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Old 01-11-2013, 21:40   #1
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General Advice for 7/14 to 11/14 voyage from BVI to ABCs and back

I have been sailing for years. First in Lake Michigan and recently out of Santa Cruz, CA up and down the Pacific Coast. I have owned five boats over the years. This year I sold my old Ericsson 32 in Santa Cruz , CA and purchased a 2006 Leopard 40 Catamaran out of the Moorings in the BVI. I worked closely with the surveyor during the "phase out" and the Moorings was very responsive on correcting all known issues. I think I have now a good sound boat.

I spent two months this summer sailing and exploring the Virgin Islands from St Croix to the Spanish Virgins to Agenda. Lots of sailing in a variety of conditions including some 8ft seas blowing 30 knots. I am back in CA now and will make a few more short trips this winter. I feel pretty comfortable with the boat, but as a long-time mono sailor used to the rough stuff in the pacific, I have not yet have the catamaran in any really serious seas. I have attempted to study up on the handling charisteristics of cruising cats in high seas and do plan on caring a drogue or other surfing break. I am still looking into what would be best for this boat in the seas I am likely to encounter.

The boat is being chartered in a secondary fleet while I am away.

Next summer I plan to leave in July and island hop to the ABCs. I am concerned about the crime as I head south as well as the trip beating back east on my way home. I plan on retiring the boat to the Charter fleet at the end of November, so I have five months to have fun.

Some upgrades to the now pretty "charter stock" boat will include: adding two solar panels, a wind generator, upgrade lights to LED, get an Epirb, as wells upgrade to AIS and radar. I plan on renting or purchasing a sat phone. This is a lot for this one trip, but I am planning on cruising five months a year. For 2015 I would like to do BVI to Panama and back.

Other than the basics like watching the weather close, and "reef often and early", I am looking for advice from folks who have made this trip. What did you wish you knew the first time you went down island?


Any ideas/input would be helpful.

Thanks,
Mark
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Old 08-11-2013, 16:16   #2
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Re: General Advice for 7/14 to 11/14 voyage from BVI to ABCs and back

You may want to rethink your plans.
Leaving in July for the ABC's and returning to the BVI's in November will be a little tricky because not only are you coming back against the trades, you are also right at the height of Hurricane season. Plan on tacking a lot and/or motoring. However would not want to be in the central Caribbean in November.
My recommendations are if you are set on going would sit out the Hurricane season in the ABC's....they are perfect for that.
By the way the eastern Caribbean in my opinion is a lot prettier than the ABC's. Yes Bonaire is great if you are a diver but Curacao is rather industrial although it does have a few delightful areas. I would suggest to spend more time in Los Roques and Las Aves (western Venezuela is quite safe) before heading further west to Bonaire. Just remember when in Los Roques you navigate by line of sight and forget about GPS.
Adding Radar is fine, but would probably save the money for an AIS in that part of the world. If you do not put yourself in the central Caribbean in November would probably save the money on a drogue also. Sat phone is a great addition anywhere.
Agree with solar and wind machine.
Have you thought about a watermaker?
Maybe a better plan would be just sail up and down the eastern chain....you will not get bored in that time frame. Watch the weather and a safe harbor is a lot closer if needed.
Also getting out of Panama is very weather dependent to come east. The Caribbean off Panama and Columbia can get quite rough. May have to wait for the right weather window for longer than you would ideally want.
Good Luck!
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Old 10-11-2013, 11:30   #3
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Re: General Advice for 7/14 to 11/14 voyage from BVI to ABCs and back

Hi Caradow,

Thanks for your advice. I was working under the assumptions that if I keep an eye on the weather, I would likely be able to find a November weather window that would allow me to safely cross the central Caribbean heading north.

My original thought was so island hope down the eastern Caribbean on my way south in July. I would like to be pretty far South for August through October to mitigate hurricane risk.

This year I sailed the Virgins in July through October, but I was never far away from my Hurricane hole on Tortola.

My concerns with the eastern carib during storm season is getting someplace safe quickly if a storm approaches.

My original plan was to spend the season in and around Trinidad, but I am concerned about cruising the area due to the crime reports, that is whey I decided to head west. The problem, of course if getting home (BVI) by December 1. Do you think I am making too much of the crime reports?

I had thought about a watermaker, but since the boat is in a charter fleet eight months out of the year, I thought I was put that off until I take the boat of of the charter fleet.

I appreciate your advice.
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Old 10-11-2013, 12:51   #4
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Re: General Advice for 7/14 to 11/14 voyage from BVI to ABCs and back

Would suggest hanging out in Grenada instead of Trinidad......much more scenic. Of course you are not quite as far south as Trinidad. I guess you would take your chances. The odd storm such as Ivan could hit Grenada but rare.
Trinidad is better if you need extensive refit or boat repairs. I do not find it very appealing otherwise.
If you are not afraid to cross the central Caribbean in November then hanging out in Grenada should not be a problem. Just remember storms that time of year can form quite quickly. You definitely don't want to be forced to leave chancing the weather because of a time table. Better to be conservative. What would be your plan if there was a low coming from the Atlantic when you needed to be back in the BVI's?
I would think the islands of Dominica, St.Lucia, St. Vincent and of course the Grenadines (getting crowed) would give you lots of options as far as beauty and nice anchorages go.
As far as crime goes.....a little street smarts gos a long way. I work in an inner city hospital here on the east coast and find it more dangerous than anyplace I have been in the West Indies. I have lived in Kingston Jamaica, lived in Barbados for years, and have sailed the Caribbean since the late 70's. I have kept my boat in Tortola, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Grenada, Curacao and the Cayman Islands. One of my favorite anchorages is Cumberland Bay on the north side of St. Vincent but the very mention of St. Vincent to some on this forum seems to bother many people.
I would advise however to stay away from eastern Venezuela and you should be fine, again with street smarts wherever you go INCLUDING the BVI's.
This is only my opinion and there are many on this forum that may have a different view and I accept that.
Talk to as many people that have actually sailed in these areas and then in the end the decision will be yours.
Again, stay out of the central Caribbean in November. There is a lot of ocean sailing from the ABC's to the BVI's.
i wish you well.
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Old 11-11-2013, 14:33   #5
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Re: General Advice for 7/14 to 11/14 voyage from BVI to ABCs and back

It seems to me that your worries about the crime level of the southern Antilles are exaggerated. The crime level in the USVI, I understand, is far greater than that of the southeastern West Indies. Trinidad has a very high murder rate but this is not directed against boaters.

Sailing west to the ABC's you should stay 50 miles away from the Venezuelan coast. The risks of attack in the Venezuelan coastal waters are quite high. The ABC's are relatively safe but sailing northeast from there with your cat, directly against the prevailing wind should become a feat!

The risk of hurricane is not slight. Hurricanes are usually forecast well in advance but they rarely follow their predicted track.

BTW 12 foot seas off the coast of Colombia are quite frequent.

I too believe Grenada to be a better destination. You could sail south to Trinidad during August to October and not have to worry about hurricanes. The problem with dodging storms is knowing where they will strike. Yvan was hugging the 10th parallel so if you were at Grenada sailing south to Trini was heading into the predicted path. Only at the last minute did it reform at 11 north to finally strike the southern bays of Grenada. And this was a cat 4 hurricane. Emily in 2005 was due to hit Bequia so I left Admiralty Bay for the Testigos and if need be Margarita while the rest of the fleet headed for Carriacou. Emily passed over northern Grenada and Carriacou. I think you get better odds playing Russian roulette.

Fair winds!
Michel
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Old 11-11-2013, 16:02   #6
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Lots of nonsense. When you return from the ABCs to the Virgins, it is madness to tack all the way NE on a rhumbline. Why for goodness sake would anybody want to do such a thing unless a SM fan?!

Here is how to get back: sail north point as high as possible and try to make the south coast of the DR. Here you can party in Santo Domingo while working east along the coast. Then at the Mona passage, one can choose to keep working east that way like all those following the thorny path do, or just sail a long tack SE and see where you end up, then follow the island chain up to the Virgins.

The ABCs are fantastic. Yes there are refineries. But why would you go there when you have bays all along the west coast that are fantastic!

I agree with the advice on Venezuela incl. that the Roques and Aves islands are okay. When sailing west from Trinidad, for sail to Grenada, then stay the 50nm off Venezuela and make landfall in the Roques.

Love Panama and Colombia. Sailing is great there.
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