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Old 11-01-2021, 14:09   #1
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Crossing gulf stream with north wind

I've read that it is always a bad idea to cross the gulf stream when the wind has any northern component. I'm looking at the forecast for the next few days and winds are forecast at five to ten from the north. However, seas are forecast around two feet with a period around nine seconds for most of the crossing. Is there something about the sea conditions during a north wind that is not captured in a forecast?
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Old 11-01-2021, 14:21   #2
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

I don't really know for sure. That doesn't appear too bad. The forecast is most often from the NE which is the issue. But I do know people cross in milder NE conditions..
Local knowledge helps: I would think about what the forecast you are using usually actually ends up being like in the real world, and compare that with the 5-10 prediction. If it's VHF forecast they often have a local bent to them. For instance, where I live when they say 5-15 it's often almost nothing. But when they say 10-20 it's pretty brisk wind.
Sorry I'm not much help, I always waited for the wind to shift South then West before crossing. But have been across when it was like a calm lake before.
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Old 14-01-2021, 10:52   #3
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

Don't!
You will not have a pleasent experience.
Forecast do not take into account currents.
Wind against current is always bad.
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Old 14-01-2021, 11:10   #4
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

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Originally Posted by Flagman101 View Post
Don't!
You will not have a pleasent experience.
Forecast do not take into account currents.
Wind against current is always bad.
That is simply not true. The sea state forecasts in the gulf stream are taking it into account. Certainly forecasts will not take I to account local currents like those going into or out of an inlet, but the few odd million square miles where the gulf stream flows it's definitely including in the forecast models.
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Old 14-01-2021, 11:25   #5
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

As long as the N wind has been less than 10 it is probably ok to cross. You also need to consider if it really is a NW or NE wind and the direction of he stream from your planned course.
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Old 14-01-2021, 11:58   #6
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

I have crossed in NE winds of ~10 kts. Sea state was not pleasant, but was safe for a 40' keelboat. I was headed NW which was a better point of sail that day than E would have been.

There is wisdom in avoiding crossing in north winds, but of course there is a lower limit for that advice. Obviously north winds of 1 knot is pretty much the same thing as calm. Just be careful when evaluating the forecast sea state. Period is very important and it is there the northerly component really comes in to play. 5' at 10 seconds is very different than 5' at 4 seconds. The longer the period and the further abaft the wave direction the better the ride.

Also, there is a buoy offshore of Ft. Pierce. While it is not out in the middle of the stream it does give some indication of real-time Gulf Stream conditions. Just google the National Data Buoy Center and Station 41114 - Fort Pierce, FL (134).
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Old 15-01-2021, 17:31   #7
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

We went for it. It was a rolly night but I'm glad we did it. Went direct to Mangrove Cay and slept for 10 hours. Spending our second night at Grand Cay now. Dinner at Rosie's again. Good fried grouper. Kinda spendy but I figure it's one way to help out. These guys have been through allot.
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Old 24-10-2021, 14:56   #8
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

Iím getting ready to cross in about a week, winds are predicted to come from the N, but it wonít be super windy. 10knots and below. Letís see as the time comes closer what the conditions will actually be, but is it the consensus that itís ok to cross if winds are coming out of the north but under 10 knots?
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Old 24-10-2021, 16:55   #9
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

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Originally Posted by Networker View Post
Iím getting ready to cross in about a week, winds are predicted to come from the N, but it wonít be super windy. 10knots and below. Letís see as the time comes closer what the conditions will actually be, but is it the consensus that itís ok to cross if winds are coming out of the north but under 10 knots?
Our actual experience with the Gulf Stream is as follows:
1) The Gulf Stream is influenced by swells from far away in the Atlantic. The local winds add on. Either from north of the Abacos or through the Northeast Providence Channel, the swells bend around the Bahamas Banks
2) Takes a few days for seas to settle down after a strong local north wind
3) The computer models are not sufficiently rigorous to model ocean swells, local winds, and interaction with the Gulf Stream current.
4) We agree that a light north wind can be benign, but with the above caveats.
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Old 24-10-2021, 17:18   #10
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

Good info, thank you. Is there anything that one can check to see if itís safe to cross or not? I.e is there a NOAA bouy in the Gulf Stream reporting wave height, direction and timing between waves? How do people make the decision to go or not?
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Old 24-10-2021, 18:29   #11
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

https://www.passageweather.com/maps/...o/mappage2.htm
https://www.passageweather.com/maps/...co/mappage.htm
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Old 24-10-2021, 19:24   #12
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

Perfect site, thank you.
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Old 24-10-2021, 19:42   #13
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

Having crossed the gulf stream at least 6 times a year for the last 6 years, and sailed north using the stream for days at a time, I really have to wonder what the big deal is. So much angst... so little reason.

You sail away from Florida(or the Bahamas), and if it gets uncomfortable--you turn around! There is no excuse other than stubbornness, for getting stuck in a situation that is dangerous, or even mildly uncomfortable! If it was fine for the first 5 miles, and then gets too rough for you, guess what? It is still fine behind you! Go back! Why is this never discussed as a strategy? It seems so obvious. Nobody with any sense would think worse of you for turning around if you were not certain of safety or comfort.

We sail in a larger boat (53 feet) and are careful with weather. We have been in situations where we were uncomfortable, but never terribly so. Never have we had to turn around or even remotely felt we were in danger.

I would probably wait out a 5 to 10 north wind, only because it was not enough wind to make good time. I would not worry a second about waves with that little wind. 20 knots might a different story... On the other hand we have waited for 2 weeks for a passage window, because we can.
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Old 24-10-2021, 20:30   #14
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

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Originally Posted by BillKny View Post
Having crossed the gulf stream at least 6 times a year for the last 6 years, and sailed north using the stream for days at a time, I really have to wonder what the big deal is. So much angst... so little reason.

You sail away from Florida(or the Bahamas), and if it gets uncomfortable--you turn around! There is no excuse other than stubbornness, for getting stuck in a situation that is dangerous, or even mildly uncomfortable! If it was fine for the first 5 miles, and then gets too rough for you, guess what? It is still fine behind you! Go back! Why is this never discussed as a strategy? It seems so obvious. Nobody with any sense would think worse of you for turning around if you were not certain of safety or comfort.

We sail in a larger boat (53 feet) and are careful with weather. We have been in situations where we were uncomfortable, but never terribly so. Never have we had to turn around or even remotely felt we were in danger.

I would probably wait out a 5 to 10 north wind, only because it was not enough wind to make good time. I would not worry a second about waves with that little wind. 20 knots might a different story... On the other hand we have waited for 2 weeks for a passage window, because we can.
Good strategy. This is also my first offshore sail ever, so I am ok being extra cautious and turning around if needed.
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Old 25-10-2021, 16:35   #15
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Re: Crossing gulf stream with north wind

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Good strategy. This is also my first offshore sail ever, so I am ok being extra cautious and turning around if needed.
Each of us will have a different threshold on the sea state offshore. We actually turned around and went back to Florida the first time. The forecast in our experience is always more accommodating than the actual conditions. We look for 2’ or less forecast. We support your caution. For what it’s worth.
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