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17 June 2015

Sailing In The Dark & Eating Mediocre Cookies | Gulf Stream Crossing To The Bahamas


If you know anything about me, then you'll know I love cookies. Especially cookies with chocolate chips in them. Lots and lots of chocolate chips. In fact, there are days where I could dispense with the cookie part all together and just eat handfuls of chocolate chips. However, in this heat, everything melts all over your hands faster than you can eat the chocolate chips. Messy and wasteful. Far more sensible to eat your chocolate chips in cookies. The cookie part kind of helps keep the chocolate in control.

So, when I knew we would be making the crossing from Florida to the Bahamas on our sailboat and that this would entail sailing in the dark, the first thing I got was a bag of cookies. Because, sailing in the dark requires a lot of cookies. The only way I coped with my first proper night passage in New Zealand was by eating lots and lots of cookies.

The cookies we got in New Zealand were delicious. Sure, they were store bought, but they had lots of chocolate chips, butter and sugar in them. Delicious. It was only because of these cookies that I managed to survive my first experience sailing in the dark. Every time I got scared, I ate another cookie. Sailing in the dark is scary. I ate a lot of cookies. I got a tummy ache. But it was worth it.

This time, I bought a package of Chips Ahoy cookies with Reese's cups. Because, what could be better than cookies with some Reese's cups in them. Peanut butter and chocolate in a cookie - what's not to love? And the whole "Ahoy!" thing seemed appropriate for being on a sailboat. That was the theory, anyway. Turns out the cookies were pretty mediocre. 

You'll be surprised to know that I didn't even finish the package on the crossing. That's how mediocre they were. It probably helped that the passage itself was uneventful and relatively easy. I actually wasn't too scared. I don't actually know what was more surprising - that I didn't eat all the cookies or that I didn't panic the entire time. Either way, it was a win-win. No tummy ache and Scott was able to sleep without me waking him up in a panic. 

Want to know more? Here's how it all went down and why there were cookies leftover.

After heading down the Okeechobee Waterway and ICW from Stuart we anchored at Lake Worth near Palm Beach and "staged" ourselves for the crossing. The weather window was looking good. Our boat still seemed to be intact. We had cookies, so it was all systems go. Our plan was to leave Lake Worth early in the morning, cross the Gulf Stream during the day, make it to the Memory Rock way point before it got too dark and then make our way across the Little Bahama Bank in the dark to our anchorage at Mangrove Cay. 

We're a sailboat and we're slow. So, we knew we would have to cross something in the dark - it was either going to be the Gulf Stream or the Little Bahama Bank. Given all those pesky freighters, cruise ships and other boat traffic making the crossing, it seemed sensible to cross the Gulf Stream in the daylight. Plus if the weather turned feral on us, it would be easier to deal with during the day.

Well, we're really not great planners. At our best, we're indecisive together and at our worst, we decide what to do separately and kind of forget to tell each other about our separate decisions. Often our separate decisions turn out to be different decisions, so we spend more time trying to decide which decision to take. 

Anyway, we got up, hemmed and hawed about whether we should go. Hemmed and hawed some more about what time it would be best to leave at. Then we gave up, had some breakfast and realized our time window to cross had disappeared faster than chocolate cake left unattended at a kid's birthday party. 

We decided to kill some time (and postpone making a decision) by heading out to the Lake Worth Inlet to test the waters and see what it was like. You have to remember, this was only the third day that we had our new-to-us boat on the water. She was pretty new-to-us. So taking her out for a little test drive was pretty sensible. And a huge wake-up call. 

There were big waves crashing around in the inlet. Up one side, down the other side. Up and down. Things crashing down below. Cookies falling on the floor. We slogged and slogged trying to beat our way through the waves. And then we turned around. 

Turns out indecision can be a good thing. After seeing those waves, I was so glad we hadn't left early that morning. Friends of ours who had left in the early hours said it was rough. I don't think they had any cookies with them. Poor things. 

So, we turned back around, puttered around with our sails, I practiced helming the boat, we anchored, took a nap and waited for things to calm down. At 6:00 PM we decided to go for it and we headed on out. Not nearly as rough as in the morning. A bit of a slog to get through the inlet, but eventually things got calm and it was all good. 

We saw a cruise ship at one point, but they kept their distance, altered course and went around us. Not scary at all. No cookies required.

We saw a few other ships making the crossing, but not many and they all kept their distance. Not scary at all. No cookies required.

The sun went down. The moon came up. The waters were calm. Not scary at all. No cookies required.

At one point, Scott thought he saw a meteor crashing down through the sky and into the water. We figured if the world was going to end at that point, at least we had enough canned goods and booze to survive for a while. Never did figure out if it was a meteor. Maybe it was a spaceship with aliens in search of chocolate chip cookies? I'm sure they've heard good things about our baked goods. I'm pretty sure this is what will cause the aliens to invade - they'll enslave the human race and force us all to work in factories making cookies for export to other parts of the solar system.

Okay, back to the story. We each took turns napping during the night. When Scott was down below, I noticed squalls off on my left and right. Despite the lightening, I stayed calm. I wasn't scared. Sure, I ate a few cookies, but I was hungry by this point. And the best part is, I didn't wake Scott up at all in a panic during my shift.

Things got really slow. Like really slow. I could have gotten off the boat and walked to the Bahamas faster than our boat was going. That's one of the problems with the Gulf Stream. It is giant river with a strong current. It can be your friend and "push" you where you want to go. Or it can be your enemy and your boat has to fight to get across it. And with the wind coming directly on our nose, we couldn't put up our sails to try to get a lift and go faster.

Also, if you're going to cross the Gulf Stream, the weather has to be right. Otherwise, you might die. Okay, maybe not die. But it might be really scary. Fortunately, the weather was fine. It was slow, but it wasn't scary.

Eventually, the sun came up. It was pretty. We headed around the Memory Rock way point, made our way across the Little Bahama Bank to Mangrove Cay and anchored easily. I wiped the cookie crumbs off my shirt, turned to Scott and said, "That wasn't too bad. Do you want a cookie? I have some left over."
 
LOGBOOK NOTES | Tuesday 12 May - Wednesday 13 May 2015

Total nautical miles - 78
Total time - 21 hours, 50 minutes 
Anchor up - Lake Worth, Florida
Anchor down - Mangrove Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Lowest speed - 1.5 knots 
Number of barracuda caught & released - 3
Number of "meteors" spotted - 1
Number of cookies leftover - 8
Number of tummy aches - Nil

Next time on the blog...our first impressions of the Bahamas. Spoiler alert - it's flat.

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12 comments:

  1. Yay for you! Can't wait to hear your impressions of the Bahamas.

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  2. I actually like sailing at night...as long as the weather is cooperating somewhat. I've spent watches laying out on the trampoline of our cat (tethered of course), and staring up at the stars as the winds powered us to our destination. The funny thing about night that I've found is that is when the big ships seem to come out to play. You can sail all day and not see a soul, but when night falls all of the sudden you are surrounded by things that look like floating apartment complexes. Glad you enjoyed the trip...at least enough to spare some cookies. ;-)

    -Mike
    ThisRatSailed

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    1. Scott loves looking up at the stars when he's night sailing too. So glad it was such a calm,uneventful crossing. My waistline is happy too.

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  3. Happy to hear the crossing went well and that you still had cookies left for the crossing back! ;-)

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. The rest of the cookies didn't even make it two days. We actually had to do the crossing back without any cookies whatsoever. Oh, the horror of it all :-)

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  4. Hey, where'd my comment go? Looking forward to more adventures,, cookie-free or otherwise, from you! I love night sailing, except for the little unlit fishing boats.

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    1. Not sure - did you post one and it didn't get published? Sometimes, Blogger does funny things. I'm sure I'll learn to love night sailing at some point too.

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  5. Love it! This is just what I needed (plus a lot of Dramamine). Great pay.

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    1. Thanks Byn! I'm sure your crossing will go wonderfully. Just make sure to stock up on cookies first :-)

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  6. I am killing some time and reading some of your back posts. I gotta tell you how much I am enjoying this blog. Really.
    I remember my first trip to the Bahamas. It was to Bimini from Dinner Key Marina. I was about 7 or 8 maybe(?) My dad captained a sports fisherman - a Hatteras if I am not mistaken. Well his boss, who was the owner of the Gillete company, was up north (as he was during the summer months) and my dad thought it would be a great idea to essentially 'steal' the boat for a weekend outing with his wife and daughter to the Bahamas. It was not a 'well planned' escape and the weather was VERY rough. 5-6 foot swells. It was the first and last time I was ever sea-sick. Not knowing any better I went below to lie down. I remember being in the forward berth, with my forehead pressed tightly against the port hole, watching the waves crash, over, and over...and over, against the glass. Finally my mom came down to get me and the minute I hit the fresh air, I was fine.
    I will never forget that crossing.
    Cookies probably would have made it better ;)

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying it. It's so sweet of your to say that :-)

      I love your story about your first trip to the Bahamas. That's a heck of a crossing, one I hope I never experience.

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