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Old 13-09-2010, 20:40   #1
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Gulf Stream Crossing North of Florida ?

I've previously made the crossing from Miami to Bimini, and I've gone over the Explorer Chart recommendations for the near Bahamas, but I'm interested if anyone has made the crossing from points north of Florida, i.e. Georgia and/or South Carolina (Charleston) to the Abacos. If so what kind of weather conditions would you desire and when (month) would you make the attempt? I figure at least a five day weather window with that kind of distance.

Thanks.
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Old 13-09-2010, 21:11   #2
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Leaving from GA has few advantages. Due to the trend of the coastline you are about 100 miles further west leaving from GA than from S FL or SC. From GA you could head east until north of the Abacos and then turn south. If you try a more direct route you will be sailing against the Gulf Stream a lot of the trip.

Charleston is much further east and could give you a good reach all the way but the Gulf Stream could still be mostly against you. You could cut across at an angle to get past the stream but that adds distance to the trip. If you try to cut inside the stream you end up sailing down the coast and give up the easting you would get from SC.

I would pick Charleston as the better option.

Regarding time, if you are following the standard summer in Newport, winter in the islands or similar pattern then the time would be after hurricane season but before winter storm season. This, in my opinion is a gamble demonstrated by the history of even well found boats that are occasionally lost heading south in Oct-Nov. The odds are very good but hurricanes are not unheard of in Oct or even Nov and I have seen winter storms in Sept.

If you are choosing strictly on the basis of the best/safest weather then very late spring before hurricane season kicks off is my opinion (I assume you know what opinions are worth). However, to get a good forecast for a reasonable five day window should be doable most times these days, even in hurricane season.
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Old 13-09-2010, 21:26   #3
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No matter what time of year you want to head to the Bahamas, crossing the "Gulfstream" north of Ft Pierce, FL will put you into continual northbound currents. Besides the obvious Gulfstream there is the Antilles Current just to the east.
- - Look at a charts like "Cape Hatteras to Florida Straits" and you will see all the northbound current arrows everywhere. From Charleston you are looking at about 375nm or about 3+ days at sea in adverse currents. Finding a 3+ day weather window to do the trip is going to be a challenge.
- - The idea of heading down to Florida is that you can hug the coastline and stay out of the northbound currents and occasionally even find a southbound "counter-current" running south down the coastline. Add in that you can "duck in" to many different rivers/harbors/bays along the way to avoid some nasty weather especially in the non-summer months. And if you have a spell of nasty weather "outside" you can switch "inside" and run the ICW.
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Old 13-09-2010, 21:45   #4
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If you look at the Pilot Charts it shows an area north of the Bahamas between the Gulf Stream and the Antilles Current with potentially counter currents. Of course there is also supposed to be a counter current running south close along the FL coast but I've never actually found it.

Still there is probably a lower northerly set in that area and if committed to an offshore route from GA/SC I would at least go for that.

Generally would also prefer following the coast to FL and crossing further south.
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Old 13-09-2010, 22:07   #5
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Thanks everyone. Skipmac, I do have a set of pilot charts (dated 2002) for the Atlantic and they do show some eddies (I don't know that I'd call them counter-currents), but I'm not going to bet the farm on them. I'll probably just make the more conventional crossing from Ft Lauderdale or Miami.

I was just wondering if someone had made enough of a move easterly then south using winds out of the N/NW to make a landfall in the Abacos (I know the sea state would be 'confused' in the Stream, but I was wondering if that would abate farther east) ... kind of like the legs for a east coast to BVI crossing, but obviously much shorter legs ... but apparently (k)not because the Stream is still a major factor in those latitudes ....
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Old 14-09-2010, 05:46   #6
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The only folks I have heard of that crossed the Gulfstream further north were heading directly to the Virgin Islands and not going to the Bahamas.
- - I have done many north south runs up and down the US east coast from Florida to the Chesapeake and further north. I generally can find the southbound counter current each time I head south. It runs about 0.5 to 1.5 nm offshore from about Georgia south. The area offshore N&S Carolina is full of obstructions offshore so it is somewhat difficult to stay close to shore and the actual Gulfstream is much further offshore.
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Old 14-09-2010, 06:29   #7
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My main experiences looking for the elusive counter current have been central to S FL where it is also supposed to exist but seems to be much more elusive. Best I was ever able to verify by observation was a lack of northerly set from the stream.

Off GA/SC the counter current did seem to be more constant.
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Old 14-09-2010, 06:33   #8
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The caribbean 1500 rally now has an offshoot that goes to Marsh Harbor from the Chesapeake in early Nov. I dont know exactly what their route is except that they follow the track of the Virgin Islands bound boats for at least the first couple of days and then head south. You might find more details on their website.
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Old 14-09-2010, 06:53   #9
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I left St. Simons Island to Abacos. It took a little under four days. Good sailing all the way, except at the very end. I had to motor sail (no wind) into Walker's Cay. Head East and South, the GS does flow heavy in places, but our SOG was usually 4.+nm. As someone said, you will need to do more east than south to cut the GS at an angle. Enjoyed the whole trip. No problems, good weather, fair winds. I used a C120 for navg, just kept on course corrected for all the angling needed.
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Old 14-09-2010, 08:26   #10
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From Norfolk VA to Marsh Harbor in December last year took me three days. Aim for Bermuda until the sea temperature makes it clear you are past the GS and turn right. It's a great run. Boats I talked to southbound on the Chesapeake hadn't made Beaufort yet while I was in the Abacos.

The GS is slower and wider farther North and with some care you can work the eddies.

Three days. *grin*
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Old 14-09-2010, 14:05   #11
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Muchas Gracias

That's great info! Thanks again, everybody.
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