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Old 10-18-2004
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NYC to Bahamas in November

Heading south from NYC to Grand Bahama Island 1st week of November. 40'' Beneteau with 5'' draft. What is the best route? Is the ICWW around hatteras deep enough for us to head south to Florida and then across? Or should we cross the gulf stream north of hatteras and then head south direct to Bahamas?
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Old 10-19-2004
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NYC to Bahamas in November

Sub, your question seems to pop up each late summer/early fall and there are two aspects of it that never change. The first is that you are inescapably at the whim of the weather gods, and the second is that the person is usually looking at the Free Lunch program, thinking that they can just dial in the right route and drive the boat South.

Prevaling wind patterns from Delaware S are predominantly SE and it''s always easier to sail - outside - UP the eastern seaboard as far as Delaware Bay than it is to sail DOWN. More importantly, as you move into Fall the wx systems are driven far more by frontal activity, where the front''s progression and the associated clocking of the winds (SW for a short period, then in the N''ly quadrant for several days, blowing hard, before clocking back to the SE) determines much of what you''ll experience offshore.

This set of variables makes Hatteras especially problematic in the Fall and Spring (trending more to ''suicidal'' in the Winter), but it also shapes the experience you''ll have both above and below Hatteras as you try to move the boat south. If you choose to ride a front, you''ll either want to stay inshore and suffer the consequences of the shallower waters OR lengthen the passage off soundings to the extent that the N''ly winds won''t last long enough to feed the length of the route.

Your question is confusing insofar as asking about the depth of the ICW when discussing Hatteras, which refers to being coastal rather than inland in the waterway. In general, you''re looking to make the passage too late, with every day shorter (re: daylight) and every week colder. You might find it far more preferable to endure the lenghty motoring run inside and not spend so much time parked in key ports, waiting weather and then paying the price offshore.

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Old 10-22-2004
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NYC to Bahamas in November

Jack, would you say the current batch (2002 I think) of Pilot Charts are fairly accurate?

What''s your take on going outside (but inside Gulf Stream, from SC to say, St. Augustine, FL? Jim
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Old 10-23-2004
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NYC to Bahamas in November


I doubt there''s any magic to a later set of pilot charts. They are occasionally reprinted but are supposed to summarize a bazillion observations for each grid square over an extended period of decades, so I don''t see how a newer version will reflect significant changes. In fact, I think their value is limited for planning a given, short passage such as you''re considering. Better you monitor the wx off that area of the coast for a period of days to develop a sense for the prevailing conditions, wx pattern shifts, etc..

There''s also nothing wrong with planning the run from e.g. Charleston down to the FL border; it''s short enough that a stable wx system and getting a thorough wx f''cast before departure should make for predictable wx conditions and few surprises. In general, the later in the Fall, the more frequent and the stronger the fronts (and their parent LP centers), which can result in smaller windows and more waiting as you let conditions offshore settle and/or if a 2nd front isn''t too far behind a 1st. Conceptually, you''re picking between two basic options: working somewhat to weather while sailing SW, somewhat against the SE prevailing winds, or trying to catch a clocking wind pattern on departure in order to have the frontal NW/N/NE wind progression behind you, hopefully at only a moderate moderate wind strength but with more swell & wind wave.

One thought: I personally have found St. Augustine''s entrance to be very tricky at times, while other times it is reported to be an easy entrance. This is partly due to repeated shoaling vs. the limited ability of the CofE and USCG to keep the channel open and the buoys placed correctly. And in part the varying reports probably reflect the differing conditions under which people enter the inlet (see the two basic wind patterns mentioned above). Were it me, I would phone to obtain the current conditions of the inlet from the USCG station nearby (including asking about recent chart corrections that have been issued), and then have the chart and waypoints for the alternate entrance into the St. Mary''s River at hand - a much easier approach but further N, should the wx fall apart. (Besides, a stop at Cumberland Is. and the US Nat''l Park docks right off St. Mary''s River and not far from Fernandina Beach is a joy, as is walking around the island with its feral horses, old Carnegie mansion and pristine beach).

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Old 10-24-2004
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NYC to Bahamas in November

As Whoosh sais, 2002 Pilot Charts offer "accurate" historical data.
NGA - Atlas of Pilot Charts
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Old 10-25-2004
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NYC to Bahamas in November

I you want to ride a norther use it to go east, then turn south when the winds clock around to the SE. It''s easier than riding south first and beating later.
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