Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Preparing for the Atlantic Cup: Bermuda to the Chesapeake Bay

The weather will be the governing body on this part of the trip. Once we make it to Bermuda, it is a matter of waiting for the right weather window for the 625 mile crossing to the East Coast. The trip is broken up into three parts: Bermuda to the Gulf Stream, the Gulf Stream crossing, and the final leg to the Chesapeake Bay. With low pressure systems passing from west to east over Bermuda every 3-5 days in May, we will probably meet up with at least one of them! Not looking forward to that experience at all!

The goal will be to leave Bermuda just after a low has passed so we can cross the Gulf Stream before the next low comes along. We will be given a Gulf Stream analysis in Bermuda and it will probably offer several alternatives. If you recall, last fall we took a route different than the rest of the fleet and crossed it higher than most did. In the end, it proved to be to our advantage. However, we should not have gone straight south back to the original rhumb line; we should have created our own new rhumb line and ran parallel to the rest of the fleet. Our decision cost us a couple of nasty jibes and equipment issues! We learned from it.

Sailing into the sunset and the darkness of the night.

This time we will have a better understanding of the information provided and plan our approach and strategy for the crossing. We would like to cross during daylight so we can see the color changes in the water; however, one cannot always time the crossing! You cross when you get there!

There are a couple of alternatives. There may be a choice between catching a ride on an eddy or heading directly for the narrowest part of the stream. The final decision will be made based on the long term forecast and the speed with which the next low pressure system is predicted to reach us. Thank goodness for the daily weather update emails! We have the ability to download weather information from our satellite phone, but we are not real skilled in analyzing what it means. That is our next major learning effort!

We share the waters with the US Navy out of Norfolk, VA
Our general goal will be to exit the Gulf Stream north of Cape Hatteras. I have never heard a single positive story regarding sailing anywhere near Cape Hatteras. And I am sure I don't want to have one to tell - especially after two plus weeks of sailing into the wind. The other challenge at this point of the crossing is in the 100 or so miles between the Gulf Stream and the Chesapeake Bay as there is a lot of military and commercial traffic on the waters. That will make for very interesting night sailing as some of the light patterns on these huge vessels are very confusing. It is hard to tell if they are coming or going or towing something. I do know they are a lot bigger than we are so we will stay out of their way! And there are submarines in the area. I don't want to be surprised by one of those either!

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