Currents are a significant navigational consideration both when sailing to and from Cuba, and when sailing around its coastline.
The dominant feature is the Antilles Current, which itself is a branch of the North Equatorial Current. The Antilles Current sweeps up through the Caribbean in a generally northwesterly direction, with the greater part of its flow running to the south of Cuba (the Caribbean Current) and a lesser branch flowing to the north. The southern portion of the current is eventually compressed into the narrow space between Cabo San Antonio and the Yucatan peninsula, from where it hooks around the north coast of Cuba to the Florida Straits to rejoin the northern portion of the Antilles Current off the Bahamas.
Where the Antilles Current is spread out in the Caribbean it does not attain great velocities (generally a knot or so toward the NW). Between the Yucatan Straits and the Florida Straits it speeds up considerably, with an average speed along the axis of the stream of 2-3 knots, and maximum speeds of up to 7 knots - a formidable force with which to have to contend, especially when the wind is blowing against the current (a norther).
The northern portion of the Antilles Current, which flows through the Old Bahama Channel, is nowhere near as powerful. Typically, it flows at a knot or so, but in certain wind conditions it may stall out or even reverse its flow.
These currents at times create eddies and counter-currents closer inshore. In general, these counter-currents are not as predictable as the main flow. Nevertheless, there is enough consistency to some of
NMIM PORTSMOUTH VIRGINIA WEATHER FORECAST ZONES
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PRINCIPAL CURRENTS AND COUNTER-CURRENTS AROUND THE COAST OF CUBA
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them to be able to say that much of the time there will be a '/i> to 1 knot current flowing close inshore in a counterclockwise direction along the Archipiélago de los Colorados (the NW coast of Cuba), around Cabo San Antonio, and along a good part of the south coast. This generally counterclockwise inshore rotation is sometimes sustained on the NE coast by the Antilles Current in the Old Bahamas Channel.
Naturally, in all this there are some significant localized variations. Some of these are dealt with in more detail in the relevant chapters. For the general circulation, an Atlas of Pilot Charts for Central American Waters (DMA publication NVPUB 106) is an invaluable and highly recommended resource (see the Bibliography at the end of this chapter).
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