I made the trip from St Thomas to the Chesapeake Bay
in May, 2006, with a stopover in the Abacos, just for the heck of it. We sailed directly from Crown Bay Marina, St Thomas, to Marsh Harbour, Abaco
, entering the Sea of Abaco
at Man-O-War Cay. We departed May 1st, and I believe it took us six days, if memory serves. That leg was an easy sail, with the Tradewinds on the port quarter most of the way. We got a little weather
(squalls with lightning) ,and a wind
shift east of Eleuthera, but no problems. We spent five days checking out the bars, restaurants and anchorages
in the Abacos--fun!
The part of the trip that I was most concerned about was the Abaco-Cape Hatteras-Norfolk leg. A friend of mine attempted that passage
in early May, 2002, and was hammered by a series of three strong Lows coming off the mainland. His main was shredded, and they spent three days lying ahull east of the Gulf Stream
, taking knockdowns from time to time, and maintaining regular Satphone comms with the Coast Guard. They finally were able to limp into Georgetown, SC, and made the rest of the trip north in the ICW
. A couple of other sailboats were sunk offshore
during that same storm, I believe.
With that in mind, I hired Commanders Weather
to send me weather updates via email
. We made sure we had a decent weather window at departure, and got daily updates as we approached Cape Hatteras. As it turned out, a front came to meet us off Hatteras, but it was very weak, so we stayed outside the whole way.
from the Abacos was to depart from Allans-Pensacola Cay in the north, and sail west on a close reach to pick up the Gulf Stream
off Melbourne. We stayed just inside the western wall of the Stream all the way north, so we could duck to the west if it got too rough or stormy. The trip was uneventful, with light to moderate winds and some motor
Another friend left Florida
about two weeks later, and got slammed by a strong gale and ducked into Charlestown for a few days.
I think May's the time to go, but a weather routing service
will at least give you some idea of what you might be facing. They aren't too expensive for an intial forecast
followed by daily updates. If you want to dally along the way, the Abacos make sense, as they're the northernmost opportunity for a sheltered anchorage if you need to wait for the weather.