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Old 28-04-2008, 15:03   #1
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Offshore options to USVI

We're heading for the USVI this fall. We do not want to go through the Bahamas as we think we will spend a lot of time motoring, and we don't want to beat through the trade winds. but we don't want to go to Bermuda because we don't feel we have the proper equipment (life raft, SSB) to make that kind of a trip safely.

So I'm looking for a middle ground. We will be leaving from Charleston.

I was thinking of heading offshore for the Turks and Caicos islands. heading east until we make enough headway to turn south for the Turks.

Anyone know what the winds are like in this area in the fall?

After that leg we would again head east offshore until making the headway to turn south to the USVI.

We want a path that provides the most sailing, but with an opportunity to stop and wait for a weather window.
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Old 28-04-2008, 15:12   #2
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Chad,
There is a reason that most people leave for the VI and skirt just south of Bermuda; It gives them a place to duck into thats an easy sail- 3/4 days out of Norfolk/ Beaufort, 5/7 days out of USVI. straight down I65 going with the winds and the currents, if you time it right it can be a glorious sail, I am not sure, never having done the route you describe, how that would play out, I think that from Charleston you might have to go too far east to make the T&C. others would know more than I.
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Old 28-04-2008, 15:23   #3
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yeah. looking at weather patterns i'm already seeing flaws. that's what this forum is good for
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Old 28-04-2008, 15:31   #4
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Chad,

You want it all, don't you? :-)

The usual offshore routes to the Eastern Caribbean are as Rhosyn said, and there are good reasons for doing this. See the attached pilot chart for November.

As you can see, as you proceed south and east of Charleston, the NE and E component winds increase markedly, making it harder and harder to make easting.

Basically, you have two options: (1) go offshore and head East or even NE and go as fast and far as you can until you reach somewhere around 65W (which is the longitude of St. Thomas), then head directly south; or (2) take the Thorny Path through the Bahamas, with many stops and lots of time awaiting weather windows.

Many voyagers prefer to route themselves near Bermuda, because its a nice stop and a nice place to await a weather window for the trip south to St. Thomas. Depending on your boat speed, figure 4-7 days to Bermuda, then 5-9 days south to STT.

If you feel you don't have the right equipment to make Bermuda safely, then IMHO you definitely don't have the right equipment for virtually ANY route to the eastern Caribbean. Offshore is offshore. You need to be prepared for it.

Bill
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Old 28-04-2008, 15:37   #5
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Chad,

I've made the trip from Hampton Roads, Virginia to the BVI three times. Three is not a lot, so I'm no expert, but based on my experiences, my advice would be, departing Charleston, get as much easting in as you can, until you reach about 67 W longitude, and then bear off for the USVI. 66 W would be even better. Going all the way to 65 W is what they used to do in the old days, but our boats go to weather better than the tall ships. The last two times, we sailed the rhumbline from Cape Hatteras to Tortola, and did just fine. Sailing the rhumbline cuts almost a day off the passage, compared to the I-65 route from Virginia.

If you're lucky you'll reach 67 or 66 W before you get south of 26 N latitude. Cold fronts coming off the mainland U.S. will dictate your wind conditions above 26 N--light southeasterlies, clocking to SW and building, W, NW as the front passes over you, and the NNE to NE. Be prepared for gale conditions, as a minimum. You'll need to have good weather routing, either your own resources, or hire a service to help.

You'll reach the trades at 25 N or so, depending on what's going on with the Atlantic weather systems. Once you reach the trades, you get what you get--usually NE to E at 15-20 kts. If you don't get your easting in, you'll have a miserable beat or motor-sail. In the worst case, you'll end up bearing off for San Juan or the Dominican Republic to fuel up.
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Old 28-04-2008, 16:21   #6
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Thanks for the advice guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
If you feel you don't have the right equipment to make Bermuda safely, then IMHO you definitely don't have the right equipment for virtually ANY route to the eastern Caribbean. Offshore is offshore. You need to be prepared for it.
Do you mean "any OFFSHORE route to the eastern caribbean"?
I've never been to the Caribbean, and I do not expect it to be all peaches and roses. But I do think there is a difference between island hopping and sailing 700 miles straight into the ocean, don't you?

Looking at it from another perspective, I do feel I have the proper equipment to make it to Bermuda. However, if our boat was sinking, we don't have the proper equipment to deal with the situation. which to me is SSB and a life raft.
some people wouldn't even think twice about leaving shore with out those two things.
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Old 28-04-2008, 19:17   #7
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Chad,

You said it, yourself. In your original post, you said, "....but we don't want to go to Bermuda because we don't feel we have the proper equipment (life raft, SSB) to make that kind of a trip safely."

In your last post you said, "...I do feel I have the proper equipment to make it to Bermuda. However, if our boat was sinking, we don't have the proper equipment to deal with the situation. which to me is SSB and a life raft."

Huh?

And, yes, I meant "any route to the Eastern Carribean", not just "any offshore route". They're all offshore, that is, they all contain sizable offshore components. There's really no "island hopping route all the way" in the sense I believe you intend it. Look at the charts, the distances involved, and the likely weather (especially in the tradewind areas).

There's really no getting around it: you're either prepared and equipped or you're not.

That said, reasonable sailors may disagree on what constitutes adequate preparation for such a trip. FWIW, I agree with you that a life raft and a SSB (ham or marine) and/or possibly a sat phone are important pieces of gear to have on board.

Bill
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Old 28-04-2008, 20:06   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chad.lawie View Post
Thanks for the advice guys.



Do you mean "any OFFSHORE route to the eastern caribbean"?
I've never been to the Caribbean, and I do not expect it to be all peaches and roses. But I do think there is a difference between island hopping and sailing 700 miles straight into the ocean, don't you?

Looking at it from another perspective, I do feel I have the proper equipment to make it to Bermuda. However, if our boat was sinking, we don't have the proper equipment to deal with the situation. which to me is SSB and a life raft.
some people wouldn't even think twice about leaving shore with out those two things.
I'm confused by this post, and apparantly others are as well. We don't understand your apparant view that going to Bermuda is not the same as going offshore. And your last sentence is probably an understatement. I don't know anyone who would go offshore without not only an SSB and a liferaft, but an EPIRB and some good weather tracking capability as well.

Why not just install an SSB with weather capability... you could probably get some decent used equipment for less than $2k. Some years ago, I was planning to go offshore and had a deal with BoatUS to rent an EPIRB and a raft... don't know if they still do that or not.

The island hopping route has its advantages... there is a lot of great cruising in the Bahamas, T&C, DR, Puerto Rico. You might want to check out "Gentleman's Guide to Passages South"... it's the bible on that route.
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Old 28-04-2008, 20:31   #9
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Bill's point:
"if you feel you don't have the right equipment to make Bermuda safely, then IMHO you definitely don't have the right equipment for virtually ANY route to the eastern Caribbean"

My question to bill was: do you mean any offshore route? or just ANY route?

Bills answer: "ANY route," including the "island hopping" route that speedoo is suggesting.

I don't agree with bill. I do feel there is a difference between going to bermuda, or island hopping, even if the island hopping route includes short offshore trips.

We are kicking around the idea of renting a life raft. We already have an epirb.
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Old 28-04-2008, 20:42   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chad.lawie View Post

Looking at it from another perspective, I do feel I have the proper equipment to make it to Bermuda. However, if our boat was sinking, we don't have the proper equipment to deal with the situation. which to me is SSB and a life raft.
some people wouldn't even think twice about leaving shore with out those two things.
Sorry for being unclear. I'm saying that for every situation aside from the boat sinking we are prepared. In some strange way I was thinking "sinking is not apart of a boat normal operation, therefore life raft is not included in normal equipment."

However, the boat may sink, and in that situation we do not have the proper equipment, therefore we are not fully prepared and should not go to bermuda.

Quote:
some people wouldn't even think twice about leaving shore with out those two things.
I have met people, and read about people who consider their dinghy to be a life raft. I think they are crazy. but to them their boat, and mine would be "properly equipped." I was trying to make that point that necessary equipment is a relative term that changes with individuals and the advancement of technology.
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Old 29-04-2008, 18:41   #11
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I have done the thorny path island hopping route and the longest passage between ports you need to make is less than 24 hours and you can wait for the right weather for days or weeks at a time. It is NOT bluewater sailing and I consider a passage to Bermuda significantly more risky.
That said...the trades and the seas are a lot tougher than east-coastal sailing when they kick up and their is NO HELP other than your own resources for a good chunk of the trip. So the boat & spares had best be well prepared, the captain must be confident & competent and I consider a sat phone and a liferaft and EPIRB mandatory equipment. An SSB is great but the sat phone will work if the mast comes down and in the life raft. An SSB receiver can be used to get weather.
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Old 05-05-2008, 15:35   #12
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Another 2 bits

Chad,
Just thought I would offer one more perspective--that of a first-timer. Last Fall, I suddenly found I had an extended assignment in Puerto Rico, and an urgent need to move my boat down there from Newport, RI. After reviewing the options, I decided I liked the idea of sailing down more than spending $20K to ship my Freedom 40. Having no offshore experience, I had some studying to do in a hurry. I pulled the boat out and had some needed work done, along with an "insurance survey".

Key preparation/changes:
1. I rigged up jacklines and got a couple of inflatable PFDs with built in harnesses to make sure I came back with the same crew I left with.
2. I set up a boom preventer system, knowing I would be off the wind for long stretches with a lot of rolling.
3. I deflated the RIB and lashed it down on the side deck.
4. I lashed 12 jerry cans on the side deck for an extra 50 gallons of deisel (with 60 gallons in main tank) and an extra 10 gallons of water (100 gallons in tank).
5. Added lots of spare filters, belts, tools, repair parts of all kinds.
6. Completed all repairs, including new rudder bearing.
7. Added lee cloths, where needed, for sleeping while heeling.
8. Bought additional chartplotter chips AND PAPER CHARTS!

If you need the security of insurance, you will probably have to get your policy rewritten for your new route and destination. I decided to buy a liferaft, as the rentals weren't feasible for a one-way trip. I rented a Type 2 EPIRB, and signed up a Captain familiar with the route (required for insurance and for my wife's permission). I signed on my brother-in-law and son on for one leg each, to have a total crew of 3. (4 would have been nice, so my son could be an "idler", cooking but not serving watch), unless someone got sick.

My son was to jump on in Norfolk, and bring along a Sat Phone for the long offshore leg (and the routes described in the replies above make a lot of sense--anywhere South of VA just hurts your wind angle).

I did make some rookie errors before even reaching Norfolk, (who knew that Cape May, NJ would throw unforeseen gales for me?--probably a weather router, but the router and Sat phone came later...), but the 10 days offshore from Norfolk to Fajardo, PR were well worth the price of admission.

My advice, for what it's worth: hire an experienced captain to acompany you and give you some security and training, sign up with a good weather router, and stay in touch with him by SSB or Sat phone, and as to the best route, as Don Street says: "place a stick of butter on your table when leaving Chesapeake bay, head towards Bermuda until it melts, and then head South".

(PS--Also learned the hard way--stow your anchor, or lash or pin it securely enough to stay on board in the face of tons of blue water).

John
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Old 11-05-2008, 06:49   #13
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John,

Glad to hear that you made it down to Puerto Rico OK--talked to you on the dock in Norfolk after you had gotten beat up coming down from NJ.

We had a really good trip down last fall--8 days from Norfolk to Puerto Rico, and got far enough south before the cold front hit that we had less than 25 knots of wind the whole way, with no windward work at all. Much preferrable to the thorny path.

FWIW, we have an EPIRB, SSB, and life raft, and wouldn't consider going more than a day's sail offshore without them. Look at the Caribbean 1500 rally for what they consider essential. Be sure that the boat and crew are well shaken down before you leave.

The most important factor is to get the weather right, and for your first trip you are better off using a weather router and gettting updates every day or two, via SSB or satphone or email.

Good luck!
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Old 11-05-2008, 10:51   #14
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Here is a really good report of one yacht who chose the I-65 route to the Virgin Islands. It is a nice read.


Indigo Moon - Offshore Passage to BVI


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Old 11-05-2008, 11:14   #15
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Keegan,

Buddy and Melissa's account is very, very good IMHO. Anyone contemplating a trip to the Eastern Caribbean from the U.S. East Coast could benefit from Indigo Moon's lucid explanations and, particularly, their critique of Van Sant's oft-cited (and oft-cursed) "Thornless Path" method.

Good reading. Good advice.

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