Friday, April 15, 2016

The "S" Curve

If you followed the Spots we sent out with our positions through the day as we sailed from Miami to Bimini, then you know that our course was not exactly a direct one. We needed to sail almost due east, but the northward Gulfstream current of 3-4 knots requires more of a southeast heading, which was exactly where the wind was coming from. We wanted to use the sails instead of the engine, so we pinched up as tightly as we could into the wind for a few hours, giving us a slightly north of east heading, and then added the engine for better "easting" when we saw how far north of Bimini we were drifting. As you can see in the image to the left from Brian's GPS (click it for a full-size view), we ended up about 18 miles north of Bimini and needed to motor south long past dark to reach our destination, finally arriving at 11:30 PM, 18 hours after our 5:30 AM departure.

Bimini is about 45 miles east of Miami, but our "S" curve route added up to about 80 miles, which explains why it took so much longer than the 10-12 hours most sailors expect. The lessons we learned are obvious ones: wait for wind out of the southwest quadrant, which was not possible due to crew members' schedules; and understand that the only way to flatten the "S" curve is to go much faster than the Gulfstream current, which we were not able to do either sailing into the wind or motoring at a careful 4-5 knots due to fan belt issues.

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