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Old 08-05-2014, 06:29   #1
RDW
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Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

I will be leaving St. Martin in mid May to go to the Chesapeake Bay. I would be interested in opinions on sailing the route to Bahama's and on toward Florida and then up the East coast off shore. I have been looking at weather recently and this week it looks like a good route. I have done the route to Bermuda and to the Bay which I think is more common.
Also when and under what conditions would you try to ride the gulf stream for a long period?
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:15   #2
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

So many variables it's really hard to give a specific answer. The biggest question, how much time do you want to devote to the trip and do you want to stop a lot or a little along the way?

Generally I would have the same weather concerns for this route as I would going via Bermuda. Specifically in the Gulf Stream, it's good to avoid if the winds are from NE to NW as this can give you steep, choppy seas. Moderate north winds it will just be a bit uncomfortable. Strong north winds it will be downright unpleasant.

Next big question, do you want to or can you incorporate the ICW in the trip? Not an option if your air draft exceeds 64', sometimes less. Also parts of the ICW in GA can be as shallow as 4' or so in spots at low tide so that will be a factor.
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:30   #3
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

I should have been more clear that trying to make it in 8-12 days with a layover of minimal importance. Just looking for nice easy sailing. ICW is a no go.
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Old 08-05-2014, 08:05   #4
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

If I recall the distance is about 1500 miles so that won't leave much time for sightseeing.

As an alternate to going by Bermuda I would head ENE from St Martin and keep a comfortable distance off the Bahamas chain, maybe 50-100 miles. Don't forget the Silver Banks and Navidad Banks as well. Going this route you would not technically be in the Gulf Stream but would have a favorable current. Just stay far enough off so the islands don't become a lee shore but you will be close enough to duck in if you want to take a break, weather acts up, whatever.

Then once I was more or less due south of Hatteras I would turn north. Maybe steer a little wide of Abaco and the edge of the Little Bahama Banks as you can sometimes get eddies on the north side.

This leaves dealing with Hatteras. Coming from the south you have to decide to swing wide of the shoals and go around or duck into the ICW at Beaufort and go inside (again if you can clear the bridges).
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Old 08-05-2014, 09:25   #5
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

RDW,
Ironically I just answered a very similar question yesterday....
Sailing Routes from Grenada to Chesapeake Bay
(although from Grenada, the same basics apply)

As for your specifics....
Quote:
Originally Posted by RDW View Post
I will be leaving St. Martin in mid May to go to the Chesapeake Bay. I would be interested in opinions on sailing the route to Bahama's and on toward Florida and then up the East coast off shore. long period?
Quote:
Originally Posted by RDW View Post
I should have been more clear that trying to make it in 8-12 days with a layover of minimal importance. Just looking for nice easy sailing.
The rhumb line / great circle route from St. Marteen to mouth of the Chesapeake (Virginia Beach / Hampton area) is about 1335nm, NNE'erly....and with a Morris 46, this would be an nice easy sail...
At 150nm/day (~6.25kts average), this is a 9-day passage...
You should have a favorable current (up to 1/2 kt) most of the way, and as long as you had wind, you might do this in less than 8 days...

There is NO upside in making your way farther west, just to go east again....

As for present weather forecasts..."mid-May" is not specific enough for me to look at any weather forecasts, and any forecasts further than 5 - 6 days in the future are suspect and more guess-work than precision...
But...
In general the easterlies dominate, until a Low passes off the US coast, and then winds/weather will be effected, although by Mid-May this is usually diminishing in strength and frequency, AND typically would only effect you as you get north of 30*-32*N (the final 2-3 days of this passage)..
Also, the later in the season you go, the Azores/Bermuda High can build in, and winds can become lighter as well as more southerly as you move northerly along your route...(meaning what starts as a "trade winds reach" can turn into a lighter air, more downwind passage...) Good advice is to not motor too much early in the passage, so that you have the fuel to maneuver around to try to avoid any bad weather from Lows/Fronts, and/or to motor thru light southerlies, both possible on the final 1/3 of this passage...

And, if you're interested....just a cursory look at the weather for NOW and for the NEXT WEEK, I'd say you're got GREAT weather if you departed tomorrow!!!
Good easterly winds 15 - 20kts along much of the route (at least for first 5 - 6 days)...giving you a great beam reach in 10 - 15 apparent...
Not fast enough for a 200nm/day passage, but very good winds...


In a nutshell...
Take the direct rhumb line / great circle route....sail with the wind/weather you have, watch/listen to the offshore and hi-seas weather BEFORE departure and during your passage (especially as you approach 30*N, to be prepared for any Lows / fronts), and you can make this "nice sail", in a Morris 46, in your "8 - 12 day" plan...


Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 08-05-2014, 09:42   #6
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

Quote:
Originally Posted by RDW View Post
Also when and under what conditions would you try to ride the gulf stream for a long period?
RDW
IMHO, riding the gulf stream is a dumb idea. The center of the stream is the center of the nightly thunderstorms.

If you have a limited time, the direct route is the best one.
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:12   #7
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

John, s/v Annie Laurie
Thanks for your fairly complete analysis.
In my limited experience is take the straightest route, be ready to motor a little and watch out for something bad to avoid.
The weather I was watching, had a high that was somewhat stationary over Bermuda. I was thinking for the weather window going more west to get wind might not be a bad idea. I carry extra fuel but hate to motor if I can figure out something else.
P.S. You have helped me with other topics, thanks again
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:16   #8
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

Donradcliffe, I understand your thoughts. If you had very calm weather, south winds only 5-10, the effects of a stationary high. would you still not be tempted? Are the storms pretty much a constant or are they from cold are moving over warm water, which would not happen in my scenario.

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Old 08-05-2014, 10:59   #9
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Re: Caribbean to Chesapeake May route

RDW,
You're welcome...

But how come nobody noticed my typo???
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
...about 1335nm, NNE'erly....
It should read NNW'erly!!!
Sorry about that! (Heck even Don Street found himself 55nm to the WRONG side of Bermuda a few years back on a passage from the Caribbean...when he mistaken used 65* XX' instead of 64* XX'...)


For clarification...
Quote:
Originally Posted by RDW View Post
In my limited experience is take the straightest route, be ready to motor a little and watch out for something bad to avoid.
You'll take the straightest route, that you can sail with the winds that you have....and be ready to motor in light winds and watch out for any Lows/Fronts (although actually avoiding them might not be possible...



Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie



P.S. I've been trying to avoid "sailing in the Gulf Stream" discussions....as I'm in the minority, because I actually do it when others say "no way"....(usually I want the warmth and don't mind the sporadic weather)

And, yes I also cross the Gulf Stream to/from Bahamas/Florida WITH a northerly wind (also something that "everyone" say not to do)....but I grew up doing so in the 60's...and some of the most "fun" crossings I've had have been either just before a big front came through and I had 20 - 30 kts out of the south, or after a big front passed when we'd have 20 - 30 kts out of the North....(the latter was cooler, and rough...but still a LOT more fun than beating into a SE breeze!!!)
So, I'm declining to give much in the way of recommends on weather vs. the Gulf Stream.....mainly 'cause it would be contrary to good seamanship...
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