamas. Our options are to sit in an expensive marina in Bimini or hang out in Key Biscayne with some great folks and enjoy it. The decision is really a no-brainer. But this winter seems to be the windiest we have encountered in a long time and the windows are few and short. Everyone has asked us what we want for a good weather window. That's a good question.

If we still were on our sailboat, many opportunities have presented themselves to do a crossing. But a small trawler like Beach House requires a bit more care in crossing the Gulf Stream in winter months. A Gulf Stream crossing in any vessel shouldn't be attempted in a north wind of 10 knots or more against the north flowing current at any time, in our opinion. If the vessel is sound, it can easily make the trip, but the crew will be very uncomfortable, and if any problems rises during the transit, they will be multiplied by the uncomfortable wind-against-current conditions. Many years ago, Bruce Van Sant gave us some of his advise that we follow to this day. When we do, we have a pleasant transit. When we go against it, we regret it. First, we look for the same weather pattern of at least 2.5 to 3 days without changes. If every forecast that comes out is different 3 times a day and changes constantly, then the weather will be unsettled and the chance to get caught out in bad weather is great. If the forecast remains the same and the conditions are acceptable for a period of 2 to 3 days, then the window will probably hold. We have found the National Weather Service to be wrong more times than right.

Several of the current forecasts have been for a day of good conditions followed by many days of up to gale force conditions. A big consideration for crossing over to the Bahamas on a slow boat is that once you get there, you are still at least a day away from getting to any safe harbor across the Banks. This is another area you don't want to get caught out in adverse conditions. In all of our years of cruising, the Bahamas Banks is the only place we have come close to loosing the boat when a weather window slammed shut on us after the first day out. You don't forget something like that. Beach House, like many trawlers, is an uncomfortable ride with seas on the beam. In the Gulf Stream you encounter ocean swells that can be large and generated from hundreds or even thousands of mile away in big weather systems. Add wind waves on top of those and, well, you get the picture. Our estimated time to cross to Bimini is about 6 to 7 hours and rolling in seas for that long is not something we even want to consider. Our plan is to cross over to Bimini, check in with Customs and Immigrations, spend a day there, then head across the Banks to the Berry Islands. If our window holds, we will leave at first light on Sunday, arrive in the early afternoon so the sun is high but behind us so we will be able to "read the water" and spend the rest of Sunday and Monday getting acquainted with Bimini. We have not been there before so it will be a new experience for us. On Tuesday, we plan to cross the Banks which will take us a full day, probably sunup to sunset.

The delay here at Key Biscayne has been made much easier by the wonderful people we have met. That's one of the major reasons we live this lifestyle. We have been hosted by our new found friends Larry and Eva that have kindly given us use of the dock behind their home while their Krogen Manatee, Bucky, is being worked on at a yard farther north. We can't thank them enough for the hospitality they have shown us. Until the day we pulled up to their dock we were perfect strangers. During our time here we also found we needed some additional parts and equipment. During the Miami Boat Show we had the good fortune to meet up with a couple of folks we have been conversing with on an online discussion board called Trawler Forum. One of those folks is Parks Masterson, President of Hopkins-Carter Marine Supplies located at 3300 NW 21rd St. in Miami. When we couldn't get to his store to pick up materials, he brought them to us, not once but twice. When we couldn't find spare fuel filters for our Ford Lehman from ANYONE else in Miami, Parks not only had them, but brought them to the boat. If you're in the Miami area and are in need of supplies, give them a call at 305-635-7377 or 800-595-9656. You don't even have to be in Miami; they will ship whatever you need to just about anywhere in the world. They have been family owned and operated since 1916. That's a pretty good run for a marine supply store.

It has been fun to be docked on a canal in Key Biscayne surrounded by beautiful homes and friendly people. But we start to get a little antsy after a while and with each passing day, we hear the sea calling to us. The days are filled with lunches, dinners and good company along with last minute preparations and system checks. The fuel filters are changed so they will be clean for our crossing, all of the engine fluids checked and topped off and a thorough inspection for leaks and problems have all been done. The last minute stowing of everything that can get thrown around and securing everything for a passage will be done tomorrow. We really hope we won't be disappointed again, but if we are, there is always plan B. We're very hopeful that our next blog post will be from Bimini reporting on our smooth, uneventful crossing. Stay tuned.  

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