Moxie Crosses the Gulf Stream: a Little Terror, Big Triumph

She made it! Crew mate Sadie turns 11 this month Hanging the Bahamian courtesy flag as we approach West End Conch bea...


She made it!

Crew mate Sadie turns 11 this month


Hanging the Bahamian courtesy flag as we approach West End

Conch beauty

Approaching the Bahamas after a 10 hour sail

This man is gutting a live conch that is about to be chopped up with lime, onion, tomato and spices for a conch salad for us to eat.  Delicious, but we all feel sad about the conch, especially after he pointed out its eyes to us.  We eat seafood, especially while traveling, but this primarily vegetarian crew often struggles with the choice.

Sadie makes a friend on the beach.

Dance party

Hurricane Matthew damage in the fishing village of West End.  12 feet of water pretty much destroyed it's main ocean-facing street. Very sad.
Ocean + Ball= Happy Dog
We did it!  We made it to the Bahamas!  And this is huge for us.  It’s big.  It’s a landmark in our lives for a million reasons, one of them being that it took us 19 months of planning and working to get to this point, and mostly because the last 10 weeks have been full of so many setbacks and hardships I can’t even begin to describe them.  But we did it.  We are here.  And man, did we earn it.  I’ll explain.
First know this: for weeks and weeks and weeks on end, everything concerning our sailboat was going wrong.  It seemed like every single damn day during our time at the marina in Florida, my poor, sweaty, exhausted, frustrated husband would find something else that had to be fixed, adjusted, checked, or replaced on the boat.  “That’s boats for ya!” the other marina dwellers would cheerfully remind us, “ALWAYS something broken!”  And there was.  Always. Something. Broken.  Or about to break. Or thinking about breaking. During our 10 weeks in Ft. Pierce I experienced crazy highs and lows, swinging between my role as peppy family cheerleader (“You guys, at least it’s WARM here, right?”) and then plunging into a full on Debbie Downer (“Maybe this whole sailing thing was a biiiiiiiig mistake.”).  It was just SO HARD and so, so SO much work.  Keeping the kids occupied while we addressed boat issues was no picnic at times.  And then we sold Marshmallow and we were stuck at the marina all the time which made it even harder.

 And here was the real low point: JUST when we thought we had it all figured out and were FINALLY leaving, having said goodbye to all our new marina friends and kissing Ft. Pierce a jolly farewell, we got 25 miles south (a 5 hour sail) and Moxie’s bilge light went on.  The fiberglass muffler was leaking water.  Trav’s face was the saddest and most miserable I’ve ever seen it when he told me we had turn around and go back to Ft. Pierce.  “Nooooooooooooo!” I wailed. It was maddening and miserable.    

No one talked much on that sail back north.  I swear even Sadie was gloomy.  It took 4 more days and God knows how much more money to fix the muffler, and when that was done, we realized we had an incredibly short weather window to hurry up and cross the Gulf Stream and we had to prepare like mad to go.  See, you can’t just cross the Gulf Stream whenever you want to, you have to wait until the waves and the winds are in your favor.  We had two possible days to hit it or risk staying in Ft. Pierce another few weeks.  So, we prepped and provisioned like bats out of hell.  If it wasn’t for Trav’s insane work ethic, creative problem solving, ingenuity, and a stubbornness to never give up on anything no matter what, we never would have made it.  He is a powerhouse.

Many of you may have seen my Facebook post I wrote at 2 am as we were sailing out of Palm Beach, preparing for our 10 hour Gulf Stream crossing.  I was a nervous mess, with reason to be.  The winds that were predicted to be coming from the south that morning (what you want) had switched and were coming from the north (what you don’t want).  As we plunged into an insanely dark ocean and hit the Gulf Stream, the waves became huge and Moxie rocked crazily back and forth like a cradle pushed by a bad parent’s angry hand.  Trav, cool as a cucumber, knew that our boat could handle the rocking (it’s a blue water boat designed for conditions like this) and that we weren’t in any danger. He actually took a little nap, stretching out beside me in the cockpit under a Scooby Doo towel.  I however, was not a cool cucumber or any other sort of tepid vegetable.  I watched the waves crash on the sides of our boat and crazily scanned the ocean for the lights of other boats, sweating, swearing, and gripping things.  After a while I started listening to an audiobook that was about a plane crash, which I found bizarrely soothing.  Until sunrise at 7:10 am, the sea stayed batshit crazy.  But as the sun finally poked her head up, the wind magically shifted, and the brilliant, hot pink dawn erupted onto a settling sea.  The rest of the crossing was blissfully quiet, calm even.  Travis was consumed with joy the entire way, grinning like a kid and turning to me every few minutes and asking/telling, “Isn’t this GREAT?”  And it was, great.  SO great.

We went through customs (a hugely long paper-filled process when you arrive by private boat) here at the Old Bahama Bay marina in West End.  We’ve been trapped here for three days because of heavy (40-50 mph!) wind but no one cares.  We’re just so happy.  The marina has bikes, so we’ve toured around the area, checking out the extensive damage done to this poor town by Hurricane Matthew.  We bought yummy lobsters from a guy we met on the beach and got Bahamian cooking tips from a fisherman named “Magic” who later told Travis, “Your wife reminds me of Sarah Jessica Parker!” (Which made me cringe because people always say this and Trav absolutely detests Sarah Jessica Parker.)  Bahamian food (cracked conch, conch salad, grilled fish such as Grouper served with peas n’ rice, cole slaw, fried plaintains, and big rectangular hunks of mac n’ cheese on every plate) is my absolute favorite kind of food on this good earth and all I can think about is eating from the minute I wake up in the morning until I turn into bed at night, often with a bite of something in my mouth.

Viv and I took a mother/daughter bike ride today while the boys went fishing.  Then we read 3 chapters of Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, Scream for Ice Cream.  It’s a pretty good read.  Trav and Hud just returned with 4 French Grunts and one Yellow Tailed Snapper. Dinner!
Tomorrow we sail to the Abacos, we’ll be there a few days and then we we’ll keep heading south as the winds allow. Turks and Caicos.  Dominican Republic. South and further south we’ll keep island hopping, we just have to be south enough to be out of the hurricane zone (Grenada, Curacao, etc) by July.

Thanks for reading this, thank you for your supportive comments, thanks for sharing this experience with us.  We are grateful for our friends, grateful that you might be interested in these posts, happy to take you along for the ride.  Much love!        

   

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10 comments

  1. I can totally relate about the gulf steam crossing. I was a nervous wreck and Skip loved the big waves, You will love the Abacos, anchor at Lynyard it has great snorkeling.It is close to Little Harbor and the jumping off place if you are going to Eluethera. The Bahamas are great, If you happen to anchor at Rum Key before heading to the Dominica Republic Sue and Oscar Davis live there as well as Telluride and they would love visitors!!! Everyone there knows them. Carol Lee

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    1. Thanks for all the great tips, Carol! Much appreciated.
      Hugs!
      Jen

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    2. Also the best place to shop for groceries and liquor in the Bahamas is in Marsh Harbor, there is a warehouse store that is reasonable!!!! The rest of the Bahamas are much higher than Telluride prices!!!!

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  2. You are definitely my coolest friends! I miss you guys! Adventure on, brave people!

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    1. If we are cool, it's only because we have friends like you!

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  3. Travis having been baptized in the shallow rocky waters of the Gihon river knew what a bad day on the water was, and this wasn't one. As he closed his eyes under the Scooby Doo towel he reached up to feel the scar where bed head the rapid opened him like a can of black beans. YEAH

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  4. It's Feb 18th and Carol just sent me your website, so I am playing catch up which is a complete no-no for sailing life. Mana'is more like it for most occasions, as you are exactly where you want to be - on your boat. So, thanks so much for that view of West End and all the great memories it brings back! Skip

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