The Gulf Stream - 28:40.7N 79:30.7W

Fri 24 Jun 2011 19:41
My decision to leave the Bahamas without the vane steering working made the  passage here nerve wrecking.  Trying to get sleep listening to the electronic autohelm groaning back and forth wondering when it was going to “calf” and praying that it would get me within steerable distance of my landfall.
In the meantime I had picked up the Gulf Stream.  Heading up the east coast of the States at 9-12 knots over the ground was exhilarating.  Before I left I got the latest Gulf Stream forecast and was able to plot a few waypoints to keep me in it.  Somewhat of a brave move because if you get wind against tide you will get insurmountable seas.  The stream is pretty narrow about 60Nm typically and the forecast was for southerly winds for the week, so I was confident that I would have good conditions.
The first map of the Gulf Stream was drawn by Benjamin Franklin.  When asked by the British why it took the British Mail ships two weeks longer than it took the American packet ships to cross the Atlantic he explored the question with his cousin, a whaling ship captain.  After consulting some other captains he put a map together and presented it to the British postal captain.  The British were sceptical about the existence of an “oceanic river”, and continued to follow their accustomed route for almost another 100 years.  When they did start using it they reduced their crossing by two weeks.
Time to get off this freight train.  I had expected that a current so warm and so strong would have an influence on the weather but I was still to get a surprise.  As I crossed the outer boundaries of the stream I was met with a huge thunderstorm. About 40kts of wind rose in less than two minutes and the sea blew flat with torrential rain.  Sitting in the cockpit and appropriately canvassed it was not much of a problem just shocking,  the real problem was looming overhead, thunder and lightening crashed about me and it seemed to be getting closer.  I headed for the cabin and unplugged all the instruments, even wrapped all my back up navigation gear in aluminium foil, kind of clutching at straws at this stage.  The basic method was to hide below and not touch anything metallic.  I counted the time between flash and bang and figured I got within 5 miles of it but survived unscaved never the less.  I have met people along that way that were hit and they stayed afloat but lost all the instruments, including a wristwatch that the face blew off while being worn.  Apparently it is rare that yachts are sank, on the rare occasion a hole is blow in the hull where the electricity finds ground but more often it supposedly makes thousands of tiny holes that will cause a leak but not sufficient to sink a manned boat.
Arriving in to Charleston in the early hours of the morning with no visibility I chose to hang to the left of  the channel.  As I closed on the entrance I dipped into the main channel knowing that I was not interfering with traffic.