18th – 24th April 2023
Our second attempt at leaving Belize to start the journey to Europe went much better. We left from Placencia in the evening, staying inside the reef overnight and exiting through English cut early the next morning. As forecast, from that point we had a few days of wind on the beam at a comfortable speed (10-15 knots, mostly) which was a fast, comfortable and fun start to our first multi-day passage in a couple of years.
Caught a delicious bull mahi mahi, likely our biggest fish to date (one Arthur tall). Plus several other mahi mahi that were returned to the ocean as we had plenty already (and no space for any more in the freezer).
We were considering stopping at Isla Mujeres due to an approaching cold front so asked Chris Parker’s Marine Weather Centre for advice. Having seen what happens in the English Channel with wind over tide we really didn’t want to experience the Gulf Stream with wind-over-current which one of the models we follow was showing a few days later. Chris said to carry on because the front would weaken a long way north of us. Given Chris is well-regarded by sailors, and gives his subscribers his view of the “worst likely scenario” for their time at sea (including details of anything bad he considers plausible), and that all-bar-one models were showing decent weather to make the rest of the passage, we listened to this advice.
For fellow sailors, note he also gave us EXCELLENT routing points to make the most of the Gulf Stream; in a completely different part of the Florida Straits to where we’d previously intended to aim for having looked at Windy. This meant that after a relatively short slog against the counter-current, we sped along with very little effort indeed.
The central section of the trip was almost entirely under motor, which was a shame, as we don’t like to motor for long, but was 10x better than wind-over-current! Evenings were spent watching the little birds who decided to use our boat as a mid-migration rest stop, utterly unfazed by us – the least skittish birds we’ve come across, ever. Likely, they were heading North and their choice for the evening won them a few miles in the right direction too.
When the wind died completely we could stop for a fish and a swim mid-ocean. Which is always lovely. And with the Gulf Stream helping out, the boat, and surrounding swimmers, were all drifting along in the right direction at around 3 knots. That’s pretty cool.
For the final day or so we had reasonable winds which enabled motor-sailing then just plain sailing. Aside from a couple of interesting traffic-related moments. The most memorable was at 2am as these things often are, when a large ship decided not to see us on their AIS and to plough straight on despite a projected path straight across ours. I noticed that shortly after another ship had changed course, as the large ships should do for sailing vessels, to pass a little to the West of me. At least the AIS kept me well aware of this, much more easily than taking bearings on their lights. So, I let a little more jib out to increase our boat-speed and that avoided getting too close (and yes, I had a little fun sailing fast, too).