Antigua to Norfolk VA - day 9

Stravaig'n the Blue
Tue 18 May 2021 20:11
End of day 9 position: 35:25.6 N  074:14.7 W
Position timestamp: Tuesday 18 May 2021 11:00 UTC-4
Distance travelled last 24 hours / in total: 146 / 1341 NM
Average speed since departure: 6.2 knots
Shortest distance to destination: 150 NM

Reasonably good progress in the last 24 hours: 146 miles sailed and distance to Norfolk reduced by 140 - and only 150 to go. In fact, less than 100 to go as I write this at 10pm. All being well, we should be in a slip at the marina at around lunch time tomorrow.

Yesterday evening’s unexpected wind held up until 5am so we both got in some good sleep without being disturbed by engine noise. No chance of that tonight. There hasn’t been a breath of wind since mid afternoon and none is forecast. The upside is that the sea is flat calm so we won’t be crashing through any waves.

We tried to pass between two large thunderstorms at lunch time today. We failed so it was very wet and, because they were to the north of us as we approached, we were unable to take advantage of their localised winds.

With one exception, all of the other thunderstorms we have encountered on this passage have failed to live up to their name and these two were no different. But without knowing ahead of time that this would be the case we took the usual precaution of stowing all of our handheld electronics (iPads, iPhones, Kindles and the satellite phone) in the oven in the expectation (or perhaps just hope) that the oven will act as a Faraday cage and protect them from a lightning strike. While in there, the equipment does of course run the risk of being turned to toast under the grill rather than by lightning but it seems a worthwhile risk to take. That said, as Linda and I don’t fit in the oven, protecting our personal electronics is probably somewhat moot anyway.

Today’s big excitement was crossing the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream starts in the Gulf of Mexico, runs around the southern tip of Florida and then runs north, 30 to 50 miles offshore up the coasts of Florida and Georgia before being pushed by the coasts of South and North Carolina out into the Atlantic at Cape Hatteras. From there it meanders across the Atlantic eventually arriving in the UK where it helps keep the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland wet and relatively warm throughout the year.

This screenshot from Windy shows the ocean currents, the Gulf Stream in particular, off northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The four white hearts are our planned days 6 through 9 positions.

We entered the Gulf Stream at around 7am when we were 75 miles east of Cape Hatteras and we left it 55 miles later in the middle of the afternoon. Half way across it, the Gulf Stream was running north east (to our course of north north west) at 4.3 knots! We were glad there was no wind, in particular a strong wind from the north as that, against the Gulf Steam, would have kicked up huge seas. Either side of it the sea temperature was 23C; in the stream, the temperature was 27C.

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to work out the best course to take crossing the Gulf Stream. I had thought that getting to it early and leaving it late so as to be in it longer might improve our average speed but my numbers didn’t stack up. (The development of a set of simultaneous equations might have yielded the right answer but that skill has been lost to the mists of time.) So we held our course for Cape Henry until we entered the stream and then experimented with various headings to find the maximum “velocity made good to waypoint” figure. That worked a treat.

The right hand screen shows a current of 3.8 knots taking the boat in a north easterly direction (55 degrees magnetic) while the boat is actually pointing north west (314). The left hand screen shows a north westerly bearing to the Cape Henry waypoint (326) whereas the boat’s course over the ground is essentially north (356). The boat’s speed over the ground is 6.1 knots but the velocity made good towards the waypoint is only 5.46 knots.

The last word today is on socks. It has become decidedly chilly in the evenings so I have had to dig out some socks. Despite never having worn socks since Lanzarote in January I had no trouble remembering how to put them on. I haven’t however dug out long trousers so my evening attire is t-shirt, shorts, deck shoes and mid-calf socks. Not a good look I am being told.

All is well.