Whether the weather . . . or not

November 20, 2009

Anchored at Lake Worth Inlet, Florida, waiting for weather


For sailors, this blog will not be so interesting.  For others, maybe not either!

A number of times in posts I have mentioned waiting for weather.  So what’s the big deal, you may ask.  Weather is weather.  You listen to know what to wear, or what you might be able to complain about later, or just because.  It certainly does not impact (really) where you go or what you do.

For sailors, it is different.  Particularly for sailors (and here I lump all boaters) waiting to go across to the Bahamas.  Again, you say, what’s the big deal?  It is 55 miles from Lake Worth to West End.  That’s like an hour in the car.  Ah, but the challenge is the dreaded (not really, just deeply respected) Gulf Stream.

The Gulf Stream is a major ocean current, threading through the Straits of Florida and racing northwards.  This (approximately) 50 mile wide rushing river of water runs northward at 2-4 knots.  If the wind has any strength to it and is northerly (coming from Northwest to Northeast and all points in between), the seas that can build up in the Gulf Stream are nasty.  NASTY.  That glorious ride we have had southward for the past 5 weeks, due to northerly winds?  They have not skipped the Gulf Stream . . .

And, besides the waves, we have to carefully plan our crossing due to the current.  If the Gulf Stream is moving north at 2.5 knots, and we are sailing at 5 knots, and we are trying to get 50 miles across, what should our course be?  (Good old geometry.)

So we can’t really go in northerly winds (unless they are almost non-existent), going into East winds would STINK and probably mean we would wind up back in North Carolina before getting to the Bahamas (kidding – sort of), and southerly winds are few and far between this time of year.  Tough going, for sure.

As of right now, the forecast is for a front to swing through on Saturday or Sunday, switching the winds to southerly and then westerly before returning to the north sector winds we hate (now that we are ready to cross, that is – coming south we loved them!).  We figure we need 24 hours to cross from Lake Worth to Walker’s Cay (100 miles).  As of right now, we are hoping to leave here at noon on Sunday, get onto the banks and out of the Stream by midnight, and have a leisurely crossing of the banks to arrive at Walkers Cay with plenty of light to eyeball our way in.

As of right now, we are watching the weather and gathering as much information as we can.

Keep your fingers crossed that this window does not slam shut!

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3 Responses to Whether the weather . . . or not

  1. Rod Bruckdorfer says:

    Yes, as soon as the winds clock from the SE to the S, go. You should make you anchorage before the winds clock north. If not, you next post will be from the Caribbean.

    Safe Passage and Fair Winds,


  2. bruce terry says:

    Ahh Guys, “Window Hunting”.

    That little low coming up from the Gulf of Mex and stalling the incoming cold front over south Fla come Monday sure leaves a mess of northerly winds the rest of the week … Ouch!

    Looks like Sunday’s possible, short-lived, lightish SE winds aren’t worth a hill of beans sailing south-of-east to beat the Big Current.

    Add to that winds doomed to quickly come back north might not clock much more south no matter what NOAA and the Gurus say.

    Anhinga got caught out after an 18-winter-nights of waiting for a passable sailing window between awful, back-to-back cold fronts. Out in the Stream, winds were E instead of forecasted SSE. Stacked-up ten-foot-plus waves literally tossed us right back to Key Biscayne.

    3 nights later, on a New Year night, on our 21st night of waiting, we finally got our window.

    We dearly hope your departure is Sunday morning, and if it is, give us a WHERE IS Lat-Lon so we’ll all know you’re trekking to West End and beyond!

    Bruce and Anne

    PS TO JULIAN AND MADDIE – Here comes the Fun, sooner than later we hope!

  3. Lee says:

    I remember waiting….we were at No Name. It was really beautiful there. It is interesting getting those final fresh foods on board and then eating them all before you get to make the crossing….I wish you a speedy crossing with lots of dolphin visits.

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