Q&A: Maine To Ireland In June

Question: I am a 46 year old professional in fairly good health and in good shape. I am wanting to reverse the steps of my great-great-grandfather, sailing from Belfast, Maine to Bantry Bay, Ireland. I plan to leave June 3rd, 2011. What is my best/safest route? What time frame should I use? I have calculated sailing/motoring at an average of 7 knots (I am planning to buy a Macgregor 26M)?

Answer: There are basically two options:

  1. The Great Circle Route with possible stops in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. This is by far the shortest, but is likely to be much more stormy and very foggy. It also exposes you to ice risk. Given your inexperience, I would not recommend it. It does however have the advantage that if you need to, you can always bug out before even leaving North America since you will be close to land for the first few days.
  2. A much longer route is via Bermuda and the Azores. However, it will be warmer with no ice risk and a much reduced chance of gales and no fog after the first couple of days. Also, if you need to after the first day or so, you can always bail out by going into a port on Cape Cod.

Seven knots is optimistic, very. I would guess that in the Macgregor, 3 to 4 knots average over a trans-Atlantic would be more realistic. Morgan’s Cloud is 56’ long and a fast boat, that has won her class twice in the Bermuda race, skippered by an experienced offshore sailor with a lot of ocean racing under his belt, but even so, short handed we generally only manage an average of 7 knots for a passage, and that with the help of a big inboard engine and a long range under power.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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