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Old 14-10-2007, 20:14   #1
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Question Ready to learn

My wife and I are on course to set sail in about 10 years to sail the Bahamahs. We have spent the last 2 years learning navigation, general seamanship, knot tying and all things sailing. We will purchase our first sail boat in about another year or so and will learn to handle it an a very large lake nearby.
In all our preperation we have not been able to get a grasp on "The Gulf Stream" crossing, what is the big deal about crossing it? I'm sure when the time comes we'll be ready, but is it as "scary" as it sounds?
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Old 14-10-2007, 20:32   #2
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Crossing the Gulf Stream is a problem when strong wind is blowing against the current. It makes the sea stand up, and you can get what looks like square waves on the front of each breaking sea. That being said, as long as a person is not sailing to a schedule, there's no reason to cross the Gulf stream in unfavorable condtions. We never crossed the stream unless the wind and seas were favorable. We've always waited until the seas were flat and motorsailed across. It's really not that big of a deal. It's only 48 miles to Bimini, and if you motor at six knots, you can be over there in eight hours.

But if you get in a hurry (if you have a ten day vacation and must get across because of your schedule) then you are asking for trouble.

I don't worry about the Gulf Stream because I don't sail to a schedule. If you are smart, you will pick your weather, and you will motorsail across when the water is as smooth as a baby's bottom.
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Old 15-10-2007, 07:08   #3
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Gulf Stream crossing

Maxingout has made the key point about crossing the Stream--wait for favorable weather!

I've done the southbound crossing to the islands three times, from the Chesapeake Bay to the BVI
in November. Each time, we waited for a cold front to pass, gave it a day to settle, and then sailed out of the Bay in light southeasterlies. The worst we saw was 9-12' waves tracking the axis of he Gulf Stream, with some moderate wind-waves crossing them. We were through the Stream before the next front blasted through.

Crossing the stream from Virginia or North Carolina, you also need to be aware of the eddies (like giant whirlpools) that spin off from the main flow
. The "cold eddies" to the south and east of the Stream rotate counterclockwise. If you happen to sail into the northern half of one, you could find yourself set by a foul current up to a knot or more. But... if you slip around the southern side, you get a slingshot ride on the fair current! They can really make a difference in your SOG, positively or negatively.

Jenifer Clark provides a routing service, including detailed charts with surface currents (for a price-- Jenifer Clark's Gulfstream ), or you can download less detailed charts from the Naval Oceanographic Office for free
: OCEANOGRAPHIC PRODUCTS. Here's an example of Jenifer's analysis:

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