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Old 18-06-2014, 11:47   #1
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Advice for ICW/Caribbean Trip?

Hello Cruisersforum!
In September, I will be heading down the ICW to the Bahamas/Caribbean with my girlfriend…it will be the start to a year (or two) off. I’m looking for guidance from the vast knowledge on this board – What do I need to know? What am I missing? I’ve done quite a lot of homework, but would like to get some input from the forum.

First let me tell you a bit about me: I'm 30, currently own a Catalina 27 (9.9hp outboard) and live in Vancouver BC. I’ve been sailing here for 5 years, and have done many 2-3 week trips around here (Desolation Sound, Princess Louisa, Gulf Islands, etc.) with my amazing girlfriend (slash “admiral”). We’re an awesome team and she’s a great sailor…that said, we haven’t seen much rough weather (no more than 15-20 knots with 5-6 foot waves in the Georgia Strait), but have a lot of experience sailing, anchoring, provisioning, etc.

I’m selling this boat and will be moving onto a Tartan 40 in Lake Erie to start this trip down the ICW. We’re planning the more-or-less standard route: Leaving early September, through the Erie Canal, down the Hudson River, cruise Chesapeake Bay until November, down the ICW to Miami, then across to the Bahamas and beyond! The boat has less than 5’ draft (retractable CB), and meets the bridge clearance requirement of 63’…so should be all good there.


Here are my concerns:
  • Boat size. Any suggestions for taking the leap to 40'? So much for 2-foot-itis..
  • Systems. The Tartan has many more systems than my ol' Catalina - What should I learn about first?
  • Power. I'll need to beef up the house bank and add solar panels. Any specific suggestions where to start? There are a lot of resources, but I'm having trouble getting through them all. For batteries, I'm thinking 6 6V 200AH. Solar panels? I'm kind of chasing my tail...
  • Mast de-step/step. Intimidating! Any experience with this for the Erie Canal? Best places?
  • Erie canal locks. Sounds like fenderboards make sense...can my GF and I handle it just the two of us? It's a bit nerve wrecking b/c we haven't ever transited a lock...
  • Weather. Tips for tracking forecasts/staying safe/things to look out for?
  • Safety. We'll have PFDs, harnesses, jacklines, EPIRB, VHF w/DSC, Handheld VHF w/DSC & GPS...Do we need a liferaft? What else are we missing?
  • Hurricane season. IF we do decide to extend the trip to a second year, should we put the boat on the hard somewhere, or can we stay aboard in the ABC's/Grenada? Is it even safe to go that far south to St. Vincent/Grenada?? I keep reading about increased pirate activity!!
  • Anything else? I'm hoping someone chimes in and says "Have you not even thought of THIS??!"
Thanks in advance to all! We're really excited about this trip, and trying to manage then nerves. We quit our jobs this week
FREEDOMTOUR2014/15!
Mark
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Old 18-06-2014, 12:51   #2
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Welcome aboard! You came to the right place, and you clearly are asking the right questions.

The Tartan 40 will give you a lot more comfort.


Learn ALL of your systems; however, you have the benefit of months in close proximity to services and help before you head offshore, so start with propulsion and anything that could cause the boat to sink, or not keep from sinking. Try to get a few brisk sails in on Lake Erie so you don't find major problems there when in the ocean.


I think solar is the way to go, and it's cheap enough to put as many panels on as fit comfortably on the boat (others here have a lot more experience with controllers and configurations). Have the biggest battery banks that are practical. Wind could be good, too, but much more finicky (I don't have wind).


Any good cruising guide will list the best places to step/unstep, and these guys do tons of them, and can ship the mast to the folks at the next place. Yes, have fenders and fenderboards anyway...you'll need them somewhere. I doubt you'll have any trouble with handling the locks.


Apps and radar and your eyes are good for tracking storms. Chris Parker over SSB is a great resource once you're offshore to Bahamas, etc.... AIS is nice to have to track and contact ships.


EPIRB and liferaft are peace of mind and can save your life.


I've never summered in the East Indies, so I'll let someone else take that on.


Happy Cruising!
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Old 18-06-2014, 13:01   #3
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Quote:
Originally Posted by markperil View Post
Hello Cruisersforum!
In September, I will be heading down the ICW to the Bahamas/Caribbean with my girlfriend…it will be the start to a year (or two) off. I’m looking for guidance from the vast knowledge on this board – What do I need to know? What am I missing? I’ve done quite a lot of homework, but would like to get some input from the forum.

First let me tell you a bit about me: I'm 30, currently own a Catalina 27 (9.9hp outboard) and live in Vancouver BC. I’ve been sailing here for 5 years, and have done many 2-3 week trips around here (Desolation Sound, Princess Louisa, Gulf Islands, etc.) with my amazing girlfriend (slash “admiral”). We’re an awesome team and she’s a great sailor…that said, we haven’t seen much rough weather (no more than 15-20 knots with 5-6 foot waves in the Georgia Strait), but have a lot of experience sailing, anchoring, provisioning, etc.

I’m selling this boat and will be moving onto a Tartan 40 in Lake Erie to start this trip down the ICW. We’re planning the more-or-less standard route: Leaving early September, through the Erie Canal, down the Hudson River, cruise Chesapeake Bay until November, down the ICW to Miami, then across to the Bahamas and beyond! The boat has less than 5’ draft (retractable CB), and meets the bridge clearance requirement of 63’…so should be all good there.


Here are my concerns:
  • Boat size. Any suggestions for taking the leap to 40'? So much for 2-foot-itis..
  • Systems. The Tartan has many more systems than my ol' Catalina - What should I learn about first?
  • Power. I'll need to beef up the house bank and add solar panels. Any specific suggestions where to start? There are a lot of resources, but I'm having trouble getting through them all. For batteries, I'm thinking 6 6V 200AH. Solar panels? I'm kind of chasing my tail...
  • Mast de-step/step. Intimidating! Any experience with this for the Erie Canal? Best places?
  • Erie canal locks. Sounds like fenderboards make sense...can my GF and I handle it just the two of us? It's a bit nerve wrecking b/c we haven't ever transited a lock...
  • Weather. Tips for tracking forecasts/staying safe/things to look out for?
  • Safety. We'll have PFDs, harnesses, jacklines, EPIRB, VHF w/DSC, Handheld VHF w/DSC & GPS...Do we need a liferaft? What else are we missing?
  • Hurricane season. IF we do decide to extend the trip to a second year, should we put the boat on the hard somewhere, or can we stay aboard in the ABC's/Grenada? Is it even safe to go that far south to St. Vincent/Grenada?? I keep reading about increased pirate activity!!
  • Anything else? I'm hoping someone chimes in and says "Have you not even thought of THIS??!"
Thanks in advance to all! We're really excited about this trip, and trying to manage then nerves. We quit our jobs this week
FREEDOMTOUR2014/15!
Mark
First, welcome to CF and congratulations on your plan to break loose. It sounds like you have made an excellent choice of GF as well. It's a lot easier when both in the couple are avid sailors.

We also have a Tartan 40 and love it. We made the jump from a Bristol 27 with an intermediate stop at 34' for a few years. You don't say whether you have experience sailing boats this size so I'll assume not. You'll find that the size will seem fine after a few days, but respect the boat's weight and inertia. Don't use a body part between the dock and the hull to stop the way you may have on the C-27. The body part will lose.

You're right that there are a lot of systems and you can't learn them all at once. You'll be very reliant on your diesel for much of your trip. Become its friend. Diesels are wonderfully simple and reliable beasts if treated properly. If you are new to diesels, there are courses around most major boating areas where you can learn the fundamentals and then apply them to your specifics when you get on board. I found it to be time well spent.

There are a lot of through hulls compared to your prior boat. Be sure to find them all, confirm that the seacocks work, and have emergency plugs accessible. While you're at it, make sure you know where your electric and manual bilge pumps are and confirm that they work.

If you haven't had wheel steering before, get under the cockpit and learn your way around the steering quadrant. Check the cable for meathooks. If you find any, I'd replace the cable before heading offshore. Find your emergency tiller and learn how to install and use it.

If your T-40 has a centerboard, make sure you understand how it works and check the cable for wear. (Ours has a Scheel keel so I can't help with the details.)

I'll leave it to others for recommendations on when and where to take the mast out and put it in. We pulled the mast this year for the first time. Before you get to the Erie Canal, open up the wiring area at the base of the mast. Make sure that all the wires are labeled clearly so that rewiring isn't a major headache. You don't need functional labels (though that is nice). You just need a numbering system that will allow you to reconnect easily.

We replaced our batteries with 4X6V 235Ah Duracells from Sam's Club. They are very good batteries at an excellent price. I'm not sure where we would have put two more. Perhaps under the port settee, but it would have meant creating a second bank or long runs of very heavy cable. We added 2X125 watt semiflexible panels that zip into the bimini. It's a great setup that has allowed us to run our fridge full time on a mooring and almost never use the engine for charging. We have Solbian panels. There are others high efficiency panels at a lower cost. There is lots of info here on CF with the Search function. I'd also recommend reading Handy Bob's blog. He's an opinionated RV'er with a lot of useful insights.

Lots to learn on boats this size, but if it sails, the engine runs, and it isn't sinking, and you can learn the rest on the move.
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Old 18-06-2014, 13:25   #4
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

unlimited towing insurance for the ICW. Really. You will discover how obscenely expensivve a single tow from a mud bank is if you dont,
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Old 18-06-2014, 13:37   #5
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tartansail View Post
First, welcome to CF and congratulations on your plan to break loose. It sounds like you have made an excellent choice of GF as well. It's a lot easier when both in the couple are avid sailors.

We also have a Tartan 40 and love it. We made the jump from a Bristol 27 with an intermediate stop at 34' for a few years. You don't say whether you have experience sailing boats this size so I'll assume not. You'll find that the size will seem fine after a few days, but respect the boat's weight and inertia. Don't use a body part between the dock and the hull to stop the way you may have on the C-27. The body part will lose.

You're right that there are a lot of systems and you can't learn them all at once. You'll be very reliant on your diesel for much of your trip. Become its friend. Diesels are wonderfully simple and reliable beasts if treated properly. If you are new to diesels, there are courses around most major boating areas where you can learn the fundamentals and then apply them to your specifics when you get on board. I found it to be time well spent.

There are a lot of through hulls compared to your prior boat. Be sure to find them all, confirm that the seacocks work, and have emergency plugs accessible. While you're at it, make sure you know where your electric and manual bilge pumps are and confirm that they work.

If you haven't had wheel steering before, get under the cockpit and learn your way around the steering quadrant. Check the cable for meathooks. If you find any, I'd replace the cable before heading offshore. Find your emergency tiller and learn how to install and use it.

If your T-40 has a centerboard, make sure you understand how it works and check the cable for wear. (Ours has a Scheel keel so I can't help with the details.)

I'll leave it to others for recommendations on when and where to take the mast out and put it in. We pulled the mast this year for the first time. Before you get to the Erie Canal, open up the wiring area at the base of the mast. Make sure that all the wires are labeled clearly so that rewiring isn't a major headache. You don't need functional labels (though that is nice). You just need a numbering system that will allow you to reconnect easily.

We replaced our batteries with 4X6V 235Ah Duracells from Sam's Club. They are very good batteries at an excellent price. I'm not sure where we would have put two more. Perhaps under the port settee, but it would have meant creating a second bank or long runs of very heavy cable. We added 2X125 watt semiflexible panels that zip into the bimini. It's a great setup that has allowed us to run our fridge full time on a mooring and almost never use the engine for charging. We have Solbian panels. There are others high efficiency panels at a lower cost. There is lots of info here on CF with the Search function. I'd also recommend reading Handy Bob's blog. He's an opinionated RV'er with a lot of useful insights.

Lots to learn on boats this size, but if it sails, the engine runs, and it isn't sinking, and you can learn the rest on the move.
I will second everything said above. Especially the Duracells (added them this year and I am amazed) and the semi-flex solar panels (next on my list, still trying to figure out which brand to go with).

We are prepping for the same but leaving next October. I have been researching planning for the last couple of years.

On the life raft, an inflatable on deck inflated seems to be an acceptable alternative plus you can use it as a tender. We went with the Highfields aluminum floor RIB.

On hurricane season, we just learned that people will do hurricane season in Puerto Rico. We are exploring this as an option.

On systems, ALL OF THEM! At least all that you care to keep working.

Did you start a blog or anything to track your trip?

Good luck and fair winds,

Jesse
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Old 18-06-2014, 14:09   #6
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

You are getting great information already, keep reading and researching, find a few blogs of others that have done this before helps walk you through what a typical day etc is.

All the best!
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Old 18-06-2014, 14:16   #7
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Quote:
Originally Posted by markperil View Post
Hello Cruisersforum!


Here are my concerns:
  • Boat size. Any suggestions for taking the leap to 40'? So much for 2-foot-itis..
  • Systems. The Tartan has many more systems than my ol' Catalina - What should I learn about first?
  • Power. I'll need to beef up the house bank and add solar panels. Any specific suggestions where to start? There are a lot of resources, but I'm having trouble getting through them all. For batteries, I'm thinking 6 6V 200AH. Solar panels? I'm kind of chasing my tail...
  • Mast de-step/step. Intimidating! Any experience with this for the Erie Canal? Best places?
  • Erie canal locks. Sounds like fenderboards make sense...can my GF and I handle it just the two of us? It's a bit nerve wrecking b/c we haven't ever transited a lock...
  • Weather. Tips for tracking forecasts/staying safe/things to look out for?
  • Safety. We'll have PFDs, harnesses, jacklines, EPIRB, VHF w/DSC, Handheld VHF w/DSC & GPS...Do we need a liferaft? What else are we missing?
  • Hurricane season. IF we do decide to extend the trip to a second year, should we put the boat on the hard somewhere, or can we stay aboard in the ABC's/Grenada? Is it even safe to go that far south to St. Vincent/Grenada?? I keep reading about increased pirate activity!!
  • Anything else? I'm hoping someone chimes in and says "Have you not even thought of THIS??!"
Thanks in advance to all! We're really excited about this trip, and trying to manage then nerves. We quit our jobs this week
FREEDOMTOUR2014/15!
Mark

we have been 7 years now and started like you with a simple trip to the bahamas -- we are now in the med
1 boat size - our first and only boat is a 40 jeanneau that purchased new and have sailed her west and eastern carib across the pond and now the med - don't worry about boat size - you can do it just a bit of patience at first
2 no idea what systems you are talking about -- please expain
3 power -- great idea on the 6 6v -- we have exactly that and no big issues - we put on 3 135w kycera solar panels and 2512 blue sky controller -- should handle your needs
4 no idea on the erie canal
5 nope none here either
6 weather -- now that is a biggie -- we put an ssb on board and used chris parker in all the carib and he did a great job for us - you can try a dongle for internet and use the wx there -- we used chris but as chris told us once you need to do your own fcsting as well -- good advise as in the med now we do not have chris and i am known as a wx geek
7 we did not get a liferaft until the decision was made to do multiple days offshore - i do not believe most folks headed to the bahamas have a life raft but i could be wrong - going beyond that you may want to look into one
8 hurricane season - get the heck out of dodge -- forget the pirate nonsense - head south to trinidad or as a back up grenada and if something looks like it is brewing head to trini -- or from the bahamas head up the east coast of the usa - there is a lot to see there -- sail to maine and back
9 you forgot about water -- hum -- bahamas need to keep your tanks filled as someplaces there is not much to be had - the rest of the carib not to bad
10 insurance -- check your insurance on where you can take the boat for hurricane season - makes the decision a lot better
11 -- get boatus towing insurance -- chances are you will go aground in the icw and one tow can break the bank and the insurance in cheap -- also when in doubt on a port, anchorage, entrance ect call boatus on the vhf as they are incredibly helpful

probably a few things i forgot but this is a starter -- good luck
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Old 18-06-2014, 15:12   #8
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Thumbs up Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Thank you Mike, David, Sck4, Jesse, Mike, and Chuck! Great feedback and a number of things that I hadn't thought about...if I didn't say it already, the members of this forum are impressive...

Mike - I hadn't thought about having the mast shipped to the next destination (will look into that) and you make a good point about having some time to learn the less critical systems on the way down. I've heard about Chris Parker and will look into his weather service a bit more (Sidenote - we have purchased all of our waterway guides )

David - Thanks for the suggestions on boat-specific things to consider! Knowing and reviewing the through-hulls/plug locations/seacocks/steering/CB is a great way to start before departure. We've taken a diesel course, but need some real practice with the engine before we're solid (still haven't changed a fuel filter/impeller). Thanks for the tip on the Duracell batteries and space limitations - looking into that now. Can I PM with a few follow-up questions once I've got the electrical system designed?

SCK5 - I will definitely get unlimited towing. Great idea thx

Jesse - we've started doing our homework on websites/blogs and are hoping to set one up once we've acutally left work. I have an SLR which we'll complement with the good ol' GOPRO

Mike - we've been looking at blogs for a long time and are sick of armchairing it! Thanks for the encouragement

Chuck - I can only hope that our voyage goes so well that it turns into 7 years (don't tell her that though ), as for systems I'm talking about refrigeration, AC, Espar diesel heater, water, sewage...hell the boat has a microwave for heavens sake! I think we'll follow your suggestion and wait until we do our first big blue water crossing for a life raft. Good tip on asking the insurance company about hurricane season.

How about the anchor? I'm debating between a 45 and 65lb Mantus. We have a manual windlass but plan on living at anchor so I'm leaning towards the 65...is that overkill?

Thanks again guys, I appreciate the info and encouragement!
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Old 18-06-2014, 15:58   #9
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

if you're doing the bahamas....luperon in DR is probably the best hurricane hole in that area.
if you find yourself in western carib....the rio dulce may be your best safe spot during the summer
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Old 18-06-2014, 16:05   #10
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

So I always have to ask: Why plan to take the ICW all the day down to Miami?

A much better way is to sail/motorsail on the outside from maybe Hilton Head on south, stopping at major ports when you want to sightsee and ducking inside to the ICW only when weather turns bad. Many of the ports are a long daysail apart; You could still anchor at night if you wanted.

The ICW has dozens of drawbridges, mud banks, uncharted shoals, tricky channel markers and more. Traveling at night is risky on many stretches. Plus you will spend the vast majority of your time motoring with the sails furled.

Run along the coast and you can set sail many days, which you won't be doing much in the ICW. You can also set the autopilot and relax instead of being tied to the wheel steering a tight channel. If you don't mind running at night, you can knock off 120 miles a day vs. the 40-some you will make on the ICW.

You have to go outside in any event at Fort Lauderdale. There's a 55-foot fixed bridge in Miami.
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Old 18-06-2014, 16:38   #11
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Quote:
Originally Posted by markperil View Post
David - Thanks for the suggestions on boat-specific things to consider! Knowing and reviewing the through-hulls/plug locations/seacocks/steering/CB is a great way to start before departure. We've taken a diesel course, but need some real practice with the engine before we're solid (still haven't changed a fuel filter/impeller). Thanks for the tip on the Duracell batteries and space limitations - looking into that now. Can I PM with a few follow-up questions once I've got the electrical system designed?
Happy to help

Quote:
Originally Posted by markperil View Post
as for systems I'm talking about refrigeration, AC, Espar diesel heater, water, sewage...hell the boat has a microwave for heavens sake!
We've had our boat for four years and I'm still learning about some of these.
  • If the refrigeration works, be grateful and learn later.
  • AC is good to understand if you're going to be plugging in since it is on the list of things that can kill you. Besides, you can't run your microwave without it.
  • We love our Espar heater, but you're going to where you won't need it. That's a much better idea.
  • Water and sewage are good to track down. You'll want a rebuild kit for your head. You won't want to use it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markperil View Post
How about the anchor? I'm debating between a 45 and 65lb Mantus. We have a manual windlass but plan on living at anchor so I'm leaning towards the 65...is that overkill?
We have a 45# Manson Supreme and a good electric windlass. The new generation anchors are great. I know bigger is better, but I suspect you'd be fine with the Mantus 45 and I wouldn't want to lift a 65# anchor regularly. YMMV
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Old 18-06-2014, 16:46   #12
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean Trip?

Shenachie, that's a great question...I guess I'd never really considered doing anything otherwise - largely becuase it's intimidating to think about being in the open Atlantic! By the time we get down to Hilton Head though, I'm sure we'd be feeling (somewhat) more comfortable.

What would be the common legs?
Hilton head - Brunswick
Brunswick - St. Augustine...
Then what?

I like this idea. Thanks for the input
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Old 18-06-2014, 17:56   #13
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean Trip?

Try checking out the Coastal Pilot for the best information:

http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/n...3_1802_WEB.pdf

In South/Central Florida, where I sailed for many years before moving to Tampa Bay, the major ports are Fort Pierce, Port of Palm Beach, Port Everglades and Port of Miami. In nice weather, Hillsboro Inlet has a great cove for anchoring as an alternative to Fort Lauderdale, but the inlet can be tricky when wind opposes tide. Follow the locals in.

You're not really in the open ocean. You're doing the same daysailing locals do. You would run a mile or so offshore generally, especially once you get south of Palm Beach, where the Gulfstream gets close to shore. Running in maybe 40 feet of water in nice weather allows you to avoid the northbound current there. You can also get in and out of port easily for overnight anchoring.

A cold front generally calls for a retreat to the Intracoastal because north winds can really kick up the seas. Otherwise, you'll often have 2- to 5-foot seas with winds out of the east/southeast -- nice weather for sailing or motorsailing in a 40-footer.
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Old 19-06-2014, 04:36   #14
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Quote:
Originally Posted by markperil View Post



Chuck - I can only hope that our voyage goes so well that it turns into 7 years (don't tell her that though ), as for systems I'm talking about refrigeration, AC, Espar diesel heater, water, sewage...hell the boat has a microwave for heavens sake! I think we'll follow your suggestion and wait until we do our first big blue water crossing for a life raft. Good tip on asking the insurance company about hurricane season.

How about the anchor? I'm debating between a 45 and 65lb Mantus. We have a manual windlass but plan on living at anchor so I'm leaning towards the 65...is that overkill?

Thanks again guys, I appreciate the info and encouragement!
AC -- hum what is that -- don't have it and need to have a marina or big gen set to use it -- and why? - i guess i am just old -
heater?? - not sure on that either - the only place we needed heat was miami before we set off to mexico when they had a real cold snap and of course in tunisia for the winter and we use a electrical one - 12v - and it works -
microwave -- got one of those and great for storage
anchor - we have a 40#delta that has never failed us - but we would prefer to have a 40# rockna (sp) - we also carry a 20# fortress on the front for a 2nd anchor but have used it twice in 7 years -- of course if you want to start a fight on this board ask about anchors --

when we headed south from the usa we went off shore at hilton head the last 2 times -- we did the icw once most of the way down just to see it and as above you can do about 50nm a day and have to steer the whole time - and it gets skinny in spots -
the run from hilton head to miami will give you some overnight stuff and yet you can bail out in a few places if you have to - and if you have a dongle you will be close enough to shore to use internet to see wx ect
i think we ran 2-4nm off shore to stay out of the gs - but at palm beach late one night i had watch and round pb the condos just did not seem to disappear and a quick look at the sog said we were doing 3k - we ran into the gs about 2nm or less off --
have fun doing the planning
and chris parker is on ssb and doubt if the boat came with one of those - ask if you should get one will start another round of fistacuffs --
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Old 19-06-2014, 06:51   #15
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Boat: CS36Merlin, "La Belle Aurore" Ben393 "Breathless"
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Re: Advice for ICW/Caribbean trip?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shanachie View Post
So I always have to ask: Why plan to take the ICW all the day down to Miami?

A much better way is to sail/motorsail on the outside from maybe Hilton Head on south, stopping at major ports when you want to sightsee and ducking inside to the ICW only when weather turns bad. Many of the ports are a long daysail apart; You could still anchor at night if you wanted.

The ICW has dozens of drawbridges, mud banks, uncharted shoals, tricky channel markers and more. Traveling at night is risky on many stretches. Plus you will spend the vast majority of your time motoring with the sails furled.

Run along the coast and you can set sail many days, which you won't be doing much in the ICW. You can also set the autopilot and relax instead of being tied to the wheel steering a tight channel. If you don't mind running at night, you can knock off 120 miles a day vs. the 40-some you will make on the ICW.

You have to go outside in any event at Fort Lauderdale. There's a 55-foot fixed bridge in Miami.
There are a few problems associated with going outside rather than sticking with the ICW. First is weather. The trip south is usually done in the late fall. The weather does not cooperate often. Rather than waiting five days for weather you might as well motor down the ICW.

The other is the distance from the ICW to the ocean. Often the in and out takes more time and a greater distance than going straight down the ICW. And the ins and outs (inlets) are some of the worst patches when the weather kicks up.

There are some spots where a wait and an overnighter saves time and distance. From Charleston to St. Marys River is a good shot. You skip Georgia but if you want to see the best part of Georgia just go up the St. Marys River to Cumberland island.

Another good outside run is from Fernandina to St. Augustine. You bypass the South Amelia River section which is shoaling badly these days.

For a newbie the ICW is full of delights. All the scenery, the wildlife and interesting towns and friendly folks along the way. But keep one eye on the depth sounder.

The wild horses of Cumberland Island.
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