Upwind to the Caribbean | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Upwind to the Caribbean

Sorry not to have added to my blog in a while... I am going to try and get caught up!! My last was back in the fall and we have done a LOT since. I will start with our passage to the Caribbean since it is something many people are planning at some time in their sailing career.

There are two main strategies for a North American boat wanting to get to the Caribbean...

1) The Thorny Path - jumping from island to island through the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. (yellow arrows)
2) Offshore - directly offshore from Beaufort or North of there to the BVI. (red arrow directly fro Beaufort North Carolina)

Our plan was to modify the second option and jump off from the Bahamas heading directly east to join the offshore route, then head SE to the Caribbean. This would be a passage of over 1000 miles and the prevaiing winds are from the east so this initial easterly push would be dead into 15-20 knots. My plan was to wait for a cold front, and use the wind shift to hitch a ride and hopefully gain some easting that way.

With option 1) The Thorny Path, one might spend 2 months getting south. Our option 2) would take 2 weeks (one waiting for a front then 7-8 days sailing direct tp the Caribbean.

Of course any boat planning this must be completely prepared for some tough going. The front means you might be out in 30-40 knots of wind as the front passes, and the rest will be close hauled in 15-20 or higher.

Distant Shores is a very good boat for this passage since she is quite good close hauled. We swung the keel all the way down to our full draft of 9-feet, and with our long waterline we go upwind very well.

It was also important to be able to go fast enough that we would be able to stay with the front. The idea that as the front approaches the winds will clock around from the proveailing Easterly, to South East, then south. Then they will build in strength and clock further to the South West. As the front arrives the wind will switch to the North West then north before settling back to North East. We planned to use the period where there was no East in the wind to make our way east. The wind would be aft of the beam for all that time. The two problems are ...

1) fronts can be quite strong and pack winds of 30-40 or higher was they pass
prepare your boat for winds up to 50 knots, we used or triple-reefed main and reefed our small tough jib
2) a fast moving front might run past so quickly that we wouldn't get far enough east.
we averaged 170 miles per day and kept up with the front using it to make almost 500 miles easting

Offshore route is a possible option if your boat and crew are prepared for a tough week at sea.
Be prepared for strong winds and tough uphill condiions.
Watch the weather in advance to see how the fronts are passing.

Plan your passages around the world with us aboard Distant Shores
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