Well, we did it. Our very last overnight sail. Our trip was complete with a pod of pilot whales, lots of dolphin, a few close cargo and cruise ships, and our slowest sailing speed to date! Um, that last little tidbit is my least favorite.
Last Friday, we weighed anchor and waved goodbye to Bimini before crossing the Gulf Stream and making the 120-mile trek all the way to Marathon in the Florida Keys. We still have a two-leg trip to make it home to Naples, but it sure feels good to be back in the U.S.A.
^^love love love my new anklet from our friend Laurie at Salt Run Designs^^
We tried, and I mean tried, our hardest to soak up every second of this milestone trip. Because, let’s face it, it got a little tough to savor the monumental experience as we were gruelingly bobbing along at very slow 2 to 2.5 knots for the entire first day. There were a few times I glanced down at our chart plotter on day 1 and sighed when I saw our speed hitting a whopping 0.7 knots. Point seven! I could probably swim home faster. ;)) …We usually average about 4.5 to 5.5 knots to give you an idea of the lag here.
Our slow speed and delayed arrival time (stretching a 24-hour sail into a much longer 34-hour one) was due to the crappy combination of us fighting a strong northerly moving Gulf Stream current as we headed south, and much too calm wind conditions that left our sails luffing here and there for a good chunk of that first day.
^^a final glimpse of that Bahamas water!^^
Thankfully, our wind-less passage was met by a wave-less sea which is a-okay in my book!
If we have to sail slow, I’d definitely prefer to be doing so in pool-like conditions. It was so utterly calm out there in the Gulf Stream that you could have easily jet skied from Miami to Bimini and been there in an hour. You know what the top of a water-bed looks like when you sit on it? Well, that’s basically what the ocean looked like. Teeny tiny swell and no real waves at all!
Regardless of how calm and comfortable it was, Oliver somehow still managed to get sick on this passage. Twice. Poor guy. He hasn’t experienced any real sea sickness since our first Gulf Stream crossing last April, where both he and I were out for the count during the initial 4 or 5 hours. I’m not sure what did him in this time, but he definitely wasn’t feeling so hot.
Oh, and hello…we saw WHALES!!!
Towards the end of the first day, I was lounging in the cockpit keeping watch, auto-pilot on, with Jer taking a quick cat nap on the other side of the cockpit when I gazed out towards port and noticed a few dark fins on the horizon. Dolphin, perhaps? My excited screams jolted Jer awake while I quickly grabbed the camera to try and snap a few photos.
As we stood in the cockpit watching the dark fins swim around, we began to realize that what we suspected were dolphin weren’t actually “rolling” like they normally would. They were kinda just floating at the surface, much much longer than normal. As a few of them swam closer to the boat, Jer and I kept questioning…dolphin? No whales? Huge Atlantic dolphin maybe? No, whales?
After a few of the pack swam right next to the boat, we concluded that these guys were much bigger than any dolphin we’re used to seeing, had a totally different shaped head, and were a bit darker than normal too. They must be whales!!! Pilot whales (thank you Google)! The group of about 20 swam around the boat for a few minutes before we headed in opposite directions. And I’ll tell you what, encountering a pod of pilot whales mid-Gulf Stream definitely boosts the energy level like nothing else. :)))
^^See what I mean? Totally different shaped head and overall darker color.^^
^^But almost looks like a dolphin which is why we weren’t sure at first.^^
^^And they were all around the boat. It was crazy!^^
We also ended up seeing the biggest sea turtle I’ve ever seen in my entire life and quite a few friendly dolphin who swam and jumped alongside the boat as we sailed down the coast of the Florida Keys towards Marathon.
^^This little guy flew out of the water and totally surprised us with a three massive jumps!^^
As usual with blue water passages, we encountered a handful of large cargo and cruise ships, along with a heaping handful of other fishing and recreational boats. Since we don’t have AIS or radar, it’s sometimes a bit of a guessing game on the routes of other boaters (especially at night before you can “really” see any navigational lights). Luckily, we only had one or two passings that felt a little too close for comfort, but always safe nonetheless.
^^The closest call on our passage came from this massive container ship. Luckily, he diverted just as we were about to tack.^^
With this trip and our last two overnights in the Bahamas (Norman Island to Nassau and then Nassau to Bimini), I made a point to try and soak in some of what makes sailing (particularly on long overnight passages) so special. Sometimes, it’s cruising along at night and smelling rain an hour before it even hits. Or watching a huge blood moon rise in the quiet of the early morning hours. And the color of the water out there. Blue blue blue. So deep blue it seems unreal. And that sparkling star-filled sky. One of my favorites. I could gaze up a a clear starry night for hours on end. Do I even dare mention the amazing sunsets? Sunsets at sea have consistently been some of our very best!
And since I took a ton of photos on our last three overnight passages, here are some of my favs…
^^Another amazing sunset on our overnight from the Exumas to Nassau.^^
^^More dolphin sightings. This time in the Exumas.^^
^^Always on guard when we see something cool.^^
^^Oliver’s been preferring to hang below deck for the majority of our sails ever since Puerto Rico. But he makes an occasional appearance in the cockpit to say hello.^^
^^Soaking it all in.^^
^^Shift work. My turn.^^
^^And my assistant.^^
^^Oliver’s exit route = through the zippered dodger.^^
^^Our reward after a successful passage.^^
^^And one for Oliver too. Jk, he gets water whenever.^^
^^Almost back to Florida. That’s the Miami skyline and some duddy looking clouds that we luckily missed.^^
^^Back in the land of the free, home of the brave.^^
^^I think Oliver is always the happiest when we arrive. And this time, it’s back in FLORIDA!!!^^
So, we finally made it to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon nearly 34 hours after leaving Bimini. We secured a mooring ball in the infamous city mooring field just before the office closed, launched our dinghy in record-breaking time, had Oliver to shore minutes later, and were enjoying hot showers and cold beers shortly thereafter.
Now, I haven’t been grocery-shopping at Publix yet or gotten a much-needed mani/pedi, but those little luxuries are in my very near future. :)))
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