Friday, June 12, 2009

Do We Love the Gulf Stream? Oh, Yeah…

For those of you not familiar with oceanography, the Gulf Stream is one of the world’s major currents, basically a river that flows through the ocean (see this link for more info). In our region, the Gulf Stream flows north through the Yucatan Straits between Mexico and Cuba, then east through the Florida Straits between Florida and Cuba, then north along the southeastern United States coast before turning east and heading out across the Atlantic Ocean. The water is very warm, so the current is quite visible by satellite, as you can see with the link above. (Note: The influence of the warm Gulf Stream waters is the reason that palm trees can grow in some areas of the British Isles, as is seen in this picture from southwest Scotland. A calendar we have (The Mariner’s Book of Days, with neat nautical information) says that “the movement of the water in the Gulf Stream is measured in Sverdrups (Sv), where one Sv equals one million cubic meters of water per second,” and that the flow by the Straits of Florida is 26 Sv. That’s a lotta water.

What does this mean in practical terms? It meant that we actually saw 10 knots speed while we travelled north in the Gulf Stream. Here’s a picture of our GPS showing our speed over the ground (SOG) as 8.8 knots. Woo hoo! We’re usually happy with 5 knots and ecstatic with 6. Along the Florida east coast, the Gulf Stream is estimated to provide ~3.5 knots current speed, which really helps to push you along when, of course, you’re going in the same direction as the current. We’ll let you know how we feel about it in the fall, when we’re headed back south!

1 comment:

  1. Chris & Anne,

    Liz and I had 10.1 knots going south in the stream on Moosetracks. We were off the FL/GA border maybe 80 miles offshore cutting the corner and of course a tail wind of 25knts helps too.

    So just make sure you stay close to land especially after Canaveral when you need to be 1-2 miles off.