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Old 11-11-2019, 21:01   #1
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Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Hi all,

We'll be crossing the Atlantic west to east in mid May, from BVI to the Med, and I wanted to chat with anyone who has made the crossing on a catamaran.

We have crossed last year from Cape Town to Brazil and it was a fantastic downwind sail once we turned east in Namibia.

What conditions should we expect from BVI to Bermuda, Azores and then Portugal?
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Old 12-11-2019, 06:03   #2
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Might check with ARC Europe
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Old 12-11-2019, 06:26   #3
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

We did this a couple of years back.

Comments:

Would give the BVI's a miss - Charter "heaven" and cruiser "hell", very unfriendly. In 15 years cruising and close to 100 countries visited, I experienced the most disagreeable check-in and out, bordering on "nasty". The place itself is reminisent of a rather tacky theme park. We loved the USVI's however, much more of a proper place.

It can be a long haul direct from BVI to Bermuda with some fickle winds.

We chose to island hop via Puerto Rico, Isla Culebra was an unexpected gem as was PR itself and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. In San Juan the marina fees for cats are eye watering but you can anchor off of the yacht club (Club Náutico de San Juan) and they will let you use their dinghy dock, bar restuarant and facilities. We then went to Turks & Caicos, check in and out fees are high for one day but more reasonable if you stay for a week. We skipped the Bahamas due to their monthly fees, charged even for a one night stop. But check this out for yourself as things change.

Turks and Caicos to Bermuda is 750Nm and took us 4 days. Bermuda is a great island to explore so allow time here.

From Bermuda to Azores there are two routes, northern windy, southern less windy. Those that went north, especially early in the season, got beaten about a bit. The rational is to sail north-north-east until you pick up the stronger winds and then stay with them arriving in the Azores from the north-west. The southern route is more of a rhumb line although there is a strong counter current that will need to be crossed at some point so it is better to stay south of it until you are quite close to the Azores and then head north-east.

In June, the best time to go, the Seven Seas Cruising Association run an excellent "open" (you don't need to be a member) shortwave net with daily weather and check-ins. These can be very good at identifying who has wind, and where, and more importantly the position of the counter current. SSCA.ORG

Those of us that went south had variable winds but easily coped with on a cat. We had some very slow days, light winds and an adverse current of 2 knots at times and some rather quick days in double digits with a glorious period sailing at 15-18 knots. The sea state is better on the southern route although you must be prepared for periods of lulls. We sailed 1750Nm to cover the GC distance of 1670Nm to Flores. Our trip took 12 days and 7 hours. Apart from leaving Bermuda and anchoring in Flores we did not motor at all.

It is worth allowing plenty of time to explore the Azores, lots of places to see.

From the Azores to Portugal can be quite rough especially late in the season and closing the coast of Portugal (surfers love it). The famous surf spot just north of Lisbon is called Supertubos, the name is the giveaway. The Atlantic coast of Portugal, Porto, Lisbon is a great place to cruise but the swell at this time of year makes it very demanding and tiring. You may decide to head south round Cape Vincent to Lagos or Portimao. The whole of the southern coast can be cruised all year round, has good anchorages, Alvor, Faro, Rio Guadiana and there are catamaran haulouts in Portimao, Faro and Olhoa all close to the international airport at Faro.

If you want to cruise and do justice to the Atlantic coast of Portugal and the northern Spanish coasts, the Rias are highly recommended then this is best done in the early summer months.
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Old 12-11-2019, 08:18   #4
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Agree w others, getting to Bermuda first should be a good route and break up the crossing a bit.

Just did NYC-Bermuda-Azores in May. Cake walk. Conditions from Bermuda to Azores were so benign we were having sit down dinners in the cockpit most nights.

In May you should be able to pick up SW'sterlies from Bermuda to Azores. We ended up near 40N in order to stay in favorable winds, avoid the Azores H, and catch a favorable push from the Gulf Stream...we got up to 4 knots push! However, the Gulf Stream meanders and eddies start getting very flakey and not well predicted as you get further E along 40N....we also spent some time battling against lesser currents.

Took us about 3 weeks from Bermuda to Azores and we only motor sailed a couple of days as we got close to Horta and more into the Azores H.

The Azores are awesome! So is mainland Portugal. My wife flew into the Azores and we spent over a month in Portugal...loved it!
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:13   #5
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Left contact info on your website.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:18   #6
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Hi, I'm based in Bermuda and have made the run between here and various places in the Caribbean maybe 15 or 20 times. I've only made the passage from here east once. That was in April and it was OK but quite rough at times (logged force 9 at one point).

Your plan will likely be closely linked to the position of the Bermuda-Azores high, which moves West and North in the summer and roughly covers an area from Bermuda to the Azores. Along the northern boundary of this high is an area of prevailing SW or W'ly winds that make for at good Easterly passage. These winds are re-inforced and/or disrupted by the passage of a low and can be strong at times.

May, when you plan to make your passage, is a transitionary period. The high may or may not be established and the lows will be more variable (i.e. not regularly every week as they are more or less in the winter), a little less strong and probably further North than the winter time but you can still get hammered if you are unlucky.

For my part, the most pleasant passages have been around June-July, once the high is better established. From the BVI's you can generally ride the westerly side of the high all the way up to bermuda, enjoying calm seas and consistent winds for much, if not all of the way. A departure point further West improves the chances of catching this western edge of the high, but squalls become a bit more frequent and later in the season these can become violent thunderstorms.

If you do it in May you will probably be looking for a 'window' between lows, aiming to arrive in Bermuda before the next one hits. You'll ride the trades as far north as possible and then try not to get stuck in a hole when you leave them behind.

From Bermuda to the Azores you can go north as far as you like, with winds generally increasing the further north you go. Every now and then a front passes and gives you a shove. Sometimes it is necessary to go all the way up to Nova Scotia to catch the wind but that is unusual.

I'm sorry to report that it probably won't be as nice as your voyage across the South Atlantic. We just did that earlier this year and it was the highlight of a whole world voyage. :-)
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:35   #7
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

This last July, Ocean Jedi did the crossing from St. Martin to Bermuda to Azors and then on to Lagos in the Algarve in Portugal. They say the later you leave the better, as there is more wind the more into august you get. The trip was great, we greatly over anticipated and worried, but if we had not, then bad things probably would have happened. We carried way too much extra fuel, and came in with our tanks almost full. We had plenty of wind. Only motor sailed for about 2 days in the Bermuda to Azors run. But had we not stocked up, then surely there would be no wind, and we’d be stuck. We hit two small storms along the way, one up to 50 mph winds for a short time. The boat did fine. People got a little tired of bouncing, but overall, it was not a problem. The Delos was behind us, and i am told that they are airing this trip on YouTube shortly. I don’t follow the Delos, but this is what I am told— a few months time delay for editing etc.

Went to Flores first, and loved it. No marina, no customs, nothing but nice people and beautiful country. Then to Huerta. More typical — larger, a marina, customs etc. Very nice, though. Finally, the marina in Lagos.

I wish you luck. It should be a great sail. 73’s Mark from Ocean Jedi.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:37   #8
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

I've done this on a monohull and it went as follows...,

We left Tortola for Sint Maarten, which we had decided would be our final departure point for the voyage to the Azores. Sint Maarten is a) free mooring in Simpsons bay Lagoon b) well stocked with spare parts and technical assistance c) just that bit further east and closer to Horta!

We didn't want to go via Bermuda because we'd already been there a couple of times. I also read a very interesting article by Anne Hammick (author the the Atlantic Islands pilot book) in which she makes several very good arguments for sailing BVI > Azores direct, so as to minimise the of risk getting beaten up by weather between Hamilton and the Azores on the more northerly routes.

We paid for a professional forecast / weather routeing and picked our departure date based solely on the forecaster's advice,. It ended up being April 23. We had a lively passage; headed east while keeping well below the rhumbline in order to avoid a couple of low pressure systems that were marching across the North Atlantic. We ran the engine for 22 hours total. The only time it rained was the day we did laundry, and we arrived in Horta on May 9.

Altogether it was a very pleasant voyage.

After a break in Horta - one of my favourite ports of call - we sailed to the big Azorean island of Sao Jorge and left the boat there for a month in the marina at Punta Delgada. After rejoining the boat, we left Sao Jorge on July 20 and had a fantastic, 7 day beam reach to Lagos in southern Portugal.

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Old 12-11-2019, 18:30   #9
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Haven't done it, but did planning for it. More and more people are going direct from St Maarten to Azores, and for us it would have made more sense than via Bermuda as, being a power cat, we wanted to be in the Azores High! Non-power boats are also going direct, but the good weather window is smaller I believe than via Bermuda. Have you looked through the pilot charts?
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Old 12-11-2019, 23:25   #10
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

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Old 13-11-2019, 07:00   #11
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Made the crossing in 2002 from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Horta in mid May on a Cape Dory 36. Hard on the nose on starboard tack for the first few days headed NNE until a couple hundred miles south of Bermuda when the wind started to swing allowing me to do most of my easting along Lat 33-34 almost all the way with some northing to Horta on the last couple days. Had one gale on this leg SSE of Bermuda for about 30 hours. The rest was wonderful sailing in 20-25 knots most of the way. A very pleasant 25 days to Horta.


Horta to Puerto Santa Maria, Spain in the Bay of Cadiz was another ten days of mostly light winds and calms with one strong gale (45-55 knots) about a hundred miles or so west of Cape Vincent, Portugal.


Altogether 35 day crossing not counting the few days I stayed in Horta. From my experience, I would say expect the worst weather either in the vicinity of Bermuda or on approach to the coast of Portugal. Also, I would say stay as south as possible as long as you have good wind... the passage is warmer and you will miss the brunt of any potential gales further north.
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Old 16-11-2019, 14:25   #12
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

I did it back in 2012 with a FP Orana 43 ft catamaran. We started at 31 st of march (many people had argued that this was way earlier..) and did from Tortola to Horta in 14 days. Excellent weather , nothing more than 35 kts and nothing less than 15 kts true.
We skipped Bermuda.

The rule is simple;
-leave between beginning of April and June.
-go north until you catch the westerlies , than turn to east.
-go north if you lack the wind, go south if there is too much of it.


We did most of the route under spinneaker, sometimes double reefed main and half rolled genoa when the wind was stronger and close to the beam or double genoa wing on wing on strong DDW. (we had two genoa rigged on the forestay and could hoist them each from one side)


You may have big waves 5-6 meters and surfind down is scary at the beginning (I have seen 25 kts of speed for a second or two..) but becomes a fun when you get used to it. We were always on AP and never had any problem.


Approaching the Azores , you will see the wind dying slowly because of the high sitting over there. Be prepared to motor 100-200 nm to the Azores and carry a bit of extra fuel.
After Azores, you will mostly find north/north easterlies becoming more northerly as you approach to Portugal and possibly stronger winds. Therefore, it's best to point a bit higher than yr target, if you fall too much , you will have hard time to make north to yr target.

I would also suggest that you spare some time in Azore archipelage that we couldn't do because of time constraints. It 's awesome..


Good luck


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Old 26-11-2019, 23:55   #13
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tupaia View Post
We did this a couple of years back.



Comments:



Would give the BVI's a miss - Charter "heaven" and cruiser "hell", very unfriendly. In 15 years cruising and close to 100 countries visited, I experienced the most disagreeable check-in and out, bordering on "nasty". The place itself is reminisent of a rather tacky theme park. We loved the USVI's however, much more of a proper place.



It can be a long haul direct from BVI to Bermuda with some fickle winds.



We chose to island hop via Puerto Rico, Isla Culebra was an unexpected gem as was PR itself and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. In San Juan the marina fees for cats are eye watering but you can anchor off of the yacht club (Club Náutico de San Juan) and they will let you use their dinghy dock, bar restuarant and facilities. We then went to Turks & Caicos, check in and out fees are high for one day but more reasonable if you stay for a week. We skipped the Bahamas due to their monthly fees, charged even for a one night stop. But check this out for yourself as things change.



Turks and Caicos to Bermuda is 750Nm and took us 4 days. Bermuda is a great island to explore so allow time here.



From Bermuda to Azores there are two routes, northern windy, southern less windy. Those that went north, especially early in the season, got beaten about a bit. The rational is to sail north-north-east until you pick up the stronger winds and then stay with them arriving in the Azores from the north-west. The southern route is more of a rhumb line although there is a strong counter current that will need to be crossed at some point so it is better to stay south of it until you are quite close to the Azores and then head north-east.



In June, the best time to go, the Seven Seas Cruising Association run an excellent "open" (you don't need to be a member) shortwave net with daily weather and check-ins. These can be very good at identifying who has wind, and where, and more importantly the position of the counter current. SSCA.ORG



Those of us that went south had variable winds but easily coped with on a cat. We had some very slow days, light winds and an adverse current of 2 knots at times and some rather quick days in double digits with a glorious period sailing at 15-18 knots. The sea state is better on the southern route although you must be prepared for periods of lulls. We sailed 1750Nm to cover the GC distance of 1670Nm to Flores. Our trip took 12 days and 7 hours. Apart from leaving Bermuda and anchoring in Flores we did not motor at all.



It is worth allowing plenty of time to explore the Azores, lots of places to see.



From the Azores to Portugal can be quite rough especially late in the season and closing the coast of Portugal (surfers love it). The famous surf spot just north of Lisbon is called Supertubos, the name is the giveaway. The Atlantic coast of Portugal, Porto, Lisbon is a great place to cruise but the swell at this time of year makes it very demanding and tiring. You may decide to head south round Cape Vincent to Lagos or Portimao. The whole of the southern coast can be cruised all year round, has good anchorages, Alvor, Faro, Rio Guadiana and there are catamaran haulouts in Portimao, Faro and Olhoa all close to the international airport at Faro.



If you want to cruise and do justice to the Atlantic coast of Portugal and the northern Spanish coasts, the Rias are highly recommended then this is best done in the early summer months.


Thanks Tupaia. How frequent were the squalls at night?

How many depressions did you sail through? What was the maximum wind speed and duration?

Did you always have following seas?

Wave height?
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Old 26-11-2019, 23:58   #14
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Agree w others, getting to Bermuda first should be a good route and break up the crossing a bit.

Just did NYC-Bermuda-Azores in May. Cake walk. Conditions from Bermuda to Azores were so benign we were having sit down dinners in the cockpit most nights.

In May you should be able to pick up SW'sterlies from Bermuda to Azores. We ended up near 40N in order to stay in favorable winds, avoid the Azores H, and catch a favorable push from the Gulf Stream...we got up to 4 knots push! However, the Gulf Stream meanders and eddies start getting very flakey and not well predicted as you get further E along 40N....we also spent some time battling against lesser currents.

Took us about 3 weeks from Bermuda to Azores and we only motor sailed a couple of days as we got close to Horta and more into the Azores H.

The Azores are awesome! So is mainland Portugal. My wife flew into the Azores and we spent over a month in Portugal...loved it!


Thanks Belizesailor! What boat do you have?
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Old 27-11-2019, 00:03   #15
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Re: Crossing the Atlantic to the Med

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Originally Posted by DefinitelyMe View Post

I'm sorry to report that it probably won't be as nice as your voyage across the South Atlantic. We just did that earlier this year and it was the highlight of a whole world voyage. :-)


Thanks DefinitelyMe! The crossing from Namibia to Brazil was very easy. How would you compare the west to east crossing?
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