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Old 07-11-2013, 07:57   #1
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Routing and how it's done

Hi there,

About a year ago I was looking for a new challenge/goal in my life. I found it in planning and preparing for a 1 year round-trip to the Caribbean in a S/V. Even though the whole plan is taking way more planning/research/work/preparation/... then initially thought, I'm loving every second of it. I've learned a million different things in the past few months, and I'm only getting started!

Over the last year I have learned to work on just about every part of my boat, I learned about sea survival, marine diesels, sailing in general, anchors, heavy weather sailing, communication while at sea, living aboard a boat and meteorology. One thing I cannot wrap my head around though is how to actually plan out a complete trip...

Studying meteorology made it very clear to me that the weather plays a huge roll in this and that certain weather systems/wind directions/... can be expected in certain areas at a certain time of year. Also the big currents of course play a big role in planning the major passages.

It's not making it to the other side of the big blue that I'm worried about though. What bothers me most at the moment is the big "where do we go once we get there?" question... What islands do we visit in what order? What places to see and where to stay away? Of course there is always more then one option, so how do you choose?

I know of course of the existence of "pilots", but I find it hard to believe this is the only source of information that you base your decisions on. For one they seem expensive and fairly hard to come by, and secondly they only cover a small section of "land". So you'd need boatloads to cover a roundtrip to the Caribbean, not even to mention a circumnavigation...

Am I missing something here?

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Old 07-11-2013, 08:08   #2
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Re: Routing and how it's done

I think the key is to be flexible. Have a general itinerary but be prepared to change it based on weather. You may also change your plans after speaking to someone you met in a bar that says "You should skip x and go to Y instead because of Z" Don't bother making a strict itinerary because nobody every adheres to them. Spontaneity is what makes it fun. Cruising guides are very good sources of information for places to anchor, dock, shop, etc. They also provide good info on formalities for entering and exiting different countries. They really are a "must have" for every place I visit.

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Old 07-11-2013, 08:15   #3
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Re: Routing and how it's done

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Orchidius.

The NGA “Atlas of Pilot Charts” is available (free) on line ➥ Maritime Safety Information
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"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 07-11-2013, 09:00   #4
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Re: Routing and how it's done

Of course being flexible is very important. My last big "adventure" was roaming through Australia living in a campervan. All I knew for sure was that I was to head North, I just let everything else that came along my path happen.

The question is though how do you get that "rough" itinerary? I know I'll be making landfall in Suriname as that's the country where our little regatta is going to come together again after the big crossing. After that... The Caribbean is quite big...
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Old 07-11-2013, 09:41   #5
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Re: Routing and how it's done

While only for a relatively short inland (California Delta) trip, being flexible is THE most important feature, once you've figured out the general places you want to see.

I had intended to have a leisurely week or two on the boat, sailing from SF Bay up to the Delta, to visit a friend of mine for a few days and then gunkhole about to a series of anchorages, not necessarily in any order, also possibly visiting another friend. I was really looking forward to an open-ended mini-cruise.

Then I got picked for jury duty, in a case expected to last three weeks. The weather here has be absolutely fabulous, and I'm really regretting not being able to leave.

I had the choice of leaving last night to catch the currents and still see my friend by boat, then "hurry home" to get back to jury duty on Tuesday.

I decided NOT to do so, because sailing on a schedule is the very LAST thing everyone says is both dangerous and NOT FUN. I'll go up for the visit by car.

Point being, for even this short trip, don't overplan, and leave yourself a lot of room for improvisation.

Fair winds, have a safe journey.
Stu Jackson
Catalina 34 #224 (1986) C34IA Secretary
Cowichan Bay, BC, (Maple Bay Marina) SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)
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Old 07-11-2013, 09:42   #6
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Re: Routing and how it's done

I think you're falling into the "average cruiser" trap.

Your vessel has a diesel and a compliment of sails and since you're in the relatively short distance Caribbean (compared to the Pacific or Indian Oceans, as an example) that means you can effectively go anywhere you want in any direction you want, the only thing you really need to figure out is the weather.

Some people (most, in truth) prefer to sail downwind or at least with the wind aft of the beam because it's more comfortable and easier on vessel and crew. Beating to windward is wet, bumpy, and slow compared to its downwind counterpart.

But don't think that just because the average guy with the average boat does things one way that you need to do them that way at all. I, unlike 90% of "average cruisers":

- do not have a roller furler, in fact I removed mine.
- do not use a genoa, and again I in fact sold it.
- use paper, pencils, and hand tools for the bulk of my my navigation.
- use a manual windlass or just hand haul chain.

So if you are average in the sense that you like easier downwind runs, that will obviously affect the routes you can take. If you can find periods with relatively flat seas, you can motor quite effectively in any direction. A typical boat operating at reduced RPMs can get 20 hours out of 10 gallons of diesel, still making 5-6 knots sow.

If you rig your boat and your mind for windward travel and don't have as much of a "my boat is a floating condo" mindset, then you can travel quite long distances to windward undersail.

Use the pilot charts, use (or the equivalent) to time departures just right, and remember that most cruisers are basically following along their chart plotter which is basically following along the area's popular cruising guide.

It's a sailboat man. With good seamanship chops you really can go anywhere navigable.

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