Salty Dawgs Day 1

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Tue 5 Nov 2013 18:51
34:32.0N 76:20.0W
Arriving at Hampton we went to the “Dawg House” to pick up our free goody bag.  There is no charge for joining the rally and you get several useful things, in particular a couple of sets of charts and weather advice from Chris Parker, the guru of East Coast and Caribbean weather routing.
All Dawgs want to head south, but some are headed for the BVIs, some for the Bahamas and some (like us) for Florida.  This makes the weather routing quite difficult because different conditions favour different routes and different types of boat.  In order to head south, you need to catch a frontal system that temporarily reverses the trade winds.  These systems occur fairly frequently but the fly in the ointment is that the ensuing northerly wind opposes the Gulf Stream and if it is too strong then it creates a wave stream like a “parade of elephants” that is very unpleasant for small yachts.  To reach the Caribbean you really need a gentle breeze to cross the stream and then a strong northerly to take you south.  The predicted 35 knots northerly on Monday/Tuesday did not fit the bill for those boats. 
However, the Florida and Bahamas bound boats had the option of coast-hugging, remaining inside the Gulf Stream until it is opportune to cross, or even sticking inside the stream all the way to Florida.  This is what we will  be doing, and so we departed early Monday morning to make the most of the string north-easterly winds.  These have been 20 to 30 knots most of the time and we are making good progress.