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Old 07-04-2014, 14:13   #1
RDW
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Gulf Stream Crossing

I will be coming from St. Martin to Mt. Desert Island, Maine in mid May. I I cross the gulf stream in a direct shot from Bermuda, the Gulf stream looks much less of a contrast of water temperatures. Can I expect it to be easier or not? I am studying the weather etc.
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Old 07-04-2014, 20:33   #2
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Re: gulf stream crossing

There are a lot of variables involved with crossing the Gulf Stream. It moves around and . swirls like a loose fire hose. It has eddies miles across that spin off from the "fire hose" and which can slow you down - or speed you up - by several knots, depending upon which side you catch them on and which way they're spinning. Wind speed and direction affects what's going on, along with the current. Waves can build up fast, or be smoothed, by the different combinations. I've crossed the Gulf Stream beating into an 8' chop at 8 knots with 25 knots of wind and rain, the boat sailing out of the top of about every third wave and dropping straight down 8' into the troughs. The current was going against the wind. Despite the wind and rain, it pushed us about 40 miles towards Bermuda and we won our division because we caught the eddy on the right side. Another time we spent a lovely sunny day on a nice reach with rolling blue seas and nothing hitting the deck but an occasional flying fish. It's different each time though: having three waterspouts in sight at once gives you a perspective on what your 40' sloop is really worth as far as Mother Nature is concerned. Try to get the NOAA infared photos of the Gulf Stream and its eddies so you can approach and cross it at the most advantageous point. Sometimes you want to cross at right angles, other times, when it's pushing you in the right direction, it may make sense to ride it for longer at an oblique angle. This far out it is impossible to tell where it will be in May, but being aware of the options will help you plan ahead as far as you can.
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Old 08-04-2014, 06:04   #3
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Re: gulf stream crossing

The question I was trying to make but did not do a good job was as follows. The gulf stream directly North of Bermuda headed to Maine is almost always (when I have looked) been more spread out, scrambled, wider, multiple eddies as compared to a narrow fast flowing stream say at Hatteras.
Is it consistently easier so spread out?
Are there different considerations in this area of crossing?
I am planning on getting a picture several days ahead of time knowing that it does not change very quickly.
Now I need more answers along with the views!
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Old 08-04-2014, 06:19   #4
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Re: gulf stream crossing

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Originally Posted by RDW View Post
The question I was trying to make but did not do a good job was as follows. The gulf stream directly North of Bermuda headed to Maine is almost always (when I have looked) been more spread out, scrambled, wider, multiple eddies as compared to a narrow fast flowing stream say at Hatteras.
Is it consistently easier so spread out?
Are there different considerations in this area of crossing?
I am planning on getting a picture several days ahead of time knowing that it does not change very quickly.
Now I need more answers along with the views!
RDW
As to whether it's easier or not to cross farther north on a rhumb line between Bermuda and Maine, the answer is "yes and no." The stream can still be fairly concentrated at that point and you'll want to look at images less than a week old to determine it's contour and the best place/time to cross. While it can be a bit dissipated farther north, the fact that it is wider means more area for ugly conditions to build and the longer it takes to cross it. It's still prudent to head into it with the wind with the current.

Also, playing the eddies farther north is more critical, since they are bigger and more numerous. Don't around Virgina/Hatteraas you can generally just charge on through, but the farther north you go the bigger a role the eddies play in plotting your course.

You always hear the worst stories about crossing the stream from racers, because they don't have a choice about when they cross it. The race starts and off they go and have to deal with what they find. You have the luxury, to a degree, of picking your window.

Definitely look at NOAA's infrared satellite photos, and if you can cross the stream at right angles, to get across it as quickly as possible, do so. If you don't have experience crossing it you really don't want to be caught in it if the weather changes on you.

Below is the course for the winning boat in the 2002 Newport Bermuda Race. It shows a perfect course playing the eddies all the way through. As you can see, the stream is as concentrated, of not more so, on the northern route than down by the Mid Atlantic.

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Old 08-04-2014, 06:36   #5
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Re: gulf stream crossing

Yup, i agree with all of the advice so far. The biggest influence on sea conditions will be the wind direction relative to the current. If they are against one another you are in for a bumpy ride. Of course, wind strength is also a major factor.

In the last few Newport-Bermuda races even those boats with real-time info on the stream have done poorly sometimes as it is just so unpredictable, particularly further North where it is more spread out and there are more eddies breaking off from it (i once got pushed in a full circle over 2 days while becalmed).

So in short, yes it is more spread out further north but the temp contrast is still very sudden. Less predictable further north. Get good NOAA data when you're in Bermuda and pick a good time based on that. Most importantly, don't stress about it. Stress leads to an early death :-)
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Old 08-04-2014, 07:57   #6
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Re: gulf stream crossing

The bottom line is to get an up-to-date Gulf Stream current analysis that displays the eddys, plan your route to play the eddys, and keep tabs on boat speed vs SOG to verify you're in the right place.
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Old 08-04-2014, 08:49   #7
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Re: gulf stream crossing

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The bottom line is to get an up-to-date Gulf Stream current analysis that displays the eddys, plan your route to play the eddys, and keep tabs on boat speed vs SOG to verify you're in the right place.


its like a moving funnel, slower going where it is wide and fast, changing and unpredictable where it narrows. in John Kretschmers latest book he writes what happens going thru the narrow part of the stream vs the wider parts on one of his voyages.
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Old 08-04-2014, 14:50   #8
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Re: Gulf Stream Crossing

Here's a link to a NOAA website that has some pretty good Gulf Stream graphics.

Ocean Prediction Center - NCOM Model Ocean Currents in Gulf Stream Region

The interesting part of heading north from Bermuda to Maine is the proliferation of eddys and whorls that I've never had to deal with transiting to and from the Caribbean from Virginia. We'd see only a few cold eddys. You'll see both warm and cold eddys, which spin in opposite directions, and also some convoluted whorls of the the main stream itself.

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