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Elephants in the Gulf Stream

The crossing from Florida to Abaco is about 130 miles, 55 miles across the Florida straits, to West End, Grand Bahama Island and then onto Abaco. The most challenging aspect is crossing the Florida Straits. The Gulf Stream flows northward at about 3 knots and is 20-25 miles miles wide. During the winter months if the wind blows hard (15 knots or higher) from the north, against the current, you have the equivalent of a 25-mile wide tide rip. Looking out to the horizon it will appear jagged or saw toothed, large square waves (elephants), high seas kicked up by the determination of the stream, struggling to fight its way north against the wind. This is not the time to make your crossing. When the weather is right the crossing is not difficult. The key factors to safe Gulf stream crossings are watching the weather closely, traveling in the company of other boats, reliable communications & navigation electronics (preferably with a back-up portable VHF), safety equipment and filing a float plan prior to departure.