by Harry WeldonWhen planning a crossing of the Gulf Stream in a small boat, the wind speed and direction are probably the most important factors in deciding when to cross. I look for 10-15 or less and no northerly component in the wind. The Web can be an excellent source of information; the following are a few of the sites I use for gathering information useful in planning a crossing:
http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/ (Hydro-meteorological Prediction Center) This is a good site for a broad overview of weather patterns showing fronts and spacing of isobars. What you really want to find is a nice fat high-pressure dome sitting right on top of the Northern Bahamas and Florida with isobars spaced wide apart. This is fairly common in the summer months. With all of the prediction models, I look for consistency in the prediction as it moves from the three or four day to the 24-hour prediction. This doesnít happen all that often but when it does you can sometimes find a window in an otherwise lousy bit of weather.
http://aviationweather.gov/adds/winds/ I look at this site several times a day even when Iím not crossing. Here you will find current surface wind conditions and predictions to about 48 hours out. The 0 to 12-hour forecast are updated every three hours, the rest are updated twice a day at 0 and 1200 UTC.
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=lkwf1 Reports conditions at Lake Worth, Florida.
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=SPGF1 Reports conditions at Settlement Point, Grand Bahamas
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/Forecasts/FZUS52.KMFL.html The NOAA text forecast. While not always the most reliable, this is a good check of the others.
http://radar.weather.gov/Conus/southeast_loop.php Radar which shows precipitation out to the East side of Great Abaco Island. Safe crossing.