March 26-27, 2017: Key Biscayne Offshore to Vero Beach

On March 26, 2017, we left on an overnight offshore passage from Key Biscayne to Vero Beach.  The forecast was for 10-15 knot winds and 2-3 foot seas.  This is ideal weather for us, as Kestrel is a heavy boat that doesn’t really pick up speed until we have at least 12 knot winds.

We left Key Biscayne through the Florida Cut, which parallels the Stiltville Channel but reduces some mileage.  We avoided Government Cut through Miami as once through that circus was enough for us.  We started out motorsailing with one reef in the main and one reef in the genoa.  It soon became clear that every weather forecast we read—and we read quite a few—was dead wrong.  It ended up being a challenging trip but very satisfying once it was over.

For our entire offshore leg from Key Biscayne to Ft. Pierce Inlet, the winds were in the high teens, gusting 20+ knots, and pretty much directly on the nose.  Kestrel does not point high and doesn’t like being close hauled, and the hours of sail tending and hand steering to keep the sails filled was tiring for both of us.  But we cut the engine and sailed essentially all day, which is always exhilarating.  The work was well worth it, and we continue to stretch our skills.  The day was beautiful, with lots of sun and bright blue skies.

We stayed in the Gulf Stream from Miami to Lake Worth, and that gave us a nice speed boost.  It also gave us 4-6 foot breaking waves with frequent 8-footers thrown in for good measure.  We had an easterly wind with a northerly component, and having the wind contrary to the north-going Gulf Stream made for some tall seas.  Going closer to the coast did not reduce the wave height or period but did cut our speed almost in half.

It was far too rough to go below and prepare meals, even with my galley belt attached to the stove to help keep me in one spot.  We ended up living off of granola, cheese and crackers, coffee, and cold drinks snatched from the fridge.  I learned a good lesson, which was have food prepared even if the weather is forecast to be mild.

Before dark we put two reefs in the main, furled the genoa, and rolled out the staysail.  This kept the boat balanced but kept sail handling to a minimum in the dark.  It was a new moon, so it was pitch dark.  We timed our entry into the Ft. Pierce Inlet at daybreak and had an uneventful trip up the ICW to Vero Beach.  After the 20+ hours of pounding up to that point, motoring up the ICW was like sitting on a conveyor belt.

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Sunrise after a night at sea is always invigorating.  Here the sun rises behind a typical Gulf Stream squall.

We got a mooring ball at the Vero Beach City Marina, our old stomping grounds.  While this was a tough trip, it was one we’re glad to have undertaken in those conditions.

This passage was 28 hours for 136 nm.

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