Gulf Stream Crossing: Day 1
After much um-ming and ah-ing, we settled on a departure time of first thing Wednesday morning. There was some concern over our eventual arrival time as it looked like we’d be getting in to Charleston in the middle of the night. Nick and I didn’t have an electronic chart for anywhere north of Florida, so we’d be relying on our iPhone navionics app. We were a little concerned that trying to navigate by iPhone in the pitch black in a busy port we were completely unfamiliar with may lead to some stressy moments. However, we put that concern aside as a bridge to cross when we came to it, and motored out of the anchorage at first light.
It was a light-wind day and so we put up the Parasailor in order to make as much speed as possible. Usually we fly the Parasailor asymmetrically with a cuff over the forestay, however because we were dead downwind that wasn’t really working. So we rigged a guy which we ran through the block at the bow and, after quite a bit of fiddling with tensioning the lines, had her flying reasonably well until the wind died off completely.
We were hugging the contour lines all day and so had high hopes of catching some fish. However, neither us nor Salah (our buddy boat aka, Bo and Allison- but you knew that already) had any luck whatsoever, confirming us as the worst fishermen (fisherpeople?) in the history of the world. We blamed the barracuda who took our favourite lure several weeks ago.
That night I went to bed early, about 8pm, and managed to sleep until 1am, at which point I relieved Nick and sat up as long as I could. I was kept entertained throughout my watch by a crazy thunderstorm that we slowly skirted around. The lightening was utterly majestic and captivating. The entire skyline lit up, tracing the shape of the storm clouds climbing into the black sky. Occasionally, thick, stubby lightening bolts struck the sea beneath. I was very glad we weren’t underneath them.
Gulf Stream Crossing: Day 2
The following day was steaming hot and we struggled to keep cool. Clothing became optional at this point and Nick resorted to dousing himself in seawater every ten minutes. We still hadn’t caught any fish, but on the upside we had entered the Gulf Stream! Suddenly we had picked up an extra 3 knots, and even though there was no wind- at all- we were still powering along nicely. An uneventful day turned into an uneventful night and once again we split the night watches in two to give us both a chance at a decent sleep.
Gulf Stream Crossing: Day 3
The third day was a bit cooler much to our relief. We skirted around squalls which played havoc with the wind: one minute it was nothing, the next 17 knots on the nose, then clocking round. The point where we left the Gulf Stream was quite clearly marked by choppy, confused waves followed suddenly by smooth, glassy seas. We were expecting to get into Charleston the early hours of the following morning, and the most glorious evening concluded our time crossing to the USA. We were joined many times throughout the day by dolphins, but it wasn’t until the seas had smoothed out that we got a chance to go to the bow and really enjoy their antics. The water was incredibly clear; it was like looking through blue glass.
We took our usual watches, and I went back to bed around 2am. We could clearly see the lights of the ‘runway’ at this point (the marked channel that extends 15 miles from the coast) but I still managed a couple of hours sleep before I was almost thrown from my bed by the wake of the hundred or so sports-fishers that came zooming past. It transpired that there was a tournament of some kind on that weekend (it was Saturday) so perhaps we got unlucky, but having dozens of very powerful fishing boats speeding towards us in the pre-dawn light was a little disconcerting.
Coming into Charleston was an awesome feeling. Firstly, the three day passage was behind us and we could look forward to getting a full night’s sleep (always welcome). More importantly, we were finally in the USA, something we’d been anticipating for a long time. The stark contrast between the isolation and raw beauty, coupled with limited facilities such as supermarkets of the Bahamas (and much of the rest of the Caribbean), and the evident abundance of wealth surrounding us now was quite striking. We later learned that some of these waterfront mansions were worth tens of millions of dollars. Compare that to some parts of the Caribbean, where an entire town was probably worth less than that and, well, you get the idea.
We pulled into St John’s Yacht Club, called US Customs and Immigration and an hour later were sitting in front of two very friendly officers who warmly welcomed us to the country and happily stamped our passports with a six month visa. We could finally relax, take a nap, and get settled into what would be our home for the next month.