I cruised as a liveaboard for 7 years in the 90s doing most of the Atlantic circuit from Wales in a well sorted 38 foot steel ketch.
Getting caught out in the gulfstream when a mini low formed and it went to the north and blew 20 knots off south Carolina was by far the most unpleasant experience I had. I was more or less centered in the stream and intending to go around Cape Hateras as I had a clear forecast for 10 to 15 knot SE winds and no sytems of note. It was the only time I had green water on the foredeck on a consistant basis. The only time I felt that it might be dangerous to turn the boat beam on to the seas.
The sea state changed in less than an hour from a comfortable 6 to 8 foot swell to 8 to 10 feet steep sided breaking waves with frequent changes in direction. Every so often several seas seemed to get together and form a much larger breaking wave. Fortunately I was able to run for Murrels Inlet with a quartering sea but it was difficult to steer and several times I punched the bow deep into a wave and had to worry about the integrity of the windows in the hard dodger. I had a powerful autopilot which was totally unable to cope.
I was really grateful to be able to follow a shrimper into the inlet. Several items which were well lashed down on deck were lost. Had I had the typical cruisers board with jerry cans lashed to it they would have gone too.
I know it's off-topic, but where does one get a bareboat charter Lagoon 440 for a Bimini crossing? I really want to do that someday soon, but my boat is stuck on an inland lake.
01-14-2010 12:59 AM
I'm not nearly as experienced as many here, but I did just get done with a trip to Bimini. The forecast for the day we left Ft Lauderdale was NW winds at 7 building to 15 overnight. Seas were 2-4 feet. We were sailing a Lagoon 440 on a bareboat charter. The forecast held true and we motorsailed through the night. About an hour or so away from Bimini the winds were about 15 and we could have shut off the motors, but at that point we decided to let them run. Seas were a little confused, but not bad. The waves were a little steeper than we would like, but not bad. Overall it was a good crossing.
On the return trip the forecast was for a south wind at 15-18 clocking around to the west in the evening. The first part of the trip was exactly what was called for.
We were making great time, as we were going to make Gun Cay to the PE channel in just over 6 hours, but then the wind started to change a little sooner than expected. At about 15 miles out the wind started picking up. At about 10 miles out the wind came around on our nose. I furled the headsail and put a reef in, started the engines and motorsailed. Then the squall line hit us with 40+ knot winds. It got pretty rough, but nothing the boat wouldn't handle. Climbing the mast steps to secure the main was a bit uncomfortable though. Before the wind changed, the gps had us at 1 hour and 10 miles from PE. It took us 2.5 hours to get there.
01-13-2010 09:40 PM
looks like this forecast only goes to the edge of the stream, so I think if you got over 20 miles out it would be much rougher than 2-4 feet and the further out you get the worse it gets. not only that but 10-15 kt forecasts have a nasty habit of turning into 20-25 kt winds -- and from the north than can turn the Stream nasty. further, its worse around Lauderdale and South because of a funnel effect caused by the closeness of the Bahamas to the Florida coast which speeds up the current.
You not only get higher waves with shorter fetch as the wind fights the current, but even worse IMO you get a really confused sea -- waves coming from all directions. Means you have to pay attention every minute to keep the seas off your bow or on your quarter depending where you're headed. It can be a really exhausting experience.
We crossed from Lauderdale to West End and had predicted light easterly winds winds suddenly increase to 15 the 25 kts and become northeast. We were half way across at the time in a relatively heavy 45-ft boat on a beautiful sunny day. It turned a relaxed sail into a really uncomfortable experience -- no fun at all. We were dog-tired when we finally got past the West End entrance markers and that was after fight the Stream for only four hours or so.
01-13-2010 12:21 PM
I believe the rule of thumb is anything over 15 knots can be a NO NO? Someone will come along, and clarify this.........i2f
01-13-2010 10:15 AM
Gulfstream Crossing with Northerly Winds
It seems as though the generally accepted credo is NEVER do a Gulfstream crossing from Florida to the Bahamas when there is any northerly component to the wind. Reason being, a northerny wind against a southern current will generally result in big rising seas and a miserable experience.
I've accepted this advice...but then I see data like this from NOAA for Zone 651 and 671, which is generally the forecast to watch for South Florida for a crossing to the Bahamas.
Zone 651 (COASTAL WATERS FROM DEERFIELD BEACH TO OCEAN REEF, FL OUT 20 NM)
NORTH WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 4 FEET. INTRACOASTAL
WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
NORTHEAST WINDS 7 TO 12 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 4 FEET.
INTRACOASTAL WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
Zone 671 (20nm out to the Territorial Waters of Bahamas)
NORTH WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 4 FEET.
NORTHEAST WINDS 7 TO 12 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 4 FEET.
It seems that if someone wanted to make a passage to the Bahamas (east), a north wind would give a beam reach the entire way there, making for a quick passage since on my boat, beam reach is the fastest point of sail. How come the seas are so "calm" with this north wind? Are there corralaries to the generally accepted wisdom that I'm not aware of?
Does the north wind have to be blowing for a while (24 hours+) before the Gulfstream is dangerous?
Enlighten me on the nuances of the Gulfstream Current!