It took us 7 days of sailing to cover the 850 miles from the southern Bahamas to Tampa Bay. Our trip was uneventful. Uneventful is a very good thing. We really really like uneventful.
We made one stop unplanned stop in Key West. When we started out, we knew the winds would be moderate. We tend to side with a moderate forecast window rather than test our heavy weather sailing skills. As we sailed down the east coast of Long Island and around the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas, we had perfect winds. They were even from the right direction! We dodged a few rain showers that popped up on the radar and the Puffster sailed beautifully under full sail in the 20 knot winds off the beam. However, once we rounded the Ragged Islands and made the turn to the northwest our wind died. Rats! We had a couple of choices. We could sail very slooooowly in the light winds and stay off the coast of Cuba for an indefinite period. Or, we could motor. We choose to motor. We ended up motoring for 3 days straight. I think I might have uttered the words, “We should have bought a power boat” in a moment of anguish. When we motor, it is noisy and the boat tends to roll about on the sea. This makes sleeping underway difficult. When sailing, the full sails act as stabilizers and produce a predictive repetitious motion. The rocking is like a cradle and sleeping is much easier. With the engine on, we also burn pricy fuel. After motoring for three days we calculated our remaining fuel would not be enough for us to get all the way to Tampa Bay unless the winds increased. We had plenty of fuel to get to Key West but not to Tampa Bay some 180 miles further north. The forecast called for more calm days. Since we planned to sail past Key West anyway we figured we would stop for fuel. And since we needed to stop for fuel, we may as well check in with US Customs and Immigration (Cindy has something to say about this experience in a future post).
Off the coast of Cuba, we were boarded by the Royal Bahamian Defense Force (RBDF). This is the Bahamian equivalent to the US Coast Guard. Our experience with the RBDF was extremely pleasurable. Cindy went below with one officer and presented our paperwork and boat documentation. I hung about in the cockpit chatting with the other officer about how much we enjoyed the Bahamas. I tend to ask a lot of questions of people. I was able to get a mini history lesson about the RBDF. He was super friendly and very proud. They sort of apologized in the end for having to do their jobs. But, we reminded them they are always there should we need them in an emergency and we welcome them to visit us any time. This brought smiles all around.
While sailing up the coast of Cuba, we saw a massive cruise ship. We looked at the AIS and found it was Allure of the Seas, until this year it was the largest cruise ship in the world clocking in at 1,187 feet in length. Harmony of the Seas launched this year and is 1,188 feet beating out Allure of the Seas by a whopping twelve inches. Both are operated by Royal Caribbean. As the ship passed, I told Cindy we should start to keep an eye out for people in the water. It seems many folks are having a hard time managing to stay aboard these vessels lately. We don’t get news very often but with the little news we have received we noticed a trend of people falling off cruise ships. We didn’t see anyone floating about so we kept going. I know, I have a truly warped dark and dry sense of humor.
The green flash https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_flash is a very rare occurrence sometimes seen at sunset. To see it, the horizon has to be totally clear of any clouds. While underway, it is not often we are both awake at sunset. We normally start our watch routine about 7pm. We take turns sleeping between 7pm and 9am. If we can divide this time equally we manage to get 7 hours sleep each (we also nap during the day as needed). It just happened that neither one of us was tired enough to tuck in. Cindy noted it was very clear and should be a nice sunset. I need to sidetrack here for just a minute. Watching a sunrise or sunset while on the ocean is about a one hour event, or longer. After the sun has settled for the day, the real colors come out. If there are a few clouds about on a calm day, all the better. The clouds will reflect into the ocean waters and create an effect we refer to as the snow globe kaleidoscope. We get a sense we are floating amid a sphere full of ever changing colors. The color is every direction. It is even below us as the water picks up the light reflection. As it grows darker, the colors become deep and rich. Sunsets on the ocean can be amazingly gorgeous events. Okay, back on track now. We are both awake and watching the sun go down. As the sun disappeared, we both looked at each other and asked simultaneously, “Did you see that?” We both saw our first green flash.
It was a very good job we decided to stop in Key West to top up the fuel tank. After a few joyous hours of sailing the wind died, again! We motored most of the way to Tampa Bay. In the Gulf of Mexico we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins. Dolphins playing with the Puffster always make our day. We could almost hear them, “Where have you been Cream Puff? Let’s play. See if you can catch me. Com’ on. Ha ha. Let’s go”
We arrived in Tampa Bay at sunrise. This is our home and hopefully safe harbor for this hurricane season. The SunShine Skyway bridge is a looming span from St Petersburg on the northern side to Terra Ceia on the south side. I couldn’t help but think of the Skyway Causeway we saw on Warrick Wells, Bahamas as we passed below the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It’s good to be back in the USA but, we can’t wait to get going again.