Tacking upwind to the Bahamas

Departure Day

End of April: it was finally time to sail to the Bahamas! All preparations were completed and we were officially cleared out of Mexico. Porky and crew were ready to hop on the golf stream, which hopefully brings us quickly and smoothly the 550 nautical miles to Bimini. We planned to be at sea for about 5-7 days, as we had to tack upwind. Porky has never before been so fully loaded with water, diesel and food. But everything is well stowed away and we hope the majority of our provisions will last until the Azores, meaning for the next 2-3 months. Let’s see if that’s not too ambitious.

Day 1

The first day of the crossing to the Bahamas is done, 152 nautical miles since departure, 6.3 knots average. In the beginning we had to steer hard upwind to make it out of the furious gulf stream, which has moved us in a raging speed towards NNW. Except for a big thunderstorm that we had to dodge, the first night was very pleasant and quiet. Everybody was in a good mood onboard and growing back our sea legs. The plan is to make as much easting as possible before the wind turns east and increases as forecasted for the following days.

Day 2

The analysis of the 2nd day is not exciting at all. In the last 24 hours we have only covered 85 nautical miles. In the afternoon we had very light wind and little current pushing us East. At night, the wind increased to 6 Beaufort and strangely, the Gulf Stream did not push us towards the east as expected, but mostly slowed us down and created a rough, steep swell. The gulf stream was still a mystery to us at that point as we haven’t figured out how to use the powerful current to our advantage. In the afternoon we sailed a longer tack in light winds to Northeast. Every mile to east counts and brings us closer towards our destination! The busy ship traffic makes watches interesting and forces us to keep an eye on the horizon, radar and AIS. Max practiced celestial navigation daily and his sightings and calculations become very precise. To pass time we listened to audiobooks, cooked food, napped, asked each other trivia questions or simply stared onto the big blue, which is kind of meditating. Regularly we have contact with SV Philos, our friends who departed with us to Bimini at the same time. We lost them on the first day on the horizon and radio, but we did send our positions and messages via satellite phones. Overall it did not get boring for the (what feels like an eternal) tacking against the wind.

Day 3

Hooray, on the third day we finally had the Gulf Stream with us and have been tacking eastwards between Florida and Cuba since the afternoon. In the last 24 hours we have covered 119 nautical miles. Starting in the evening the wind is supposed to decrease significantly and we hope to be on our last tack to the north-east by then. All three of us were back in our daily rhythm and enjoy the sailing. So far it is comfortable despite the heavy heeling on a close-hauled course, even below deck, and we can cook and sleep quite normally. Shipping traffic is still heavy and some cargo ships have come within half a mile of us. Dodging the big ships keeps us on our toes 24/7. We sometimes wonder if they are excited about the sight of a small white sailing boat bouncing in the big blue waves. We have to tack at least once more towards Cuba to the southeast in order to then make the last long tack to Bimini. Hopefully we’ll have enough wind to sail till the end. The weather is good. During the day the sun beats down on us and we try to hide under long shirts and our “fashionable” floppy hats. At night we can admire a beautiful starry sky with the glowing Milky Way while the plankton flashes fluorescently in Porky’s splash. This is what sailing is all about!

Day 4

On the fourth day we were 15 nautical miles away from the Florida Keys and were still taking advantage of what little wind we had before it’s supposed to die down entirely in the afternoon. Then our good old Perkins will probably have to show what it’s got for the last 115 nautical miles. We’ve made very good progress over the last 24 hours (142 nautical miles covered, averaging 5.9 knots) even though the waves were very short and steep. At night, we were in 2nd reef in 6 Beaufort and Porky regularly jumped over a short wave and then slammed with the bow into the next one; very uncomfortable for the boat and crew. Accordingly, nobody felt like cooking and we munched on many different cold snacks. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, we were still able to make good progress despite the stupid waves. We turned Northeast about 12 miles off Cuba. Unfortunately, we will skip this country on this trip as we want to spend more time in the Bahamas before going to the Azores. Since the morning the wind has been very light and we hoisted Porky’s entire proud sail area. Now we plow smoothly through a calm sea towards Bimini. Freshly baked cinnamon rolls were served for breakfast, and hearty lentil stew for lunch. We plan to arrive tomorrow in the course of the afternoon. We’re excited to see what’s in store for us in the Bahamas and we’re looking forward to going swimming in the sea again. We all need it badly.

Arrival on Day 5

We have just arrived in Bimini and dropped anchor in the middle of the canal of the busy fishing village. Now it’s time for breakfast and then we’ll check in with customs & immigration. The last day at sea was wonderfully relaxed. Without waves, light wind and current behind us, we sailed along the Florida Keys like on a lake until the wind stopped completely. After sunset, Miami’s light pollution lit up the sky while huge storm clouds flashed every second to the south and east. With the engine running, we quickly crossed the 60 nautical miles to Bimini.

In total, it was 617 nautical miles from Mexico that we covered at an average speed of 5.4 knots. Porky has also done well when tacking upwind (not that she has to prove herself in any way anymore). Now we will explore the first country outside of the Caribbean since we arrived in Martinique in January 2021.

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