Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Gulf Stream Crossing, Part 2

At 3:30am I had to put the motor on. Where did the wind go?!

Up until then we were doing pretty well, averaging about 5 knots. We even hit 10.3 knots at one point!

But we needed to be at Chinese Harbor when it opened at 9am so we could clear customs.

So, motor sail it was for the last 5 hours. At 8am, we were tied up on the pier wall. By 10am we were cleared and could lower our yellow quarantine flag and raise the Bahamaian courtesy flag!


We motored over to Andrew's Bluff where we knew another kid boat was anchored.

We had been in communication with SV Wild Child, Drew Skelton and Jessica Tallman Skelton and their daughter Marleigh, for a while now and knew they had been helping with the rebuilding efforts in Green Turtle Cay for a few weeks already.

It took us several tries to get the anchor to dig in but finally on the fourth try it worked and we could put our anchor alarm on and RELAX.

We made it. This point of our journey really feels like a milestone.

We have decided that we don't want to be rushed anymore and will just take our time to explore the many Bahamaian islands.

If we want to stay in one anchorage for several weeks, them so be it. Our journey has been non-stop and pretty relentless. We just want to slow it waaaay down and be on island time.

Of course one of the first things I did once we anchored was jump overboard into the beautiful clear water. It was as amazing as I predicted. I could see my own toes, the water was SO clear.

We had SV Wild Child over for dinner and learned about the Islanders, how rebuilding efforts are taking shape and just generally the lay of the land.

We can't wait to get stuck in and help in whatever way we can.

But first we needed a proper night's sleep. By 8pm, Matt and the kids were fast asleep.

I took our dinner dishes up on deck. It's back to salt water washing up again. With no water maker on board and with limited water filling facilities here, we need to conserve as much fresh water as possible.

With absolutely zero light pollution, the stars were incredible.

What a peaceful new year's eve night. 

Couldn't be happier to be where I was to welcome 2020.

Good morning Bahamas!

Tai making his Lego space shuttle.

Hah, finally got one of Captain Matt asleep!

Deck check

Tied up in Chinese harbour in Cooperstown - we made it!

Kids filling in their own Bahamas customs form.

Lowering our yellow quarantine flag. Actually we couldn't find one so we 
bought a yellow t-shirt at the dollar store. It does the job!

Raising the Bahamian flag, along with our KB (Kid Boat) flag which is looking a bit worn out. Kid boats look out for other KB flags in anchorages/marinas so we all know who to connect with!

On our way to Andrew's Bluff anchorage in Green Turtle Cay.

Marleigh from SV Wild Child. They came over for dinner soon after we anchored.
Yay for kid boats!

Happy & relieved, bring on 2020!

We were all in various states of undress today. So hot. So sticky. So great.

Our complete route from Florida.

First sunset in the Bahamas!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Gulf Stream Crossing Part 1

We weighed anchor right at first light and motored out through Lake Worth inlet.

As forecasted, the first little bit of the passage was 'sporty' but nothing horrendous.

However I probably shouldn't have had apple pie and condensed milk for breakfast. Too greedy!

About an hour later, Tai and I generously donated the contents of our breakfast to the Gulf Stream gods. After that little episode, a short nap, and we were good as gold!

We were mostly quiet and contemplative for the day. Tai spent hours watching the waves off portside.

Aila and I stretched out on the cockpit benches, staring off into the distance.

Matt trimmed the sails and chatted to nearby boats on the VHF.

We had another buddy boat crossing with us, also an Endeavor 42! Caren Smith has been a huge support and source of valuable information. We connected on the Endeavours FB group early on in our voyage and have been in close contact for many months now. We met for the first time in Lake Worth several days ago.

As timing and luck would have it, we were both headed to the Abacos so we decided to buddy boat together and create a mini Endeavor fleet!

The biggest excitement was when we crossed from the Gulf Stream into the Grand Bahamas Bank. We literally went from a couple of thousand feet of depth to 15 feet!

The colour change was remarkable. As we approached the shallow shelf we could see a line in the water as if it were deliberately drawn with a Sharpie.

One side was a dark deep blue. And just over this 'line' was the most incredible aqua marine blue you could ever imagine, like sparkling emeralds. Exquisite!

Cue squeals of excitement! We were in the Bahamas!! We had officially crossed the Gulf Stream.

Was it just me, or did the air suddenly smell warmer and sweeter? What a rush! We rode this buzzing feeling for a while as we feasted on leftover pizza and pasta, croissants, chocolate muffins and fruit.

As a treat, I bought mangoes, strawberries and raspberries for us yesterday. We call this 'first class fruit' and the kids were completely delighted. It will be a while before we can buy such first class fruit again, at least for an affordable price.

As we sailed through the Grand Bahamas Bank, the kids sat on the aft deck rails counting flying fish. They got up to 105! However I think they counted every single jump into the air as a separate fish. Oh well, it kept them busy for a while.

As the sun set, the seas smoothed out and the wind stabilized at a consistent 14-16 knots.

With very few waves, we were slicing through the water. I LOVE that feeling so much.

We listened to podcasts in the cockpit until it was dark.

Sunset was a tiny sliver of hot pink and orange peeking through the thick clouds.

Right now I'm on watch while Matt reads a bedtime story to the kids down below.

I got my beloved Dixie Chicks playing on the bluetooth speaker, paired with the beautiful whoooshing of the water.

The air is humid and enticing.

The night sky is almost pitch dark, cloud covered and moonless.

We will continue to sail on through the night. There is the option to drop anchor pretty much anywhere since the depth is around 11-20 feet deep, perfect for anchoring!

But we want to press on and arrive at our check-in point at Chinese Harbor near Cooperstown by early morning.

It will be December 31st and the last day before the Bahamian cruising permit fee doubles. We would be saving $300 USD so well worth continuing through the night.

Technically, we are already in the Bahamas.

Tomorrow we make landfall.

Dinghy stowed on deck. Sun about to rise over Palm Beach. 
It can only mean one thing. We're going to try and cross the Gulf Stream. 
Looking forward to seeing the Bahamas off our bows later today.

Fridge packed to the brim with milk, fresh meat, veggies,
fruit, yoghurt, cheese and eggs.

Breakfast of champions. Coffee, strawberries, squeezy condensed milk and apple pie. All necessary to wash down the Stugeron. 
UPDATE: this is not the breakfast to have before a rough passage!

Good morning, what a nice day to start a passage!

Good bye Florida!

Motoring out the channel. Buddy boat SV Excape ahead of us.

SV Excape, a fellow Endeavour 42.

Counting all the jumping fish.

Tai reading our depth sounder as it goes very suddenly from
2123 feet to 30 feet to 24 feet to 13 feet.....

This blue is absolutely incredible. Pictures do not do it justice!

Tai engrossed in his space flight simulator game.

Leftover pizza lunch.

Goodnight from us, wish us luck as we carry through the night.

Selection of apps and websites we have been monitoring to select the best weather window for our Gulf Stream passage:

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Time to Cross

Tomorrow will be our last full day in the USA.

We plan to cross to the Abacos in the Bahamas early Monday morning.

If it all goes to plan, we should be checking in with the Bahamian authorities by Tuesday midday.

We've been obsessively watching several weather apps, trying to learn and understand the safest way to cross The Gulf Stream and how best to navigate the shallow inlets and cays as we enter the Bahamian islands.

This feels like a great leap into the unknown. It's not the fact that it's a new country that has us scrambling to get sufficient supplies and do last minute boat checks. It's the fact that there are fewer facilities and resources (especially in the Abacos since hurricane Dorian hit), so we must be self-reliant with food, water, diesel, spare boat parts etc.

There are places that are starting to open up where you can get water and diesel, but for the most part, we need/want to be self sufficient.

We have all the donations and supplies that we will be bringing to the Abacos and her affected residents. Thanks to those who generously donated, it means a lot!

Christmas day was an absolute blast.

We had an easy morning on the boat, the kids opened their presents and we called our families back home.

In the afternoon we dinghy'd to nearby Peanut Island for what was supposed to be a modest gathering of a few kid boats.

It ended up being an epic party of 10 cruising families, 14 kids between us (18 months to 13 years), an incredible potluck spread, BBQ, swimming, snorkelling, manatees and sting ray sightings, and a ginormous bonfire at night with too many s'mores to count.

The next day was back to Bahamas preparations.

The kids are picking up bits and pieces of information from overhearing our conversations about the planning and preparation.

There are LOTS of moving parts and priorities change hour to hour as we navigate our way through the preparation stage.

Tonight we had a family discussion about what this upcoming passage means and although it may only SEEM like just one more overnight passage, it is a lot more significant and has more implications if things go wrong. More than ever, we need Team Thornington to come together.

Generally, the kids have been pretty good and keeping themselves occupied with the new books and Lego sets they received for Christmas.

Thanks to our multiple visits to the Kennedy Space Center, their newest obsession is anything to do with space, rockets, shuttles and the International Space Station.

Tomorrow I'm doing one last provisioning run for fresh produce and chocolate chip cookies. I've got a deep hankering for chocolate chip cookies at this very moment and knowing I don't have any on board is painful!

I could dinghy to shore and walk the few blocks to a grocery store if I really wanted to, but it's dark, windy and rainy and I'm feeling lazy.

If only Uber Eats delivered by dinghy to boats at anchor!

Well, it seems we've been preparing for this crossing for a long time now.

We're feeling a bit worn down from being in Florida. Not to mention humid, sticky, antsy and stagnant.

Sometimes playing the waiting game is harder than going into the unknown. Especially when the wait is for an undefined period of time.

For me, I will feel like we have 'made it' when we can hoist the Bahamian courtesy flag 🇧🇸, hand over the supplies and donations that are currently occupying every available square foot, and when I can jump directly off the boat into the warm turquoise waters.

Not long now.

PSA: Our USA cell numbers will no longer work once we leave the USA. So email and FB messenger is the best way to contact us.

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Rainbow after the torrential rain storm.

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The other end of the same rainbow

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This morning we baked croissants and cinnamon rolls. A good sweet pick me up.

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Glamourous cruising life. Walking through a rainstorm next to a busy road
in a questionable neighbourhood to buy transmission fluid. Fun fun!

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Christmas morning treat - Ghanaian coffee! Thanks Anice!

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Santa found our boat!!!

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Roasting marshmallows on the beach for the tenth s'more will be what the
kids remember most about Christmas 2019.

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Just a few remaining boat families gathered at dusk on Peanut Island around the
bonfire, with the skyscrapers of West Palm Beach in the background. Didn't take any
 photos during the day at all... that's how awesome and busy we all were!

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Both diesel tanks on our boat and multiple Jerry cans are full. Took us nearly
3 hours to complete this task this morning. From leaving our anchorage to docking
at the fuel dock, pumping the fuel and then going out to re-anchor again.
No boat chore is ever easy or simple or fast.