The best Gulf Stream routing information comes from Jenifer Clark, who pinpoints the location of the stream and its many eddies.
“Jenifer Clark's Gulfstream”
A plot of the Gulf Stream is prepared by the U.S. Navy
and is available from their web site at: www.nlmoc.navy.mil/home1.html
Goto: “Oceanographic Products”
Then: “Gulf Stream Analysis South” -and/or- “Gulf Stream Text Message”
Approaching Isla de Mujeres from the north, or more commonly, the northeast, is a bit challenging. A powerful north-setting current patrols the 100-mile-wide straight, and at times the drift is more than four knots. Once above the strait, the current splinters. Most of the water
seems to be directed into the main body of the Gulf Stream that gathers steam as it nears the Straits of Florida
. A loop current is also spawned and it usually sets north into the Gulf of Mexico
, and then hooks back to the southeast to connect with the Gulf Stream west of the Dry Tortugas
. Together these currents conspire to make all passages from Florida
to Isla de Mujeres interesting, to say the least.
There are two general routes to Isla de Mujeres from Key West
If the Gulf Stream is in its likely position, favoring the Cuban side of the Straits of Florida, then a route
that stays above the current is possible. Of course this route
can become difficult if the loop current is running strong, making it tough to drop down into the Yucatan
Channel from the north. It may be necessary to sail west of the Yucatan
Peninsula and then circle back to the southeast.
Another strategy is to cross the Gulf Stream at a right angle, and sail south until you’re just off the Cuban coastline. There you will likely find the favorable counter current as well as favorable winds.
There are currently lots of yachts visiting Cuba, and while a gunboat may still stop you, it is not likely that your passage
will be unduly delayed.
The above routing info’ was paraphrased from a couple of articles, and other sources including:
An Island in the Stream ~ by John Kretschmer (Sailnet)
Cruising World - The Log of “Ithaka”
Regata Del Sol Al Sol (annual race
from St. Petersburg to Isla Mujeres) ~ by David Allester and Eileen Quinn aboard “Little Gidding”