On Wednesday I’ll be heading back to Antigua to begin the process of bringing Pandora back to the US. My friend Craig is joining me for the run to the USVIs where we will join up with my friend Alex and the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally back to the US. Alex and Craig will do the run to the US with me.
I’ve already written about all the plans for upgrades to Pandora and at home, so I won’t repeat them except to say that from Antigua we plan a week cruising, stopping in St Barths and St Martin before meeting up with the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally fleet in St John. When I head to the US, around the 10th of May, I plan on heading to Deltaville VA where I am having some work done on Pandora before taking her home to New England in June.
As I look at the current weather forecast I can see why Chris Parker suggests that we wait until mid May at the earliest to head north as the weather north of the Caribbean and Bahamas is positively terrible, a sort of “you can’t get there from here” mix of gales and wind from the north.
This is the weather map last week, for Wednesday April 20th, conditions that are typical for April and early May. It’s not bad down in the Caribbean but any farther north than the DR, and there is no easy way to head north. The best we could do would be to head to perhaps the Abacos, northern Bahamas and then on to the SE US coastline, perhaps Charleston, NC. Fast forward a week and it’s still unpleasant with a major low heading east off of the coast. It is this sort of pattern that is the norm until things settle down in the late spring, think late May, early June. Sure, the wind direction NE of the Bahamas isn’t all that strong but it’s right out of the north. Not good at all for heading to the Chesapeake. Sure, these two snapshots of the coming weather don’t tell the whole story but it’s clear that it’s way to early to try to “get there from here”.
I mention this as I have been fielding calls recently from folks that have deadlines or other reasons that make them want to leave to head to the US sooner than the rally. Early spring weather, as in nasty, is why we planned the departure for the rally no earlier than May 10th. I think that I convinced most of them to wait a bit.
I have a friend that flew down to Puerto Rico a few weeks ago, in the first half of April, to help bring a boat back to the US. This qualifies as a “You don’t know what you don’t know” sort of move, and it is clear that they left too early. Their trip, made more difficult as the boat is only a 34′ lightly built costal cruiser, took weeks and I believe that they ended up making landfall in the US in Charleston instead of the Chesapeake, their planned destination, as they battled persistently strong northerlies.
Chris Parker did a very interesting webinar recently that characterized the weather that cruisers should expect on a springtime run to New England and the Mid Atlantic. It’s worth looking at.
Chris breaks the run into three distinct legs as you make your run north, regardless of the specific weather that you might encounter on any given run.
The first half is his presentation and the second half, a Q&A session. The fact that questions took up another half hour, after his review, suggests that there is considerable uncertainty in the cruising community about the whole topic. This is a must see for anyone considering such a run.In my discussions with skippers that are planning to make a run either north of south from the Caribbean for the first time, I try to stress that it is critical that they plan in a way that has the best possible opportunity for a fun trip or they may make one run and decide that there will not be a second trip.
I still recall someone we met on our first season heading south to the Bahamas, on the ICW just north of Charleston. His advice to me, after hearing Brenda’s anxiety about the trip, was to caution me that I needed to do what I could to make the run good for her or there would likely not be a second trip, something that he had seen time and time again, over the years.
That was good advice and is a big reason why she flies and meets me in the Caribbean. A decade later I am still grateful for him taking the time to “caution” me about stressing Brenda too much.
It’s hard to say how our trip will turn out but hopefully, my coming home for a few weeks and leaving a bit later than I would have liked, will make for a more pleasant run.
If you are interested in following along check out “where in the world is Pandora” or by clicking on this link.
Better yet, go to Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally page to following the entire fleet. The link will be posted soon, or at least by the 10th, when the rally is scheduled to depart, as a button on this page.
Wish me luck.