"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

February 12, 2015

Feb. 11 - The Gulf Stream

Sombrero Resort & Marina

The Islands of the Bahamas are not too far off the Florida coast and first landfall can be easily done in a day, but picking the right day to cross the Gulf Stream is key. If the wind is out of the north, opposing the strong current of the Gulf Stream, the seas can build up to a dangerous and nasty a state. Something we definitely want to avoid, but when the wind is right and we leave from the right place, the stream can actually give us a boost and increase our speed. Making our trip a little quicker and when you travel on a slow boat, like we do, you can use all the help you can get. 

Gulf Stream Info: The Gulf Stream is a warm, river-like current of water that carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico northward past the tip of Florida, accelerating along the eastern coastline between Florida and the Bahamas, and then turns eastward off North Carolina, joining another current—the North Atlantic Drift—and travels as far as Ireland and Great Britain.

The Gulf Stream has an average speed of four MPH and is powerful enough to be seen from space. It was visible even in the earliest satellite studies and strong thermal gradients also make it visible to infrared measurements. Here in Florida the Gulf Stream is about 6 miles off shore and is anywhere from 10 to 30 miles wide. With depths ranging from 1000’ to 4700’.

Gulf Stream History: Ponce de Leon first observed the Gulf Stream in 1513. Around 1770, the Board of Customs in Boston noticed that packets traveling between Falmouth, MA, and New York took two weeks longer to arrive than merchants traveling from London to Rhode Island. This was perplexing as Falmouth and New York were less than a day apart by road. Benjamin Franklin spoke with a sea captain who told him that while fishing for whales, he noticed that the whales would swim alongside the Gulf Stream, but never in it. Fishermen would frequently cross the Gulf Stream, where they passed packet ships sailing within, against the current. This was the reason for the delays. Franklin had the captain mark the location of the Gulf Stream, as well as the directions of its currents and the first map was produced in the late 1700s.

The location of the Gulf Stream plotted on the 1769 Franklin-Folger map, is very similar to the location of the Gulf Stream as revealed by the satellites today. Franklin took measurements of the sea-surface temperatures during his crossings of the Atlantic, thereby developing a navigation technique based on the location of the warm Gulf Stream waters.

Benjamin Franklin's map of the Gulf Stream. He was the first one to refer to this current as the Gulf Stream in 1762
The Gulf Stream, in orange, is easily visible as the warmest water in this image from a NOAA satellite. 
These are the controlling currents in the Atlantic Ocean 


  1. Great tutorial on the Gulf Stream. Well done. It is truly a boating experience

  2. This is very timely. Last night David and I were just talking about the Gulf Stream, it's path and history of knowledge of it! Thanks for the informative post. --Brenda