The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Q&A: North Atlantic Crossing, East To West, In Fall

Question: I’m planning an east to west crossing via the northern route from the UK to Canada. Ideally I would like to do this in August or September and without stops. My boat is a Hallberg Rassy 46. What do you think?

Answer: I would strongly recommend against this passage, at that time of year. The distance from Scotland to Newfoundland direct is 1700 miles. Since it is likely to be mostly to windward with plenty of heavy weather I’m guessing that in your 46 foot boat it will take you at least 17 days and maybe more. In August or September your chances of getting hit by an extra-tropical storm—a hurricane that has turned into a huge and powerful mid-latitude storm as it tracks north—with nowhere to run to are unacceptably high.

If you must take this route non-stop, I would suggest a June departure to reduce the above risk. Even then, it will be a tough trip with the added sting of ice bergs and fog when you get to the Grand Banks.

The other option would to make the trip in short hops via Faroe, Iceland and Greenland. This trip has substantial challenges of its own and is about 500 miles longer but has the advantage that if an extra-tropical storm does develop, you can hole-up to let it go by. If you decide on this option, you still want to plan it so that you will be in Newfoundland before the end of August when the weather in the North Atlantic takes a substantial turn for the worse.

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charlie Berridge

Hi. I’m writing a book that involves a fishing boat (probably two masts and an engine) three crew sailing from Madeira to Sao Miguel (the Azores) and then it’s forced to head across the Atlantic to USA/Caribbean. It’s 1917 and August. Can this be done and if so describe route, time, conditions etc etc. many thanks for help.

David B. Zaharik

I am contemplating sailing east to west from the Med to Bermuda. Then perhaps the ICW to Florida then across to the Bahamas…. I can’t for the life of me figure out when the best time of the year would be considering hurricane season… is it possible to do while avoiding hurricane season and not etting kicked to death crossing the semi-north Atlantic?

David B. Zaharik

Thanks John.
I would be interested in that option once I get my boat. I have ordered a Boreal 47 and it won’t be ready to launch until March 2019 so I have some time. The enquiry was more for inquisitiveness and future knowledge. I suppose I could sail to Bermuda in late spring, then spend the summer season exploring the east coast north of Cape Cod and make my way south after hurricane season. So many options.

David Zaharik

Well the boat is launched and I just got the go ahead from my insurance at half the price of going the trade wind route to go north to Scotland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland…. where can I get info on this route? I was thinking of heading north from France in May and June, crossing to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in July and arriving in Maine in late August… am I crazy? LOL… The boat was built for it and the legs are short (relatively speaking) but I have NO knowledge …

David Zaharik

Thanks John, I suppose my naiveté is showing through which I don’t mind… I sooner be alive humble and naive then brazen, drown and frozen. We’ll be spending a week sailing with Colin at month end and perhaps he will help talk me into the trade wind crossing. 🙂

David Zaharik

I was just sent this for anyone interested… challenges? Yup… I am thinking palm trees and trade-winds after reading this… I am not up to packing a high powered rifle… nor is my wife lol…