Crossing the Gulf Stream

It’s Friday morning and the beginning of day two of our expected (fingers crossed that there’s some wind and we don’t end up out of fuel and drifting along waiting for wind) ten day run to Antigua from Hampton, VA.

We departed the marina yesterday morning expecting that we’d be hard put to find wind that was more than 10 kts for much of the way to Antigua and the first 24 hours has proven to be true to that forecast so the engine has gotten a good workout.

However, a few hours ago the wind picked up into the high teens so we are now sailing on a broad reach at close to 7kts.  With the effect of the Gulf Stream as we crab our way across, we are losing a knot as we compensate for the current that is pushing us north at about 3-4kts.   The strategy for crossing the GS is to make an assumption about the average current that you expect to encounter and how far north you will be set as you cross.  The strategy is to take into account the speed of the boat, time to cross and then adjust the course to an imaginary point that you will be set down from to exit at the desired location.  Does that make sense?  Not sure I am being clear.  If not, you’ll just have to trust me on that.

My assumption was an average current in the 3+ range and ten hours to cross so I picked a point that was about 20mn south of where I hope to emerge from The Stream.

Chris Parker gave us an entry as well as an exit point as well as a course to hold after that to navigate a large eddy along the south side of the GS.  If we hit it right, the eddy will give us a 3-4kt boost for up to 100mn after we exit.   Stray too far from that exit point and course to the third waypoint and we’d find ourselves bucking the wrong side of the eddy and see our speed over the bottom fall to 3kts or less.  That’s compared to perhaps 10kts over the bottom if we hit the eddy just right.   That’s makes for a huge difference on how long it will take to cover the distance until we are in clear, current free water.   Hit the eddy wrong and it might take us over 30 hours to cover the same 100 miles that we might cover in about 14 hours if we hit it right.  That “mistake” alone could cost us an additional ¾ of a day on the passage.

Of course, the coordinates for the eddy are imaginary and derived from a satellite map so getting it exactly right is more art than science.  However, this particular eddy is really large so I am hopeful that there is enough room for error to allow me to navigate the distance effectively.

Also, as I can’t send photos over my SSB high frequency radio, you’ll just have to imagine what it was like last night to see a nearly full moon rise in the east as a fiery sunset lit up the western sky, with the brilliant moon transiting the entire sky and finally setting just before daybreak.  It was beautiful.

Pandora’s crew seems to be settling into the rhythm of life at sea, eating, standing watch and resting as we make our way south.

Let’s hope that the wind holds out but, more than likely, as we leave the warmer water of the Stream, the wind will fall away as forecast.   For now, we will have to just enjoy what’s been thrown our way and appreciate the opportunity to put some “fuel free” miles into the bank.   For sure, I’ll need  to accumulate about 500 of these “free miles” in order to be certain that I will have adequate fuel to make it to Antigua.

If not, I’ll just have to take what the wind offers, sit around waiting for more wind which will add several days to our trip.

Well, it’s time to cast out a lure and see if we can catch something for dinner.  I’m excited as I have a new type of lure that is “guaranteed” to catch everything but seaweed.

Wish me luck.

2 responses to “Crossing the Gulf Stream

  1. Good Luck Bob. One yacht even used Chris Parker for Fiji to Auckland last month. Tom Hughes (Opua, NZ)

  2. Jack Stillwaggon

    Good luck. Barbara just ran into Brenda at Adam’s grocery store. Both were buying flowers. We’re getting huge logs coming down the river again from a storm last week. Just as well that I put the boat away for the season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *