February 14, 2018
It wasn’t supposed to happen but you could sense the impending timeframe looming in the background. Many different cruisers had previously warned us against committing the cardinal sin in sailing… scheduling a particular day to be at a particular location.
Understandable where the philosophy comes from. There’s so many variables that come into play when traveling by sailboat: weather and wind (affecting speed and comfort of travel or even if travel is possible), distances between anchorages, tides and currents (which may control passage under bridges or through certain waterways), mechanical difficulties… the list goes on and on.
In perfect conditions, it’s still a snail’s pace that you are moving at. Under engine power we average five to seven knots; under sails alone, it’s probably closer to five. We may settle for three knots if it means not running the engine, but under good sailing angle in a brisk breeze we can make eight knots comfortably. At ten knots, Exit starts feeling much less in your control; and heeling over past fifteen degrees becomes nerve racking for all but the hardiest of racers (Kris reminds me often that she loves sailing and hates heeling). On average, not much faster than a brisk walk.
In some cases, the weather delays or slower speed only set you back a day. But those days can add up quickly. And regarding passages like crossing the Gulf Stream between Florida and the Bahamas, we have heard of boaters having to wait one or two weeks for a north wind to subside, making the crossing even safe to attempt.
And that’s where the time schedule becomes the most problematic. When decisions are based upon the pressure of a timetable rather than sound judgement, things can go south quickly. On the other hand, some people never get anywhere based upon a never-ending wait for perfect conditions that never show up. Balance has to weigh in here… wait until sound judgement says opportunity is knocking and then don’t hesitate; open the damn door.
We recognized this when we told our lifelong best friends, Shannan and Vicki, to book their airplane tickets to Nassau, Bahamas for March 7. They were the only people who came all the way to Borneo to visit us while we lived there, and now they would come to visit us on Exit. We were still well up the East Coast at this time (I believe still in the Chesapeake Bay), but we had three months to get south to Florida and make the jump over to the Bahamas… no problem.
Now the time had whittled down to three weeks. Certainly within our grasp but, still, we knew we couldn’t let any more time slip by or we’d be backing ourselves into a corner.
With the hopes that our fuel issues had finally been definitively put to rest, we decided to make another run for Ft. Lauderdale heading offshore, instead of crawling slowly down the ICW. We’d make far better time offshore. Then we could stop for a final pause before jumping across the Gulf Stream somewhere between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami (getting south of Bimini before crossing meant not having to fight the two and a half knot northbound currents).
The forecasts all said SE winds for the foreseeable future. Not promising for sailing. But the weather and seas looked favorable so the decision was unanimous – take the opportunity to press on, motorsail if necessary, and sail whenever possible… plenty of time.