Originally Posted by hoodsail
my impression is to get the boat down south with minimal time for dawdling, ie. lv Norfolk, head off the coast for some distance, avoid the Gulf stream and get to the islands ASAP.
You can't avoid the Gulf Stream, just minimize the adverse effect.
North Carolina tips the Gulf Stream over and it runs NE along the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. It clocks a bit more well offshore and aims for the UK. This is one of two reasons to get your Easting as early as possible.
Sailing 135T makes your course perpendicular to the Gulf Stream, minimizing time in the current. While you are in the Gulf Stream this far North you will get as much Easting (fair) as Northing (foul). South of Beaufort NC it's all Northing.
The other reason to get East early is that as you get South you will get into the trades (E to NE) and getting further East is work. Get out to 65W and don't give up any Easting you don't have to. You don't have to lose too much ground to find yourself in Puerto Rico instead of the BVI. If you are aiming for STM buy another half-degree of longitude early and hang on to it.
If you do get pounded by weather (what are you using for onboard weather anyway?) and bail for the Bahamas please don't try to run any inlet except Nassau in the dark. If you have a choice between the Bahamas and Bermuda choose Bermuda - you'll lose less ground and heading on to the Caribbean is easier.