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C&D vs Offshore

The C&D Route

The Offshore Route

Pros and Cons

All Destinations
NE Destinations

Cruising Itineraries
Challenging Cruising in the NE


Itinerary 2: Through Hampton Roads to New York Harbor and up the East River

A cloud spattered sunrise over the Atlantic.
The second time, rather than repeating the northerly route, we decided to head South out the mouth of the Chesapeake and then offshore from Virginia to New York .  This trip is considerably longer distance wise because you have to go south before you can head north.  But because you do not stop overnight, the total elapsed time is about the same, depending on the conditions. 

Alex and I sail short handed routinely and have developed a watch schedule of 3 hours on, 3 hours off, which suits us well but certainly is not for everyone.  What that means is that through the night, we are alone on deck while the other is sleeping.  In both cases we were quite lucky with weather, and somewhat unlucky with things going bump in the night (which will be the subject of another story). 

That's me, Daria, on the 3-6 am watch, trying to keep myself amused with the camera.

In our case, we wanted the offshore passage and the weather window was exceptional for the week we chose.  The forecast was for 20 knots consistently out of the southwest.  That it turned out to be consistently 20-25 out of the west proved rather perfect.  (The time before that, we had a forecast for 15 knots out of the SW and what we got was flat calm for two days, non-stop motoring on a glassy lake, and dead batteries as we approached the coast with fog rolling off the land!)

They were magical passages – as is every ocean adventure.  The consistent offshore swell, the occasional ship on the horizon, the moonrise and sunset – all combine to create an experience no coastal hopping can provide.  And the view of Atlantic City from the water is awe inspiring. All that light creates an unbelievable fire on the horizon.

Behemoth tankers anchored offshore. If you look really closely, you'll see the black ball at the bow, but trying to figure out what they were doing before I could make that out was a bit of a white knuckle experience.

We loved the Canal transit and the coastal visits, but for us the allure lies out to sea.  That’s our choice.  But we are careful.  If the weather forecasts were iffy, we might have chosen differently.  In this way, we’ve had small doses of the range of conditions you are likely to find at sea. 

I did not find it difficult at all to be on and off every 3 hours.  The moment I get on deck, I feel alive and staying awake is not the issue.  When I go below and I am tired enough, sleep is not an issue.  Unless of course, the boat is really pitching, which we have also experienced.  Then there is no recourse.

So the bottom line is, choose whatever route makes sense for your boat, your ability and the conditions at the time. Then enjoy every minute of being on the water regardless of the route chosen.

Things to think about before you go...

1.  Know the Rules of the Road

Remember, a sailboat under power is a power boat. Furthermore, a sailboat has the right of way over a power vessel only if it is sailing and if the power vessel is unencumbered – not fishing, not restricted by draft, without restricted maneuverability, and so on.  It is best to assume that any commercial vessel in the Canal or Bays will have the right of way over yours. 

2. If you are transiting at night, be sure to display the prescribed lights.

You may want to have one of those quick reference guides to navigation lights to help you interpret what a nearby vessel is doing.

3. Don’t go if the weather forecast is bad

The Atlantic Coast can be treacherous.  Respect Mother Nature and do not allow yourself to be forced into a schedule. Go when the conditions are such that you can handle.

4. Make certain your boat is seaworthy

Check operation of all equipment before departing. Check engine oil, fuel up, top up water, and carry spares.

5. Review emergency procedures with your crew Show them how the VHF and GPS operate, where the life jackets and fire extinguishers are stowed and how to use them, and review what is expected of crew if anything goes awry. Post important information where it is easy to find and refer to.
6. Carry the appropriate equipment It's near coastal but still offshore so you should carry an EPIRB, a life raft, the prescribed flares and signalling devices, a VHF radio, GPS, radar and paper charts for any potential landfall you might have to make en route. Remember, if a storm brews up, you'll need to make for the NJ inlets, and they can be difficult to navigate.


New York Harbor from just past the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Pure magic.

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