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Old 28-04-2016, 17:18   #1
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Heading south...but when?

I had planned to head south from Boston to the Bahamas via Norfolk and then offshore from there, departing around the end of October? I've gotten advice that that's just pushing it too late and winter Atlantic storms are better to be avoided than hurricanes. Not to mention the possibility of getting stuck somewhere and then suddenly it's November and December and the whole timeline's messed up.

So... when is a decent time to push off from Boston and make day sails and short crossings down the coast to Norfolk and then go offshore from there, straight across the GS, offshore from there to the Bahamas?

I know this is a classic topic, and I guess I thought the end of October was a reasonable time. Fill me in.

Thanks.
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Old 28-04-2016, 17:49   #2
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Re: Heading south...but when?

It is a conundrum and contrary to some opinions, there is no perfect time. As you seem to understand, leave too early and risks of a late season hurricane are higher. Leave too late and the risks of an early season nor'easter increase.

Get really unlucky and you get caught in the Perfect Storm which indeed came the end of October.

So, when to go? If going offshore I would prefer a little earlier. I think in general hurricanes are more predictable and give you more lead time for avoidance than a nor'easter so take a little higher hurricane risk and lower cold front.
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Old 06-05-2016, 11:08   #3
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Re: Heading south...but when?

Made same trip first in 1986 and last in 2005. Another consideration to starting in late Oct is air temperature. Days are becoming colder. Best advice is as already given, go earlier watch the hurricane season as it develops and choose a starting date based upon forecast storm activity. Plan for two weeks to Norfolk if sailing coastal with stops and find and plot hurricane holes to duck into.
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Old 06-05-2016, 11:15   #4
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Re: Heading south...but when?

It's a tough one for sure. I left Annapolis in late October. We had ice on the docks in the am at that point. After rounding Hatteras got our butt kicked in the Gulf Stream. Huge steep waves overwhelming the boat. Not predicted weather but gale force. We tried heaving to for some rest but the 47 ft boat wouldn't do it with the heavy wave action. Green water over the boat constantly, many hatches leaking that had been spray tested prior. You are fighting the GS a long ways.
If I were doing it again, I would go in summer and just watch the weather. Hurricanes give you at least a weeks warning.
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Old 06-05-2016, 12:14   #5
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Re: Heading south...but when?

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
It's a tough one for sure. I left Annapolis in late October. We had ice on the docks in the am at that point. After rounding Hatteras got our butt kicked in the Gulf Stream. Huge steep waves overwhelming the boat. Not predicted weather but gale force. We tried heaving to for some rest but the 47 ft boat wouldn't do it with the heavy wave action. Green water over the boat constantly, many hatches leaking that had been spray tested prior. You are fighting the GS a long ways.
If I were doing it again, I would go in summer and just watch the weather. Hurricanes give you at least a weeks warning.
That sounds like a really miserable trip. How aggressive was your spray testing of the hatches? Did you turn the hose to max jet and aim it right up under the lip of the hatch or just kind of hose them down with a gentle shower? I think I'll look again at the seals on my hatches. I hate a wet cabin.

I got caught off Hatteras in late Oct once in a delivery. Mechanical problems seriously delayed the departure. We were on a 90' fishing trawler and had waves breaking over the top of the pilot house. Lost one of the flopper stoppers and I was worried the boat would roll over (remember the scene with George Clooney in The Perfect Storm? Only time I've ever come close to scared at sea.

Offshore in the eastern North Atlantic in October or later can be deadly.
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Old 06-05-2016, 14:16   #6
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Re: Heading south...but when?

I sprayed at the gap, albeit not super aggressive with a thin full stream. These hatches were the offshore type with 4 dogs to tighten also.... not just the usual 2. But obviously all things weren't perfect. Never had them leak before or after that trip. But green water over the boat has a lot of force, and I'm sure the boat is flexing in a seaway like that also. Passport 47.
We bypassed Morehead and kept going at night. It was down there that we got hit.
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Old 06-05-2016, 14:32   #7
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Re: Heading south...but when?

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I sprayed at the gap, albeit not super aggressive with a thin full stream. These hatches were the offshore type with 4 dogs to tighten also.... not just the usual 2. But obviously all things weren't perfect. Never had them leak before or after that trip. But green water over the boat has a lot of force, and I'm sure the boat is flexing in a seaway like that also. Passport 47.
We bypassed Morehead and kept going at night. It was down there that we got hit.
My hatches are original 1984 Bomars. They do have four latches (don't think you call them dogs if they are screw down instead of a lever?) and a nice thick gasket but I hadn't thought about the flexing. Fortunately the only green water I've seen on a small boat was occasional and moderate, not giant waves that washed the deck. Hopefully I won't have to find out how my hatches handle that situation.

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Old 06-05-2016, 14:42   #8
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Re: Heading south...but when?

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My hatches are original 1984 Bomars. They do have four latches (don't think you call them dogs if they are screw down instead of a lever?) and a nice thick gasket but I hadn't thought about the flexing. Fortunately the only green water I've seen on a small boat was occasional and moderate, not giant waves that washed the deck. Hopefully I won't have to find out how my hatches handle that situation.

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Sounds like yours are just like mine were. The boat was 1985 and the hatches were Bomar I think. Screw down to tighten... right. The only one that leaked bad was the big overhead 24 x 24 I think.
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Old 06-05-2016, 15:38   #9
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Re: Heading south...but when?

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Originally Posted by NewEnglander View Post
I had planned to head south from Boston to the Bahamas via Norfolk and then offshore from there, departing around the end of October? I've gotten advice that that's just pushing it too late and winter Atlantic storms are better to be avoided than hurricanes. Not to mention the possibility of getting stuck somewhere and then suddenly it's November and December and the whole timeline's messed up.

So... when is a decent time to push off from Boston and make day sails and short crossings down the coast to Norfolk and then go offshore from there, straight across the GS, offshore from there to the Bahamas?

I know this is a classic topic, and I guess I thought the end of October was a reasonable time. Fill me in.

Thanks.
For the last couple of years I've done Newport to Bermuda in early October and then made the Bermuda to Eastern Caribbean in mid November. This has mostly worked well and I intend to do it this fall too.

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Old 06-05-2016, 16:08   #10
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Re: Heading south...but when?

depending on your situation, but if you want to stay reasonably warm I would say first of October period earlier if you can swing it
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Old 08-05-2016, 06:45   #11
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Re: Heading south...but when?

Tough question and depends how lucky you are.
However after the last few years of doing same I am now going down in stages.
Really tired of being cold and I feel forecasts have improved regarding Hurricanes.
I go from Connecticut to Wilmington NC. late September early October weather dependent. I leave the boat there then go back in late November and head directly to the Albacos then continue down to start my trip south. Obviously this is my route if the Exumas are my end point. If I were heading back to the Caribbean then I would head out to I-65 out of Wilmington and hook a right.
The North Atlantic has seen its share of bad weather in the last few years so the Bermuda run has been less appealing to many.
Even with a good weather window Hatteras has also been a little contrary with the stream meandering very close to the beach but you always have the ICW if you don't mind motoring. We had to almost go right up on the beach around Hatteras last year because of the meander. Not something I want to repeat.
Let us know how you do, there is always something to learn from others.
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Old 08-05-2016, 10:03   #12
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Re: Heading south...but when?

The trouble I had after rounding Hatteras was the stream was really in close to the shore. It was blowing 20-25 that morning against the stream and the boat speed was 8-9 knots, but the actual progress was real slow, maybe 3-4. I wanted to go in even more near to shore, but here's the rub: Cape Lookout Shoals extend what..10-20 miles offshore? Our plan was to go into the bight for the night at Cape Lookout. It became obvious we wern't going to get there before dark and having never been near there we were reluctant to go in there much less skirt the shoals in those conditions. By the time we got around the shoals we were on a beam reach and it was blowing 35. So we just turned and headed south into an ugly night. What really pissed me off was we could have left Norfolk a lot earlier and maybe made it... my bad in over estimating our progress even though I had figured an extra hours.
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Old 08-05-2016, 11:16   #13
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Re: Heading south...but when?

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
Sounds like yours are just like mine were. The boat was 1985 and the hatches were Bomar I think. Screw down to tighten... right. The only one that leaked bad was the big overhead 24 x 24 I think.
Don't think mine are quite that large but will have to measure.

So what do you call the screw done hatch closing thingys? Are they still dogs since that's the function they perform or is there another nautical term for them?
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Old 08-05-2016, 11:23   #14
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Re: Heading south...but when?

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Don't think mine are quite that large but will have to measure.

So what do you call the screw done hatch closing thingys? Are they still dogs since that's the function they perform or is there another nautical term for them?
I'm not sure either, that one may have been 20 x 20. Probably wasn't 24 x 24 I suppose.
I believe the technical term is "screw done hatch closing thingys"
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Old 08-05-2016, 12:46   #15
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Re: Heading south...but when?

*I haven't read the other replies before writing this*

I have come down from New York twice and I think its good to leave BY by mid-September.
Once south of Cape Hatteras you have great choices of day hopping down the coast or icw, anytime, or doing the easy direct to Bahamas route in early November.
Obviously you have a month somewhere to kill, but as long as you are south of Hatteras its fine.

Heading direct to the Bahamas, or the Caribbean from Norfolk or Beaufort North Carolina is pretty easy. We don't know what the hurricane season is likely to be yet... early should be quiet but its too far out to see if it will finish in early November or late November.

I think those that sail down from NY, Newport etc in November are nuts. Truly nuts. Getting a Norther for a week against the Gulf Stream is just silly and doubly so because its avoidable




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