"Kids, don't try this at home." White Pepper had crossed the Gulf Stream 7 times usually struggling against the current. This time why not use the current to our advantage to carry us north? One very good reason is the local weather in the Gulf Stream. The heat of the current can create its own weather, esp. thunder storms. Of course, if there is the slightest wind against current horrible square waves set up. (See the post of last year's crossing.) But White Pepper was so sick of the "ditch" and the trip from Fort Pierce to Jacksonville that we were ready to take a chance. An ideal weather window appeared and promised gentle SE to SW wind for the next three days. As a bonus the weather would be dry with little chance of thunder storms. Coastal thunder storms are a great hazard in the summer along the east coast of Florida (Again see the post of last year's trip up the Florida coast.)
White Pepper set out from Grand Cay and made the round about trip to the Walker's Cay Channel. This is a wide open passage way to the Atlantic and must have made Walker's Cay so famous before it was destroyed in a hurricane. We were soon out in the Gulf Stream being whisked to the North effortlessly. The weather was benign and the sea state reasonable for the wind carrying us Northwest on a broad reach. White Pepper tucked in a reef at sunset and was rewarded with a beautiful vista.
During the night the wind died. I am sure that the boat speed through the water was probably 3 or 4 knots, the Garmin regularly clocked 8 or 9 knots. We never saw another boat which surprised me since freighters routinely travel the axis of the Gulf Stream to conserve fuel heading North.
Late the next day White Pepper left the Stream heading towards shore. Our speed was so great that we had to reduce sail and slow down. The goal was to arrive off of the St. John's Inlet at dawn which by happenstance would coincide with the beginning of the flood tide. Still the second night offshore is always harder than the first.
The second day dawned clear, bright, and brisk. After a swift ride up the St. John's we were rewarded with an iconic and familiar sight.
Dane's Point Bridge
By noon we were securely moored at Green Cove Springs. All in all the trip covered 300 nautical miles in about 52 hours. Going to Fort Pierce and then up the ICW would have required at least a week. As rewarding as the trip was Jan and I recognize that it all hangs on the weather. Without that weather window we would have had a very different trip.