16 May Weather Windows
Waiting for weather. It’s one of the key features of cruising. For certain passages, you just need the right wind direction, strength, lack of squalls and so on.
The Bahamas – crossing the Gulf Stream from the US – are one of those destinations. And that’s where we want to head.
The Gulf Stream flows north, averaging around four knots but as high as 5.5 knots in places. That means that any significant wind with a north component to it kicks up nasty, steep, short period wind vs. current waves. So we don’t want that.
We’ll be heading almost due east (the Gulf Stream will give us the northing we need) so strong winds out of the east aren’t too favorable, either. Unfortunately, the strong trade winds here come out of the east . . . so we’re going to need a slightly unusual weather pattern. And we don’t want a strong possibility of windy squalls . . .
The past three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – had perfect weather to go from Florida to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, life conspired to put us about 24 hours too late to take advantage of the window. First was Dave’s surgery to remove a small skin cancer spot. And then the insurance approval of my daily medications for an extended “vacation” took longer than expected, and there were a few delays due to a “new-to-us” dinghy that we were buying. More on these last two in posts to come.
Are we disappointed? Sure. We’d love to be heading to the Bahamas right now.
Instead, we’ve taken the opportunity to stage up in Key Largo – about 17 miles from the “departure” anchorage we’ve chosen at Angelfish Creek (this route works for shallow draft boats such as ours but not for deeper draft boats). In other words, when it looks like a window will open, it’s just a half day trip for us to get there. Hopefully that means we’ll be rested for the crossing.
Yes, we could have waited a bit longer in Marathon until we had a possible window, then moved up to Angelfish Creek. We love the community there, but it was good for us to both get closer to our jump-off place and also just to get underway again. It gets us in the mindset of “being on the move.” We often did similar things on our previous boat, Que Tal, when preparing to cross the Sea of Cortez — go to a staging anchorage to wait.
Rather than bemoaning the fact that we’re “stuck” in Key Largo while we wait for weather (and right now it looks like it could be a week or more that we’re here), we’re going to try to make our stay here a plus:
- It’s been a fun trip coming here – we had one of our best-ever days of sailing on Saturday, with a perfect beam reach moving us at 5 to 6 knots almost the whole way. While it turned out to be a fast trip, the lack of a schedule gave us the chance to keep sailing at times when the wind was light: we knew we didn’t have to make it to a certain destination.
- Dave can’t go swimming until his stitches are removed . . . next weekend. So getting to the Bahamas and not being able to get in the water would be a major bummer.
- We’re getting a chance to explore a new area at a leisurely pace.
- We’re in a beautiful anchorage – Tarpon Basin in Key Largo – with a nice dinghy dock and good access to everything we could ever want ashore.
- After running around like chickens with our heads cut off for the past week, trying to get everything set so we could leave Marathon, it’s nice to have a couple of days (at least) to recover a bit . . . sleep in, no appointments, just enjoy life. As we’ve had a little down time the past few days, we’ve realized that we’re just plain exhausted. A few days’ break will hopefully result in some mental refreshment . . .
We know that the wrong weather can make it anywhere from an uncomfortable to scary to even disastrous trip (a friend lost his boat on the crossing a couple of months ago; luckily he and his girlfriend were rescued safely). We’re willing to wait for the right weather window.