We departed Palmetto Thursday morning at 9 am. I have done a ton of research on this route. Instead of going around the keys, we were going to cut through the Florida Bay.
The winds were very light out, so we motor sailed quite a bit in the beginning. Eventually the wind did pick up a bit and we got to roll out our screecher. We need more practice on this. I have a had time managing the continuous line furler and keeping it from getting tangled.
The wind did die again, so we motor sailed through the night. We arrived at Cape Sable in the late morning on Friday, and made our approach to the Florida Bay Channel. The channel is pretty shallow, and it was making David nervous because we didn’t quite know if our depth sounder compensated for our keel depth or not. So, we performed our own test – David stopped the boat while I got out the boat hook, fully extended, and tried to touch the bottom of the channel with it. I couldn’t, so the water was easily 7+ feet deep and our depth sounder was reading water under our keel, not total depth.
The passage through the channel was uneventful, until the final step – the Snake Creek Bridge. The bridge opens, so the concern was the power lines just to the west of the bridge. The bridge control lady was very nice and responsive to our radio hails (despite what I had read online). The bridge opens on the hour every hour until 6pm, when it opens on demand. We were not the only ones coming through. On the radio we chatted with two sailboats coming west bound, who were kind enough to allow us to go first.
Our friend Rick, back in Palmetto, had brought his St Francis 50 through with a skipper, David. Rick put us in contact with David who lives in Tavernier Key and eased my concerns about the passage and the bridge. David said we needn’t worry about the tide, we should be just fine making it through. And we were! The current was strong, pushing us along, so we got to the point of no return and squeezed under. Thanks Rick and David for the advice!
My captain David called his parents, who checked the Gulf Stream forecast for us, and we decided that the conditions looked better for over night sailing than during the day Saturday, so instead of anchoring at Tavernier Key, we went for it to Bimini.
It was pretty calm through most of the night, getting a bit rough around our shift change at 1:30 am. At 9 am, we motored into Bimini!