Photos -- Bimini to Miami

Tue 13 Apr 2010 16:33
Living the easy life at Bimini Bay resort.

Last sight of Bimini just a smudge on the horizon behind us. Waves still small in the lee of the land.

Coast Guard cutter checks us out, but then goes off and we hear them hail and board a nearby motorboat. Probably figured
they could easily catch up with us later.

A little while later the Coast Guard helicopter circled us several times, low and close. They hailed us on the VHF and
asked a few questions about purpose of our voyage, number of people on board, and are we all American citizens. Lilly
told them we'd been two months in the Exumas and they said, "Sounds like a nice trip," and they signed off soon after
that. We figured they had determined we were a wholesome American family and not Al Qaeda members, nor drug smugglers,
nor illegal immigrants. . . .

Maybe half an hour later we saw the cutter return, and their Zodiac approached us.

They got close enough to holler across and confirmed we were a U.S. flagged vessel, and said they'd like to board us to
check that we complied with all Federal regulations, etc. They came up on our port quarter, as we held our course and
speed, and after a bit of discussion about best point of ingress, and us removing our flagstaff to make a bit more room,
they grabbed ahold of our bench backs and two guys hopped aboard.

I think their names were Soren Rose and officer Perry, whose first name I'm sorry to say escapes me right now. Both of
them were extremely courteous, friendly, and good-humored. They looked at our passports and the boat registration card.
They checked to be sure we had things like life vests, flares, air horn, etc. We actually lacked a required oil placard
telling all on board not to dump oil in the water, but they let me off with a warning. It was a great experience. We
thanked them for all they do, and told them that the Coast Guard is always in the back of our minds when we're
sailing -- that it's so good to know they're out there.  We shook hands all around, and after a bit of tricky
re-approach by their Zodiac, they hopped off and buzzed back "for further tasking" as their radio said. I felt a strong
twinge of regret that I didn't choose the Coast Guard as a career.

Now, I wish I had a good photo of the mountainous waves we encountered out there. But we only took a few still photos,
which utterly fail to capture the power and height of the waves. We did take a number of videos, which come a bit closer
to describing the experience. But I think it is always the case that waves just seem bigger to the boater than they
actually are.
    There were a few occasions, impossible to capture on camera, where we'd be surfing along a relatively regular set of
west-bound swells (sometimes hitting 9 or 10 mph peak speed), and all of a sudden a big lone swell would roll fast out
of the NE, or up from the SW, and the intersection of the two would create a high rogue peak. And it wasn't even that
peak that was the scary part -- it was the double-trough ahead of the intersecting point, which seemed a bit like a
sunken walled-off garden in front of us -- a hole in the ocean. It was very diffcult to steer properly through those.
None of the swells were breaking in any dangerous manner, but we were often tossed around, though usually pushed off
course no more than 10 degrees, which we could quickly recover from. Only on 3 occasions did a wave slam us around so
that we heeled over and got pushed 90 degrees off course. Those were the scary ones.
    We never came close to capsizing, but those are the moments when you begin to think you might. You do a little
mental checklist -- tether, jackline, life vest. What might get washed overboard? How quickly would the boat right
itself? How much water would come on board? Would we lose our radio or SPOT? Etc. In any case -- it's always good to
worry about worst-case situations and then find you worried needlessly.

   So, skipping ahead now, past the middle hours of the crossing, to the beginning of the thunderstorm around 2 hours
out from Key Biscayne. First Rosie put on a plastic poncho to weather the storm in, but eventually the rain was pounding
down so hard that she went below.

Cape Florida Light in sight. During the storm the rain and mist got so thick that the light would disappear at times,
and we'd keep heading in by compass course.

I think this photo was taken after the gas tank ran dry and got refilled. The delight of approaching shore combined with
the absurdity of all the biblical plagues visited upon us (or just threatened, like the hail and waterspouts), made me
laugh out loud.

Entering No Name Harbor -- what a welcome sight. Wave height -- 2 to 3 millimeters.

Leaving No Name to escape the bugs, and seeing the beautiful Miami skyline all lit up.

Rainy morning off Hobie Beach. We needed a good rinse anyway.

The girls get some schoolwork done.

We take our final sail . . .

Sea Fever and the Miami skyline.

Rosie steers us back to the launch ramp. The rudder actually still works, in low-speed, low-stress situations. But I'll
be replacing with a stronger one it before we next venture across the Gulf Stream. . . .