So, yes. You just don’t take off for the Bahamas. You’re leaving U.S. territorial waters, crossing big time international waters of the northerly flowing Gulf Stream to enter a foreign country. There’s all kinds of stuff you have to take care of before you leave the dock – boat safety, repairs and provisioning stuff, communications stuff, course planning and plotting stuff, and paperwork and documentation stuff.
The biggest “if” is the weather so we must look for a good “weather window” as us mariners say. A good weather window for Dolce Vento to sail from Miami to West end on Grand Bahama is mild wind (10-12 knots) from the East/Southeast and a quiet sea for 15 hours. That means knowing more about weather patterns in this part of the world. In addition to our normal five weather sources (MyRadar, Windy, Weather Underground, PassageWeather.com and NOAA weather), our subscription to Chris Parker’s weather service will give us daily email updates and one or more telephone calls with him to ensure our crossing is as pleasant as possible.
On the communications side, we’ve added AIS (automatic identification system) so we can see ships in the night displayed on our GPS, rented a satellite telephone, and subscribed to Verizon’s international services.
For course planning and plotting, we’ve plotted our course using paper charts as well as electronically using waypoints from several approaches. We’ll supply each of our families with a float plan filled with course details, estimated arrival times, crew info and the like that they can share with the US Coast Guard, if anything untoward happens. At our end, we’ve got our EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and our SPOT tracking and alert system, both of which send messages to the Coast Guard when we “hit the button”. Lastly, while sailing we’ll have life jackets, jack lines, safety harnesses and tethers that attach us to the boat at all times so nobody goes overboard. With any luck at all we’ll have a great sail over or a very boring, motoring crossing. So our message to everyone is, as the Brits like to say, “Breath Deeply and Stay Calm”.
During our last 10 days in Key West, in between our prep chores, we’re playing tourists. It’s like any place I’ve lived for a time — I forget what the place has to offer. Only when visitors arrive do I get off my butt. Our visitor this week is our grandson, Ian, who not only loves walking Key West and taking in its history, but was happy that we toured Hemingway’s home and the local Key West aquarium. On Thursday, we sailed at sunset aboard General George Patton’s historic 1938 82′ wooden schooner sailboat, the When and If. Then yesterday, we kayaked through the mangroves and salt ponds and tomorrow, just the two of us will jet ski around the island. He passed on my other “crazy Nana” ideas of parasailing off the back of a speed boat and snorkeling off the nearby reef. Seems my grandson likes being on the water and not in it.
In the near future, we’ll be sailing around the Abacos (northern Bahamas) for about a month, then it’s back to the U.S. via Sail Cay to St. Augustine, less than a two-day trip. We’ve hired an experienced captain to accompany us off shore from St. Augustine to the Chesapeake, around Cape Hatteras, a four to five-day trip. As I said earlier after motoring through the ICW and its many fixed bridges that are not ever 65′ at mean high water (MHW) tide, “No more bridges”. We should be back at Herrington Harbour Marina, our home for the summer around June 1. Then in September we return to land.
Snaps while being tourists in Key West.