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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back in the USA

Today is July 17, 2008 and we are really back in the good ole’ US of A. It’s the land of Wal-Mart, cheap gas (Yes, compared to the rest of the world, $4.00 per gallon gas is cheap) and unlimited supplies of groceries, fast foods and anything else one can imagine. And, if what you want isn’t in the store around the corner, you can be assured it’s only a mouse click and UPS day away.

We departed West End, Grand Bahama Island, on July 11th. We knew we had a long trip ahead of us, so we planned to leave the Bahamas around noon, which would leave most of the trip for the nighttime hours. After a lazy breakfast, Jeremy and Andie took Havyn to the pool to get a lot of exercise, which would, hopefully, tire her out and make for a good nights sleep while underway. While the kids were gone, Gordon and I stored things away and got the boat ready to sail. The kids returned from the pool around 11:45am with a tired little Havyn and, after getting everyone dry, we left the marina and struck out across the Florida Straits for the US.

The great god of sailing was in a really good mood that Friday, because he (she?) smiled on us and made the sea just like a giant slick of oil. This was our sixth crossing of the Straits and the first time it has ever been this calm. Additionally, there was an 8 to 10 knot breeze from our rear, starboard quarter that was perfect for raising the sails. We had originally intended to head for Ft. Pierce, FL, but the wind and the seas were so perfect that we made a course for St. Augustine, FL instead.

As we worked our way north, the gentle hum of the engine combined with the rolling 2 foot swells, at 14 second intervals, made everyone relaxed and sleepy. As darkness approached, Jeremy, Andie and Havyn gradually peeled off and went below to sleep. I wasn’t really tired, so I decided to take the first watch while Gordon caught the first four hours of sleep. From then on, we’d take turns at the helm every four hours until daytime. I was amazed at the number of cruise ships that passed us that night. I counted 4 on my first watch alone.

The wind and the sea stayed calm all night, and without any light pollution, the stars overhead were spectacular in both quantity and brightness. Now I’m not really good with constellations, but I can tell you this for sure. The Milky Way was so bright, it looked like the sky was full of iridescent cotton the starlight made everything on the deck visible, without the benefit of any moonlight. It was a truly amazing night to be out on the water. Anyway, Gordon and I switched off every four hours and before long, night was over and a new day had dawned.

With the onset of daylight, Jeremy, Andie and Havyn awoke and came topside to enjoy the day. They had the opportunity to see a pod of dolphin but only one would pose for a picture. As we got closer to the US and approached the Gulf Stream, the boat began to move faster and faster over the water and Jeremy couldn’t believe how fast we were going. Our forward speed, from both the engine and sails, combined with the Gulf Stream current to move us “over ground” at a fantastic speed of 11.8 knots (13.85 mph) which may seem slow, but, for a sailboat, it’s flying.

Without changing our course, we were able to dodge a couple of thunderstorms, as we worked our way closer to St. Augustine Inlet. The closer we got to St. Augustine, however, the more the swells grew in height. By the time we finally arrived off of the inlet (around 6:00pm on the 12th) the swell height had increased to six feet plus, but the wave interval had also increased to 16 seconds. (These were courtesy of BERTHA) The result of this was, the seas were like riding a gentle kids ride at Disney World and posed no threat or discomfort at all. We coasted our way into the St. Augustine inlet and, once inside, made our way to the sereneness of the Inter Coastal Waterway. Then, it was a short trip north to the Comachee Cove Yacht Club and Marina, which was were we spent our first night back in the States.

The next morning, we left Comachee Cove early (6:30 am) and headed north for 36 miles to the Palm Cove Marina, in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Here, is where the boat and Gordon are for the week to have some warranty work done, while I have taken the kids back to Atlanta.

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