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Old 09-11-2011, 10:02   #1
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A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

Posted this in one of the forums discussing boats that had to be abandoned sailing from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Eastern Caribbean this fall. There are at least two of those forums ongoing at the moment. My question was whether another route might be better. Somebody suggested starting a new thread on the subject.

Below is my post on the other forum.

Quote:
However, it is not even close to an unusual trip to make. Tens, probably hundreds, of little boats do it every year. In fact, there are a number of races from the east coast to Bermuda - Marion/B every other year, Newport/B every other year, Charleston/B every other year, Annapolis, etc. (END QUOTE)

If tens, or even hundreds of little boats make this trip each year, and there is at least one, and usually more than one, horror stories each year, then the odds aren't too terrific for avoiding serious trouble. I should have said it appears that this route in October/November seems to be pretty risky. The races you mention, I think, occur in late May or June, which seems, at least, to be a much safer window for the run from the East Coast to Bermuda.

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I've made the trip down five times and looked at a lot of weather forecasts while doing it. I would say that it is better to jump down the coast to Beaufort and leave from there than going offshore further north. This time of year it seems that the fronts lose most of their punch below 30 degrees north, so my strategy would be to find a window which would let me get across the stream and below 30 before the next front.

Of course, a lot depends on how lucky you are with the forecast--they aren't too accurate after 3-4 days. The first time down, Herb told me to go east for 3 days, then told me to go west, as there was a rapidly developing low in my path. We saw 50 knots for a while, but missed the worst of it. (END QUOTE)
If you left the East Coast around Hilton Head, SC, and made course for the Windward Passage, as Virgintino suggests, you would be across the Gulf Stream and south of 30 degrees within about 200 miles, or less than two days.

I don't know. I haven't done this route personally before, but am considering making the trip. I did an offshore passage from Newport to Miami in late October once, and I do remember the weather being rough until we were south of Hatteras. Does anyone else have any thoughts or experiences they'd like to share? This route through the Windward Passage and up the south coast of Hispaniola looks interesting. Has anyone done it?
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:08   #2
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

I certainly wouldnt call going to the carribean via Bermuda a good route in the first place.... unless you're intent on going to Bermuda! Every year there seem to be a number of boats abandoned, rescued etc on the way to Bermuda. Let's see..... day sails/overnighters from FLorida, vs sailing out into the middle of nowhere... what part of this dont I understand?
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:25   #3
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
I certainly wouldnt call going to the carribean via Bermuda a good route in the first place.... unless you're intent on going to Bermuda! Every year there seem to be a number of boats abandoned, rescued etc on the way to Bermuda. Let's see..... day sails/overnighters from FLorida, vs sailing out into the middle of nowhere... what part of this dont I understand?
If you're leaving from Rhode Island, then the Bermuda route followed by I-65 south is good. The roughest is the washing machine between RI and halfway to Bermuda. (Assuming a well found boat)
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:10   #4
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We tried to go east from Florida last year, Cheechako. Heading past Bermuda or thereabouts is the only sensible way to go.
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:25   #5
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

Conditions have definitely changed during my lifetime of sailing around here. I am 66.
40-50 yrs ago (not a long time-Bluestocking made the first of 6-7 annual trips south in1967), you could bet money on a prevailing SW breeze before and after hurricane season. July to October back then.
Leaving Bermuda, 2-3 days SE on a close reach, flop over and run the trades down.
Those trades appear to have moved north by about 200 miles, and we get easterlies all summer for about the last 10 yrs.
The NE gales in the winter are also more intense, longer duration.
My observation, anyway.
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:25   #6
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

Yeah, I guess so, I'm thinking going through the islands, you're trying to go the fast route I guess!
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:38   #7
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

Local forecast to 40knts late PM, to 55knts late night, early AM 11th, decreasing to 35knts for following 24 hrs.
Fingers and toes crossed for good news.
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:39   #8
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

In my opinion there is no perfect answer. I have made the trip from FL to the VI and it is a long trip to windward whether you go the Thorny, Thornless, I-65 or whatever. At the end of the day you have to make about 1000 nm easting against the easterly trades.

I have also made the trip from the NE a couple of times and there are problems there as well, potentially much more serious problems.

If one wants to spend the summer in the NE to avoid hurricanes further south then an Oct departure south is the best option but not necessarily a good or wise choice. As noted in a previous post, it is really common to catch a late season hurricane or an early season Nor'easter on this route. Either one catches you offshore, especially in the Gulf Stream and you are guaranteed a very bad day.

Instead of leaving direct from further north I think the best option is to stay inshore until NC and then go for Bermuda. This maintains most of your easting but cuts down the offshore leg of the trip so you can pick your window to cross the stream. Still not perfect but minimizes the risk compared to leaving from New England.
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Old 13-11-2011, 16:41   #9
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean?

This year was unusually harsh for those sailing from New England to Bermuda and the Caribbean. Boats NW, W and SW of Bermuda took a thrashing, with several abandoned and one life tragically lost.

Departing from a more southerly port minimizes exposure to the gales and storms that are a regular feature of this time of year. Although the "collective wisdom" is to head toward Bermuda before turning south on "I-65", in recent times, most passagemakers from Hampton Roads, Virginia, or Beaufort, NC, sail pretty close to or just north of the rhumbline, making adjustments as needed for the cold eddy currents east of the Gulf Stream and any unusual wind patterns. It can save you a day or so. You need to have good sources of weather and ocean currents.

I think, ideally, leaving from Beaufort is the best choice, though I've always left from Hampton Roads. From Beaufort, you're across the Stream sooner, and the faster you can get southeast the less chance you have of being hammered. Coming down from New England, you can enjoy the Chesapeake Bay in the Fall--very nice! Then you can get to the Virgin Islands in 7-10 days, depending on your boat's capabilities. Most leave the first week of November, after insuring a three day weather window for getting across the Stream. Late October is statistically a bit more problematic for tropical storm formation.

Three years ago I was sailing my boat from St Thomas up through the Bahamas to Florida. We encountered a cold front off Eleuthera. It was a major weather feature in the Atlantic, but only gave us 25-30 knot winds. Further north, to the SW of Bermuda, a CF member and her family were forced to abandon their boat in the same weather system, with much more intense winds (50-60 kts?).

Latitude makes a BIG difference.
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Old 13-11-2011, 17:40   #10
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

What's this "I-65" I've now read about in more than 1 place here?
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Old 13-11-2011, 17:49   #11
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

I am probably really in the dumb zone, but why doesn't anyone ever go west of Cuba and down via Cayman, Jamaica..then follow the islands down ? Seems you would be going SW from the Keys (good with Easterlies) Than you would be going South East with Cuba blocking the Easterly flow... Too Far ?
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Old 13-11-2011, 17:51   #12
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

Longitude 65 deg.
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Old 13-11-2011, 18:30   #13
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

I don't mean to hijack the thread, but my interest is in the other direction, basically from Galveston around tip of Florida and up the coast to Nova Scotia (Canso Pass). This is to be a one-way trip probably late Spring. Advice on best departure time and route (in-shore vs off-shore) would be appreciated, although frankly, ICWW is not of interest.
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Old 13-11-2011, 18:59   #14
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

I am in Beaufort and am planning on going south in about 2 weeks.Thought of just going down the east coast about 20 miles offshore and stopping in Charleston , Cape Canaveral etc till i get to Miami and then head across through the Bahamas and use Van Sandt's book to get to the BVI's .Got my ass kicked in Feb this year heading from Miami to Beaufort.Was 80 miles offshore and got caught in a Northerly...
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Old 13-11-2011, 20:01   #15
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Re: A Better Route to the Caribbean ?

Charleston is too far west. Better to jump across the stream from NC where it is closer to shore and you can be well clear before the weather forecast becomes uncertain. We never left before Thanksgiving, and still made out OK. Leave after the northerly dies down after a front, but not if the next front is close behind. Once across the stream, your goals are to get to 65W long, but also to get below 30N before the next strong cold front. If a strong front is coming, go south early, because the front is usually followed by several days of N/NE winds, which let you make your easting.

Look at the Caribbean 1500 website, and practice your strategies on their tracker with their boats (the tracker gives the wx forecasts out 4 days). I think most of them are going east today rather than south because the next front doesn't look too strong and the E/ESE trades are pretty far north.
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