The Shakedown Cruise

The last three weeks have been absolutely crazy. It's hard to believe that less than three weeks ago I was still living in Austin, TX. In the last 20 days I packed up all my worldly possessions, drove almost 900 miles from Austin to Nashville, sorted my life into boat and non-boat piles, and then I drove 900 more miles with mom and pops Lindstrom down to Fort Lauderdale, FL where I am now living aboard my floating home for the next year. 

Where to begin? I’ve been aboard for just over a week now and there are already so many stories to tell. To bring you up to speed, I drove down from Nashville to the boat on Dec 29th with mom and pops Lindstrom, we provisioned and sailed out across the Gulf Stream on Jan 2nd, explored Bimini and neighboring islands for three days and then crossed back to US waters on Jan 6th.  

That’s your high-level overview but (as always) the details are much more interesting. Although my main partner in crime, Travis, wouldn’t be able to make it to FL until January 6th, I was itching to get down to the boat to start the adventure. My buddy Jacob Rachniowski was in FL visiting with his family so we decided to do a short week-long “shake-down cruise” over to Bimini, Bahamas and back.

For those who don’t know, Bimini is a small set of islands 60 miles straight across the Gulf Stream from Fort Lauderdale. I’ve sailed there four other times in past adventures so I’m familiar both with the amazing people there and with the dangers of crossing the huge mass of moving water to enjoy their company. 

Preparing for our departure

The first few days on the boat were spent unpacking all my worldly possessions, making lists of the various items I need and/or forgot to bring, and pushing carts around Walmart, Home Depot, and West Marine. With enough things checked off our list to stamp ourselves seaworthy, we planned on pushing off bright and early on New Years Day. Around 7pm on NYE we realized that we should probably start the motor just to make sure she’s ready to carry us upstream if the winds aren’t blowing in our favor. So we flip all the switches, open all the valves, and turn the key and……. Silence.

Fast forward 6 hours of manual reading, troubleshooting, head scratching and general poking around and we found out that the original cause of the problem was that the starter solenoid control cable had jiggled loose somehow. Unfortunately while troubleshooting we had inadvertently tripped a breaker which was mysteriously missing from our breaker box. After getting a little help with the ghost breaker (which was mounted inconspicuously on the top of the engine) we had the motor purring at 1pm New Years day and thus the plan was to depart bright and early on the 2nd. 

Crossing the Gulf Stream

Although we’re only 60 miles away from Bimini as the crow flies, there’s this little guy called the gulf stream that is between us and those beautiful sandy beaches. For those that don’t know, the gulf stream is a current that moves a massive amount of water north along the coast of the Eastern US at a pace of about 3-4 mph and has depths between 2500 and 4000 ft. 

800px-Golfstream.jpg

This 3kt north current is extremely important for sailors for two main reasons.

The obvious one is that having a northbound current means that I need to do some basic geometry to figure out roughly how much extra distance I will move north given my approximate speed. Since Fort Lauderdale is already North of Bimini, I need to make up some distance south along the coast before jumping into powerful currents which start a mile or so offshore. We decided that we would start eastward near Biscayne Bay (and specifically No Name Harbor) as this should give us a decent angle of approach given our wind speed.

The other less obvious reason why a sailor must respect the gulf stream is that these 3kt currents can generate massive waves if there are winds coming out of the North. Since the wind and the current are going in different directions, they end up battling each other and creating potentially huge waves. Just yesterday the forecast called for 10 to 12 ft seas in the stream which were drummed up by a 20kt North wind. 

Bimini!

Back to the tale of our fair travelers. =] We had an intense but safe crossing over the stream with ~17kt ESE winds and arrived at our destination just before midnight. With over 16 hours of sailing and motoring under our belts we crashed hard after setting the anchor.

…I just realized how long this post is getting so I’m going to sign off for the time being and check back in later. As a treat, here is a quick quadcopter video that I took just before we started the cruise.

Cap’n Lars