Rough Gulf Stream Crossing

As we prepare to go back to Abaco to continue all the projects out lined in the final report, it’s not much fun to look back on thecrossing last February. The winter was one of the windiest on record. But my usual crew of stalwarts had their schedules, and on what appeared to be a very calm night, we set out.

Instead of going out our usual way through Biscane Channel, we decided to pass downtown Miami and go ou Government cut. Somebody had neglected to replacxe the light in a critical channel marker and we ended up aground. Some very creative rocking and rolling and running around on deck by my friends, along with coordinated (sometimes) bursts from the engine, finally got us off.

We were not prepared for the hordes of small outboards busily engaged in shrimping in the channels around the cut. The scene could have been from Dante’s “Inferno:” against the blazing backdrop of downton Miami at night, we were surrounded by dozens of small outboards, all belching engine fumes in the still air, all circling in random swirls, dragging their nets or brandishing hand nets. Beer fumes were prevalent too, along with shouting, hooting, and various froms of verbal exchange. Their running lights were obscured by the bright shrimping lights, street lights, harbour lights. . . rather like an old dowager caught in the midst of a crowd of soccer fans gone haywire, we picked our way through without disaster and gained the open gulf Stream.

For four happy hours we chugged into the breathless night. Against all weather reports, a small breeze began to fill in from the north. Within two hours it had turned into a classic northeaster, with gusts over 20, squalls of rain, and the square solid seas that a strong wind running against the Gulf Stream can produce. Misery took over and prevailed. What little sail we tried to carry would not let us hold our course.On one side it would do little good, dragging us away from our course. On the other side we could possibly lose so much ground we’d overshoot West End, our destination. Without any sail we were rolled and buffeted without mercy.

A fifty pound sentinel (used to add weight to an anchor line) came loose on the foredack and was tumbled down the side deck like a toy. We took green water over the bow.

By the time morning came and we got to look at the waves in the light, the sight was not pleasant. I saw one comber go by which had, in addition to its normal breaking front, FIVE other sectionsof breaking water.
The seas were totally confused by winds which shifted from N to E toNE, all against the power of the Gulf Strream going against the wind. During the night I had managed to stick my finger in a winch and was lucky I didn’t lose my entire finger tip.

We finallys taggered into West End after 20 hours. Several other boats in the marina couldn’t believe we’d crossed in that weather. As it turned out, that weather was the only ‘window’ we had for weeks. No sooner did I get to Marsh Harbour than we had three gales , one right after another. By that time the seven stitches in my finger were healing well and I was snugly anchored. And by now the actual details of that miserable trip have blurrred. but I am hoping that this year‘s window will be a little more reasonable.

back button


home button