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Old 09-09-2008, 13:38   #1
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Chesapeake Bay to Bahamas - How Long Outside ?

I am planning to head south this winter and am considering taking the ICW down to Wilmington area and then go outside heading for Abacos. I've been told that Hatteras is the roughest spot out there. Is that the general concensus here? I'm also told that SC and GA have the shallowest most difficult stretch of the ICW. Is that also the case? Finally, are there any tips or warnings anyone would pass along concerning my proposed route? Also, how long would a Wilmington to Abacos trip take in a mono approx?
Thanks for any help.
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Old 09-09-2008, 14:16   #2
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Go on down to Florida, the cross the Gulf Stream with good weather.

With a Helms 25 (5' board down, 2' board up) I doubt you'll have any depth problems in the ICW. Lots of boats do it with more than 6' draft.

You don't want to be fighting the Gulf Stream going south to the Bahamas.

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Old 09-09-2008, 14:18   #3
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There are some shallow spots in NC too. The ICW is not difficult, it just takes a bit of concentration in some sections. If you're going to jump off in NC, I'd do it at Beaufort, this way you'll miss all of the shallow sections from Morehead City to the Cape Fear river. About five or six days to the Abacos. Folks who don't like the ICW or coastal cruising often take off from Beaufort.
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Old 09-09-2008, 14:28   #4
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Cape Hatteras requires significant offshore distance. The Diamond Shoals extend a great many miles offshore. Northern storms blowing counter to the northbound Gulf Stream current creates exceptionally dangerous conditions famous for the last 400 years. Once south such as Wilmington you can take advantage of coastal breezes to sail longer legs south along the coast until you reach the point where you want to cross the Gulf Stream. Taking advantage of good weather periods to sail the coast can be quite pleasant. The southern most ICW stretches have long and winding (boring) segments.

Since you can't traverse the ICW at night and can almost never raise sails it takes longer the more of the ICW you use.
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Old 09-09-2008, 14:56   #5
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I once met a family of 5 in the northern Abacos on their 27' Pearson. They had just arrived from the U.S., and the guy came over and asked for a couple of cigarettes.

Of course, our response was 'you didn't plan very well, did you?'

"I smoked everything I brought on the way over from Jacksonville" he said. They left Jax thinking they would just head straight south the few hundred miles to the Abacos, for their one month vacation. They spent two weeks beating straight into the wind and gulfstream, trying to sail their boat at 4 knots into the 3 knot current. From the looks on the kids faces, I believed him.

It was worth a few cigarettes to gain the benefit of the lesson he learned the hard way. I agree with Bill, take the ICW down to at least Ft. Pierce, or even better W. Palm Beach.
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Old 09-09-2008, 15:27   #6
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The key to any successful Gulf Stream crossing is timing. Waiting for weather. A friend who used to leave from Beaufort every fall to go to the Abacos would head east as soon as he'd cleared Cape Lookout, get across the stream and then head south. This is much more easily done from Beaufort than from Jacksonville as less easting is needed. Any attempt from Northern Florida, especially without easting, is a bit daunting.
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Old 09-09-2008, 16:35   #7
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OK, so head out from Beaufort then head E/SE for maybe 200 miles then turn S?

Paul, are you suggesting heading south along the coast against the gulf stream?

By the way, I am NOT considering doing this in my Helms. I am in the process of buying another boat (35') and selling the Helms.
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Old 09-09-2008, 17:01   #8
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Go to Florida then cross. Hatteras and south can be troublesome. Rounded Hatteras in the morning flat calm, felt like I was steaming along great all afternoon but never made Morehead city by nightfall! Didnt want to cross the reef just North of Morehead at night so spent the night hove to in 30 knots. Only time in 3 years cruising the skylight hatch leaked with each wave crashing over the Passfport 47. Newbie. Why in the world did I heave to?? should have just kept heading south!
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Old 09-09-2008, 21:03   #9
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Go on the outside on the way back..it makes no sense to fight prevailing winds and currents.! Harbor Hop in 1-2 day passages inshore on the way down exiting at Beaufort to avoid Hatteras OR stick to the ICW. Figure minimum 3 weeks from Norfolk to crossing on the ICW and that is Pushing it ...more likely 4 weeks! You can probably do it in 3 weeks harbor hopping and in 10 days offshore but you'll take a beating that way.
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:49   #10
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I'd suggest you get the BOAT US towing insurance. There are enough shallow spots that you could easily find yourself high and dry. Some parts of the ICW are incredibly boring. Going through Fort Liquordale can be entertaining, especially on a weekend. The lift bridges are a PITA, however.
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:27   #11
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Each year, West Marine sponsors the Caribbean 1500. It leaves out of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay & goes straight to the islands. I don't know how far out they go before they turn south, but you might try to get in contact someone who has done the 1500. I gather that the beauty of the trip down is that it's mostly a beam reach. I've gone north and out, but not south. I prefer going outside as navigation is easier, there is less to hit, and you run aground a lot less.
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:57   #12
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For the Caribbean they generally go east to about 65W and then turn south.
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:59   #13
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25 feet long is too small for Carib 1500 which is limited to boats over 40 ft LOA. In general,the rally approximates route 66 (W66 degrees) before catching the trades and turning South. The actual course varies each year by weather, boat speed, etc.
The Carib 1500 will start ~2Nov for Tortola from Hampton, Virginia.
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Old 10-09-2008, 20:22   #14
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Well, I do appreciate everyones point of view, but I believe its more about the journey than the destination. If I wanted to spend a month motoring down a muddy ditch I'd have a powerboat. I want to sail so I'm going outside and that route 66 thing sounds pretty good. Besides, whats the worst that could happen?
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Old 11-09-2008, 06:45   #15
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Originally Posted by Aquah0lic View Post
Well, I do appreciate everyones point of view, but I believe its more about the journey than the destination. If I wanted to spend a month motoring down a muddy ditch I'd have a powerboat. I want to sail so I'm going outside and that route 66 thing sounds pretty good. Besides, whats the worst that could happen?
Good luck with that, I thought you wanted to go to the Abacos? That route 66 thing will take you about 700 miles east of the Abacos.
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