Chris Craft
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The Sailboat Escape

Every year, I head down south for the winter in the sailboat to my favorite cruising places. It's nice to go down to the Florida Keys, if you can find the time. The Chesapeake area is a great place to spend the winter. Unlike the northeast area, the waters don.t freeze up in December, making it ideal for sailing. There are so great cruising places - coves to explore that you can visit a new one on each journey. Conveniently located nearby is the Norfolk International Airport. North Carolina is another nice area to explore as its waters stay quite warm in the winter thanks to the gulfstream. Dowry Creek in Belhaven to Oriental and Beaufort (Bow-Fort) where they found Black Beards. ship by the inlet are great marinas. The slip rates vary from $7 - $8 per foot per month. So for a 40. boat you.re talking around $280.00 a month/6 months $1680.00 and sail her back up north in the spring. Very reasonable! The internet makes it easy to discover the numerous slips available there.

If you take the sailboat from Montauk to the Chesapeake, it would take about 54 hours (2-2 1/2 days). A great first stop is Cape May Harbor, a 30 hour trip. There you can anchor by the coast guard station. From there, you can either go offshore towards the Chesapeake, a 24 hour trip, or go up the Delaware Bay to the C& D canal, an 8-10 hour trip with the tide on your side. From a C & D marina, you can set sail for the northern Chesapeake. Norfolk, VA., with the beginning of the ICW, is south. That would be longer, but more inland. I prefer to sail offshore on my trip down to avoid the inland obstructions, tide changes, buoys, etc. Offshore you.re just clicking the miles off and getting into your watch routines. During October and November, the wind is on your side when heading south. They come from the northeast, off the land, making the seas flatter and giving you plenty of speed. With a rumbline to the Chesapeake, that would be a beam reach all the way down. Even with that Cape May stop over, the next day would have the wind aft of the beam.

When you enter the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, just a few miles south you will find Little Creek, a protected harbor where you can take the sailboat in case of an oncoming storm. "Little Creek Marina", "Cobbs", and "Cutty Sarks" are just a few of the many marinas offering slips at low daily, weekly, or monthly rates. The airport is located only a few minutes away. Norfolk is not that far north, where the ICW starts. Nothing beats southern hospitality . everyone is kind and helpful. In Norfolk, Tidewater Marina offers every amenity. You can dock up or anchor just outside the marina where there is plenty of room. It is a hard decision to make when you think of exploring the Chesapeake or exploring the ICW on the way to N. Carolina.both have wonderful little towns and coves. Along your trip, you will make boating buddies with other travelers who head south for the winter.

Depending on the weather, my trip south usually begins in October. The hurricane season is not over yet, so watching the Eastern Caribbean for new formations is prudent. It can take a few days to a few weeks for the hurricanes to arrive in area, so if one is coming, there.s time to duck the sailboat in a harbor. Check out websites that provide a global look at the weather by satellite and wind and wave forecasts. It's wise to have several sources of information to help you plan your trip. Also listen to your VHF radio to hear about formations or disturbances in the Atlantic and the Caribbean.

You can easily visit the Chesapeake area during a long weekend or extend your visit and your journey further south in North Carolina over the winter. If you sail the Neuse River, the widest in the USA, by Oriental, N. Carolina, take the ICW right into Beaufort. There are so many picturesque stops along the way and historical towns to visit. It.s all so beautiful; you may not want to go home for the summer.

Find the the sailboat of your dreams on YachtAuthority.com to sail off to your favorite cruising places.