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Old 07-07-2012, 14:24   #1
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November Gulf Stream Passage

Question for the more experienced sailors:

There is a ASA sailing school based out of Ft. Lauderdale (and other places) that I am interested in doing some ASA 103, etc. that combines several certifications in a week-long cruise to the bahamas. I am looking over the schedule and want to take the course(s) this November.
But how can a school keep a schedule firm when I thought that to cross the Gulf Stream the prudent sailor must wait for a weather window to avoid strong north winds. But the sailing school schedule looks set in stone regardless. Anyone have input on resolving this seeming contradiction- the school must know what they are doing, right? I think this school is highly rated but I am confused about the calendar schedule Gulf Stream crossing which does not mention if the conditions are not right. I have read of prudent sailors waiting days or weeks for a favorable crossing. How can a sailing school keep a tight schedule to get students across and back whilst dealing with the Gulf Stream?
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Old 07-07-2012, 14:29   #2
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

Don't know the answer to how the school manages but I can absolutely guarantee that there could very well be times in Nov when you would not be crossing the Gulf Stream, at least not if you have good sense.

I think I would ask them specifically the policy on this and even get it in writing. If there's a no refund policy and you are a long way from Ft Lauderdale so a redo would be expensive, I would think twice.
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Old 17-07-2012, 08:15   #3
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

I don't know how this school handles it, but one of the classes I took, their policy was regardless of weather the trip took place until the instructor was scared,...think about that one a second.

If it was so bad an experienced sailer with substantial financial motivation wouldn't make the trip, it was rescheduled to the next week, no refunds, but you could reschedule until the weather was acceptable.

I would talk with them, and maybe get an interview with an instructor, and a former student.

I would say most schools are reasonable in accomodating, no one wants unhappy students, on the other hand the whole reason for a school is to make you a better sailer, if they waited for ice cream sailing conditions, they would only get 2 trips per year.

Not very profitable, and what are you going to learn if it's so calm you have to motor?

In our class we not only got to learn more about sailing, but we got a chance to practice reefing, burying the rail, adjusting a halyard with your legs locked around the mast while taking waves to the back of your head, repeated MOB drills to recover blown off hats, and other fun things that you would never experience with 5 mile an hour winds.

So what are you paying for? Perfect classroom conditions, or a real world test of your knowledge?

After the class I took a rental boat out in 20kt winds, rough confused seas, my crew got seasick, but I was able to put in a reef, (just like I learned the week before), and get the boat under control singlehanded, and take it out into the bay, and get it back in one piece, just like in the class.

The class was a cold miserable experience, but now I have no fear of taking a small sailboat out in moderately rough conditions. If I get caught out in a storm, (that can blow up suddenly around here), no biggie, I did it before with an experienced instructor sitting right next to me.
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Old 17-07-2012, 08:57   #4
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

Years ago, there was a charter business located at Miamarina in downtown Miami that took young people to the Bahamas for diving. They had two large sailboats (50 plus feet) that they packed to the lifelines with passengers. We once berthed at the marina for repairs and a very strong norther--20-30 mph was forecasted on their departure day. Both boats left with the unaware and naive kids and headed out into the stream as the front quickly advanced. We met those kids on their return--many whom had never been on a boat before, and their stories of terror from the Gulfstream crossing were both harrowing and sad. I asked some locals at the marina if this was always the case and they said that it was since he had a business to run and schedules to keep. We have crossed the stream many times and I can assure you the last place you want to be in a Norther is the Gulf Stream. How much is your education worth?
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Old 17-07-2012, 09:07   #5
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

First of all, obviously, don't take our word for it - call the school and get a clear answer.

Having said that, I'm with Capn Billl on this one - how much are you going to learn motoring across? When we went, the wind had been 10 - 20 knots out of the N or NE for about ten days and I was a little surprised we went, having, like you, read all about the weather window requirement. But the school had clearly said that if conditions were too bad, we would complete the course on the Florida side, and I was pretty sure the instructor captain had no interest in dying out there, so off we went.

And, sure enough, it was a pretty good bash, but it was definitely a sail both ways. Lots to experience, lots to learn, lots of fun. I can see why a cruising couple, for instance. would choose not to do it, and I'm not sure I would do it in my own boat (but, of course, it was "Not my boat - the boss's boat."). But we had four strong crew, an experienced captain, and someone else's boat getting pounded. It was a good trip. In December, if you're wondering.

So what I'm saying is that sometimes the weather "window" is more like a set of patio doors. Depends on the circs. I should mention that if you or your SO is doing this course to accommodate the other's interest, and is otherwise a little skittish about sailing, this trip would not be ideal. But there are others. Good luck.
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Old 17-07-2012, 09:08   #6
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It may help to know which school.

We took ASA 101, 103, 104, 114 on a week long sail in the Bahamas with BWSS.

I don't know if this is the school you're referring to, but if it is, I believe they offer courses in Ft. Lauderdale AND the Bahamas (Abaco). There's no gulf stream crossing involved.

Loved the class btw. Heading back to the Sea of Abaco next week for our first solo charter.

DH
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Old 17-07-2012, 09:32   #7
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

The danger is not the stream itself,but the cold exodus,which can be quite large.The"weather window"means leaving in a gale,on the backside of a low
,hell of a window.Eddys not exodus,dang apple
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Old 17-07-2012, 10:16   #8
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

seems like a bad day and doing the crossing would give you more experiance as we cant always just sit around and wait and wait and wait,so at least if yu did it on a bad day you would be better prepard for the day that things turn ugly and all you have is experiance on nice calm days and you would be doing it with an instructor....I have been out there in a moderate noreaster and it was not comfortable but it was a better form of education than going over when it was a calm day...I like extreme types of adventure and didnt think it was as bad as some will tell ya...good luck..DVC
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Old 17-07-2012, 10:23   #9
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

Well, now you have me confused. When is the best month to plan your crossing -- realizing, of course, that you also have to wait for a good weather window.
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Old 17-07-2012, 10:42   #10
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

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Well, now you have me confused. When is the best month to plan your crossing -- realizing, of course, that you also have to wait for a good weather window.
After winter cold-front season and before hurricane season is when you are most likely to have wider weather windows. This year, fronts were still active into March and the hurricane season started WAY early (first tropical weather was in MAY!). This year was a bit unusual, but this year and any past year April-May is a pretty tranquil time.
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Old 17-07-2012, 10:49   #11
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

Night passages are usually easier. Plan on arriving for clearance in the AM.
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Old 17-07-2012, 10:56   #12
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

Knowing nothing about "timing", I had thought one could spend the first winter "non hurricane season" going thru the bahamas, then down pretty quickly thru the caribbean so as to get to tobago area for the hurricane season. Then next "non hurricane season" come up from Tobago and spend that time in the Caribbean. To do that one would have to leave Florida in the fall some time just after the hurricane season is over.

Is that doable? I know I have a lot to learn (3 years before leaving) so you can't insult me or make me feel bad. Just fill me in on what is realistic and what other people do.
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Old 17-07-2012, 11:30   #13
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

There is never a sure or safe month.

Each time you have to look at spacing and timing of cold fronts, or just any moving front, and tropical waves, and depending on jet stream and temp which is dominant, and more likely to affect your weather. And midsummer there may be no fronts just convective instability.

To misquote a movie, "the weather is like a box of chocolates". There are some times of the year like peak hurricane season that the last few years you are VERY likely to encounter a named storm.

And some winters massive fast moving cold fronts create just as extreme conditions.

Pilot charts can give you a good idea on promenent wind speeds, and directions, but tell little of the conditions that week.

I would avoid late summer, as it is like taking a balloon across a busy freeway, and midwinter, as south moving front against a north moving current is going to make some chop.

But the exact week the last cold fron moves down is year dependant, and so is the start and end of "hurricane season".

We'll just have to see how well the current pattern holds, but I expect it to change by November. I doubt ANY school will take a boatfull of students out in a hurricane.
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Old 17-07-2012, 11:50   #14
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

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Originally Posted by capn_billl View Post
There is never a sure or safe month.


With weather and wind you never can tell. I canceled a trip to the Bahamas the end of Sept by the arrival of an early front and I canceled one in early June by a very late front.

Then I have seen winters where there were very few fronts and you could have crossed almost any time the whole season.

You can look at the Pilot charts and see the averages over a period of time but averages don't promise what exact weather you will get on one particular day.
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Old 17-07-2012, 12:26   #15
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Re: November Gulf Stream Passage

I did 105 with the same school (I think there's only one...). When we went across, the wind had been out of the NE for 4 straight days at 20+ kt. Classic "no-Go" conditions. At the time when we left Government Cut, it was 25 gusting to 30 from the NE. We had 6-8 foot short period waves crossing 10-12 foot swells at a 45o angle. We were in harnesses and tethers, with waves crashing over the bow. Everyone was seasick.

Nonetheless, there was never the slightest doubt that the 51' Dufour was up to the journey, and although I wouldn't seek out those conditions again, it was never more than unpleasant. As I have said before in related posts, I would never consider it on my own boat (Hunter 36), even with an excellent crew, but on this boat with a capable crew, it was an adventure.

Anyway, there is always trip insurance... pete
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