Since there has been quite a lot of buzz on social media about sailing in the North Atlantic in the fall, last week I addressed the issue of choosing a weather window for making passages south from the East Coast to the Caribbean and asked readers to offer their opinions. I have made the passage five times and have always left the Northeast in late October and early November. In general, I am more concerned about early winter gales than hurricanes, since hurricanes generally are very accurately tracked and forecast. Here are three comments from readers who have made the passage south in the fall.
Speaking as 60-year Florida and tropics sailors, we think it is insane to sail when it is winter weather out there! We feel October is the best month to head south, right after the Annapolis boat show. We think that winter gales in December can be every bit as dangerous and violent as a small hurricane. Keep in mind cold dry winter air carries far more force than hot moist air and thus for the same wind speeds, in the winter storms, seas will be higher and reefs deeper.
With hurricanes, one plays a probability game, and statistically, the odds are greatly with an individual vessel. The odds are stacked against insurance companies if their covered fleets are all in vulnerable areas, thus they seek to spread their risk by offering discounts to those who will stay north until the ice freezes. Anytime we hear “our insurance won’t cover us in Florida until Dec” we note that there are almost one million insured boats in Florida…one can get insurance. Move your boat when you feel it fits your schedule and weather tolerances/skills. (Jeff and Jean at Antigua Marine Survey)
Early November definitely but still a time when gales every 3 days are the norm. Cold and dark as well. Sometimes have gone south to Bermuda late October if a window without hurricanes appears. (Carole Heller)
Over the past 30 years we have done three offshore passages to the Caribbean from the Exumas (January 1989), Norfolk, VA (November 1, 2015) and Camden, ME (November 1, 2017). Each of these voyages initially started from our home waters in Maine. In addition, we have done three November northbound deliveries from RI, CT and MD to Maine in 2004, 2013 and 2018. While each of these passages has been unique and contained their fair share of sporty conditions, I would distill the experiences as follows.
1. Over the years weather windows have generally become shorter.
2. Weather windows definitely become shorter and more challenging the later in November one chooses to depart. (Tom Babbitt, S/V Bravo)