Riding the Gulf Stream Current Northward
12 May 2018 | Gulf Stream North
Gulf Stream - Riding the Current (Ocean City MD arrival
Photo of aircraft carrier in front of Frisky
Our weather router, Chris Parker, sent us coordinates for the best current in the Gulf Stream, which runs around Florida up the East Coast even as far as New Jersey. The current is a steady stream flowing northward at 2.5 to 3 knots. A south wind flowing WITH the current is ideal for a smooth passage.
Based on a long weather window of moderate south winds, we left Vero Beach and decided to ride the Gulf Stream as far as possible up the East Coast. Our long range plan is to enjoy New York and New England and Maine and even Nova Scotia this summer. Then in the autumn we plan to come back down taking the "inside" ICW back to Florida.
The distance to Beaufort NC (just before the infamous Cape Hatteras) was 540 miles. The distance to Ocean City, MD (around and north of Cape Hatteras) was 782 miles. So we knew that we had 3-5 nights at sea, and at some point, we would have to decide how far we would ride the Gulf Stream northward.
Given our plans and the weather window, we set out back down the 12 miles from Vero Beach to exit at Fort Pierce on Friday, May 11. We knew when we were in the Gulf Stream when the boat speed over the ground (SOG) increased by 3 knots, and we were averaging 8.5 knots consistently even with very little wind. In fact, we had to motor for much of the time on Saturday in glassy seas but the current kept us moving quickly.
By Sunday, May 13, the wind started picking up a bit and with our screecher, we hit up to 10 knots under sail with only 8-9 knots of wind on the beam. Unfortunately, we had to "exit" the Gulf Stream on Monday with 200 miles to go in order to head toward our destination of Ocean City, MD. These last 200 miles proved to be challenging with high winds and rough seas for some of the time and light wind the rest of the time. We had hoped to arrive before dark on Tuesday night but finally arrived at dawn on Weds morning.
When we passed offshore from Norfolk, VA, the VHF radio suddenly hailed "This is AirCraft Carrier... calling Sailing Vessel Frisky" Linda responded and was informed by the Carrier that they would be altering course to pass 2 nautical miles ahead of us. Nice to know since military vessels rarely transmit on AIS. The huge aircraft carrier DID show up nicely on radar however!
All in all we traveled 786.4 miles in 4 days, averaging more than days/hours, averaging more than 7 knots of speed overall. What a great ride up the lower East Coast US!