WWW does not refer to the World Wide Web this time. It stands for “waiting for a weather window.” To reach paradise on the other side of the Gulf Stream, boaters must make the passage during a “good weather window.” Now that we have done all the preparations we can, traveled over 1000 nautical miles the eastern coast of the US, we are waiting and watching for a good weather window. We have been watching the weather forecasts for a week now, keeping our eye out for the next window.. Tomorrow (Tuesday, December 10th) looks like a good possibility.
The Gulf Stream is one of nature’s most formidable forces. This “stream” of warm water runs northward along the American coast traveling from two knots up to four knots with a mean of 2.5 knots. It is actually part of a larger ocean-wide system that flows from southern Florida up the eastern seaboard to the Arctic, over to England, and finally back down to Africa, along the equator, up the coast of South America, past the Caribbean Islands and into the Gulf of Mexico, and then back up the coast again – a big clockwise current of water in the ocean. Here, in Florida, the Gulf Stream rushes through a deep narrow strait about 25 miles wide between Florida and the Bahamas. A successful (meaning not scary and frightening) passage should only be attempted when the winds are south/southeast, less than 15 knots, with seas less than 2-4 feet. Any wind out of the north will cause the seas to build in the northward flowing Gulf Stream, resulting in a very rough ride.
This passage across the Gulf Stream is called “the crossing.” Wherever cruisers are gathered, you hear these questions:
- Where are you crossing to? (usually West End or Green Turtle Cay for the Abacos or Bimini, Nassau, Chubb Cay for the Exumas)
- Where are you crossing from? (usually Lake Worth, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami)
- When are you crossing?
I asked everyone I met the first two questions. I think each person I asked had a different approach to their crossing, so it became just an exercise in information gathering. We will make our own decision. Question #2 depends largely on the answer to #1. Now that we have decided to go to the Abacos rather than the Exumas, we will leave from Lake Worth Inlet (Palm Beach area) instead of traveling farther south down to Miami.
Question #3 depends entirely on the weather and only the weather, as long as your boat and its crew is prepared and ready. That’s why it is called “waiting for a weather window.” Weather is everything. Many cruisers have an SSB radio so they can listen to Chris Parker, the weather guru. We couldn’t invest the thousands of dollars necessary for an SSB system, so we bought just the receiver for less than $100. Strongly recommended by everyone. Well, so far any voice/words coming out of the little black box are completely unintelligible. The sounds it emits remind me of the UFO noises on tv shows and movies, the old shows and movies. Fortunately, there are many other sources for weather information – many great websites, apps, NOAA, and VHF radio.
While we were waiting….. (more WWWW)
This will be the last post until we are settled in the Bahamas and have acquired a wifi connection. It is all new to us so I cannot tell you when that might be. Our AIS signal will not get picked up from the Bahamas by the websites (vessel finder or marine traffic – please don’t worry!!! 🙂
We are so excited to be Bahama Bound!!