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Old 18-03-2010, 07:53   #1
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Location: Camden, Maine and aboard boat
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Western Caribbean to Maine

A year from now, spring of 2011, we are planning to return to Maine after 5 years in the SW Caribbean in our 43' sloop. Previous voyages north have all been from the Bahamas in late May. This time we are hoping to arrive in Mid-Coast Maine by late May and are looking for advise from others who have done this passage, especially offshore. To further define our objective, we are interested in doing a 1000 mile+ (non stop) qualification voyage, which we think would be best done at the southern end of this trip (perhaps S Florida to Cape May or Sandy Hook). We do plan to use weather routing from Chris Parker. Any and all thoughts on this adventure would be appreciated.

Fair winds,

Denis
S/V Glide
Panamarina, Panama
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Old 18-03-2010, 08:13   #2
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Heading north from Panama you only have two practical options, the Yucatan Channel and the Windward Passage. Any further east would not make sense.

ETA Maine by late May requires a departure as soon as early March, depending on how hard and fast you plan to make the passage.

Via the Yucatan allows you to work your way up the coast with numerous options for stops if wanted or needed. This does leave you with a beat up the Straights of FL but you do have the current with you.

Via the Windward is more direct but leaving March from Panama you may have a tough beat against the winter trades. Once through the Windward you will have a good wind for heading north and could stop in NC or continue further north if you prefer.

Leaving March to head north you will still have winter trades in the Caribbean which can be boisterous. As you get further north this early in the year you will have a good chance of catching a front coming in from the north so a route that leaves opportunities to stop somewhere and wait out the weather would be prudent. Sailing past Hatteras from the Bahamas this time of year I would be very cautious.

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Old 18-03-2010, 08:46   #3
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Skip,

Would you consider sailing north past Hatteras in early May to be too early ? I've only done it once and that was in April :-)

Todd
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Old 18-03-2010, 09:25   #4
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Well, it all depends and not in my opinion a straight yes or no question. I wouldn't say even March is too early, just the earlier you head north the higher the odds of running into a late season low.

It's all about low pressure systems coming in from Canada, the strength of the system, the jet stream steering currents, etc. Low pressure systems can happen any time of the year but tend to be stronger, more frequent and push further south in the winter. Depending on the whims of the weather gods this weather pattern could start in Sept and go until May or June.

A few years back I rounded Hatteras the first of Oct and saw the worst weather of my life. We had waves wash over the top of the pilot house in a 90' trawler. I've also seen these systems hit FL as late as June.

All comes down to watching the weather and playing the percentages. The earlier in the spring you head north the greater the chance of a norther. Go too late and you are getting into hurricane season. On the other end of the season, the later you go the higher the odds of a norther but lower odds of a late season hurricane.
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