Skip to main content

Why I Skip Bermuda

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issueMany sailors think the best way to reach the Caribbean from the northeast U.S. is to head for Bermuda, spend a few days there, and then take an easy ride down to the islands. In my experience this is neither the quickest or safest route for boats under 55 feet. Many American insurance companies, and almost all Lloyds
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue

Many sailors think the best way to reach the Caribbean from the northeast U.S. is to head for Bermuda, spend a few days there, and then take an easy ride down to the islands. In my experience this is neither the quickest or safest route for boats under 55 feet. Many American insurance companies, and almost all Lloyds underwriters, now have hurricane season ending on 1 December. If that’s what your policy says, you should head south along the coast and wait in the lower Chesapeake until December. If your air draft allows you to get under the 64-foot bridge south of Norfolk, Virginia, think about continuing south via the ICW to Morehead City, North Carolina, and heading offshore from there.

Weather along the northeast coast gets progressively unstable as the year winds down and a mid-November forecast might be good for just 24 hours. Since you are in a gale area all the way to Bermuda, if you head south from around Newport, Rhode Island, your passage time on a 40-footer will be around four days. That means the chances of getting hit by at least one gale are very high. An approaching cold front with northwesterly winds of 20 knots or more will usually veer to the north and then into the northeast. In these conditions a boat caught in the middle of the Stream will experience very rough conditions even with 20 knot winds. Higher winds will create gear-damaging conditions and repairing things in Bermuda can be time consuming and expensive. That’s another reason you should head for the Chesapeake. The trip will train the skipper, crew and boat and if there are problems they can be corrected before you leave the states.

If you are heading offshore from Morehead City or Beaufort, North Carolina, wait for a northwesterly and leave on the top of the tide. A southeast course should put you in the Gulf Stream in eight hours and be across it in 24 hours. If all goes well the northwesterly will veer to the north and then northeast. These shifts won’t bother you, because you’ll already be across the Stream steering southeast for the Caribbean. If you’re lucky, the northeast breeze will hold you down into the northeast trades.

Mid-December is about the latest you should leave from Beaufort/Morehead. If you miss this window, continue south to St. Augustine, Florida. Don’t leave from Charleston, South Carolina, because it is further away from St. Thomas than Beaufort/Morehead City. More importantly, if you leave from Charleston, it will take you three or four days to get across the Stream.

Once you reach St. Augustine, wait until a norther is in the forecast and then leave 36 hours before it arrives. Head out across the Stream—it is very narrow and close to shore here—and when the norther arrives steer so you are sailing on either a beam or broad reach. You’ll be well on your way south, with a minimal amount of wear and tear.

Related

00-Alexe-1---GUaGKDY4-single-boat-sailing-away-from-skyline,-Hill-Holiday

Cruising: Find Your Own Adventure

Whether they’re at the end of their collegiate career or after aging out of a summer sailing program, a lot of young sailors have a hard time finding a way to continue sailing as adults. Some of the barriers to sailing, including location, finances and time, can be hard to ...read more

00LEAD-IMG_2183

Heavy Hitters on Heavy Weather

“What’s the joke about heavy weather? You know it when you see it.” Figure 8 singlehander Randall Reeves drew laughs from the Cruising Club of America (CCA) sailors attending the forum “Heavy Weather Sailing: Bluewater Perspectives” as part of the CCA’s centennial celebration in ...read more

Nominne-Promo-2048x1149

Best Boat Nominees 2023

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Some of it is timing. Some of it is just the way of the world. Either way, it can be fascinating to see the evolution of the boatbuilding industry over the years, as has been evident in SAIL magazine’s annual Best Boats ...read more

NOAA-1280x

Notice to Mariners: 2023 Hurricane Season in Full Force

There’s so much going on in the news that you would be in good company if you didn’t realize the first major storm to hit the Caribbean was in full force. Hurricane Fiona is currently raging over the Turks and Caicos and is projected to make its way north in the coming three ...read more

StarWorlds2 Photo by Matias Capizzano

Star Worlds Celebrates 100 Years

The 2022 Star Worlds featured six days of intense racing where the final and deciding gold medal win went to Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertenghi of Italy. During some of the toughest sailing conditions in the race’s recent history, sailors and race management overcame daily ...read more

Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 9.16.00 AM

Dockside Chat on 3D Sonar Technology

Over the years, these products have become simpler to use, smaller, and lower cost. This technology is both more advanced and more accessible than ever before. Bob has much to share with his extensive knowledge of seamanship, safety systems, and vessel operation. Matt is the CEO ...read more

01-LEAD-Caribbean-600---Feb-21th---Start(All)---High-Res-115

Offshore Racing with Brian Thompson

Brian Thompson could have become just another financial type on Wall Street, which would have been surprising enough in itself for a Brit who grew up in the London suburbs, reading Science Fiction books on smoke-filled commuter trains. From an early age, though, Thomson wanted ...read more

01-LEAD-Dinghy-tow

A Truly Awesome Dinghy

In 1980, I owned a 26ft fiberglass ketch named Recycle, a full-keeled vessel with a 10 hp Honda outboard in a well behind the tiller. An inflatable dinghy would have been nice, but I could only afford an 8ft plywood pram. She had reinforced fiberglass seams, which made her ...read more