Aventura IV’s Logs

A Winter Passage to Florida

Having spent two months in Annapolis, Maryland, the week before Christmas Aventura left southbound for Key West, in South Florida. We had a good sail down Chesapeake Bay with good winds on a cold, but sunny, winter day.

This was Gwenda’s first sail on Aventura and we both agreed that a winter passage that entailed crossing the Gulf Stream twice was not the ideal combination to reintroduce her to long distance cruising. All I could do was hope that the goddess Fortuna would once again be on my side. And so she was. We held the favourable NW wind that had ensured a speedy way to the open ocean and soon reached the northern edge of the Gulf Stream.

From a water temperature of 7 degrees Celsius in the Chesapeake Bay and 10 in the open ocean, it very quickly rose to 16, 18, 22, and topped at 25.8 degrees. When it dropped to 25, we knew that we had reached its southern limit, and altered course south for the nearest port of entry in the Bahamas: Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island.

For the rest of the passage we had mostly SW winds, which may have been the wrong angle, but they were warm and certainly preferable to the icy northerlies that prevail in winter and can turn this passage into a nightmare.

With perfect timing we entered the protected harbour on the morning of 24 December. Evan Kolb, an American friend, who had sailed with us from Annapolis, left us to join his family in Florida. With Gwenda, and Dunbar Lewis, who had joined Aventura as crew for her forthcoming voyage, we spent a quiet and relaxing Christmas Day in a comfortable marina.

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

As our aim was to reach Key West in time for New Year’s Eve, on Boxing Day we were on our way again. An overnight passage took us to the start of the Northwest Channel, a well-travelled and convenient shortcut to the Florida Strait that crosses the Great Bahama Bank. This is an area about 60 miles wide at its narrowest point with depths between 2 and 4 metres, perfect for shallow-drafted vessels such as Aventura.

It took us all day to reach its western side, and continued overnight across the Florida Strait. With the Gulf Stream setting northwards at a rate of 3.5 to 4 knots we attempted to sail a course that would avoid us being swept too far north, while also having to cope with a large amount of shipping. Having crossed Gulf Stream by early morning we were off the Florida coast, and at first light sailed through Molasses Reef Channel to join the inshore shipping route that runs parallel to the mainland coast all the way from Miami to Key West.

Late on the evening of 28 December we tied up at Stock Island Marina, in Key West, at the end of a 1250 miles passage from Annapolis.

Aventura at Stock Island Village Marina

Shorty before we arrived here, Aventura’s log passed the 10,000 miles mark. She has certainly covered a lot of miles since we left Cherbourg in May. It has been a long, eventful and, I believe, highly successful maiden voyage that has shown Aventura to be perfectly suited for both high latitude and tropical cruising and passage-making. It all bodes well for our forthcoming Pacific voyage, and what already looks like an even busier sailing year in 2015.

We are here to prepare the start of the Blue Planet Odyssey on 10 January, with a first stop at Montego Bay in Jamaica. Another group of Blue Planet Odyssey boats will start on 18 January from Martinique, with the two fleets meeting in the San Blas Islands before continuing west for Panama, and the South Pacific.

Aventura proudly flying the Blue Planet Odyssey battle flag

But the last word should go to the person for whom this has been a truly maiden voyage.

The new Aventura certainly sails well, is sea-kindly on passage and comfortable to live on. When we left Annapolis the air temperature was 3 degrees, and even without heating the boat was comfortable. Now it’s 27 degrees outside and the inside is still pleasant, no doubt due to that excellent insulation. Besides that, for a winter passage, it all went well, and I may have been persuaded to join some of the more attractive bits along her Pacific route.”

I wish all our friends and followers a happy New Year!

Jimmy Cornell
Key West, 2 January 2015

Back to Top