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PAM SAYS: Using a Cold Front for Crossing the Gulfstream from Florida to the Bahamas

000-500x375Here are little tips for using a cold front for crossing the Gulfstream to the Bahamas from Florida:

1. If you are planning a winter crossing, from November through April, it is best to watch the weather pattern for the cold fronts that push down from Canada on a regular basis. Listen to the weather forecasters for the colds fronts that will affect South Florida. These cold fronts can be your best friends.

2. The first indication of a cold front will be a clockwise movement of the wind direction from the normal easterly direction to south easterly and then south. The cold front patterns will continue to clock the winds from the south to the southwest, to west southwest, and then west. Then onto northwest, and to the north and eventually back to northeast and east.

3. Use this change of wind direction for your advantage. For a sailing boat, or a power boat, the time to leave is when that wind is clocking from the southeast to south! This will allow a fair wind across the Gulfstream, with wind and current going in the same direction thus giving you calmer seas.

4. As the cold fronts get closer to South Florida you will be freed up with the clocking westerly wind. Much better than beating into the normal easterly wind!

5. For first timers crossing the Gulfstream, you definitely want to make your landfall in daylight hours and before the wind clocks to the northwest, north, and northeast which it will do. Promise me you will never cross the Gulfstream when the wind has any N in it, like Northwest, North, or Northeast. This northerly wind against the Gulfstream Current makes for a very uncomfortable sea state since the Gulfstream runs from south to north. Wind against current creates square waves!!! No fun at all for anyone or any craft!

6. Remember, winter time has shorter daylight hours, so plan your passage with plenty of time to make your landfall on the low lying islands of the Bahamas in daylight!! We often leave from South Florida at midnight to insure a daylight landfall. Consider your boat speed and plan ahead for the length of the passage.

Happy passages come from knowing the best time to be on the move!

I hope this brief note helps a bit with deciding on when to depart from Florida to the Bahamas. Let me know if you have any questions at: pam@pamwall.com