Bermuda to Chesapeake: Exiting the Gulf Stream

Exiting the Gulf Stream, and assessing the MaxSea software.

Barometer is up 5mb in the past 8 hours, so we’re definitely through the front. Wind is moderate – 20 knots, and from the NNE – so we’re sailing about 20 degrees high of course. We can always reach down if the wind stays N – but if it goes NW, well have some distance to windward saved up.

We’re carrying full jib and main – the mizzen is still furled. This is quite a bit undercanvased, but we want to wait and see what happens in the Gulf Stream – and the jib is easier to get rid of than dropping the mizzen. The forecast is for 30+ from the NW, but so far it doesn’t feel or look like it (of course, this may be wishful thinking).

We’ve been in a warm eddy (clockwise circulation) for the past couple of hours, losing three knots to the adverse current – YUCK!

In the meantime, in honor of it being Mother’s Day, the mother aboard has fixed herself a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Father gets a grilled peanut butter and jelly lunch – both augmented by a bowl of fresh fruit.

And the big news…we both took long hot showers while the wind was light. One other pleasing surprise – the awful sea state we were anticipating with the frontal passage and wind shift has not materialized. The WSW waves just sort of laid down in rather abrupt fashion before the NNE waves started to build.

1300 EST – 143 miles to go

This is bizarre! In the last half hour the water temp has dropped 18 degrees F (from 75 to 57). Guess the Gulf Stream coordinates we had were wrong. Wind has lightened up a hair (16/18) and the cloud base is lifting with a hair of blue showing here and there. The water, on the other hand, has turned gray – a sure sign we’re out of the Gulf Stream. We’ve been losing three knots to current consistently for the last hour or two – hopefully this will improve soon…

1500 EST – 125 miles to go

The wind is backing towards N. We’re using the wind vane steering to keep us at around 35 degrees apparent. We are making 10.5 knots through the water, but just nine over the bottom, so the hit from current has been cut in half.

The sea is starting to lump up a bit, so we’ve left the mizzen furled to hold down speed. The weather race is over for this passage – and whether we arrive at 0500 or 0700 does not make a lot of difference to us, so we are choosing comfort over speed for this occasion.

Offshore to our east, the ingredients are falling into place for a real blow. Current forecasts show the low and associated front deepening and turning into a nice spring gale (something we’d just as soon do without).

1900 EST – 90 miles to go

Breeze is dropping, but we’re having a lovely sail. Almost time to fire up the iron genoa. Wind is till from the North, and we’re almost at the point where the MaxSea routing software says to head to port directly towards the bridge entrance.

Funny thing about using this software. It really does nothing more than help figure out something you probably understand instinctively, if you spend enough time at it. But when one is tired and perhaps distracted with other issues on board, it looks like it could be a very valuable tool to use. Certainly there are other ways of using its many options which we’ve not explored on these two short passages.

It is a good thing this trip is almost over. There are barely enough oatmeal cookies to last until we get the anchor down early in the AM. And we need the sustenance to fight off the cold. Not sure what about the air temperature, but water is 60F. Lots of layers being worn tonight by the crew of Beowulf!

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 13, 2001)

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