Crossing the Gulf Stream
Tossing and turning like the night before a speech or the anxiety of an early morning flight, sleep would not slip into the calm slumber of a peaceful rem cycle. Checking the unnatural glow of my iPhone it took a few seconds for my sleepy aching eyes to focus and reflect on the white glow of 3:23am. Jet lag without the jet and a disruption in circadian rhythms would fade in and out as the excitement and anxiety of crossing the Gulf Stream danced on the tip of my mind. With the coffee strong and wafting through the interior, James and I pulled up the hook and we turned Southern Star west towards Miami and within minutes made a quick bank to the east to turn into the black quiet Atlantic. The sun and sliver of a moon would rise in unison two hours later as we rode the tide towards the east to the Bahamian islands set 45 miles away.
Ben and Charlie both made a 4:30am appearance full of fatigue and bed head. The constant whining and tears was killing our mojo and distracting us from our own heightened emotions so I took a long deep mom breath and calmly walked them back to their staterooms and tucked them in with a promise to check on them in an hour. Our teenage son was currently experiencing the gift of daily excessive sleeping so we knew not to expect a sighting from him before 10am. Teenagers have a true gift of sleep that if bottled and sold could literally sustain their entire financial adult lives.
Sailing in the dark skies and seas of the Atlantic is truly a calm and unsettling experience all at once for this novice sailor. Confused between the two emotions, I literally held my breath and counted the minutes until the warm glow of the pink sun made her way over the deep blue sapphire ocean. Ripples of light wind caught the glassy surface and turned the ocean into a mirage of sapphire sand that rivals the beauty of the glowing white sands of the northern Gulf coast beaches. A magnificent picture of sun, blue skies, ocean, dolphins, flying fish and reflecting clouds that unless seen could only be made up in the most creative of minds. Ten to fifteen miles off the coast of Miami we were crossing the paths of a dozen empty crew ships drifting in the Atlantic with what I can only imagine is a skeleton crew hired to maintain the multi million dollar vessels.
With very little wind and a glassy ocean, the crossing could not have gone more smoothly. The western side of the Gulf Stream would prove to be much stronger than the eastern wall. With a natural tug from the Gulf Stream to the north, we put in a 30 degree course correction to the south. With Bimini being a 101 direct bearing from Miami, we steered a 131 heading to Bimini given our 5.5 knot average speed with a soft southeast wind. Think of it as a crab making her way over the soft ripples of a sandy dune heading sideways and correcting by jutting ever so smoothly towards the scooping winds. Around 11am, a storm popped up and reveled a small collection of pin point water spouts that came roof top height from touching the sapphire ocean. Growing up on the beach and spending my young adult life working directly on the beach, spouts have never sent alarms off in my mind. Water spouts always stay offshore and very rarely make a landfall appearance. Realizing that we were in fact off shore with no land for the spout to miss, we decided to make a course deviation and turn Southern Star on a southerly course to avoid the spouts and swirling winds. Mostly successful, we avoided the swirling winds but caught the northwest tail of the building storm. Dropping temperatures, gusting winds and much welcomed over sized drops of fresh rain engulfed us for over an hour. Ben quickly turned his water bottle into a rain catching container by using his flip top lid to siphon the fresh water off the leeward side of the highest rooftop. Jb described the taste of the freshly collected water as a natural hint of rain acid. Soaking wet, refreshingly cooled off and happy, we threw the pink and silver lures in the water off our brand new rookie fishing rods and within minutes the aft starboard line danced and zinged with the weight of our first freshly caught dinner. James grabbed the reel and I took the helm. While I claim to wear many hats, cutting up fish is not one of them so James fileted the two foot king mackerel for our lunch while I kept our course.
We pulled into Bimini around 2pm and pulled up to The Bimini Bluewater Resort Marina. I know it sounds fancy and full of luxury but actually the marina consisted of a small wooden dock with a lean to shade cover. We were quickly greeted by JR the friendly local Bahamian dock master. In his faded blue dockers, salty collared white uniformed polo shirt,face mask and well worn deck shoes the very first words he spoke to us were…”have you got your covid negative papers?” Only the captain is allowed to disembark the vessel upon port entry so while James walked the half mile to immigrations and customs with our passports and covid papers, the boys and I relaxed on the boat in the 100 degree sheltered marina.
Hot, sweaty and salty with a wafting smell of fish in the air, I lowered the aft ladder so the kids could cool off in the crystal clear waters below us. Peering into the water, the biggest bull shark that I have ever seen was circling our Southern Star. Joined quickly by his two bull shark friends, it was apparent that we were not going to swim in the Bluewater Marina on the island of South Bimini.
Two hours later and what seemed like a lifetime of sweating, James arrived back to the Southern Star with our passports fully stamped with entry approval grasped tightly in the palm of his hand.
Throwing the lines on the weathered dock and saying our farewells to JR and the small group of Bahamian males drinking cold Khalik on the dock, we turned our bow south for the 45 minute sail to the wreck of Sapona. The Sapona is a three level shipwreck that sits in 15 feet of crystal clear Bahamian waters just to the north of Honeymoon Harbor. James and the boys and I very quickly put on our snorkel gear and protective water shoes and plunged into the wreck. The Sapona is full of tropical reef fish swimming in and out of the coral covered sides and rusting beams of the 100 year old shipwreck. In my mind we would calmly swim in and out of the reef being very careful not to disturb the coral or rusting spears of corroding metal. James and the boys quickly began to climb the inside beams in order to find the highest birds eye perch possible. In and out of the beams and hunting down innocent nurse sharks the late afternoon was not exactly as I had imagined. I’m constantly being reminded that I am the only cautious female in this crew of five. After a few hours on the wreck, the days events began to catch up with us and it was time to make our way to Honeymoon Harbor to anchor up for the night.
Upon entry to the narrow channel less than an hour from the wreck, we entered the harbor lined with sandstone rock formations that jutted two feet clear of the waterline. We were greeted by 10-12 small brown and yellow loggerhead sea turtles. The turtles one by one thrust their little heads up above the waterline and seeing our white beaming vessel the lovely creatures would abruptly duck dive and make a swift disappearance. I can only imagine their underwater conversations and flipper signals communicating intruders in their calm turtle utopia. Awake, anchored and busy now for 19 hours straight, we threw on a pot of pasta and cracked open a mostly fresh can of mandarin oranges and quickly fed the crew and crashed in our staterooms for a solid 10 hours of staring at the back sides of our eye lids.