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SaltyGirl 06-24-2010 09:02 AM

Gulf Stream: Hindsight 20/20...what would you do?
I just returned from a Charleston to Beaufort offshore trip. We headed easterly out of Charleston hoping to catch the Gulf Stream flow. Thinking that we were taking too much time heading east, we kept inching the heading more towards the north. Now I have an overlay of my actual route and the Gulf Stream at that time. Given that hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, I'm trying to determine what I should have done. On this photo our route is in magenta (Day 1) and yellow (Day 2). We did have to go easterly enough to get around Frying Pan Shoals before heading into Beaufort. The black dashed lines are the edges of the Gulf Stream. The wind on Day 1 was 5-10 kts SW and on Day 2 was 10-15 kts NE. Our Day 2 was beating into the wind all day! If we had maintained a due east course, then we would have been in the stream before the wind shifted, but then we would be in the gulf stream, getting the benefit of the currrent, but still be against the NE winds (could have built up some chop). Otherwise, we could have headed straight to Frying Pan and then straight for Beaufort. Any ideas? What would you have done?

kd3pc 06-24-2010 01:35 PM

make more easterly, then keep crossing the stream - till well in it, then tack back northwest...but looks like you did pretty good to me. Not sure about the chop this time of the year, but it can be worse than beating...


eryka 06-24-2010 04:01 PM

I've got a pretty healthy respect for the power of the Stream (to the unobservant this "respect" may closely mimic fear). If you planned your route knowing that the wind on Day 2 was going to have some north in it, I think you were wise to avoid the nastiness of wind against strong current, as kd3 also alludes.

tempest 06-24-2010 06:11 PM

Based on the information you've given I think you did great.

As you've pointed out, a northerly wind component against the stream can make for a rough ride. Also once you're in the stream you've got to get out of it. You can have a 5 knot current pushing you NE while you want to go W or NW . Makes for interesting current sailing.

The other thing about the stream are the eddies, you can hit one that spins off in a southerly direction.

Sounds like a nice sail! 02-10-2011 05:58 PM

you could not have done better so smile Ole

svHyLyte 02-10-2011 06:15 PM

There is no payoff in judging yesterday's decisions with today's information. Would'a, could'a, should'a only serves a useful purpose as food for though for evaluating tomorrow's decision points--i.e. "experience.


sailingdog 02-10-2011 09:09 PM

I have a really healthy respect for the power of the Gulf Stream and the nasty conditions it can kick up.

I think if you had pushed east into the Gulf Stream, you probably would have gotten hammered by the NE winds against a NE current. You'd be amazed at how quickly the change of wind can cause really nasty conditions when dealing with a current as strong as the Gulf Stream. As Tempest points out, once you get in the Gulf Stream, you have to get back out of it.... and with a NE wind against a NE current, you're probably going to have a rough time of it.

In general, when dealing with the Gulf Stream, you really need to watch your weather windows carefully.

labatt 02-10-2011 10:07 PM

(realizing this thread is 9 months old or so)... Having done that same trip a few times, it's so short anyway that it's better just to head for Frying Pan and then direct to Beaufort. We went through Frying Pan Shoals Slue our last time at around 2am-ish (the buoys showed up great on radar - right where the GPS had them). I think the time you take to get the easting for a few knots of extra speed is a wash, although I'd have to run it through my charting software to absolutely verify. The only advantage you had this time, due to the NE winds, was that you could probably put your mainsail up to steady your hull. If you had gone direct from the shoals to Beaufort you probably wouldn't have been able to put any sail up (without it luffing like mad).

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