Sean: “Will you support the Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis by captaining your boat this year?”
Sean: “How about your other boat?”
A couple of months ago I got a call from Sean. He and Travis Suit started Piper’s Angles a few years back. People paddle some 80 miles from Bimini to West Palm Beach as a fund raiser for Cystic Fibrosis, a disease Travis’s daughter Piper has. Two years ago I took Sailfish, our Leopard 40 Catamaran over, and supported two young men in a 30 foot rowing shell. The trip across the Gulf Stream was uneventful with the exception of a squall with 60 MPH winds, blinding rain, lightning, lasting 30 minutes on the way from Stuart to Palm Beach.
I rounded up crew. Sue, Diana, Wayne, Tom, and Nora. We listened to and watched zoom meetings, did food planning, filled out endless forms and then headed out on Tuesday at 10:00 am. I had hoped to sail down the coast outside but high winds on the nose and waves made our progress too slow and rough so we opted to go down the intracoastal waterway instead. The trip was its usual safe if boring self. We had overheating issues that Tom was able to remedy by clearing the water cooling intake lines both from the outside in the clear in rapidly flowing current near Jupiter Inlet and blowing the lines out with our new salt water wash down pump.
Captain Dave graciously agreed to take our other boat, “Popeye & Olive Oyl” over too. He supported Martin.
We arrived a the Blue Heron Bridge at high high tide. The clearance board (that shows the height of the concrete bridge above the water level) read 63 1/2’, the same as our mast height. I slowly crept through with everyone holding their collective breaths. A flexible wire VHF antenna extends a couple of feet above the top of the mast, a foot or so below that is a Windex, an inexpensive wind indicator. Below that, is a very expensive electronic wind indicator. Power boats were zooming by at speed throwing wakes that would rock the boat up and down. I kept motioning for them to slow down.
The flexible antenna bent at a right angle as it hit the bridge but both wind indicators escaped unharmed. We made it with inches to spare.
I called the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina for a slip but they were full. We arrived after closing, so I pulled up to an unoccupied spot and tied up. We met our paddlers and they loaded 4 paddle boards, a kayak, and an outrigger canoe aboard. We lashed them securely and decided to spend the night as a wicked thunderstorm was blowing through.
We got up at first light and headed out through the inlet.
Crossing the Gulf Stream is like crossing river 40 miles wide with a 2-5 mile per hour current. We were going into the current for much of the 80 mile trip slowing our boat speed to 3-4 mph most of the way.
We had several wild storms passing us, fairly uncomfortable waves rocking and rolling the boat, and spectacular lightning flashes all around us. Last summer I had to replace all the electronics and the standing rigging (the wires that hold the mast up) when Sailfish was struck while unoccupied at the dock. I didn’t want to do it again and didn’t want to see what effect a strike might have on captain and crew.
We arrived in Bimini at 2:00 AM on Thursday. We anchored outside and waited for customs to open. We had a leisurely breakfast thanks to a delicious pre baked sausage, egg, and potato casserole. A rain squall passed and cooled the boat. We got a beautiful rainbow afterwards.
Tom and Nora went snorkeling. They found a couple of Conch Shells
We cleared Customs and Immigration in Bimini Cove. I was told it was electronic on the phone but we had to fill in the paperwork instead. Thankfully Nora’s writing is legible, unlike mine.
We motored up the inside of North Bimini where we unloaded the boards at the Hilton. While we were tied up along the docks I rode a golf cart to Bimini Big Game and picked up my packet for the event. Interesting street scenes.
Rain caused flooding on some of the lower streets so we climbed a hill and took the road along the coast. Beautiful scenery.
There is a beautiful channel behind North Bimini from the southern tip to the Hilton on the north end.
There is the town and marinas on the East side of North Bimini and a large lagoon.
Friday evening we had a great buffet at Big Game Marina and resort followed by motivational speeches.
Sailfish sporting new underwater lights.
Nearly full moon waiting for paddlers to come from the beach
Paddlers soon after start
The wind and waves were higher than forecast. We dodged a few ships before dawn.
Sunrise at sea
A couple of hours after the start a paddler had an asthma attack and we picked him up, a couple hours later another had a shoulder give out. The wind drove the boat without the motors almost as fast as the paddlers could go, 3 knots or so. If they wanted to go faster, I’d start one engine and run it in gear at idle.
A little over half way through the crossing, the race control cancelled the event for recreational participants so we picked up the other 4 paddlers. Some were sad, some relieved. The waves where 2-4’ with an occasional 5-6 footer some breaking. It only got worse so they made the right call.
Once the paddlers were aboard and their boards lashed to the deck, I raised the sails and made 10-12 knots back to West. Palm Beach.
Well done Paul. I will be able to give you two paintings to add to the site.
Farm Boy loves the ocean
Thanks for ncludng me in this awesome experience. I enjoyed sitting watch through the thunderstorm on the way over, snorkeling with the crew to find the sunken road off North Bimini and supporting Marin on board Popeye and Olive Oil on the actual crossing. He made it all the way!
Jon Tony Madeira
I love your photos and running commentary. It looks like a great time was had by all. It looks a little hairy and mostly fun. I’m sorry I was born too late and missed period that Kansas was underwater and we could all go sailing. My friend Davis and I might join you sailing later this year or early next year.
Sounds like a crazy, fun time!