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

210115-AC36

Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of ...read more

ac-2048x

Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s ...read more

Episode1_Thumbnail4_00000_00000_00000_00000

Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry ...read more

01-LEAD-nder-sail-3

Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, ...read more

210111-Vendee

Vendée Update: Josche Forced to Abandon

A week ago, the canting keel on Isabelle Jocshe's IMOCA 60, MACSF, failed. She managed a jury rig with a replacement ram, which held the keel centerline and allowed her to keep sailing, but with a major hit to her speed potential. Jocshe had been in 8th at the time and remained ...read more

rudder

Vendee Update: Emergency Rudder Replacement

A devastated Hare talks about the breakage Pip Hare (Medallia) is back in the game after an emergency rudder repair deep in the Southern Ocean. “Every part of my body aches. I have bloody knuckles on every finger, bruises all down my legs and muscles I didn't know I had that ...read more

Oracle-RBYACFEVD3_2870

PRADA Cup Pairings Announced

The schedule for the PRADA Cup has been revealed as a multitiered extravaganza featuring over a month of racing, stretching from January 15 through February 22. First, the three teams—American Magic, INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli—will face off in a 12-race, six-day ...read more

01-LEAD-Opener-ETNZ1_-106_silo

The 36th America's Cup

A Superbowl is a Superbowl, and a World Series is a World Series. Sure, the names of the players and the teams change from year-to-year, but otherwise, the game pretty much remains the same. Not so the America’s Cup. Still, in many ways a hot mess left over from the days of Queen ...read more