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Old 19-04-2009, 09:34   #1
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Gear Priority: Mexico > Panama > Caribbean

My wife and I are planning a cruise down west coast of Mexico, through the Canal, then to Jamaica, V.I.'s, etc. We are preparing our Islander 41 over the next year for this adventure.

My funds are dwindling fast, so I might have to prioritize a few "would like to haves". If I am forced (budget wise) to choose just one item from the 3 items listed below, what would you all recommend (ie, find most useful) for this trip?

1. An inner forestay, with a new storm jib to hang on it.
2. A SSB radio with PC interfaces etc for weather fax
3. A radar

Any thoughts would be most appreciated.

Thanks!

Jim
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Old 19-04-2009, 10:44   #2
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i would choose door #2....jt
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Old 19-04-2009, 12:01   #3
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Now that AIS is in use, radar makes less sense for collision advoidance. And it is rare to get fog south of Ca.

An alternative to a SSB transceiver is an Iridium phone with a data plan. True you pay for the calls, but I found you could send/receive 6-8 emails for 1USD. The initial cost is much lower so it takes 4-5 years of Iridium charges to get near the SSB cost. Also you don't need to learn a whole new technology, and you can easily phone home to a non SSB user.

Not on your list but absolutely essential is some form of lightning protection. I use a Strikeshield.

Have a great trip

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Old 19-04-2009, 12:33   #4
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Although some of this technology is new since I made the same trip 3 years ago, I would agree with the Iridium phone over SSB (you probably still want a cheap SSB receiver for listening to the weather and nets, but on the west side the cruisers are quite spread out after PV, so the social value of SSB is less--on the Caribbean side the SSB nets are a nice social network and the weather and seas seem a bit more challenging). But you need AIS or Radar IMHO if you are going to be comfortable. The charts are off in some places by 3/4 nm in Western Mexico so radar is nice, but--as mentioned--there is rarely fog.
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Old 19-04-2009, 16:11   #5
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I wasn't aware of the AIS technology, and was under the impression that iridium phones were very expensive. Some initial research (per your suggestions) shows both technologies to be very promising, not terribly expensive, and appropriate for my voyage. I might even have enough dinero left over for a SSB receiver!

Thanks much for your thoughts. This forum is a wonderful resource!

Jim

PS: An ad just popped up at the top of my browser saying "Low Cost AIS Receiver". I'm going to click it now.
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Old 19-04-2009, 17:07   #6
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For some reason the US is way behind the Europe when it comes to AIS. You can buy cheap receivers there from the likes of NASA (no relation to rockets). Having the signals from ships super-imposed on your chart plotter is great. And unlike radar you know the name of the ship, where it is going, how big etc - it even beeps if you are on collision course.

It appears that Iridium phones are given to soldiers in Iraq, in any event all those I saw on ebay (around USD600) where from soldiers returning from there

You may also be interested in the Navtex recievers from NASA and others. Again navtex is not used much by US cruisers but is almost universal in Europe. And that I don't understand because, for example, Miami coastguard put out a navtex transmission 24/7. We were able to receive it in Panama using the USD150 NASA receiver.

I know that NOAA issue continuous weather on VHF, but you have to be within 50 miles of shore to hear it. Also the Navtex sets (apart from giving you a text forecast) gives you nav warnings, emergency traffic etc and, as I say, you can receive it all over the Caribbean sea and presumably down into most of Mexico.

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Old 19-04-2009, 17:37   #7
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SSB, hands down. Having a Sat phone is nice but an SSB is how cruisers really stay in touch with one another. Either will suffice for obtaining weather info, but the social networking will only occur on the SSB and not via phone. You definitely also want a Pactor II or III modem and a computer to handle email.

That inner forestay and additional sail would be way down on our list of "must haves." Radar OTOH would be second after the SSB. During inclement weather radar is worth its weight in gold.

We have AIS and while it is very nice, it is not a necessity. We also have 2 Sat phones onboard. Haven't even turned one on in 2 years.

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Old 23-04-2009, 08:59   #8
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Most folks seem to lean towards #2 (SSB or a variation thereof). I should add the caveat(s) that I don't currently have a storm jib of any kind, and would rely on reefed main and Genoa (partially furled) that hangs on my single fore stay (running from the top of the mast to the tip of my bowsprit). I should also note that I'm a "fair weather sailor" if their ever was one, so will be watching the weather carefully. (of course we always have the "best laid plans of mice and men" factor).

This may not change any opinions, but thought it was worth mentioning. Also am researching a storm jib that attaches to (raps around) the furled genoa. Any experience with or thoughts about this product/arrangement?

Jim
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Old 23-04-2009, 09:12   #9
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Having spent a couple of years in the Caribbean with all three of these items aboard, I can rank them in order of our use.

SSB - regularly for social and home comm. Got some good advice from strangers several times via ssb when times were rough( ie. beating east along the colombian coast, exhausted and out of fuel, got good stopover guidance)

Radar - seldom used, mostly for watching thunderstorms chase us down and smash us and an occaissional port entry. Mostly we waited for better conditions to go in.

Storm Jib on inner forestay - never used it, by the time we needed it, there was no way I would go up- on the foredeck and set it. If we were expecting that bad of weather, we would go to plan B( heave to or run away).
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Old 23-04-2009, 09:17   #10
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I agree with AntiqueTri. Although, with my cutter rig, I have a "storm jib" at the ready at all times.

If you're thinking about using a heavily furled genoa in high winds, think twice. Unless you have luff pads or luff ropes sewn in, the sail shape will be such that it's more of a liability than a help.
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Old 23-04-2009, 11:00   #11
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Out of Panama in Atlantic

Leaving Panama for Jamaica in the trades is like beating your head against the wall with water pouring over your head. Easier to fall off and head towards Honduras, Belize, Mexico before heading to Jamaica. Some have been sucessful at hugging the coast towards Columbia if the trades are weak. If you don't have a small jib that points well to weather it will take forever going directly for Jamaica.

SSB!
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Old 23-04-2009, 15:31   #12
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I agree with antique tri. I have never used a storm jib either. Except once, horizontally as a sunshade.

I try to be a fair weather sailor, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way.

I also agree with having a foam luff in the genoa, especially if you have a conventional low aspect genoa.

Slightly off topic, but still relevant.

After getting through the Canal I'd go to the San Blas and then Cartegena. From there go to the Bay Islands, possibly via Providencia. We think the San Blas are the best cruising grounds in the world (I have now sailed in over 40 countries) and Cartegena is by far the best Spanish Colonial city and a safe destination for cruisers.

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Old 23-04-2009, 21:15   #13
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My answer is bias as I have been a ham radio operator all my life..with a good Ham SSB radio as the one I have on board I can: Talk to other ham raidio operators, send and receive emails, receive RTTY weather reports from the USCG around the clock, receive reports from networks such CaribWx and talk to specialists for custom reports, send and receive CW messages...in short is a big part of our communication systems on board.

SSB used only for marine purposes can be indeed to expensive for what it does.
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Old 23-04-2009, 22:25   #14
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Storm jib?.... how about a jib rated for 25 knots true wind? I would put that at the top of the list and it will save your nice big genoa for use in conditions that are suited for it! Furling it doesn't make it stronger.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 24-04-2009, 19:35   #15
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Storm jib hands down, none of that other stuff is important. A storm jib is.
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