Returning from the Bahamas is always bittersweet but the passage planning usually forces us to ignore the sting of departing. A trip across the gulf stream is not something we take lightly no matter what the forecast is. We are little greedy as well. See we dont just want to cross it….we want to ride it! There is always a little trepidation.
The below image show the temperature difference of the surrounding water. The section we want to ride is that deepest darkest red. I am always in awe of the shear amount of energy contained in that flowing water. We are able to track the temperature of the water we are in and we can clearly see a 4 or 5 degree temperature increase as we enter the strongest part of th stream. In addition the stream flows at 3-4 knots so every hour you are in we pick that as extra. When you consider we only travel at about 6 knots that is nearly a 40% increase in our “speed over ground.” That is HUGE. The ride though does not come free. That amount of energy is definitely going to churn the water we are traveling in ALOT! Not to mention all that warm water turns into warm humid air which can turn into a really fierce thunderstorm in short order! When we do these kind of passages we really do need to have our head in the game.
First though we have to get out of the Bahamas. Part of our ritual is to ALWAYS spend the night before in a quiet anchorage where we can have extra time to take a good look over Magnolia and make sure she and we are ready to go. It also gives us the opportunity to enjoy a Bahamas farewell sunset.
We awoke about 4am and headed out across the banks. The trip across the banks is about 50 miles of 15 foot deep crystal clear water with a sandy bottom. On a moonlit night you can easily see the bottom passing underneath Magnolia.
We departed the banks in the early afternoon and by sunset had entered the gulf stream proper.
Note the Speed-Over-Ground (SOG) is indicating over 10 knots! “Please keep your arms and legs inside the vessel at all times. Remain in your seats and keep your seat-belt safely secured…thank you” Though it was a lovely sunset you can see curtains of rain falling on the edges. Just a little warning from mother nature.
An no, we are not alone. Here is a cruise ship probably heading for Nassau from Florida. Range about 8 or 9 miles.
And here he is crossing our bow at about 3 miles after kindly adjusting his course to further avoid us.
Reality always sets in when you depart the gulfstream and your vessels speed significantly decreases. In addition there is always an hour of extra turbulence when departing the stream. There is a huge amount of friction between the two masses water which stirs things up.
As were approaching MOA (the buoy marking the beginning of the channel) Jacksonville I throttled up for some reason…and…nothing happened…no increase in RPMs. No decrease either but unnerving nonetheless. The obvious problem would be a fuel filter clogged. We have three and easy to check two, but the third is a bit more involved and not something I wanted to be doing at the end of a 40 hour passage. With the exception of not being able to go faster we seemed fine. I called our TowBoat service, made them aware of the situation and they sent a boat out to meet us JUST in case.
There was the other complication as we were coming into Jacksonville. Though the picture is rather dramatic to look at…we were pretty confident none of the bad stuff would get us before arriving at the dock…which was indeed the case. You can see the towboat ahead of us. My friend Al saw the picture and immediately wanted to know why a dock line was out when were supposed to be anchoring (had not at this point shared the complications) but we have some very wise mariner friends!!!
We had called Morning Star Marina Fuel dock just inside the inlet at Mayport and they could have not been nicer. They got us settled knowing we had just had a long passage and were beat.
We quickly got the “third” fuel filter changed and ready to go. The dock this close to the main St Johns River shipping channel did make for some interesting moments!
It was nice to be “home.’ Mentally it is just a lot easier to be here than in the Bahamas. We have all the support systems we need here. While we are in the Bahamas we just do not have access to emergency medical or the parts supplies. The Admiral enjoys her time in the Bahamas and I, well I don’t mind a dock along the St Johns river…next, heading up the coast.