May 5, 2021, we rose at 3:15a.m. for a 4:00 a.m. departure out of our slip at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club. We started the engine at 3:45 and looked over to see our new friends, Tony and Fabian, who were also taking advantage of the early morning high tide to get over the bar on their boat. At exactly 4:00 a.m. they came to our slip and helped us off the dock….cruisers always lend a hand! These guys were heading to England, via Bermuda and the Azores, aboard Tony’s sailboat. They were looking at a much longer trip than us, but were kind enough to lend us a hand.
Ken put Slow Dancer in reverse and backed out of the concrete dock (this kind of dock can be so unforgiving!) without incident. We backed around to head out of the dark fairway, canal and reef. The gear shift was put into forward, but nothing! No forward! AND we were floating toward a concrete wall behind us! Neutral, reverse, forward a couple of times and it caught. Weird and scary! OK, we were now headed in the right direction, in the dark. Why do these things always happen in the dark?? We have only left a marina before sunrise one other time and it is definitely not something that we do lightly. This particular marina has a low spot of 6 1/2 feet (our depth) at low tide at the entrance to the canal. We did not want to get stuck today, so off we went into the dark. Dale used our previous track on our chart plotter to get between the reefs and out into deep water. Whew, we were out and ready to roll! This was to be a super long day, but our plan was to be in Riviera Beach, Florida by slack high tide today, approximately 5:30 p.m.
Out came the sails and we rolled right along in 12-14 knots of wind. We were making good speed at 6.5 knots due to the current. Our speed gradually picked up and we were going 8.5 knots….wow! We will get there in no time at this rate! The body of water that we were crossing between Grand Bahama and Florida, the north Florida Straits, is well known to have swift currents from the Gulf Stream. We had watched and waited for the weather to have no north wind component. When there is a north wind blowing across the current rolling up from the south, there is a very good potential for some huge waves. We were not seeing these, and along we went.
About 1:30 in the afternoon, it became apparent that our vector from Grand Bahama to Palm Beach was not right. We were being pushed along sideways to the north by the current, even though we aimed southwest. So sailing was not going to get us there, on came the engine and we were motor sailing against the 2 1/2 – 3 knots of current. Of course, then the wind decides to kick up and with it, the seas. Here we go against all of the forces of nature at 2-3 knots of speed.
Our estimates had us getting in to Riviera Beach Marina around 5:00 p.m. , which was close to high tide….best laid plans! At 6:30, we were still struggling and had not yet cleared the Lake Worth Inlet to head toward our marina. We were not looking forward to entering a strange marina while the swift tide was against us, let alone, entering in the dark! Well, it is the U.S. and we are on daylight savings time, we should have some light until 7:45ish. On we struggled with our slow forward motion. Just as we were rounding the buoy to get into Lake Worth, a small boat came speeding out toward us. Yikes, get out of the way. OK, it had passed us…..Oh No! Behind that “Pilot Boat” is a HUGE freighter! Back out, quickly! Waiting, waiting, waiting as we are watching the daylight fade away. Finally into the inlet, now to round Peanut Island and find our marina in this very shallow area. We found it and made our way through the maze of boats with the current pushing us. We had been assigned a slip and we had some idea where it was, but with no dock hands on duty, we were only guessing. Then……like a mirage…..our son, Chase emerged on the dock! He had come to help us in. He showed us our slip and grabbed our lines just in time to keep us from being swept past the slip.
And just like that, after 4 years, 11,000 miles, 7 countries, 4 oceans, the Panama Canal, hundreds of adventures and many, many lifelong friends, we are back in the USA, this time on the East Coast!