Advice Planning my first Long Distance Cruise
I Need help from those that already done it!
I am heading south for the Bahamas the first time this October for about 6 months and have started to actively prepare for the trip. I hope to benefit from all the experience on this forum to assist me with advice and recommendations. A brief description of my current plan.
My Age- Just turned 60 but don't actually realize it yet. my head is closer to 30.
Experience- 20 yrs in smaller boats, 4 in my C-30. Longest trip Peconic Bay LI to Portsmouth NH, home port.
My boat- 1981 C-30 I realize this is not a "Bluewater" and understand the difference. My thought is this is actually a series of coastal cruises unless I push on to Dominica.
I have started to check all systems in prep for this trip as part of spring commissioning and will replace and upgrade questionable parts Such as
New larger 25 gal fuel tank, new hoses, fuel pump and filters.
New wiring harness from batteries engine and gages.
New sheets, New rollerfurler, Chart Plotter, Backup GPS, replace all light bulbs and check wiring, New wheel Autopilot, and appropriate backups. I dont have Radar, how critical is it for this type of trip?
My crew- Undetermined, The Admiral wont cruise in the cold of Oct and will fly down to some point when it is warm enough to meet me. She also is concerned that I am too old to be doing this. I don't agree, not too old just a bit slower which may be a good thing.
I could possibly pick up some crew if a relative or 2 comes along for the initial trip and flies home but I actually would prefer to single hand until I pick up the Admiral.
Trip Legs- I expect to sail outside until I pick up the Admiral and then go in the ditch until Fl. and wait for weather before crossing the stream. I want to sail inside Hatteras not outside.
Once across I am looking to spend much of my time on the hook in quiet out of the way anchorages and have not focused on any spots in the Bahamas yet.
In reviewing the charts, considering I will be single handing, what distance outside is reasonable to expect to cover daily and still get anchored or slipped? What types of runs has any one made and can you recommend stop over anchorages or marinas from MA on down for the outside trip. Obviously I want to minimize the distance in and out of anchor. I want to cover distance but also want to balance knowing I am securely anchored for the night. I anticipate early AM starts make distance.
Sorry for the length but Im sure these are the first of a number of questions I will have for the collective wisdom on this board.
Thank you all in advance for your assistance.
You'll probably want to go outside from Buzzards Bay down to Cape May, and then head up the Delaware and over to the Chesapeake Bay. Be aware that going outside generally will require some overnight sailing, and that the New Jersey shoreline can be a very nasty and dangerous one in bad weather, since many of the harbors there are not safe to enter in bad weather.
Once on the Chesapeake, you'll head down the bay until you get to the ICW and take that down to Florida. However, by leaving in October, you'll be dealing with the tail end of the hurricane season, and will need to keep an eye on the weather and have a list of possible hurricane hides for the area you're in at any given moment.
As many of the people, like PBZeer and Camaraderie can tell you, doing the ICW is generally a matter of motoring rather than sailing, and awfully boring and slow if you're by yourself. Doing it without crew may be very painful. :)
I hope you're not planning on sailing to a schedule of any sort, since that is unwise at best, deadly at worst.
Cam and others will probably give you some excellent advice about making the hop across to the islands and where to go... :)
You might wish to crew on something similar (like a CS33?) in a delivery situation first. Plenty of people get their boats down to the Carib "informally" this way, but it's hard to find crew because of the time commitment. But for you, it might be a way to experience first-hand (but in an inherently safer situation than single-handing) the sort of conditions and challenges a smaller boat can face.
Once you reach Cape May, you have the option of going up Delaware Bay and down the Chesepeake, or going offshore to the southern end of the Chesapeake. Either way, you'll want to go through North Carolina until at least the Bueafort Inlet. I would suggest you stay inside at least until Charleston, SC, given the time of year. From there, weather permitting, you can make day long hops from Inlet to Inlet, or overnight hops to do the same.
Re the route, I would second the suggestions above and offer an option that you might consider if short handed. The Buzzards Bay to Cape May leg is over 200 miles, if memory serves, and in a 30' boat that will take at least two days, maybe three. The alternative would be to use LI Sound to work your way west, passing down the East River (careful of currents) and lay up somewhere like Sandy Hook to wait for a nice 24-36 hour window to make a jump to Cape May of about 110-120nm. (Sailing through NYC is an adventure in itself). After Cape May the route others have suggested (Delaware Bay, C&D Canal, Chesapeake to the ICW in Norfolk) is a good one and it's all day sailing with plenty of places to put in at night to anchor.
You'll want to read up on the trip across the Gulf Stream from Florida because it can be challenging in a small boat. Talk to sailors you'll find in Florida anchorages. I'm sure they will have lots of good info and advice.
Re the age thing.... when considering a trip like this, it's important to be fit regardless of your age (upper body strength is particularily important) , but you've got plenty of time to work on that over the summer. Once you're under way, take it easy at first, and don't try to push too hard, too far each day, especially when you're singlehanding or short handed. (Eight hours is a long day single handing and 12 hrs with two is as well. You know the speed of your boat -- so you can calculate the likely day's run). As someone said above, don't be driven by a fixed schedule.
Take a cell phone, call your wife every night and after a while, she'll relax too.
I wouldn't think you'd need a radar. If the vis. drops, stay put until it gets better.
I would recommend that you have a mechanic you trust give your engine a good going over. You're going to need it. Take lots of spares and as many consumables as you can conveniently stow.
Re the timing of the departure -- the end of the hurricane season makes it somewhat tricky. You're trading off the possibiltiy of having nicer / warmer weather during the northern legs of the route with the risk of a late season hurricane / TS coming up the coast. Don't wait too late -- it can get cold on the Chesapeake in late Oct and Nov, but moving to the Chesapeake in late September and hanging around there for a month or so before moving further south should be considered. There are plenty of good hurricane holes in the Chesapeake, especially for a boat the size of yours. Buy a good chart kit and research the places you might go to hide if a storm came along. The money you've saved on a radar might be well invested in extra ground tackle (e.g. an up-sized Fortress anchor) in the event you did have to hide out for a while well up a Chesapeake creek. There are others who post here who have much better knowledge of the Chesapeake Bay may have suggestions / comments on this strategy.
Good luck and congrats on your decision to start "livin' the dream".
PS. If you're not already a member, join the SSCA (Seven Seas Crusising Association) and stop by their Annapolis "gam" (coincident with the Annapolis Boat Show). You'll meet some nice people, many of whom are probably headed down the path you're following south.
Actually, if you're going offshore from Buzzards Bay to Cape May, you're probably looking at more like 350 nm, since, you'll probably be beating most of the way there... since the predominant winds are out of the southwest much of the time. I'd call that more like a three-day passage. Going from Cape May to Buzzards Bay is much simpler... it's a downwind run most of the time.
But avoiding NY and LI Sound are worth the trip offshore IMHO. :)
It disturbs me that you don't mention sails in your list of prep items. Having the right sails and knowing when and how to use them can make sailing the trip a breeze. Be prepared for sailing in winds from zero to 50 knots if you go offshore, don't expect to be able to motor in moderate to extreme conditions, save that for no wind. If solo plan days of 30 miles or less not as tiring on the ICW and their are plenty of great stopping and looking places. Offshore save inlets are usually more than 100 miles apart, 24 hours or sailing or more. Done any all nighters since college?
Important it is the trip not the destination or a schedule that is important, have fun, it in the attitude of everyday life.
George...there are NUMEROUS threads here with info on the ICW and BAHAMAS crossing and MUCH more detail than any one post can cover. If you hit the advanced search function and type in ICW and my screen name and Bahamas and my screen name...you will likely find most of those threads. Lots of reading there for you.
Having said that...I would further suggest that you take BillyRuffins advice and work your way down through long island sound and the NYC/NJ coastline as you will be able to find put in spots and safe harbors for each night as you seem to wish. Then it will be up the Delaware and down the Chesapeake to the start of the ICW in Norfolk. This would be a good spot for your wife to join you as you can stick to the ICW from there. There are FEW day hops outside on the ICW...most require overnights to make any sense.
I note your attention to fuel and filters...also attend to engine spares, alternator belts, impellers etc. as this is essentially a motor vessel trip...doing 50-60 miles a day. But lots of fun the first time! Pick up a copy of skipper bob's guide to ICW anchorages...and make sure your anchor system is DAMN good...it is the most important piece of equipment for the trip! Radar is complete unnecessary on this trip once you clear New England.
I hope you are upgrading your battery and charging plans as well since once you start living on the hook and not moving every day...energy use/storage will become big issues for you.
The Bahamas is a very realistic and achievable goal for you. I am pretty confident you won't make it to Domenica in a C30...but you'll figure that out yourself along the way.
Anyway...read the suggested threads and come back with more specific questions IN THOSE THREADS so that the resource is available for all in one place.
The rhumb line distance Buzzards Bay Light to Cape May is 230 nm. Last time I did it in October I had to motor much of the way. But Dog makes a good point re the prevailing winds. Either pick a time when the wind has a northerly component or go down LI Sound, which is also not much fun in a strong SWerly, but at least you can stop to rest.
Thank you all for the great input. It will help me weigh my options depending on crew or singlehanding. It appears the most difficult choice will be between Block Island and Cape May. are there any suitable harbors on the outside of LI. I know Shinnicook has a bridge but I have only sailed it inside. Anything suitable a bit south around Fire Island?
I will be gettting the paper charts and guides but you cant beat local knowledge.
My only schedule will be about 6 months long so I can travel as the weather or spirit moves me.
Cam, my anchor is a 35 lb CQR with 50 foot chain and 150' nylon. I also have a 15 lb Danforth and a 25 lb CQR backup. With that I still hope to avoid any season end hurricanes. Sails are 3 Main, 150 jenny on furler and spinniker. I will be sure to get skipper Bobs guide.
Only 4 feet of snow here in New Hampshire with only 10 more inches tonight... spring must be right around the corner!!!!
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