Chesapeake to Bermuda - best time to leave?

Bajansailor

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I am hoping to crew for a friend on a passage from the Chesapeake to the Caribbean via Bermuda in the autumn.
I have sailed 'the other way' a couple of times in the past, but have never done a return passage.

I am thinking that the weather window for leaving is probably fairly narrow - dont want too leave too early, as there could still be late hurricanes heading north from the Caribbean, and dont want too leave too late, as winter will be setting in with a vengeance in the Chesapeake....

I am guessing that probably around the end of October / early November might be a good time to leave, assuming that there is a reasonably good forecast - am I in the right ball park here?
And would it be OK to leave Chesapeake a bit later if necessary, say mid, even end of November?

Its only about 600 miles to Bermuda, hence perhaps a 5 day passage, but then almost 1000 miles south to St Maarten.

We have had the occasional hurricane in the Windies in November but the odds are thankfully rather small.
 

ChrisE

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I've looked in World Cruising Routes and Jimmy Cornell gives a cautious OK to November for the reasons you say. He also warns against Northers whipping down the East Coast kicking up an awful sea in the Gulf Stream.

He recommends November to mid-December for the trip from Bermuda to the Virgin Islands.

Hope this helps.
 

michael_w

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It is well worth going down the Intra-Coastal Waterway to Beaufort NC. It's much easier to time your crossing of the Gulfstream from here. It also avoids the nasty corner at Cape Hatteras.

You have to watch the Pungo Ferry Bridge as it's a bit lower than the the ICW 65' standard.

Assuming you are heading south to the islands, it's best to make a easting to about 65 degreees.

Last time I did this trip it was in late October and decidedly chilly till we hit the Gulfstream, then it was shorts for night watches all the way down to St Maarten.

The oddest sight when about 400 miles from Bermuda was a Grey Heron flying past.
 

Salty John

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I haven't done the Bermuda trip but I've left northern Chesapeake Bay several times, heading south.
We usually left mid October and dawdled down the ICW to Beaufort, NC before going outside. Everything depends on hurricane activity and I've never done that trip without dodging one or two.
Basically, at that time of year, you're squeezed between hurricanes and northers - you have to balance the risk. No-one wants to be caught offshore in a hurricane, and no-one wants to be caught in the Gulf Stream in a norther.
If you leave late enough to avoid hurricanes you are likely to get northers. A rock and a hard place!
Michael's suggestion to head south in the ICW is a good one; if you head out of Chesapeake Bay you will encounter the Gulf Stream much later in your forecast window and so the chances of having a northerly wind are increased; you also have the often nasty Cape Hattaras to contend with.
I'd aim to be in Beaufort early November and look for a good forecast.
Having said all that, many experienced sailors just go out of Hampton Roads at the south end of Chesapeake Bay and head for Bermuda in November. Brrr!
 

Bejasus

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many cruisers tend to run down the inside and plenty of them stop off here in Savannah at Turners Creek where we are and you can anchor in the river opposite a large Publix store to replenish. From here they then would normally abandon the ICW due to depth issues and rundown the outside, via St. Augustine & Cape Canaveral and Fort Pierce where it is a short hop over to North Bimini and down to the Caribbean via the Exumas, Turks & Caicos, DR and Puerto Rico. Means only a short hop across the Gulf Stream from Ft Pierce. 65nm to North Bimini.
Ft. Pierce Harbortown Marina caters fairly well for folks doing this route.
Most of the cruisers are here in Savannah around the end of October/early November where they wait for favourable breaks in the weather.
 

Bajansailor

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Thank you Chris, Michael, John and George for all your excellent info above - lots of food for thought there re possible options!

Your suggestions re going down the ICW at least part of the way to Beaufort sound very tempting (especially re avoiding a probable bashing off Cape Hatteras), including coastal hopping the whole way to Florida and then jumping off to the Bahamas - I would love to do that, but I know there will be time constraints - realistically I doubt I can take more than 6 weeks maximum off.

And I might have to potter over to high English latitudes in November to go on sea trials on a work boat (being built for a Company here) before she is accepted - that is about her estimated time of completion.

So we shall have to see how things pan out.
It would be nice to go to Bermuda again (and have a Dark'n'Stormy in The White Horse tavern for old times sake), and also nice to potter south leisurely and see a bit of America from the sea.
 

nickrj

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Stephane (peacefuljourney.ca) left from New Jersey and skirted north around Bermuda (headed for the Azores) in May of last year.

Bajansailor, on another note - I can't remember the guys name, but he had a Contessa sitting on the hard in Barbados when I was there. He planned to sail solo & nonstop from Barbados to England... Did he ever leave? If so, have you heard anything?
 

Bajansailor

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Nick, re the Contessa that was on the hard here, that would have been 'Teassa' (white hull, no inboard engine) - I haven't heard any news re her sailing plans, however I did see her on a mooring in Carlisle Bay a few days ago.
 

johnf

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I did this crossing 15 years ago and arrived in the fading light at st george's . I spoke to pilot on vhf for local advice about night entrance and he told me it was lit up like a runway" .
Possibly the most scary night entrance ever unless big improvements i would make all efforts for day approach even with modern sat nav etc.
 

mandlmaunder

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Hi Bajan
Will be doing this same trip only difference it will be to St John USVI next week.
Will let you know what I think of it when we arrive.
Have done the Fort Lauderdale to St Martin trip once before in March, the thing I remember most was how cold Florida was.
Had to buy Sweat shirts for the trip.
 

Bajansailor

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I would agree with you John re a night arrival at St Georges - I was crewing on a boat some years back on passage from the Windies to Newport via Bermuda, and we arrived at night - the mate was glued to the radar (it was a 100' yacht) and it was still pretty scary trying to pick up the lights on the fairway buoys, with reefs each side.
 

Bajansailor

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Fair winds and happy sailing next week Mark and Lee - yes please re a report about your adventures!
Will you be going directly from the Chesapeake to St John, or via Bermuda?
I am already planning on taking thermals and good oilies if our trip does come off in November... /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
 

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