Fast track from Cuba to Florida


, , , , , , , ,

After spending some quality time visiting the real Cuba in Moron I was set to either continue along the Cuban coast or return to Florida via the Bahamas. 

The coastal trip did not appeal to me because it was going to take weeks of hard sailing interspersed with annoying searches and strict rules to reach Havana. I would rather save the rest of Cuba for a land based tour. 

So back north to the Bahamas was the plan. Normally I would head for the shoreline of Andros and day sail up the coast then across the banks to Bimini, then cross the gulf stream and pop out someplace north of Miami. 

The weather GRIB predicted a very mild weather window coming so I decided to chance it and take a shortcut. I wouldn’t bother moving east to Andros. I would sail straight up the western edge of the banks until the Florida Keys were in range, anchor 40 miles from the nearest land in 15 feet of water, sleep, and cross to Florida. I figured it would save about a week. 

The wind was certainly light as predicted, luckily I had a decent current pushing me the way I wanted to go, at least after getting onto the bank and into shallow water.  I’m glad I didn’t have to pinch into the wind to get over to the shoreline of Andros in this light wind. 

I sailed through the night waking every 30 minutes to look for traffic I expected to never see. The water was too shallow for ships and I was too far out for the fishermen to run me down. 

The next day was mostly spent below as I made slow progress north. I had planned to anchor that night and rest up for the crossing but I ended up not having a choice as the wind died around sunset. A spectacular and surreal sunset I may never forget especially since I got it on video!!!!

At anchor the light wind, current and wave direction conspired to make it tough to sleep for a couple hours, but eventually everything gave up and let me Rest In Peace until sunrise. 

Early the next morning I prepped for a crossing I expected to take about 25 hours, I was almost right…

I had to cross two sets of shipping lanes and got pretty lucky with my timing and didn’t need to alter my course for the several ships I encountered. 

This night I set my timer for 15 minutes and rested between scanning the horizon for ships, there were a few, but none on collision courses. 

The next morning I was on schedule and on course when “it” happened…just as I entered the strong part of the Gulf Stream, the wind died completely. This left me moving just east of north at a speed of 2.5 – 3 knots for 10 hours. 

I thought about the Yuloh but it was still about 24 miles to shallow water and the edge of the current. It was also another day of “too damn hot”. The wind had to come back eventually, didn’t it?

Well after about 10 hours I started to get sporadic light puffs I could milk for some forward motion. It still didn’t look promising as these puffs left me drifting again after a couple minutes. 

The trick was to move perpendicular to the current with every scrap of wind and eventually I would be out of it. It was a long day of sail trimming and watching the plotter to monitor my slow progress. 

The current never gave up until I crossed over into the shallows of the reef.  By this time I was far enough north that I could just make the entry at Caesar Creek, hard to windward into the now steady breeze. 

Unfortunately I had used up another day and it was now a dark and moonless night….perfect conditions for sailing up a narrow, twisty, high traffic, unknown to me channel…