Where should you depart from?
Should you stop in Bermuda?

Where should you depart from? Should you stop in Bermuda?

The trip from the East Coast of the US to the Caribbean is about 1500 miles if you leave anywhere from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay. The passage is world famous for being one of the toughest passages in the world because of the Gulf Stream. The warm water river has conjured real and imagined challenges for intrepid crews for centuries. The further north you depart from is also further east. Since the Trade Winds below Bermuda blow mostly from the east and southeast you do not want to give up easting by departing from further south.

If you are sailing from New England or the Middle Atlantic States, there is a lobby that says it makes more sense to depart from Newport and make a stop in Bermuda. Newport is 200 miles further east than the Chesapeake Bay which in turn is 200 miles further east than Fort Lauderdale. Miles that you need to make up, most often, to weather. This is why they call the passage from Florida to the Caribbean the "Thorny Passage." There is an old Cruising Guide called just that, "The Thorny Passage to the Caribbean," about sailing from Florida to the Caribbean.

There is a saying for boats that start further north from the Chesapeake Bay; "Sail East until the butter melts and then turn South." The trade winds blow from the east to southeast starting just below Bermuda, so when sailing from the Bay area you would pick a way-point just below Bermuda and then turn south. (When that butter melts because it is hot from the trade winds). Then beam to broad-reach all the way down to the Caribbean. Back in the days of sail, you could not fill your deck with jerry cans and motor-sail your way upwind from the Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean. You had to sail east first.

Stop in Bermuda?

God placed Bermuda where he did for sailors heading north and south. It is a sin not to stop. Skippers who do not plan to stop in Bermuda do so for the following reasons.

  1. They are afraid to lose crew - Bad or inexperienced skippers fear getting stuck in Bermuda because they have not treated their crew well or they did not choose the right crew to begin with. Sometimes the first leg scares the daylights out of them and a stop in Bermuda gives them time to mutiny. Each year we see boats in Bermuda looking for replacement crew on very short notice.
  2. Time factor - Delivery skippers may be short on time. They can sail close to Bermuda and make a decision based on fuel consumption and repair list to bypass Bermuda or stop.
  3. Money - Bermuda can be an expensive place to eat and drink.

If you sail in the NARC Rally they waive the cruising permit tax. You can anchor out for free and Dinghy in. Bermuda is a beautiful manicured island that is worth seeing.

Sage advice departing from Chesapeake Bay or Beaufort NC is to sail east until about 30 to 32 degrees north and 65 degrees west, then turn south. This is often called route I-65 south. This strategy often brings you close to Bermuda and leaves the option to stop for fuel or repairs. If you do not need to stop you can head due south when you are on the same longitude as your Caribbean destination. Even when you depart from Bermuda you want to try and get some easting in early so you have some miles "in the bank", so that when you get to the trade winds anywhere between 27 and 23 degrees you can sail on a reach down to your Caribbean destination with wind just aft of beam for some great sailing.


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