Sailing South? Forget Bermuda
In the wake of the carnage that occurred en route to Bermuda in the fall of 2011, Caribbean expert Don Street offers what he believes are far better plans for southbound cruisers. "Seamanship" from our March 2012 issue.
Newport to the islands by these routes is faster in total time and less expensive than via Bermuda. Money in Bermuda disappears as fast as an ice cube on a blacktop road at high noon in the tropics! Plus, by avoiding Bermuda, there’s no chance of your crew jumping ship, an all-too-common occurrence after a rough sail from Newport.
Should you be delayed in Morehead/Beaufort by continual gales, one option is to continue along the I.C.W. to Charleston, South Carolina, a three-day voyage.
This puts you farther away from St. Thomas than from Morehead, and the Gulf Stream is well offshore and too far for a reliable weather window. Instead, head south inside the Stream, where you’ll find either no current or possibly a small countercurrent helping you as you make your way to about Jacksonville, Florida. Near Jacksonville, the Stream is close to shore and quite narrow, and you can cross it and be out the other side in 24 to 36 hours.
Then follow the sailing directions given to me in 1956 by the late Bob Crytzer, who’d been a captain in the U.S. Navy and was the man who sold me Iolaire for $3,000 down and $1,000 a year for four years, with no interest and no repossession clause: “Wait until a norther is predicted, and take off 24 to 36 hours before it arrives. This will get you across the Stream. Shorten sail before the norther hits and ride it eastward. As the norther dies out and the easterly fills in, it’s hard on the wind on port tack. Then see where you make your landfall, at either St. Thomas, the eastern end of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands, or the western end of Puerto Rico.”
This trip can be done in nine to 11 days. If you end up reaching only the western end of Puerto Rico, all is still well. Go to Puerto Real, to the Marina Pescaderia, where you can arrange to clear Puerto Rican customs. After some R&R, head eastward along the south coast of Puerto Rico, taking advantage of the land and sea breeze as I explain in my book Puerto Rico, the Spanish, U.S., and British Virgin Islands, the only guide that covers the region in a single volume. You may enjoy the south coast of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands so much that you’ll be in no hurry to reach the British Virgin Islands after all.
Don Street’s cruising guides and Imray-Iolaire charts are indispensible to the Caribbean-bound cruiser.