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Old 24-03-2016, 11:36   #1
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Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

This is a small vessel question. I'm researching conditions from the Dry Tortugas to Cuba.
The idea is to avoid the gulf stream running north from Cuba to Florida. Leaving the Dry Tortugas taking a slightly SW path (to avoid the N currents) the plan is to loop around and try to catch the loop current off the NW of Cuba.

So questions are on winds, what to expect. What time of year are the best options for the least amount of wind or a somewhat S SW wind. Or is there?
The concept is to have a large safety boat along while paddling Key West to Cuba. I know it's never been done and some will say it's impossible. Please don't respond negatively with a closed statement. If there are things that would make it difficult to impossible, please explain why. I would much rather have a conversation than a one way rant.
I am an accomplished ultra-distance paddler and can paddle for days on end. My Last paddle was 400 ocean miles in 9 days. The first 300 took 6 days.
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Old 24-03-2016, 12:02   #2
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

If your planning what I think you are, there are I believe professional routers for lack of a better term, I'd enlist their aid, I'm sure there is a fee.

No rant, just do not bet your life on anything you get for free off on the internet.
Or maybe at least verify what you do get.
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Old 24-03-2016, 13:13   #3
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

I appreciate that. Just trying to get a general idea of the conditions are. When it comes down to the real deal planning I always hire a professional that knows where I'm going front to back.
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Old 24-03-2016, 13:45   #4
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

Not sure what resources you have but you might consider a test trip to DT. The fastboat will take you there and for a little extra you can bring a yak; something lots of folks do. I took my SUP and paddled from the fort over to Loggerhead, around three miles, along with two other SUP folks. The rangers did not recommend it as the currents running from the Gulf to the Straights of Florida can be quite strong. The diving guides recommend divers be very aware of the currents on the Windjammer wreck dive.

The Gulf Stream is formed by water from the Gulf of Mexico flowing through the Florida Keys (which DT is part of) into the Atlantic. The water level in the Gulf of Mexico is a couple of inches above the water in the Atlantic due to the trade winds blowing across the Atlantic and piling up water in the Gulf.

Of course the trade winds are not completely consistent so sometimes the water is a little higher and the current is a little stronger, and vice versa. You can find thermal maps of the Gulf Stream which shows it is not a straight steady current but has many eddies sometimes spinning off a significant distance. Again this is not something that is consistent.

Not sure what to say about time of year. In the winter big fronts come from the North, but in between there can be some calm weather. Hurricanes are an issue in the summer. I have always made friends with the fastboat captains when in the DT and they have no problem offering very up to date weather information about their daily crossings from Key West.

Another option would be to leave from Key West and paddle to DT from there with your chase boat. This would give you current first hand knowledge.

Best of luck.
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Old 25-03-2016, 08:59   #5
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

I know at least one woman has swum from Cuba to Key West. Took a couple tries so I know it's tough but not impossible. If you want to do it then do it.
Do the research, make all the safety precautions you can and then go for it!
Fair winds!
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Old 25-03-2016, 09:01   #6
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

If your looking for wave action, wind, weather forecast try windy.com
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Old 25-03-2016, 09:07   #7
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

Have you looked at the Pilot Charts for the area?
Bill



Quote:
Originally Posted by SupBus1 View Post
This is a small vessel question. I'm researching conditions from the Dry Tortugas to Cuba.
The idea is to avoid the gulf stream running north from Cuba to Florida. Leaving the Dry Tortugas taking a slightly SW path (to avoid the N currents) the plan is to loop around and try to catch the loop current off the NW of Cuba.

So questions are on winds, what to expect. What time of year are the best options for the least amount of wind or a somewhat S SW wind. Or is there?
The concept is to have a large safety boat along while paddling Key West to Cuba. I know it's never been done and some will say it's impossible. Please don't respond negatively with a closed statement. If there are things that would make it difficult to impossible, please explain why. I would much rather have a conversation than a one way rant.
I am an accomplished ultra-distance paddler and can paddle for days on end. My Last paddle was 400 ocean miles in 9 days. The first 300 took 6 days.
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Old 25-03-2016, 09:39   #8
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

First off - good luck!! It sounds like you are very accomplished and are doing your planning.

We did the Pensacola to Havana race (sailing) last November, and due to conditions at the time, our route took us just west of the Dry Tortugas (DTs) and then almost due south picking up the gulf stream to push us across to Havana (there is more info about our trip on our blog). We used www.passageweather.com to get an idea of the conditions, but our information was a couple of days old once we got down to the DTs. However, I must say that we found the predictions from passageweather.com were spot on for the entire trip - both wind conditions and gulf stream. I have also been checking out a site at www.windyty.com That site has great graphics, but I can't attest to the accuracy. Of course all of these resources are only tools for your toolbox.

When we crossed that area, we did experience some big seas (8-12), and winds 20-25, so it was a fast trip. That area also has quite a lot of commercial shipping traffic.

Good luck with your plans!!

Neil
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Old 25-03-2016, 10:11   #9
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

Mostly easterly winds in that area, however, occasionally a big high will move in off the gulf and stay there for two or three days. You would have to wait for one of those, possibly on the back of a cold front as they tend to stall out there for a while before moving back north. With today's synoptic charts it would be pretty easy to see that happening.

I used to tow 30,000 tons of scrap from Ft Lauderdale to Progresso making about 3.5 kts, which although it is nearly double your 2kt speed we both would deal with the same currents. Think of the current as your friend, and figure out how to use it to your advantage. What was helpful to me, and would be to you are areas of no current or counter currents. First, looking at the numbers, you are looking at a straight line distance of about 95 miles (loggerhead Key to Hemmingway marina) and a heading of 158, at 2 kts you do not ever want to be closer than 90 degrees to where the current is coming from as the percentage of speed reduction is to great. Let us speculate you leave in June or July, you will have an average of 1 kt (Now this number is really arbitrary because it varies so much, from -.5 along the reef to +2.2 or more in the middle, but we have to pick a number so, based on the pilot chart let us choose 1Kt average) eastbound current moving through the middle of the gap between cuba and the Keys. Sailing due south would give you a course made good of roughly 153. These numbers work out pretty good, thinking that as you leave Loggerhead Key, you gain a few miles of southing without any eastbound current, and as you near Cuba you will find you get a bit of counter current.

But I think the reality of it would put you farther east. Of note, the “tight or funnel” area is basically from Havana north (call it 082:20 for kicks) that is where the current is going to start moving east fast. Also note, west of the Tortugas the current sets more SE and is light.. so were it me, and I was making a tow at 2 kts, I would actually spend 12 or better yet, 24 hours heading 235 after taking my departure from Loggerhead, then steer 180 until I started to close with the coast of Cuba ( say 10 to 12 miles) and correct from there. This would add maybe 10 hours to your trip, but you would be in a better position with the stream. MUCH better to be a bit west of your destination than east.

Hope this helps and good luck on your trip. That NW reef that runs along Cuba is easy to spot as there are many shipwrecks along it.

Michael
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Old 25-03-2016, 10:39   #10
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

Hi Supbus

First, I think this is a very doable trip if you plan well and pick the weather.

Not sure what you mean exactly when you refer to the loop current. I think of the loop as the variable offshoot of the main current that loops around the Gulf of Mexico and occasionally gives a nice, southerly flow off the Florida west coast. Heading south from Key West or the Dry Tortugas the current is pretty much choked into the Straits of Florida and will be predominantly from west to east. You might see a little current slightly south of east at the start and a little north of east at the end but average will be pretty close to east.

Another thing to consider if you haven't already. There was a long discussion on this forum a while back on whether it is more efficient when crossing a current to keep your vessel on straight line to the destination or set a constant course which when plotted on a chart is a curved path. As I recall the final answer was to keep a constant course with a curved path.
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Old 25-03-2016, 15:24   #11
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

I agree mostly with captmikem's advice. Unless the current is taking you where you want to go, you want to be through and out of it as quickly as you can, and the way to do that is to go at right angles to it. Another thing to be aware of is that close to Cuba, there is usually a countercurrent of about one knot, more or less, that will carry you back west a bit within a few miles of the shore. Unless you've made other arrangements with the Cubans, you'll be expected to come in at a port of entry, and the most logical one for you is Hemingway Marina, about ten miles west of Havana.
Weather is calmest, both in and out of the stream, in summer - I recommend June or July. Have fun, set what records you can, and watch for the best weather window.
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Old 26-03-2016, 07:49   #12
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

Go for it!
As usual, the best advice ever, found right here among those that have do it!
As one posted a few weeks back nailed it with these words,
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Enjoy your journey
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Old 27-03-2016, 07:05   #13
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

Tons of great info everybody. Thank you! logistically June and July would be difficult for me as I have 2 summer season businesses that are 7 day work weeks during the summer months. Plus with only a few months of planning would make it tough. So if that's the best window I'd have to plan it for 2017.
The seas don't bother as much as the wind. Seems there's some good sites above that for wind. great info, thanks everyone.
Everyone I've asked said the trip'd impossible. But that's because they have never been in that body of ocean and only look at the trip from a physical stand point. So I greatly appreciate folks that are sailors and have experience.
I have a good start to researching the trip from y'all and will keep checking into logistics.
Still a lot to consier
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Old 27-03-2016, 07:30   #14
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Re: Conditions Dry tortugas to Cuba

They raced Hobie 16s last year from KW so should be no problem. Main issue is a good sailing window will likely be a bit rough, but totally doable.
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