Route dreams or where might we cruise to

So this follows on from our thoughts about Scandinavia since we have been inspired by the YouTube channels who have been there, including the need to burn diesel to stay warm, despite our aims or being at or close to Zero Carbon footprint sailing. It takes into account the restrictions and desires that influence our plans.

The resources that we have drawn on are mostly two key books from Jimmy Cornell: World Cruising Routes and World Voyage Planner. We will need to get Cornells’ Ocean Atlas as well. Plus of course charts, pilot books, almanacs etc closer to the time.

Note that there is no way we will actually follow this “plan” accurately, there are so many variables in our health, boat repairs, weather, changing preferences, changes in visa rules etc that will happen before we even start.

So take this with a huge pinch of salt. Do not book your train tickets or places on cargo ships to come out and join us assuming that we will be where this plan says we will be.

Also note that we have tried to build in some flexibility. For example we might have allocated a month to get from Beaumaris, North Wales to South Cornwall. The reality is that it doesn’t take that long to sail direct but it could take longer if you stop in harbours each night or if you have to wait a week for a storm to come past.

We are generally assuming that we will choose longer passages rather than day sails. There are several reasons for this:

  • Initially, we need the practice and we need to make sure that we are going to be happy doing it before setting off across oceans.
  • When it comes to the UK coast we have visited huge swathes of it over the years. So we don’t need to explore it in detail.
  • When it comes to other countries then longer passages direct to cruising grounds will allow us to spend more time in specific areas we want to visit given the constraints of Schengen visas (see this post)
  • Making passages can reduce stress of timing into harbours (daylight, tides, finding a spot to anchor) as you don’t do it so often
  • Making passages is hugely faster. You are sailing 24 hours a day (even if slowly when the tide is against you). The distances are much reduced (diverting into a harbour will add lots of miles and time to the route).
  • Making passages is cheaper, you can spend more time in places that are free to anchor and less time paying (because you need a shore-power connection to charge your batteries that you depleted motoring into the harbour).

We have not fully/properly taken into account the best timings for some of these longer passages to fit with prevailing winds (strength and direction) and currents. Also until we get going we are not sure what actual daily average speeds we will achieve.

We’ve organised this into fairly arbitrary sections and put them into rough calendar years.

Year 1

The last winter of maintenance/refit should be completed by April, after that she will be on our mooring in the Menai Strait for us to visit, a gradually move stuff to her as our new home to be.

Moving time

July – August: move to one of the marinas at Conway to shorten the journey and make it easier to move everythign on board. Leave house, everything needs to be given away, sold or moved on board. Sell the car. Go for plenty of test sails and make sure all is ready and working.

Preparing for first winter

September: Sail to South Cornwall. If the weather is great then include visiting the Scilly Isles. Include some multi-day passages to start building skills before the weather gets too bad.

First Winter

From October until about March along the South coast of Cornwall and Devon. Lots of rivers that we already know. Places like Falmouth that are safe to enter in any weather and any state of the tide. So we have (West to East) the Helford, loads of places around Falmouth/Carrick Roads (but potentially quite expensive), Penryn, Fowey, Plymouth (possibly the best option for free anchorages), the Yealm, Salcombe and the Dart. This will be a learning and testing time to checkout heating, how long our battery bank can last between needing shore-power top-ups and to get as much sailing practice as we can. We will be looking to build our experience in stronger winds so definitely won’t be staying hidden away far up a river all winter. In the past we have had great sails on our Sprint 15 catamaran on New Years Eve and New Years day so will be looking for more of that. Hopefully also a fair bit of catching up with family too.

Year 2

Solent

Move to the Solent/Chichester for April. Good for visiting family and friends. Gives us a nice length of passage from our winter haunts and by making it a single passage allows us to stay well clear of the dangers/discomfort of Portland Bill and St Albans Head.

English South Coast to Aberdeenshire

In preparation for our first Baltic cruise and because we haven’t sailed so much of the East coast make our way to Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire during May. We won’t be visiting London (adds so much distance, lots of motoring and we know it well), but will probably visit some of places such as Ramsgate, Harwich, the Humber, Whitby, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Edinburgh on the way. Stonehaven is a good stepping off point for crossing the North Sea to the Baltic.

First Baltic Cruise

So as out first “foreign” trip we think the Baltic will be a good choice for gentle learning. Some timings are critical. We want to end by crossing Sweden back to the North Sea using the Göta Canal from Mem to Göteborg during the cheaper end of season period (mid August to end September). As we will need sometime left on our Schengen 90 day limit for later in the year, we need to arrive at our first port (Copenhagen) about 75 days before we plan to exit from Göteborg.

Travelling the Göta Canal in the end of the season means a fixed 5 itinerary with a group of boats and a dedicated lock keeper to get to Sjötorp, on Lake Vänern. From there 118km across the lake!!! and 80km of canal to Göteborg, so maybe 5 days.

So we would be aiming to arrive at Copenhagen no earlier than about 10th June. We want to spend some time there to catch up with friends and enjoy one of my favourite cities in the world. Then we get about 1.5 months to cruise up the Swedish Coast and some of their fantastic archipelagoes.

[Update] Jane pointed out that if we reverse the route around the Baltic we can get the same discounted tickets for the Göta Canal while starting a bit earlier. If we then reduce the number of days slightly we are able to stay in the Canaries a bit longer and therefore get there a bit sooner, closer to the preferred time of year for that passage.

Baltic to preparing for an Atlantic crossing

We started with a dream of getting to the Arctic Circle and the Lofoten Islands and area for the next summer. However, spending another winter in the UK wasn’t that exciting. So we came up with a rather more interesting option.

Can we get from Göteborg at the end of August to the Canaries in time to use them as a launch platform for crossing the Atlantic? Can we fit this in within the remaining days left on the Schengen Visa? The timing is challenging.

The very strong recommendation is not to arrive in the Caribbean before end of November or early December in order to miss hurricane season. So working backwards we would leave the Canaries around mid November. With 15 days of Schengen left we can’t arrive in the Canaries before the beginning of November.

That means we have September and October to get from Göteborg to the Canaries which should be plenty of time, although later in the season than ideal which means we will have to accept the chance of stronger winds and gales on passage (which is why we will make sure we practice during our first winter).

From We would like to get to the Canaries from Göteborg by crossing to Inverness and then using the Caledonian Canal. On the way south from there we would love to pick up some of the wonderful cruising area of the West coast of Scotland before heading to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Mann, saying hi to Beaumaris, then back to Falmouth as a departure for the Canaries. Then about 1,400 Nautical Miles to the Canaries which will be our longest passage to date.

First Atlantic Crossing

So mid November would be the time to set off from the Canaries to Antigua, again that would step up the passage distance to nearly 2,700 Nautical Miles but it would mostly be trade wind sailing downwind.

Ending Year 2

So December will be a first month to enjoy the Caribbean.

Year 3

By this point obviously things are incredibly vague 🙂 We might have decided we hate passages and stay around the Bahamas and Caribbean for the next 10 years, that won’t be a disaster!!! 🙂

However, the possibility we thought of for this year, starting in the Caribbean is to complete a clockwise Atlantic circuit so that we end up in the Shetlands ready to get to Lofoten (Norway, Arctic Circle) for the summer.

That means a route heading north through the Caribbean and Bahamas for a few months before going up the North America coast so that we can leave Newfoundland in June for a, yes another, longest passage of over 3,000 Nautical Miles to the Shetlands (possibly with a stop off in Iceland).

That allows us a couple of months (July and August) around Lofoten and the Arctic Circle 🙂

Then it will be time for another “sprint” south to avoid a cold winter. We would live to visit the Faroe Islands on the way. We would hope to have some Schengen time left to call in at Madeira, this time on the way to the Cape Verde Islands to prepare for a 3rd Atlantic crossing but this time intending to continue onwards to the Pacific.

So year 3 might end in Brazil or Suriname after crossing the Atlantic (and the Equator) in November/December.

Year 4

This would begin with the big decision. To get to the Pacific by going North and through the Panama Canal (the easier route but getting very expensive now). Or take a roundabout route that ends up getting to the Falklands in their summer and then crossing to Patagonia and the Pacific by the Magellan Strait, the Beagle Passage or going south round Cape Horn. If we have gone south then there is beautiful cruising in the archipelago along the Chilean coast.

Onwards

So maybe a year crossing the South Pacific with all the amazing island groups to visit?

Then a year in New Zealand and Australia?

From there probably heading home via Cape Town (and bizarrely essentially crossing the Atlantic nearly twice more as the best route from Cape Town might take us close to Brazil before calling in at the Azores and then heading back towards Europe

That might be about 5 elapsed years which is what we have initially wanted to achieve. I will still be short of the official retirement age, so we could come back to the UK for a part-time appointment. Everything depends on health, family and finances.

However, after all that there will still be plenty of places to go. Maybe about time we visited the Mediterranean? If longer access to Schengen is possible then the French Canals would be wonderful, maybe on the way back north to cruise the Finnish archipelago in the Baltic which is supposed to be amazing.

Maybe we want more cold so we could go to Svalbard. By then due to climate change the North West Passage across the top of Canada and Alaska will probably be clear enough for us at a reasonably low risk. Plus of course we will have missed all of Asia.

Jigsaw

Putting together a route for long term cruising is like a jigsaw without fixed pieces or a picture. Except that you can “cheat” so for example Jimmy Cornell has quick summaries eg for a 2 year circumnavigation from Europe you can do:

Northern Europe – Canaries – Caribbean – Panama – Galapagos – Marquesas – Tahiti – Tonga – Fiji – Vanuatu – Torres Strait – Darwin – Mauritius – South Africa – Brazil – Eastern Caribbean – Azores – Northern Europe

Or you can be a bit more flexible while recognising that there are constraints based on seasons, prevailing winds, hurricane/cyclone seasons, ice etc.

The beauty is that there is an infinite number of ways to put the jig saw together. If almost nothing of this happens and we spend 5 years cruising around the UK with occasional cruises to other nearby countries that is fine.

So where have we missed 🙂 Should we go faster and do an 11 month non-stop zoom around the world. Should we slow down and take twice as long? What do you think?

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