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Old 04-01-2010, 20:35   #1
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How Long to Cruise to the Caribbean and Back from the NE?

How long is a reasonable time to take to cruise from the US east coast to the Carribbean and back? The idea is to cruise through the Bahamas, go to the Carib, and then get back to the northeast. I know it's possible to take forever or do a straight shot down and back, but what's a reasonable amount of time for a family to take such a cruise in a sabbatical scenario?
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Old 04-01-2010, 22:14   #2
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I think that depends on how much of the Caribbean you wish to see. I know one couple who spent 2 years doing a similar route.
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Old 04-01-2010, 23:16   #3
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Old 05-01-2010, 04:10   #4
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You really need to plan your trip around where you'll be during hurricane season. If your insurance is like mine, you need to be out of the "hurricane box" (back in the Northeast) or lay up the boat somewhere "safe" in the islands from July 1st through October 31st. If you head back north, you need to plug that time into the equation. So you only get seven months or so of "cruising". Getting from the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands can take some time, since the weather can hold you up, especially with your family as crew. You won't want to make like miserable for them by bashing your way down the Thorny Path into the Christmas Winds. You might make that part in two weeks if you're very lucky, or it could take two months. You won't know until you get to the islands.

If you want to do the whole enchilada, would say that as a minimum you could take a month to do the ICW from NE to the Bahamas, then a month in the Bahamas, then another month (or more) to get to the VIs. That would give you a few months to enjoy the Lesser Antilles before heading back north, realizing that bad weather on the way to the islands could radically change your plans.

Our first time south, we skipped the "down the East Coast" and "cruise through the Bahamas" parts, getting to the BVI via the offshore route from Virginia. We then spent six months cruising the Lesser Antilles, which will give you the basic flavor of it, but isn't nearly long enough to really get to enjoy the islands.

My personal opinion is that you should do either the ICW/Bahamas or the Lesser Antilles via the offshore route, but not try to cram both into a seven or eight month sailing season.
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Old 05-01-2010, 04:21   #5
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... My personal opinion is that you should do either the ICW/Bahamas or the Lesser Antilles via the offshore route, but not try to cram both into a seven or eight month sailing season.
Indeed.
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Old 05-01-2010, 04:27   #6
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I would strongly advise doing it as follows:

A leg to Bermuda and spend a week or two there and then shoot down to perhaps Antigua. These two ocean passages should be about a 5-6 days and 7-9 days depending on weather. Simply wait for the optimal weather window in the Fall to begin... and hang in Bermuda again for an optimal weather window.

Once in the NE corner of the Caribbean you can reach your way down to Trinidad or Venezuela even. The only tough one is the upwind slog to Barbados or working east from Venezuela. But if you are sailing mostly north and south from Antigua to Trinidad, the sailing is mostly reaches and quite pleasant. There's tons to see in that collection of Islands. You can go down with short stops and then on the way up spend more time once you've determined your favorite places.... and there are lots of them.

Then once you get as far north as Guadaloupe, you can return to Antigua or just head for Monserrat and continue downwind all the way through the US and British Virgins... and on to the Bahamas and up the Coast. I'd recommend the riding the Stream up the coast and popping in to some of the interesting places such as the Cheasapeake. You can decide how much crusing the East Coast you want to do after all that cruising in the tropics and may want to do a 10+ day run right up the coast.

The problem re weather will be avoiding Hurricanes and if you can't to be near a hurricane hole or somewhere to haul out if it looks bad, but you'll be competing with the locals when that event occurs.

If you arrive in the Caribe in December, cruise the islands for 6 months and work your way home through the summer and that should give you 6 solid months of island hopping.

Be prepared to change your plans.... in the hurricane season.
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Old 05-01-2010, 08:49   #7
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My personal opinion is that you should do either the ICW/Bahamas or the Lesser Antilles via the offshore route, but not try to cram both into a seven or eight month sailing season.
That's exactly the question we face. We're years out on this, but it's fun to start dreaming and planning. A question for us is whether this will be a school year thing (September through August), or half a school year (January through August). If the latter 8-month cruise, we likely would run the boat down to Florida a bit earlier, and start the trip from there in very early January. That means we'd skip the ICW thing in the Fall, obviously, and consider it for the Spring on the way home. We really do want to do the Bahamas, so the question becomes whether to stop at G-Town, or continue on. I always had figured that we'd just do the Bahamas, but I have a friend in my ear who recently did something similar telling me that stopping at G-Town will make the trip a little boring, and that we should go to the Carib and not miss out on that. I'm not sure I share his view re: "boring," but he did put the bug in my ear about making it down to the Carribbean.
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Old 05-01-2010, 09:27   #8
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Daniel,
How you go may depend very much on the boat you have. With a deep draft you may have problems with some parts of the ICW. I have read that some parts of it have not been well maintained (dredged?) but as I went outside because of what I had read I have no facts to report. Personally 1000+ miles of mostly motoring do not appeal.
That being said, for what you want to do I would give myself at least a year. Figure a couple of months to get to the Caribbean and back. Once you get to the islands there's so much to see and so many really great places -- such as our moderator's home island -- to visit that you'll be sorry if you cut it short. Above all do not set any kind of fixed schedule.
We bought our boat in Antigua and cruised the Leeward Islands then headed back.
I'm not really fond of the Bahamas -- but that's me -- so we didn't spend much time there. We did stop at Lauderdale because my wife has a ton of relatives there and then rode the stream north. That can be very rough if the weather doesn't cooperate -- a wind from the north can make it very uncomfortable even in a good sea boat -- but we planned it and were lucky in how long our window lasted.
We plan to go back down to the islands once I retire, going to Bermuda and then heading south to the Leewards. But we're thinking in terms of years with a possible trip through the canal and out to Hawaii and the Pacific islands so that doesn't really apply to you.
My advice is plan everything out figure the time it will take and then double it. Believe me, you won't be sorry
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Old 05-01-2010, 09:42   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danielgoldberg View Post
How long is a reasonable time to take to cruise from the US east coast to the Carribbean and back? The idea is to cruise through the Bahamas, go to the Carib, and then get back to the northeast. I know it's possible to take forever or do a straight shot down and back, but what's a reasonable amount of time for a family to take such a cruise in a sabbatical scenario?

Several friends of mine took such sabbaticals in durations varying between three and five years. They spent the hurricane seasons in Venezuela - however, the current political situation there would likely preclude this approach - you may want to pick an alternative location in far enough southern latitudes

While on your sabbatical, it would be helpful to have a reliable contact in the US who can track down difficult to find parts (relays, for instance) and ship them to you.

Hope you make it happen and enjoy a wonderful trip!

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Old 05-01-2010, 10:16   #10
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:24   #11
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Another possibility...

You and two or three sailing buds sail the boat offshore to the Virgin Islands in early November. Your family flies down to meet you, and you all have a wonderful five or six months cruising the islands down to Grenada and back, arriving in the Virgins around May 1st. Provision and do the downwind run to the Bahamas, where you spend a few weeks working your way up to the Abacos. From there jump into the Gulf Stream and ride it up to Beaufort, NC. Take the ICW up to the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and offshore up to New England.

That would give you a nice taste of the Caribbean islands, an introduction to the Bahamas, and whatever you want to make of the ICW on the way home. Then you'll know where you want to spend the most time on your next sabbatical.
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:57   #12
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We sail back and forth every year with the Caribbean 1500 in early November, returning in May through Bermuda. Many boats from the New England make the trip every year. This group is a good way to get off-shore experience and has the added security of sailing in a fleet. It takes us 6-7 days from Hampton Virginia to Tortola and 4 days to Bermuda on the way back.
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Old 05-01-2010, 12:03   #13
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We sail back and forth every year with the Caribbean 1500 in early November, returning in May through Bermuda. Many boats from the New England make the trip every year. This group is a good way to get off-shore experience and has the added security of sailing in a fleet. It takes us 6-7 days from Hampton Virginia to Tortola and 4 days to Bermuda on the way back.
You AVERAGE over 200 miles/day on that trip?
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Old 05-01-2010, 12:42   #14
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We sail back and forth every year with the Caribbean 1500 in early November, returning in May through Bermuda. Many boats from the New England make the trip every year. This group is a good way to get off-shore experience and has the added security of sailing in a fleet. It takes us 6-7 days from Hampton Virginia to Tortola and 4 days to Bermuda on the way back.
Speciald,

Not meaning to hijack the thread, but..

A Beneteau 50 was on her way to enter this race/rally in - I think - 2008 and somehow ended up on the beach just south of St Mary's inlet, FL. (The photos were on the local paper @ Fernandina Beach) Have you guys heard anything about what may have gone wrong?

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Old 05-01-2010, 12:50   #15
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You AVERAGE over 200 miles/day on that trip?
They have a 58' boat.

Attached are their passage notes from 2008. Looks like it took 8 days that year.
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File Type: pdf PassageNotes-SpecialDelivery.pdf (24.9 KB, 170 views)
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