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Old 24-11-2015, 13:53   #1
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Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

I received such helpful responses to my Need a Boat for a Work of Fiction thread, and now I have navigation and time-frame issues I need assistance with. I’m only in the preliminary stages of planning the route, so please bear with me. Here are the basic details and context I have so far:
The year: 1984, April
The boat: 47’ Bermuda Yawl, based on the Infanta.
Port of registry: The Creek, Cayman Brac
The Crew (all US citizens)
Skipper: 25 year-old yet very experienced female—born and raised on the boat. USCG certified.
Cook/deckhand: Main character; 24 year-old woman with minimal sailing experience.
Passenger/Guest: 47 year old male, lots of sailing experience focused on racing.
This is a skippered charter, and I use the term loosely—it’s a rather informal arrangement.
Sailing out of Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans, through the Rigolets and headed to Cayman Brac. I am also toying with a side trip to Cuba on the way. Yes, I know there are many implications to consider when sailing to around Cuba, and I’m working through those issues.

Yes, I am a novice when it comes to navigation—yet I do know that charts, currents, water depth, wind direction, and weather are all important factors. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are things I’m overlooking, so any advice is welcome.

I tried mapping out a very rough route using the Waterway Guide, with the possible ‘side trip’ to Cuba. I have rounded up to 1000 nautical miles.

At this point in my plot development, I’d like to know how long these three characters will be en route. Am I correct in estimating an average speed of 7knots per hour, under good conditions, or around 70 nautical miles per day? So, probably I'm probably looking at two weeks under sail, yes?

Has anyone out there actually sailed from New Orleans to the Caymans? (with or without the Cuban detour)

Thanks!
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Old 24-11-2015, 14:15   #2
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

It's closer to 850nm not 1000. The time it takes is really a function of the conditions. If the wind is coming out of the north and it's a run all the way there then 8-10kn made good is possible. If it's coming from the south on a beat VMG could be as low as 4kn. There is also the loups current to contend with. Depending on its state you can easily get a 3.5kn north bound current, but a hundred miles east have a 3.5kn south bound current.

A good navigator will take wind, weather forecast, and current conditions into account for a trip of this nature. It very well may be worth your time to call some weather routers and ask them for guidance. As well as wright the weather that fits the story line.
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Old 24-11-2015, 14:27   #3
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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It's closer to 850nm not 1000. The time it takes is really a function of the conditions. If the wind is coming out of the north and it's a run all the way there then 8-10kn made good is possible. If it's coming from the south on a beat VMG could be as low as 4kn. There is also the loups current to contend with. Depending on its state you can easily get a 3.5kn north bound current, but a hundred miles east have a 3.5kn south bound current.

A good navigator will take wind, weather forecast, and current conditions into account for a trip of this nature. It very well may be worth your time to call some weather routers and ask them for guidance. As well as wright the weather that fits the story line.
Thanks! I rounded up to 1000nm just in case I decide on the Cuba detour, but that's only a difference of 150km and, I'm thinking, a day or two added to the overall trip.

I haven't come across the "loups current" in my research yet, so I'll have to Google that. The weather routers you mention--this is a sailing/navigational service or resource I assume? Was it accessible in 1984?

Thanks for the help.

Found the "Loops Current" you mentioned: http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/loopcurrent.asp
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Old 24-11-2015, 14:48   #4
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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Thanks! I rounded up to 1000nm just in case I decide on the Cuba detour, but that's only a difference of 150km and, I'm thinking, a day or two added to the overall trip.

I haven't come across the "loups current" in my research yet, so I'll have to Google that. The weather routers you mention--this is a sailing/navigational service or resource I assume? Was it accessible in 1984?

Thanks for the help.

Found the "Loops Current" you mentioned: http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/loopcurrent.asp
"Gulf Loop Current" is the common name.
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Old 24-11-2015, 14:50   #5
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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"Gulf Loop Current" is the common name.
Thanks for the clarification.
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Old 24-11-2015, 14:59   #6
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

If ballparking, for a boat that size I would use an average speed of 5 knots, and with 24 hours in the day that's 120nm/day or about 7 days to the Caymans. A good day would probably be ~200nm, or 4-5 days transit time if you can string together a bunch of good days.

And in 1984 most of the planning would have been using pilot charts (http://msi.nga.mil/NGAPortal/MSI.por...2&pubCode=0003) with radio broadcasts and/or weatherfax for the closest to "real-time" information (I pretty much did that route in both '84 and '85).
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Old 24-11-2015, 15:21   #7
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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If ballparking, for a boat that size I would use an average speed of 5 knots, and with 24 hours in the day that's 120nm/day or about 7 days to the Caymans. A good day would probably be ~200nm, or 4-5 days transit time if you can string together a bunch of good days.

And in 1984 most of the planning would have been using pilot charts (Maritime Safety Information) with radio broadcasts and/or weatherfax for the closest to "real-time" information (I pretty much did that route in both '84 and '85).
That's very helpful. I'll download the appropriate Pilot Charts.

Now I'm about to really show my ignorance--You allude to sailing 24 hours a day. I'm aware that there are night watches, so you'd actually be sailing during the night watch? I guess that makes sense, because you can't just anchor out there in the depths of the Gulf, and you don't want to drift off course. I guess I just hadn't thought of sailing at night. I like the idea. I'm not sure my main character will be comfortable with it, but all the better for the story!
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Old 24-11-2015, 15:33   #8
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

Night sailing is the best sailing! Stars out, no city lights to obscure things, dolphins chuffing gently as they cruise your bow wave with bio-luminescent wakes.

Plus too deep and too wavy to anchor, your skipper better get comfortable with sailing at night, no pit stops along that route. Don't want your book to get the reception that All Is Lost got here.
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Old 24-11-2015, 15:40   #9
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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Originally Posted by Dsanduril View Post
Night sailing is the best sailing! Stars out, no city lights to obscure things, dolphins chuffing gently as they cruise your bow wave with bio-luminescent wakes.

Plus too deep and too wavy to anchor, your skipper better get comfortable with sailing at night, no pit stops along that route. Don't want your book to get the reception that All Is Lost got here.
Night sailing sounds wonderful! The skipper (not the main character) won't have any problem with that--it's the cook, with minimal sailing experience, who won't be comfortable with it. At first anyway. She's a quick learner and she'll enjoy being above deck at night.

...and I saw the movie--no, we don't want that outcome!

Thanks for the input!
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Old 24-11-2015, 15:59   #10
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

Search "watch system for crew of three" and you should get some idea of how sailing 24/7 works. Some skippers set a very rigid schedule and some work with the crews strengths and weaknesses. My friend that I've crewed for the most is up every morning before 5 am no matter what. I'm happy staying up until about 0430 when I become basically useless. So I always get the 2200-0400 shift and he always takes the 0400-1000 watch. His wife fills in and is WAY better at cooking than either of us so that shortens her watch responsibilities. Many people like shorter watches than that but it works for us.

I'm aware of one commercial tow boat operation that does a set 6 hours on 6 hours off rotation.
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Old 24-11-2015, 16:08   #11
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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Search "watch system for crew of three" and you should get some idea of how sailing 24/7 works. Some skippers set a very rigid schedule and some work with the crews strengths and weaknesses. My friend that I've crewed for the most is up every morning before 5 am no matter what. I'm happy staying up until about 0430 when I become basically useless. So I always get the 2200-0400 shift and he always takes the 0400-1000 watch. His wife fills in and is WAY better at cooking than either of us so that shortens her watch responsibilities. Many people like shorter watches than that but it works for us.

I'm aware of one commercial tow boat operation that does a set 6 hours on 6 hours off rotation.
That is extremely helpful--thank you so much for that suggestion. I can't wait to get them all aboard at setting sail. And I appreciate your insights as far as scheduling watches according to the crew's strengths and weaknesses.
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Old 24-11-2015, 17:10   #12
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

Keep in mind that the weather in the GOM can be very localized. The weather forecast can call for beautiful conditions regionally and you can still get hammered by local squalls in the GOM. It can be a very ugly body of water...so their crossing would not be complete without a bit of nasty weather.

For a good non-fiction account of just how ugly, read "All The Men in The Sea". An excerpt here:

magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeReporter/200304/content/all-the-men-208201
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Old 24-11-2015, 17:43   #13
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Keep in mind that the weather in the GOM can be very localized. The weather forecast can call for beautiful conditions regionally and you can still get hammered by local squalls in the GOM. It can be a very ugly body of water...so their crossing would not be complete without a bit of nasty weather.

For a good non-fiction account of just how ugly, read "All The Men in The Sea". An excerpt here:

magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeReporter/200304/content/all-the-men-208201
Thanks for the referral--I'll check it out. Of course, no fictional passage through the Gulf would be complete without some nasty weather!
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Old 24-11-2015, 18:33   #14
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

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If ballparking, for a boat that size I would use an average speed of 5 knots, and with 24 hours in the day that's 120nm/day or about 7 days to the Caymans. A good day would probably be ~200nm, or 4-5 days transit time if you can string together a bunch of good days.

And in 1984 most of the planning would have been using pilot charts (Maritime Safety Information) with radio broadcasts and/or weatherfax for the closest to "real-time" information (I pretty much did that route in both '84 and '85).
When you say you did "that route," I'm assuming you mean through the gap between Yucatan and Cuba. As I understand it, there are some serious currents to contend with, though I have been told that because of the strong (up to 7 knots) north-flowing current, it is necessary to keep to the sides of the channel to lessen the current. On the Cuba side one would pass close to Cabo San Antonio, within 2-3 miles or less in order to pick up a counter-current.

At this point, I'm more concerned about the currents than the Cubans!

I'm curious if that's the route you went, and what did you encounter as far as currents and weather conditions? And what time of year did you sail through there?
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Old 24-11-2015, 18:46   #15
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Re: Need NOLA to Caymans Advice for a Work of Fiction

You might want to check out a couple of cool maps. This one is currents in the area:

earth :: a global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions

And this one is winds:

earth :: a global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions

My recollection is that we did one passage very close to the Cuban shore, but didn't find much current relief (and around 1 knot average would be typical). Another trip actually visited the Yucatan on the way south, so along that coast. The current is annoying, but with a generally favorable wind not too bad. Not the easiest passage, not the toughest.
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