charleston to providence

does anybody have information on good anchorages, ports of convenience, safety valves, for a coastal trip up the coast from charleston to providence. planning to sail either non stop or one stop in hampton or around hampton, md.


jon lang

Charleston to Beaufort NC: Outside
Beafort to Norfolk: Via the ICW (You have to go hundreds of miles East to avoid Cape Hatteras)

You will probably need to spend two nights in the ICW: there are two areas where it is too dangerous to attempt to navigate at night; one at Belhaven NC, where immediately afterwards there is a long canal with submerged tree stumps on either side, and then at Coinjock, as the channel is poorly marked for many miles after that.

At Belhaven there is an anchorage on the right as you go up the waterway, just before Belhaven, but the holding is not good anywhere in this area. You can also go in and anchor in Belhaven harbor, but again, the holding is not goot.

The approach to Coinjock VA is long any wining, but careful review of the charts expose several places where you can slip out of the channel to anchor.

Hampton Maryland is well inland some miles North East of Baltimore, and you would need to find an anchorage in the Patapsco to reach it. The inner harbor is a possibility, but the ancjorage is small. Middle River, a little further up the Bay is also a possibility.

To continue the voyage, go up the Cheasepeake, and join the Elk River and C&D Canal, which will take you to the Delaware Bay. Timing of the canal passage is important - the tide reaches 4 knots in either direction, so you need the tide to carry you through. Go down the Delaware Bay (Keep just outside the channel, it’s very busy) and turn left at Cape May.

From Cape May to Sandy Hook is a relatively easy run, but then you need to run the hurdle of Devils Gate to reach Long Island Sound. My advice here it to talk to people who have done it regularly, it can be a scary ride, especially if, like one one trip I made, the engine quit right at the crucial momnent!

i’m planning to go outside the entire way from Charleston to Providence, only coming in to sit out bad weather; i wonder if there are well established ports of rufuge along the coast? i’m planning to run it somewhere between ten and twenty miles offshore, i.e. 10-20 miles off Cape Fear/Frying Pan, etc. i’d want easily accessed refuge/safety valve anchorages in case of bad weather forecast.

am i on the right track with my thinking?

jon lang, s/v jolie brise

Unfortunately, your plan is a non-starter. First, you would need to find a good weather window, with guaranteed winds from E, SE, S or SW, and then go about 70 miles out from Charlestown to find the Gulf Stream. Then, about 100 miles South of Hatteras you would need to get out of the Gulf Stream and start head E, leaving Hatteras a minimum of 200 miles to port. Evan at 200 miles out, you will get a bumpy ride, and the time it takes to get out there means your weather window is probably over, whereupon you will get a really rough ride with the wind on your nose. Also, don’t forget the current rips around Hatteras, and actually pulls you into shallow water.

I have made the voyage from Florida to Northern Chesapeake many times, and I would not attempt going around Hatteras even in a substantial power boat. I have been around Hatteras once, on a tall ship, and it was one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had.


I just consulted the North Atlantic Pilot Chart. Based on the wind roses along the coast from Charleston, to Providence. At this time of year, the winds are from the south and southwest about 60% of the time, blowing Force 4 on the Beaufort scale. There is a 3% chance of calms.

I also consulted with the new captain of the Schooner Virginia, a friend of ours, about sailing outside of Cape Hatteras. His approach, let me repeat that, “his approach” is to come in close only if the winds are off the land. He saw no point in sailing 200 miles off the coast, because it reduces the possibility of seeking safe harbor should a storm start to develop south of your position.

When planning a voyage, each of us as captain of our vessel must make the final decision if and when to set sail and what routes we sail. Further, we are all individuals and what works for one does not work for another with respect to one’s approach to voyaging.

Cape Hatteras, as John rightful pointed out can be a dangerous place. Whether you sail outside or decide to go inside is weather dependent and you will have to make that decision based on current weather forecasts as you approach this region of the ocean.

I would recommend, if you have not already done so, that you purchase a Reed’s Nautical Almanac, a current pilot chart and either a chartbook or charts for the regions you plan to sail. Plan your voyage based on making 100 nautical miles per day’s run. Shipping, fishing and commercial ventures operate continuously along the eastern seaboard. A watch must be kept at all times, hence sailing single-handed is not advisable.

We can discuss this subject forever at the forum. As you already know, only you can make the final decision. Should you every sail into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Lenora and I are known for helping those who voyage under sail. Send us a private message via the forum should you decided to visit the Chesapeake or would like local information.

Fair Winds,


John and Rod, thanks.

I’ve plotted John’s suggested route, and Rod’s more closery matches the route I’d already plotted. If I do take the outside route, can you please suggest any ports of refuge along the way? I am planning to go single handed, and used a twenty minute sleep pattern so I could keep watch, when I sailed from Miami to Charleston, which worked well, and plan to use it again on this passage. I’m using Watch Commander, which wakes me up with a siren on a constant rotation. My final decision if when and where to go will, as suggested, be based on weather conditions and forecast. Your suggestions are always very much appreciated. I’m an absolute beginner, and so the advice I get from the sailors on this site are extremely valuable to me.

Jon Lang


Reed’s Nautical Almanac lists tides and ports of call along the Eastern Seaboard and as before, I would highly recommend you consult this publication. Only you can make the decisions about which inlets you can seek safe harbor.

Sailors single-hand all the time, but I do not recommend it. The coast along the Eastern seaboard becomes busier as you more north. Although most ships use the shipping lanes, tugs/barges, trawlers, clammers, other cruisers are not limited to the shipping lanes. The entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and New York Harbor are very busy with shipping. Most ships run at 20 to 22 knots,i.e. 5 nautical miles in 15 minutes. At best you may have 20 minutes to spot a ship and determine if the ship is closing or opening with your vessel. After 4 or 5 days of twenty minute naps, sleep deprivation will hinder making a sound decision. I worked tugs for 5 days and had about 15 hours of sleep in that same period - thinking becomes difficult and the body wants to sleep. Working tugs is not as physically demanding as voyaging under sail single-handed.

I do not want to beat this subject to death, hence this will be my last reply.

Fair Winds, Safe Voyage,



Hello Jon,

Much of the advice on this topic is centered on the best offshore
route. However, I have a more fundamental piece of advice if you truly
are an “absolute beginner”. Don’t do this trip offshore.

You say you’ve done Miami-Charleston. Did you do this trip in Jolie
Brise? Singlehanded? So maybe you’re not quite totally a novice. This
is a much shorter trip (2 days?) with fewer obstacles. Hoever, trips
offshore in a new boat single handed in the gulf stream around obstacles
like Cape Haterras and shipping are not your ideal introductions to
passagemaking and a new boat.

The Dismal Swamp passage is really quite interesting (although not
terribly good sailing). I hear it is scheduled to close - no more
dredging - so this may be a waining opportunity to see it.

If you absolutely must get to Providence RI on a tight schedule,
consider getting experienced crew to help you do the offshore passage.
I fuly agree with Rod regarding watch shifts.


BCC Forums wrote:

Jon, if you would like some advise from someone who has done that coast literally hundred of times in both sail and power boats, I suggest you contact Jon Eisberg. I believe his email is still

but if not, he is reachable though Crusing World Bulletin Board at

Jon E. professionally transits the east coast on deliveries and has singlehanded his own 30 foot sailboat numerous times in both directions. He’s a super guy, very knowledgeable and friendly and will not steer you wrong.

You can tell him ‘Greenie’ sent you.

This forum continues to be a fantastic resource. I am very very appreciative of the advice which you’ve all given me! I’m busy digesting the information, and I hope to come up with some kind of blend which will best reflect my experience and intentions for the trip. I’ve single handed the boat from Charleston to Miami and back, but still consider myself a beginner. I want to be careful, but not so careful that I don’t actually learn anything. I like single handing…the boat is so small, and one of it’s best attributes, I think, is its ability to be single handed. I’m thinking, at this point, that I’ll go inside to avoid Haterras, and take the rest outside, being very careful of the weather. I’ve been caught out in some bad weather, and it is frightening/dangerous, no doubt. I used a weather routing service last trip, and liked the help I got from them.

Thanks Stan for the contact. I’ll email him later today.

I might pick up crew, it sounds like traffic is so heavy that twenty minutes below might be a problem…the last time I used the routine, I took one day off every fourth day to sleep. Perhaps, though, I should reconsider the wisdom of doing it at all, and single hand the boat during daylight. Problem is, that requires landfall every day, not a very appealling proposition. But neither is being run down by a freighter!

Again, thanks John, Rod, Jermey and Stan.

Bon voyage,



I know I stated I would not reply anymore but apparently you are more experienced than indicated in your first posting. I have thought about your trip and how long I could work on a tug before sleep deprivation clouded my thinking process.

I know the East coast from Delaware Bay to Portsmith, NH.

If I were planning to do your trip I would take the following route:

Charleston to Beaufort,

Rest Day at Beaufort

Go inside of Hatteras,

Rest Day at Norfork/Hampton. If the schooner Virginia is dock, row over and introduce yourself to Captain Nick Alley and reference my name and Covington Street.

Norfork to Cape May - ~150 miles, Or Norfork to Atlantic City (after you enter Atlantic City, the anchorage is to your starboard - narrow opening, room for 20 boats and 10ft of water at low tide) Select either one or the other based on a daylight approach.

Cape May/Atlantic City to Atlantic Highlands, Anchor behind the Atlantic Highlands breakwater (tide range is 10 ft.)

Note: Inlets along the Eastern seaboard, are known for their tidal currents.

Stay out of the Barnegat Bay inlet - a dangerous inlet (Barnegat Bay has an average depth of about 6 ft)

Atlantic Highlands to Block Island,

Block Island to Providence

Shipping is heavy in the approaches to Cheaspeake Bay, Delaware Bay and New York Harbor, hence stay very alert in these approaches.

From Cape May to Atlantic Highlands, run about 5 miles off the coast inside the shipping lanes. Clammers will be working inside of your route. Watch for the tug/barges, most are towing - three white lights on the masthead, towing - two white lights on the masthead, pushing or towing alongside. Unfortunately, some cruisers making this passage without lights along the coast.

Fair Winds, Following Seas and Safe Voyage,


P.S. Jolie Brise is named after a very famous English cutter.

Apologies if this has already been answered but we’ve been out of email range for a while. Dottie and I just got into Beaufort NC late yesteday after a four day ride up the Gulf Stream from the Little Bahama Bank. Waypoints were White Sand Ridge, off Jacksonville, off Charleston, off Frying Pan Shoals, and Beaufort. A pleasant trip sandwiched between two weak troughs. Lot’s of t’storms but nothing too nasty. Right now it’s raining hard and blowing 15 - 20 so I’m glad we are here and not out off Hatteras.

THe question is, when do you pland to make your run up the coast and when do yo plan to return and do you have a fair amount of flexibility in your schedule? Makes a big difference and would influence any thoughts I might offer.

Second question – did you replace that ABI windless yet? I have come to admire the one on Itchen for its strength, simplicity safety and reliability. Electric ones are popular for good reason but I have seen problems with switches, unreliable chain guides, jerky operation and low batteries. I would hate to have to depend on an electric one in a hard chance with low batteries.


Scott Odell,

How long are you going to be in Beaufort, NC? I'm rebuilding My BCC over at Russells Yachts(the builder of a 26 foot BCC) in downtown Morehead City. Its at the end of 9th street or the only boatyard on the water front. If your going to be in town for a few days you should stop by. There is a dock you can tie up at if you need to run into town for anything. I've also got a car you can use. Once upon a time a couple BCC owners were very nice to me. Just trying to pass along the favor. I'd also love to see your boat. I need lots of ideas for mine.

Take Care,

Matthew Hedrick


Plan of the moment is to move her from the Beaufort Docks over to Olde
Towne Yacht Club (much better weekly dockage rate) tomorrow and then
we’ll rent a car & go back home for a couple of weeks. Then I’ll
return and take her back to the Chesapeake via the ICW - schedule and
exact destination flexiible. I gave up my slip at Spring Cove in
Solomon’s and will be looking for transient-friendly inexpensive
dockage within and hour or so of Accokeek ( on the Potomac just below
Washington DC) Yes, let’s get together – I’ll give you a call and
hope to reach you before we leave.

On 6/29/05, BCC Forums wrote:



I’m thinking of a July 20 departure, with an estimated arrival of July 30 in Providence. That’s a pretty leisurely pace, based on an average speed of 4.2 kts, with breaks for a full night of sleep in Beaufort, Norfolk, Cape May, and Sandy Hook. My time’s not very flexible because of my work schedule in Atlanta, so this plan is weather contingent.

I decided, for the time being, to stick with my ABI windlass. If I were to replace it I’d probably go with a Lofrans horizontal, but it’s not a priority right now. I think, when I get to Providence, I’ll tear the ABI down and rebuild it.


Sounds reasonable - I figure seven days for Chesapeake to Maine going
24 hrs a day with a full crew – or ten days or so at a more relaxed
pace with a lay day to rest alonfg the way. Makes more sense to take
a bit longer and enjoy the sights along the way. I am really enjoying
being in cruising & hanging out mode instead of “delivery mode”, for a
More in a day o two, right now we are getting ready to leave Beaufort
and take advantage of good weather. shOULD BE HOME IN ABOUT 4 OR 5

Sorry about the CAPs lock.

On 6/30/05, BCC Forums wrote:


I’ve just recalculated the time, taking into account the ICW passage from Beaufort to Norfolk, which will require daytime travel only. It looks more like two weeks from Beaufort NC to Providence. Could this be correct? Has anyone here sailed Haterras on the outside in good weather? Looks like the inside run up the ICW kills a lot of time.

WITH A CREW you need only stop twice on the ICW, once at Belhaven and once at Coinjock. I just did Jacksonville, FL to Havre de Grace, MD in seven days, I actually could have done it in 5 days WITH A CREW

Thanks John,

I’ll plan to stop at Belhaven and Coinjock, and I’m just going to carve out more time for the trip and not stress over it. Supposed to be fun, right?

in good settled weather, isn’t a run around haterras a reasonable alternative to the long inside trip up the ICW?