Thursday, April 21, 2011

Preparing for the Atlantic Cup: Tortola to Bermuda

As the end of April approaches, it is time to start preparations for the return trip to the East Coast of the USA. We will be sailing with the World Cruising Club Atlantic Cup Rally to Bermuda. It is scheduled to depart on May 1 - weather depending! And we know from last fall, weather is the supreme ruler of the GO/NO GO decision when it comes to leaving shore for a crossing. The Atlantic Cup Rally Awards Celebration is scheduled for May 6th at St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club, Bermuda. That means 5-6 days to make the trip north.

These are the days we dread: wet and really windy.
Once given the window of opportunity, the fleet will leave Bermuda and head toward various ports of call on the East Coast: Florida, the Carolinas, the Chesapeake Bay or New England. A number of the vessels sailed with us in the Caribbean 1500 Rally and are just going back "home." Other boats will be from Europe with plans to sail our waters for the summer season. They would have come across the Atlantic last fall in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). They gathered in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to sail together to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia, The ARC is the original and the biggest sailing rally. There are about 30 boats registered for the Atlantic Cup Rally which officially ends in Hampton, VA with the final party scheduled for May 12, 2011.

This time the weather will start out very warm and by the fourth day it is expected that the shorts will be put away in favor of long pants. Then the layering process will begin as we move north and west. The biggest challenge will be with the May storms that come off the mainland and head toward us as we approach the coast of Virginia. And then there is the crossing of the Gulf Stream - always an interesting experience!

And some days are too calm for sailing!
The weather on the route from the BVI to Bermuda is dominated by the position of the Bermuda High. Upon leaving the BVI, the winds will typically be easterly, veering south-easterly. The actual direction depends on the position of the high and if it is ridging toward Florida. We will be watching for cold fronts moving off the coast of the USA crossing our route. As we near Bermuda, we will experience North Atlantic weather system influence as low pressure systems progress through the area, generally passing north of Bermuda.

We have been warned that we will probably experience an area of calms as we sail out of the easterlies and into an area influenced by the ridge of high pressure that may extend to Florida. These are known as the "Horse Latitudes." Apparently apart from patience, the only other way to of getting through this area is to motor. This part of the trip will certainly give us new weather experiences. The tail of a hurricane on the way down and dead seas on the way north. Nothing like extremes to break us in!

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