I'm a little behind on posts but I'm going to fast track and tell you about our crossing first, then back up a little later.
On Monday, the plan was to sail from Great Sale Cay to just at the edge of the banks where it's still shallow, anchor for the night then continue on first thing in the morning to Fort Pierce Florida. We had an agreeable weather forecast with winds with a southerly component. The gulf streams runs south to north so if the winds are from the north they do battle with the current going the other way. This produces nasty if not dangerous conditions. So we were good to go.
The weather forecast predicted squalls, but a couple of days out so this would be the best time to cross. We motor sailed for most of the day accompanied by the occasional thunderstorm. As we approached the edge of the banks we circled around looking for an area shallow enough to anchor. Remember that this is kind of in the middle of nowhere. No land in sight. Although it was marked on the charts we couldn't seem to find anything in the 12 to 15 foot depth which is about the minimum we wanted to anchor in. We eventually decided that since the weather looked like it was building that we would just continue on to Florida expecting to make landfall about daybreak.
It's surprising how little boat traffic we see. For a little while we could see another boat way back behind us but then it was gone. Just before before midnight a cruise ship passed about a mile in front of us, then that was it, just us.
We weren't making any speed records that night and were hoping that once we entered the Gulf Stream we would get a big push north. For a little while that did happen and we got up over 7 knots but it was short lived. The stream was moving us sideways so that we were off course by over a mile but it wasn't giving us any additional speed. So we plodded along all night. The thunderstorms were all around giving us an amazing light show. With all the cloud cover we had no light from the moon so other than the flashes of lightening it was dark, dark, dark.
The seas weren't overly big but the waves seemed to come from all directions making things that had never moved before fly onto the floor with a crash. Each time it happened we would look below at the mayhem. A full jug of cat litter slid along the floor and into the side of the garbage can, tipping it over. It was full of course and sent wet coffee grounds flying in about a 3 foot radius. While pouring us some coffee and only having two hands, the carton of milk slid into the fridge before I could get the lid closed. Oh dear! its going to be a big cleanup tomorrow.
Que Sera Sera was up ahead but going a little faster than us and eventually we lost sight of their lights as well. This is when we had a strange experience. Brian was steering and I would occasionally check our progress on the IPad. Brian suddenly told me that the chart plotter was going crazy. Looking at the compass, it said we were going southwest. We were supposed to be going northwest. We doubled checked on the chart plotter to find the entire image spinning crazily. The IPad was the same way. Remember, it's black dark. No light of any kind in any direction. We had no idea which direction we were heading. After a few very long minutes of "what do we do now?" everything returned to normal but not before we did 1 or 2 complete circles. This happened several times over the next few hours.
Although the middle of the night in the middle of the Gulf Stream is not the ideal place to start using it, we do know how to navigate without electronics. Thanks to The Peterborough Power & Sail Squadron for this knowledge, reinforced by our practical training with Captain CJ at Blue Water Sailing School.
Eventually we could see the dim glow of lights from the coast of Florida and that gave us something to aim for. Then we noticed the second weird thing. Our speed which up until then had been averaging 5 to 6 knots was now .9 knots. We were moving so slowly we were almost going backwards.
I have no explanation for all this, just a couple of theories. Perhaps our chartplotter malfunction was caused by an electrical interference from the surrounding thunderstorms. Our huge drop in speed could have been caused by an eddy in the western wall of the stream.
Or maybe....The Bermuda Triangle
We reached Fort Pierce at 9:30am, but that last 10 miles seemed to take an eternity.