Position: 26°06’N, 80°10’W – Riverbend Marine Center, Fort Lauderdale
Every kid growing up in Ireland learns about the Gulf Stream, the warm current in the North Atlantic that gives the country its ‘mild’ climate. What they didn’t teach us at school was how fast it can move. Normally the Gulf Stream travels at 1-2 knots through the Atlantic and in some areas, where the sea water is constricted by land, it moves faster.
As we approached the southern tip of Florida on Tuesday, the numbers on our speedometer started to slowly creep up. 5 knots...6 knots...7 knots. We had entered the Gulf Stream! Ashling eventually settled around 7.5 knots but for the record, let it be known that the maximum speed of 11.2 knots was reached on the Skipper’s watch. Normally we would only reach such high speeds in big seas or high winds. Yet here we were, on a beautiful sunny day, flying along in an easy, slight sea. Whatever about the moderate Irish climate, kids should learn that this is a magic sailing carpet and a pure joy to travel in.
And it really is warm – the water temperature hit 30°C at one stage! We’ve heard this makes for good mahi-mahi fishing but Skipper hasn’t been fishing lately. (Apparently he is giving the fish a chance to regroup before he returns, all guns, er, rods blazing later in the year...watch this space). Warm water also makes for scary thunderstorms at night. Flashes of lightning travel for miles and it’s no picnic sitting on a boat with a tall pole sticking up, inviting the lightning to hit.
Finally on Thursday we arrived at our destination - Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On our first day, we took a wrong turn in our dinghy looking for the Immigration Office and met the County Sheriff out on his boat. When he opened the conversation with “Sir, what are your intentions?” we realised our intentions to continue up the canal were probably not to his liking. We gulped, took a deep breath and replied “Sir, we are lost”. Always best to state the obvious in these kind of situations.
When we finally reached the Customs Office, we were expecting a full interrogation and possibly a search of Ashling. However it was refreshingly straightforward. Our trip to Florida last month ensured that our visa was in order and all the necessary background checks had already been completed. As our paperwork was processed, we chatted to one of the officers about his Irish ancestry. He asked about our trip and where we were going next, handed us back our stamped passports and said “You guys are nuts. Now get outa here!”