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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Riding the Gulf Steam

04 June 2008 23:00UTC 37'34N 069'01W

Our log says '15:30, entered the Gulf Stream'. In fact, what we came into first was a north flowing eddy, and the speed jumped from seven and a half knots to nearly ten. The wind has built nicely, now twenty knots from behind us, so we are reaching fast in mild seas, at high speed. Almost perfect.

Almost. There may be some nasty stuff to come tomorrow. Yesterday, we listened to Herb advising boats near us to head west then north. We did exactly that but listening to Herb today, the two boats he was advising to do this didn't follow it exactly, they took their chances and turned north quite a bit sooner. One of them is now forecast to have forty knots of wind, gusting to fifty by early morning. Herb didn't exactly say 'I told you so' but did spend five minutes pointedly giving them a forecast for the area they would have been in if they'd listened to him. Twenty, maybe twenty five knots.

We felt happy about that, as we're going his recommended way. But we are some fifty miles behind. A further fifty miles behind us, Herb advised another boat to stop making good progress towards Newport, turn around and go south again for four hours, because otherwise he'd hit thirty knots with possible squalls to forty or even fifty in the middle of the Gulf Stream. This had us a little more worried, that's a very extreme thing to do but Herb was adamant.

So we've done some careful analysis. Thirty knots is fine, we are very happy with that if it comes and it poses no threat. The problem is that in the warm waters of the gulf stream, big squalls can develop packing much higher winds for an hour or so at a time. We'd rather avoid that. The forecast is for the strong winds to develop at breakfast tomorrow, so we looked carefully at Herb's exit point for the Gulf Stream and believe that we will be there by four am, meaning that we should be well clear of any big squalls by breakfast time. We can see why he was telling the other boat to turn back, fifty miles would put him smack in the middle of it all.

Right now, we've got a very comfortable twenty knots of wind, making good speed in a slowly building sea. We've prepared for heavy weather - the checklist I made before crossing the Atlantic finally came out of the folder - and are well fed, briefed and tidyed up. Hopefully it'll just turn out to have been a good exercise.

It's been a fun and fast day, we've well past halfway to Boston now and enjoying ourselves, here's hoping that we've played the weather right and by this time tomorrow we'll be approaching Cape Cod.

All's well. N.

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