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Old 07-12-2021, 12:48   #1
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California to Europe

Hello, I'm new on this forum and this is my first post. I'm planning a cruise from San Diego CA to Europe early next year, probably staring in February. From what I can tell, going down to Panama should be relatively easy with decent winds, in general. Then, getting across the Caribbean can be iffy with the winds unpredictable (?), though generally strong. How it blows may determine my course.

So first question is: Should I plan on a specific route across the Atlantic early and make an effort to cross the Caribbean accordingly to get to the predetermined starting point for the crossing? Or would it be wiser to go with the blow across the Caribbean and start the crossing from wherever on the eastern rim?

Can I count on anything as far as wind across the Atlantic?

BTW, most of this cruise will be solo, a first for me.

Without pushing it, with reasonable stops for rest/provisions/minor fixes, when should I expect to arrive in Europe? Again, assuming the February departure from San Diego.

Thank you for all advice!
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Old 07-12-2021, 13:47   #2
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Re: California to Europe

From California, you would normally go around the other way, to use the trade winds. Go South until the butter melts, then turn right. Do the Pacific coconut run, pass through the Straits of Malacca, cross the Indian Ocean, then either the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal into the Med (if you're comfortable with the possible piracy risk), or otherwise round the Cape of Good Hope. Then Bob's your uncle.

If you go East around, you can't use the trade winds. Sail down to Panama, transit the canal, then sail North to Florida, along the U.S. East Coast, then hop off at some point and make for Ireland on a great circle route. Or you might hop off earlier and head for Bermuda, then Azores. Depending on where exactly you want to go in Europe and what the weather is like. But an Eastward Atlantic crossing cannot be done practically except above the doldrums latitudes, and those are pretty gnarly waters. In a fairly slow boat like a HC40, you are more or less guaranteed to tangle with at least one serious gale on the way, if not several.

If I were you, I would stick with the trade winds and go West around.
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Old 07-12-2021, 13:53   #3
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Re: California to Europe

As to "when" -- most of the passages are season-limited. You will be passing through hurricane/typhoon latitudes, and an Eastbound North Atlantic crossing shouldn't be done other than I would allow a couple years for that in either direction.
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Old 07-12-2021, 14:16   #4
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Re: California to Europe

Previous sailing experience?
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Old 07-12-2021, 15:29   #5
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Re: California to Europe

Tanks for your reply, Dockhead. I appreciate what you said about going West around. But I don't have that much time!

In the end, I'm going into the Baltic, so it will be either through the Channel or around Scotland and the North Sea.

So you're saying that I should get my transom from Panama north to Florida and along the U.S. east coast, and then see where I can peel off. That would be my first choice, too. I'm just not sure if I can count on the wind out of Panama, good chance it may be northerly. So is it worth beating hard to get to FLA, or better go east and turn left at one of the outlaying islands (Barbados?)

I'm not clear on the meaning of: "... Eastbound North Atlantic crossing shouldn't be done other than I would allow a couple years for that in either direction." Can you elaborate?
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Old 07-12-2021, 15:31   #6
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Re: California to Europe

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Previous sailing experience?
meager, West Coast only
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Old 07-12-2021, 16:16   #7
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Re: California to Europe

There are times when you have to sail on the wind to get to where you need to be. Your Christina should handle that okay. By that time, you should have your sea legs. It is rather a long way, and June to Nov 30 are the Caribbean months to avoid.

Even if you want to go to the Baltic, the Azores route should take you out of the paths of the hurricanes. It's awkward because the winter (northern hemisphere) storms are pretty bad, too. The route is fraught with seasonal difficulties. What are your average days runs? with you singlehanding?

Jim and I once did 6800 n. mi. to windward from the Societies back to San Francisco via HI. We have not done that many since. It required being done, and so, we did. It is really preferable if you can sail a fetch. Expect gooseneck barnacles.

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Old 07-12-2021, 16:34   #8
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Re: California to Europe

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Tanks for your reply, Dockhead. I appreciate what you said about going West around. But I don't have that much time!

In the end, I'm going into the Baltic, so it will be either through the Channel or around Scotland and the North Sea.

So you're saying that I should get my transom from Panama north to Florida and along the U.S. east coast, and then see where I can peel off. That would be my first choice, too. I'm just not sure if I can count on the wind out of Panama, good chance it may be northerly. So is it worth beating hard to get to FLA, or better go east and turn left at one of the outlaying islands (Barbados?)

I'm not clear on the meaning of: "... Eastbound North Atlantic crossing shouldn't be done other than I would allow a couple years for that in either direction." Can you elaborate?

Getting to the Baltic then East around might make sense.


In that case you want the far Northern route, maybe even stopping in Iceland, then Faroes, Shetlands, Norway. For that you could work your way up the North American East coast as far as Newfoundland before hopping off.



You will want to do the high North Atlantic part in a narrow window before the August gales and after the spring ones, so really June and July, ideally. Can you get to the jumping off point before next early summer? That's a lot of miles for roughly six months. If you can't manage that, then you will need to wait for 2023 for the high Atlantic crossing.


If your sailing experience is "meagre", you will want experienced crew with you, and you will want to carefully and thoroughly prepare the boat. An Eastbound high North Atlantic crossing is one of the toughest ocean crossings you can do. The good side of this is that the distances are fairly short, especially if you stop in Iceland. But you will need ace weather routing and top heavy weather skills, so you will want to recruit the optimum crew.
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Old 07-12-2021, 16:40   #9
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Re: California to Europe

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. . .Even if you want to go to the Baltic, the Azores route should take you out of the paths of the hurricanes. It's awkward because the winter (northern hemisphere) storms are pretty bad, too. The route is fraught with seasonal difficulties. What are your average days runs? with you singlehanding?. . .

Azores, with or without Bermuda, can be feasible for this. You would then make for Falmouth, transit the English Channel, then North Sea, Kiel Canal, etc. But the far Northern route, then Norway, Kattegut, is quite a bit shorter, and the wind is better.


And single handed? With "meagre" experience? Fuggeditaboutit. You need proper crew for this, not less than three people, preferably four or five. This is serious ocean sailing.
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Old 07-12-2021, 17:07   #10
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Re: California to Europe

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Getting to the Baltic then East around might make sense.


In that case you want the far Northern route, maybe even stopping in Iceland, then Faroes, Shetlands, Norway. For that you could work your way up the North American East coast as far as Newfoundland before hopping off.



You will want to do the high North Atlantic part in a narrow window before the August gales and after the spring ones, so really June and July, ideally. Can you get to the jumping off point before next early summer? That's a lot of miles for roughly six months. If you can't manage that, then you will need to wait for 2023 for the high Atlantic crossing.


If your sailing experience is "meagre", you will want experienced crew with you, and you will want to carefully and thoroughly prepare the boat. An Eastbound high North Atlantic crossing is one of the toughest ocean crossings you can do. The good side of this is that the distances are fairly short, especially if you stop in Iceland. But you will need ace weather routing and top heavy weather skills, so you will want to recruit the optimum crew.
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Old 07-12-2021, 17:24   #11
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I cannot speak about the West Coast dowm to Panama however from Florida on I would suggest get up to Ft Lauderdale or Ft Pierce then stock up and wait for a window of S'lies, then jump over the top of the Banks and grab Easting as and when you can, destination Azores.
From the Azores you have two choices.. run NE for the UK or ENE for N Spain and then across the Biscay into the Channel and points E & N.
This can be done February through to July.. Bermuda is a detour and not worth it unless you prefer shorter legs.
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Old 07-12-2021, 17:39   #12
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Re: California to Europe

Thanks for the replies and advice, Dockhead and Ann!

I have a suicidal streak on top of limited life expectancy, so it's a perfect convergence of circumstances for doing my solo crossing with meager experience. That decision has been made.

What I have going for me is a very good boat and a very great respect for the ocean. I also know that solo crossings have been done, and with careful planning and preparation they can be accomplished without undue drama. Yes, they can also have plenty of drama, even tragedy, no matter how well you prepare, but that's just part of it, that's why we sail across oceans, right? For the adventure, for the dreams.

I will have redundant communication systems, incl. satellite weather routing, proper sails, 130 g of diesel, and excellent onboard equipment (watermaker, plenty of solar, state of the art navionics). My modus will be proactive and conservative, meaning, act early and err on the side of caution. Reef 'em as soon as you think about it, change course early to avoid bad weather, be gentle on the sails and rigging.

All that said, I will take on a crew of 1-2, if I can caper someone from a portside saloon (just kidding). I'm not casting outside of a limited circle of friends and acquaintances, and I'm prepared to go across alone. San Diego to Panama, I'm likely to have company. Maybe Panama to eastern US, too.

Any more practical advice?
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Old 07-12-2021, 17:51   #13
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Re: California to Europe

I acknowledge it is not exactly what you are asking, but have you considered trucking the boat to the East coast? A PO of our boat did the trip you outline and didn't have many good things to say about the stretch south of Mexico and through to the Caribbean. Took them quite a long time too. Naturally YMMV. Good luck!
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Old 07-12-2021, 18:03   #14
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Re: California to Europe

Boatman61: Thanks! I think the timing will be right, I'm leaving myself plenty of time if I leave San Diego in February. I'm budgeting for 6 knots average. I'd love to go to Azores direct, but I expect the wind to be favorable for the Bermuda and then across, possibly the northern path. I suspect I might prefer shorter legs, too.
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Old 07-12-2021, 18:06   #15
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Re: California to Europe

Nmuir:
I gave it a brief thought, but I'm in it really for the sailing.
But I crave info on the "not nice things" along the way, so give me all the details you have!
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