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Old 11-09-2008, 06:31   #1
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Late season crossing to VI from Charleston, SC

We're planning on leaving in mid to late January to make the crossing to the VI, it's late but the boat needs to get ready and do does my bank account Any thoughts on a late season crossing? What differences can I expect to see on the usual "East to 65" route? What's the prevailing weather, are the trades stronger or weaker around that time?



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Old 11-09-2008, 07:20   #2
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I've never made the crossing from Charleston, just from Virginia, and in November. In general, November is preferred because it is after the peak of the hurricane season, and before the strong winter storms begin.

Leaving from Charleston, you will be south of the area where the offshore storms are usually the strongest, but certainly not out of reach of them. Count on gale or storm force winds after the passing of a cold front coming off the coast. You'll need to plan your Gulf Stream crossing carefully to avoid winds from the northern sectors while still in the Stream.

From Charleston, you will also have more difficulty making the easting under sail that you will need to be positioned to catch the tradewinds on a close or beam reach. The trades kick in at about 23 to 24 North Latitude. Be prepared for some motor-sailing with plenty of reserve fuel. Easting is important, because the "Christmas Winds" can be blowing in January--enhanced tradewinds at 25-30 kts or more from the ENE or E. You'll want to be at 64-65 East Lat by the time you reach the tradewinds.

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Old 14-09-2008, 13:20   #3
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The cold fronts can be nasty in December, but as long as you keep going you should be fine. After about 100 miles offshore you will be in shorts & T shirts. I crewed on an old formosa ketch two Decembers ago from Charleston heading to St Thomas. We only made it 300 miles before turning around. One of the fuel tanks had a very bad leak flooding the entire cabin floor to the floor boards every 4 hours. The engine created a bad water leak, the electronics went out, the staysail boom rippid out of the deck and the mainsail jammed up on the mast and would not go up or down.

It took 3 days to go 300 miles out but when we turned around to come back we got slammed by a major cold front and 25ft seas head on. It took 4 days to get back.
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Old 14-09-2008, 13:39   #4
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So what did you guys do just for kicks in your spare time? :-)


To add to what Hud said, the main thing to be prepared for is the possibility of strong winds from the E or NE. Not the normal trades, which blow between 15 and 25 knots, but the so-called "Christmas Winds" which can blow 40-50 knots and more.

These don't come every year. And, when they do come, they can blow for a day or two, or even a month or more. And, they can blow all the way down to Trinidad.

We left Tortola one year the day after Christmas enroute direct to Grenada, some 415 miles south. Christmas winds all the way...30-45 knots and 18-20' seas. Not fun.

Moreover, that year very strong winds blew for over a month with little letup. Coming back we spent one night in the "lee" of Saba with 45-50 knot winds all night. Next morning, it was only blowing about 30-35 so we decided to head back across the Anegada Passage, carrying just a whisp of a genoa. Lively sail!

These conditions are not the norm, but they CAN and DO happen. Mostly, the strong winds will only blow for a few days.

Hopefully, you'll be ready for them and weather them well.

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Old 14-09-2008, 15:43   #5
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I left from Hampton on Dec 5th one year and had the best sail of my life. We managed to stay between two fronts all the way down averaging more than 200 miles/day the whole way. It was a broad to close reach all the way. We were probably lucky. A slower boat could not have out-run the fronts.
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