We just did the Florida
(Tampa) to Trinidad trip this year. We used the Raymarine
CMAP color chartplotter
at the helm
, interfaced to the autopilot
. For planning, we used the laptop
down below, with the best raster charts
we could get (explorer for Bahamas
, CYC for eastern Caribbean
to Grenada). Dominican Republic
charts are marginal and CYC ends at Grenada
. We would plan the route at our convenience on the laptop, then transfer the waypoints to the chartplotter
at the helm
. FWIW, CMAP vector charts were NOT very accurate for detail harbor work. Often we would be anchored on land according to the CMAP. If there were only a few waypoints, we would key them in by hand, but if many, we would transfer the entire route by connecting the laptop to the chartplotter.
Note the cautions that all cruisers and navigators use, however, that GPS waypoints, whether published or gotten from another cruiser, should be used with GREAT caution. It is very very easy to key in a number incorrectly and run the boat on a reef if you don't use normal caution. Thats why I like using the two separate systems--laptop and chartplotter--as a double check. I would also be cautious about using anyone else's track, although it may be better than just winging it. Always use eyeball navigation, of course, and don't enter a strange harbor at night. This often means a very early departure to exit a harbor, at O-dark-thirty, often using the GPS track from the entry as the guide, so you get to the next harbor at midday.
There are several places that need to be run with extra caution and care. Like Gun/Cat Cay and Georgetown
and Mayaguana in Bahamas, Luperon in DR (usually cruisers come out in dingys to help folks enter the harbor, but Van Sant's entry directions, if followed EXACTLY, are spot on--and the charts are very very weak). Also Patilla in PR, inside passage
from Mayaguez to Boqueron in PR, Southern Grenada
. However, most of the eastern Caribbean
is not too tricky, with fairly good buoys marking channels and the guides show decent anchorages
. We did save the tracks of difficult harbor entrances on our chartplotter, for possible use if we revisit those harbors.
BTW, this is a fantastic trip and well worth doing. There are lots of places along the way where cruisers stall and never complete the trip (e.g. Georgetown
, Luperon, PR, St Martin). Try to resist and make the whole journey, even if it takes multiple seasons.
Peace and fair winds.