Tag Archives: Gulf Stream Crossing

45 foot USCG patrol boat pulling up astern of Pilots’ Discretion

6100 Nautical Miles Later, Pilots’ Discretion Returns to the United States – by Randy

Early in the morning on June 6, 2018, Pilots’ Discretion eased out of her slip at the Old Bahama Bay Marina, on Grand Bahama Island, and pointed her bow west for what would be her final international leg of our 4-year Caribbean odyssey. There were brisk winds of 15-20 knots out of the west, as we passed the breakwater heading out into the Gulfstream. The resultant seas were not particularly large (4-6 ft), but the period of the waves was a very short 2-4 seconds, giving us an uncomfortable ride. I don’t think anybody aboard was really looking forward to this day, and it just felt appropriate that the sea conditions were not unsafe, but not pleasant either. We pressed on through early morning showers and passed several other yachts going the other way, heading east toward the Bahamas.

When we were about 20 miles west of Grand Bahama Island the seas flattened out and the skies cleared. Florida was already clearly visible on our radar, but not yet on our visual horizon. Four hours after our departure, the waterfront condos of West Palm Beach became visible as we headed for the Lake Worth Inlet. After cruising for days at a time seeing few boats at all in various parts of the Caribbean, the high level of traffic off the coast of Florida was just one more subtle reminder that we were reentering our home environment.

As if on cue to reenforce that point, a U.S. Coast Guard 33′ patrol boat pulled along side of us and advised us that they would be conducting a routine boarding of our vessel. Those of you that have followed our blog in the past already know that I am a former Coastie. What many of you may not realize is that Theresa served as the Vice President of a major maritime safety organization for many years. As part of her duties there, she interacted with the Coast Guard at the highest levels (she counts several past US Coast Guard Commandants among her personal friends). Some boaters are put off by the Coast Guard boardings, that is not the case with the Pilots’ Discretion. Our entire crew has a tremendous amount of respect for the work that the men and women of the USCG perform each and every day. For me personally, and my family, having the Coast Guard board us as we approached our home country represented an important symbolic welcome home. Click photo below for video

The young Coast Guard boarding team came aboard our vessel and reviewed our paperwork and our safety systems. Happily, they did not find any discrepancies. After they had completed their official duties we had a chance to share stories of “The Guard.” It was a lot of fun to compare notes since long ago I had served on many Coast Guard boarding teams in the Gulf of Alaska, and the Bering Sea. Ryan and Ronan were fascinated by the patrol boat and wanted to know how much power it had and how fast it would go (40+ knots). The Coast Guard crew was thorough and professional at all times. I hope those Coasties sensed how proud our family is of their organization and the individuals that serve our country via the USCG.

After the Coast Guard departed we entered the Lake Worth inlet, then turned north on the ICW toward the North Palm Beach Marina. One hour later, we pulled alongside the fuel dock as a thunderstorm broke out with a torrential downpour. Soaking wet, the crew of Pilot’s Discretion refueled her and cleared inbound with US Customs. Pilots’ Discretion is now back in the United States, our journey is nearly complete.

R&R Starfish Old Bahamas Bay

We be on island time now mon! – by Randy

Thursday Oct 16, 2014

Yesterday we had an enjoyable crossing of the Gulf Stream and are now savoring our first day in the wonderful country of the Bahamas.

PD crosses the Gulfstream

PD crosses the Gulfstream

The weather models were showing relatively benign sea conditions for our crossing yesterday with 3-5 ft seas. There was a forecast for a line of squalls to develop over the Gulf Stream late yesterday afternoon with steadily steepening seas but after reviewing the available data, conferring with our weather Guru, Chris Parker, and taking a look at the NexRad radar on our chart plotter, we made the determination that we could make the crossing safely by staying in front of the developing line of inclement weather. Originally, we had planned on crossing at 8 knots (our most economical speed) but given the potential for developing weather we increased our speed to 17 knots to stay at a comfortable speed for the sea conditions and stay in front of the line of weather that showed ominously 3-4 miles astern of us as we worked our way across. In the end, we did have to alter our course slightly to avoid a couple of thunderstorms but other than a few minutes of moderate rain with a few 5 foot waves we had a smooth crossing.

The customs and immigration procedures at the Old Bahamas Bay Marina could not have been more convenient. When we called in by radio (Channel 16, then switched to channel 10 ) we were told that Customs would not require us to tie up at their dock first but rather, sent us to our assigned slip and requested that the Captain report to the Customs and Immigration office after the Pilots’ Discretion had been secured in her slip. The paperwork was routine (helped significantly by the fact that the first mate, my wife Theresa, an immigration attorney who is type A,  had converted all the Bahamian Customs and Immigration documents to fillable PDFs and had them completed before our arrival). Our Cocker Spaniel, Patton, was also pleasantly surprised when our concerns about bringing him ashore were completely dismissed by the Customs Officer. A very quick glance at his forms and veterinary health certificates and he was welcomed into the Bahamas.

R&R OBB hammock

R&R Old Bahamas Bay Hammock after clearing Customs & Immigration (blue building behind them across the bay)

R&R Starfish Old Bahamas Bay

R&R Starfish – Homeschooling recess in Old Bahamas Bay, Bahamas

The boys could not believe how clear the water is here and when we turned on our underwater lights, they thought we had changed them somehow because in Tarpon Springs they illuminate an area about 3 ft astern of the Pilots’ Discretion while here in the Bahamas, the water is illuminated for about 50 ft astern. After a day spent relaxing and home schooling we will head out tomorrow to begin our exploration of the Abacos. First stop, Great Sale Cay then on to Green Turtle Cay.

Doing the cruiser’s weather window Cha-Cha in North Palm Beach

Ryan and Ronan at Pirates Cove

Ryan and Ronan at Pirates Cove

October 11, 2014

We have enjoyed the last week working our way east and south to be in position for our Gulf Stream crossing. After departing Indiantown marina on Monday, Oct 6, we proceeded to Manatee Pocket in Port Salerno, FL where we anchored for two nights. Manatee Pocket is one of my favorite stops along the east coast of FL because I spent several months there while attending Chapman’s School of Seamanship where I earned my 100 ton masters license over 10 years ago. The spot provides easy dinghy access to several very good restaurants as well as any imaginable marine service. After leaving Manatee Pocket, we traveled south on the ICW, anchoring one night at the north end of Lake Worth in Palm Beach. It looks like there will be a brief acceptable weather window for our crossing to Grand Bahama Island this coming Tuesday but we are balancing that opportunity with the requirement to get a couple of electrical issues dealt with prior to leaving US waters. After what has generally been a quiet tropical storm season, there are a couple of potentially troubling tropical depressions developing in the Caribbean, one in particular may have the potential to close our weather window just as we get our electrical issues straightened out.  Such is the life of a cruiser, a different but welcome adjustment from my professional life where everybody was focused on making the airplane move within 14 minutes of scheduled departure.

The good news is that we have found wonderful facilities at the North Palm Beach Marina so any weather delay will be handled at a modern, well equipped marina. Dockmaster Chris Pignataro and the entire staff here have been extremely helpful, the location is central to many good sources for provisioning and just to make it that much better, they were nice enough to put a Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Theresa and my favorite steak house in the world) right down the street. When the weather breaks and the boat doesn’t we will post again from our first Bahamian port of call.