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jmcelwee
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East coast cruise - Advice, timing, duration?

Hi all,

I'm a (relatively) young professional, and have had the idea in the back of my mind for quite a while that sometime before I reach 40 (which is fast approaching) I want to sail from my home port (East Greenwich, RI) down the coast to the Caribbean (likely stop somewhere like the BVI's).  Plan would then be to have the boat delivered back to NE.

My question(s) are related to how long of a trip I should plan on.  I'll need to take a short sabbatical from work for such a trip, and am trying to figure out what a realistic timeframe is.  Obviously it could be as fast/slow as I want, depending on how often I stop, but I'm trying to figure out what would be the best balance between setting sail through open ocean directly to the BVI's, vs. coastal-cruising down.  I do want it to be fairly relaxed, and one of the main goals is to see bits of the US and islands I've never been to along the route, so I'd be planning on a good number of stops of a day or two here and there.

Any advice appreciated, especially from anyone that's ever done such a cruise!

Josh McElwee
Sailing from East Greenwich, RI
2000 C36 MKII, M35B, "Chinook", Hull#1900

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mike37909
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Josh,
  I have not made the trip myself but one thing comes to mind.  Why not have the boat delivered down to the BVI's and sail back.  The advantage is you won't have to pound into the wind and waves, plus you will be going with the gulf stream on the East Coast instead of against it.   
Good luck

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Chachere
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The C36IA's former commodore and admiral kept a detailed blog about this trip (round trip, actually) a couple of years ago,
at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/diva-di/?show=fulltoc (scroll down to about to late July of 2012 and you can pick up the trip from RI to Florida)

 

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LCBrandt
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If you need someone to position the boat one way or the other, let me know. No delivery fee; just costs covered. I would love to make that trip. 

pierview
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I have not made the trip either but my friends just did and two things I've heard from them to consider:

First, you are going to get stuck waiting for weather windows to make passages (particularly across the Gulf) so you will need more time than you expect. The other consideration is that something on the boat is going to break and you'll need repair time. A "short" LOA from work probably wont cut it for a trip of that length... and they only went to the Bahamas..

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deising
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Josh, it is great to dream and reach for the stars, but reality can be harsh. I agree wholeheartedly with having the boat delivered to the Caribbean and then sailing her back. I also agree that it is extremely rare when an aggressive estimated schedule works out. You need to have a plan for when something like a serious mechanical, medical, or weather emergency holds you up.

You deserve to have a wonderful time cruising on your boat, and often that is made impossible by attempting to go too far in too short a time with very little margin for extenuating circumstances. Either plan to take a LOT of time off work, or shorten your horizons.  

I haven't asked if there is anyone else involved in this cruise, but rushing and enduring bad weather for a schedule is a great way to sour them to cruising.

Sorry to be blunt, but I want you to love your cruise.

(A big shout-out to Matthew for citing our blog. I still fondly remember our time aboard Chachere and the great camaraderie.)

jmcelwee
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Thanks, all, for the great advice so far!

I agree, I don't want to be rushing anything, so am interested in any estimates for a realistic timeframe for such a trip (including waiting for weather windows, repairs, etc). 

The time I'd plan on taking off work would be somewhere in the range of months, not weeks, so I wouldn't be aiming to race down the coast.  

I hadn't considered sailing the reverse route, I like that suggestion, and will look into it.  Larry, you willing to sail Chinook from RI down to the BVI's for me then.  :)

-J

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Chachere
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[quote=deising]
(A big shout-out to Matthew for citing our blog. I still fondly remember our time aboard Chachere and the great camaraderie.)[/quote]

I know we had a few drinks that evening, Duane, but I suspect you are confusing me with my boat, Que Chévere....

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deising
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You are so right, Matthew, and I am so embarrassed, but it won't be the first (or last) time. 

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deising
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I admire your desire to do this, Josh. I started taking long sabbaticals from work after moving to FL at age 47 and have done a lot of great cruising because of it. Without any real planning, I am thinking 4 months would be the absolute minimum I would want for a BVIs to RI cruise. 

While there is something to be said for the bragging rights and beauty of long open-ocean passages, to me that defeats the point of the cruising we enjoy. My wife and I want to experience the people and places along the way. You could, if weather allows, find a number of inlets on the east coast USA to make overnight passages "on the outside," but once you are out there, you can't just duck in anyplace you want. Most of the inlets are treacherous and not really navigable for keelboats. It takes planning and knowing your options, or dumb luck, to make that work.

To avoid hurricane season and cold weather, you could leave the BVIs in mid-Feb, then be in the Bahamas mid-Mar to mid-Apr (usually strong SE winds helping you along), then be in northern FL by early May, and then home in RI by mid-Jun. If you can squeeze another month or two, even better.

Since I have not made, nor planned for, this trip, there might be many other factors I am not aware of advising a different approach. If you were to join the Seven Seas Cruising Association, you would have access to numerous long-distance cruisers that could advise you much better.

Lots of luck to you!
 

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deising
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To your point about weather and repair delays, if you had only 4 months, you could probably lose up to 3-4 weeks in delays and still make up the time. Making up the time, however, would mean moving many hours a day when you could and not being able to linger anywhere along the way, but it could be done safely. Giving yourself 5 or 6 months allow plenty of time barring some real tragedy.

Another thought. I love the BVIs, too, but if you are looking for remote islands with unbelievably clear water, why not start in the lower Bahamas and work your way up. You will experience the islands and save one-quarter the distance. If you prefer islands with lots of beach bar options, you would be much better off in the Abacos (northern Bahamas), which saves even more miles and time.

You would want to spend a month (no earlier than May, I suggest) in the Abacos and then start heading home. Two months to get to RI would be a slow enough trip to really see and enjoy. That would take only 3 months and be a wonderful adventure. 

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My wife and I spent nearly 10 months sailing/motoring from Vermont to Georgetown, Bahamas and back this last year.  We were never in any particular rush or had a schedule.
Our only schedule was to attend a Seven Seas Association GAM at Camp Letts in the Chesapeake in late September.  Highly recommend joining SSA and attending one of their GAMs. The one at Camp Letts has a large number of boats on their way to the Bahamas and the whole weekend is focused on the ICW and Bahamas.  There are plenty of attendees by car.  It was a very worthwhile weekend.
 
For someone who is looking to get south fast there are two other options; “The Salty Dawg Rally” or the “ARC Caribbean 1500 Rally”.  Google them both for details. Both these groups leave Portsmouth, VA area around November 1st heading for the BVI’s and a smaller group heads for the Abaco’s. The trip takes about 6-7 days.  Last year the Salty Dawgs left a day or two later than the1500 and had a couple rough days.  There were a couple de-mastings. Something generally not a problem in the ICW or with one or two day hops down the coast.  There are a fair number of requirements to participate in either group.
 
From the Chesapeake we took a little over three months, to get to Miami. We puttered the month of October in the Chesapeake and stayed at Vero (Velcro) Beach for nearly a month.  Coming north once we made landfall in Cape Canaveral, it took us six weeks to get to New York, with a fair amount of sight seeing and visiting once we cleared Florida, going north in the spring. We did not get in the ICW until Charleston, NC.  With more sun light in the spring we day hopped up the Florida coast and then an over-night to Charleston. After that we made many stops visiting friends on the way north. Had a couple days of fog delays in Atlantic City. With the longer spring sunlight and warmer weather you can go north much faster than you can go south in the cool and rainy fall.  Another advantage on coming north in the spring, if you are short on time, you can leave your boat at a marina and come back and do sections north through the summer.
 
(Continued in the second reply)
 

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(Continued from previous reply)

April and May can generally have some of the best sailing weather off the east coast.  People that are bringing boats north from the Caribbean try to do it during that period.
 
Trying to get to the BVI from the southern US is tough, because you are going to have the wind on your nose frequently, especially if you go through the Bahamas from Florida.  This would be one advantage of leaving on one of the Portsmouth Rallys.  If I had less time than money I would consider doing one of the rallys south, which entails some expense getting your boat to their safety standards. Leave the boat in the BVI until late winter/early spring fly back down and take the boat north through Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and through the Bahamas (could do this with only a couple over nights). If you are really short on time you could sail directly back to Florida and then up the east coast mixing ICW days with off shore days.
 
The other option mentioned, about having someone taking the boat south and sailing back is a good one.  Spring is the best sailing weather, with longer sunnier days. Why give the hired crew the good stuff. We had many more weather delays going south in the fall and in the Bahamas through the winter than we had heading back north in April.
 
I kept a blog at vermontsailor.blogspot.com.  If you have insomnia some night, this may cure it. It may also give you some insights to the ICW and the Bahamas.
 
We have chartered in the BVI’s, St. Martin, Grenadines. My wife and I enjoyed the Bahamas the most. Lots of islands of very different character. I agree with what Duane says about the Bahamas.
 
One of the most important things I learned, is when there is a forecasted weather window of a couple days, take the first day.  The windows only get shorter, not longer than forecasted.
 
 

jmcelwee
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What great detailed info!  Thanks so much everyone, this is why these forums are such a great resource and community.  Makes me proud to be a C36 owner. :)

I'll look into the rally's, that could be an interesting experience in its own right!  Still have a few years for planning my trek, so time to look into the many different options!

I still have never actually been to the Bahama's that is very appealing.  Chartered in BVI's many times, but never anywhere else in the Caribbean yet...

 

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deising
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Glad we could be of help. Since you have plenty of time, start looking for blogs of other sailors who have been to the various places you are considering and experience the trip vicariously for now. My sig has our blog URL and you can see what I had to say about the whole East Coast and the Far and Near Bahamas in more detail than you probably want.

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