Congrats! You're planning on going to a beautiful-beautiful area!! Regarding Bras D'Or Lakes: gorgeous sailing! But you can always duck in there after you rest a bit in Charlottetown. We did a part of the route you're planning (from Great Lakes
via St Lawrence to Florida
and back up to Bay of Fundy and back down and etc...). Usually we did it in offshore
hops (3-7 days).A few thoughts based on our experiences:
Unless you're prepared to go in any weather
, you will end up sitting in some ports
waiting for better conditions. So make necessary stops, but don't spend too much time in one place if you really want to end up in Charlottetown by June.
We would watch the weather especially closely on the following points: Gulf Stream
, Cape Fear, Cape Hatteras, entrance to Chesapeake, entrance to Delaware, end of Long Island Sound
, Cape Cod
, and then the tidal swings that start about 60 miles out of Gulf of Maine
: remember, Northern component in the wind
= get out of Gulf Stream. Watch out for frequent squalls with lightning
Cape Hatteras: if the weather is too nasty to go offshore
for 3+ days, it's worth taking the inside route. We don't like it because you constantly have to be on watch for other boats, staying in the channel, shoals, bridges, and it's not nice to travel at night (we did it on a cloudy night, but with a night-vision camera
and some stress involved). Plus, you will need to get back out of Chesapeake after.
Chesapeake to Delaware: if you stay outside of these bays, remember that the weather is influenced by Chesapeake about 20 miles out. We went the inside route once escaping a storm. There are local storm cells inside Chesapeake, lots of boats, tight shipping
channel in places. Though the ride out of Delaware on outgoing tide was just nice.
South of Long Island
: several shipping
channels converge with LOTS of ships, barges, tugs around. AIS
is a MUST. There is a tidal current
, so winds against current produces short waves. Beating into them with a few ships converging on your location can get stressful.
: if you decide to stop on Martha's Vineyard
, etc and the weather is not that nice offshore, you can take Cape Cod canal. There is a strong tidal current, so must time the pass correctly. Note, that one of the US East Coast cruising guides
used to state the timing incorrectly. Eldridge states it correctly for sure.
Gulf of Maine
: if you do decide to go into Bay of Fundy, ride the current! We did 17 knots once [scary!]. Otherwise, if you're further offshore, but still crossing MA/ME to NS, set the direction to where you'll want to end up and ignore the tidal changes to yoru course. Your course will end up looking like letter S, but you'll end up pretty much where you wanted in the beginning. Just don't adjust for tides.
For Gulf of Maine and Canada: watch the tides!!! The harbour may look completely different on low vs. high tide. Because of tidal swings, fishermen use double or triple float lobster trap bouys. Trap -> 1st buoy -> 2nd buoy -> 3rd buoy. Sometimes you can pass between the buoys, sometimes you catch the line. Diving
in 12-15 degree water
to free your prop is not recommended. Traps are placed anywhere up to depths of 500 feet. Navigating between them is sometimes a challenge, so strongly recommend having a lobster trap buoy lookout communicating with a person at the helm
Canadian coast: between Halifax
and Canso Strait charts
, both Navionics
, maybe [severely] out of date. It's important to listen to Warnings to Mariners on ch 16. Well, it's always important, but there it's crucial. Watch for provisioning
, sometimes even food
may be a drive away.
Canso and north: AIS
is a must for crossing Canso as there's quite a lot of shipping. People are very-very nice and helpful - the nicest in our experience. Sometimes best ports
are fisherman harbours. You can usually tie to the wall for free there [don't forget fender
boards!!], but be sure to be out of the way of fishing
boats coming in and out.
Northumberland strait: watch, watch, watch for the weather! There is a tidal current + St. Lawrence current. Our experience [and experience from a gentleman on this forum] is that Canadian forecasts are wrong about 40% of the time in that area. If the wind
starts picking up against the current, don't think that you'll toughen it out on the water. Duck into a windward port. Watch for triple-buoyed lobster traps!!! Because of strong currents, fishermen use steel cables
. It won't be good on your prop or your keel
Don't forget warm clothes and blankets and a fog
horn. Watch out for whales, especially sleeping ones.
Canadian coast cruising guides
: some of them are quite out of date. As maps may be out of date too, we found the following useful: we bought 4 different guides, we had both Navionics
, so we would compare the guides to maps to depth sounder
to see which guides and maps were more accurate. For us Navionics was more accurate together with the following two guides: CRUISING THE EASTERN SHORE OF NOVA SCOTIA Binnacle.com
and Down East Circle Route - 2nd Ed.
. Also check websites for the guide you'll use as it will have some corrections and updates.
The above notes are just a small summary of a long route. Please ask more, if interested in details. For example, list of interesting places, list of places with good provisions, with easy entrances, list of hurricane
holes (especially up north), list of places to outfit/fix the boat, etc.
Note, that these are just our experiences. I'm sure others can suggest more.