This morning as Ron was looking at various weather sources, from the 24-, 48- and 96-hour wind and wave predictions to the NOAA zone forecasts, we realized that the weather wasn't going to get any better for at least a week or more. The best weather window we were going to get was actually....today! So, we confirmed times of tides in the Abacos, and at the St. Lucie Inlet, calculated travel time with Tingum in tow, and discussed all the variables before deciding we'd leave in the afternoon with the high tide at Wells Bay. That way, we'd hopefully take advantage of the diminished winds in the evening and overnight hours, and make the crossing while the passage conditions were reasonable. If we weren't towing Tingum, we'd not worry so much about the forecast of seas of 3'-5', since we know Equinox can handle that easily, especially in a following sea. But...towing does add an additional factor to consider!
The mid-morning hours were spent stowing items and battening down the boat in preparation for the crossing. It was hard to believe we were leaving, since mentally I was thinking we'd have another week or more to relax and enjoy the islands before having to go! It seemed especially bittersweet when we received an invitation to a potluck dinner on the beach by Aroha and Eagle, and we had to decline. Another time, hopefully, but not this trip.
We weighed anchor at 4:00 p.m. and set off across the Little Bahama Bank en route to the St. Lucie Inlet. We were making great time, even with Tingum in tow, since both wind and seas were following. It was an easy cruise, and especially pretty when the light turned golden on the water as the sun dipped lower in the sky. We were in a bit of a quandary, though, since we didn't want to arrive at the St. Lucie Inlet in the dark, yet also didn't want to arrive when the outgoing tide was in full swing and opposing the easterly wind and waves. With the low high tide being 4:00 a.m., it was a bit of a no-win situation. Thankfully though, we've been in and out the inlet in both daylight and darkness, as well as in some rather nasty conditions to boot, so it's not entirely unknown to us. We slowed a bit before we left the Little Bahama Bank, making adjustments to Tingum, turning on her mast light for visibility in the dark, among other things.
The crossing itself was uneventful, although not entirely comfortable. A few rain squalls moved past without anything more than a few raindrops for us, which was nice. However, the winds didn't diminish as much as we'd hoped, but instead piped up to 20+ knots, which wasn't so nice, so seas were definitely closer to 5 feet. The NOAA Weather forecast said it all, when we saw the update on the Sirius Wx receiver:
TONIGHT...WAVE HEIGHTS WILL RANGE FROM 3 FEET NEAR DAYTONA BEACH TO 5 FEET FURTHER SOUTH ALONG THE TREASURE COAST. THE SHADOW EFFECT FROM GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND WILL CAUSE SEAS TO BE MUCH CHOPPIER SOUTH OF SEBASTIAN INLET WITH PERIODS OF 4 TO 5 SECONDS. NORTH OF SEBASTIAN INLET...PERIODS WILL BE AROUND 9 SECONDS.