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Old 03-04-2011, 11:54   #1
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Heading to Lower Caribbean via Thorny Path

A good day to you all! I'm heading south from Charleston after hurricane season this year. I plan to start in the Bahamas (did 5 months there in '09) and hop south from there (DR, PR, SVI, USVI, etc., etc.). My current plan is to get all the way down to Grenada, but you never know what might happen. I am looking for quality sailing blogs done by people who have made the trip. I'd like to find some blogs that are heavy on the sailing aspect of the trip and lighter on the sight-seeing side of it. Any links anyone here has would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, the boat is a well-equipped 1990 IP35. Crew will be myself and my Jack Russell Terrier. I'm sure I will have friends come in on some legs, but will be singlehanding for the majority of the trip. I'd like to get down-island quickly, and then take my time and cruise back up. Again, any info or insight is appreciated.
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:57   #2
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

Unfortunately most of the blogs are "adventure" stories and don't speak much to the nuts and bolts of getting from "A" to "B". Mostly because, unless something dramatic happens it is boring.
- - But a few suggestions that are not talked about doing the "Thorny Path." Be sure to have all your spare parts and pumps and such on board before you leave Florida. Getting anything thereafter involves enormous transportation costs, duties, and other assorted bribes, etc. - not to mention considerable time waiting around for the delivery with little guarantee that the item will actually arrive.
- - Same with repairs - a lot of places do not have very good, if any, repair facilities or mechanics so know how to fix your boat. Once you get east of P.R. repair facilities improve dramatically.
- - Be sure to get the Explorer Chart books for the Bahamas and the Wavey Line Charts for the Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic.
- - Expect the worst sailing of your life from the Turks and Caicos to the D.R. and then onto Puerto Rico and along the south side of P.R. to the Virgins. With rare exceptions, unless you are really prepared to wait for an infrequent great weather window, you will smashing and crashing and bashing your way east. Mostly under power so be sure that your engine and fuel supply is adequate for multi-day continuous operation.
- - It is strongly recommended that you have high davits or on-deck storage for your dinghy. There are some nasty seas involved and towing a dinghy not only slows you down and increases fuel burn but you can easily loose the dinghy in the rough seas.
- - Mentally be prepared to leave the mindset of the continental USA and enter the "3rd World" mindset of few, if any rules. Generally if the locals cannot extract money from you they don't eat. They don't steal but are very creative at conning you and/or expecting "tips" for any and everything. It is a great help if you can speak Spanish.
- - Have the best guide books you can get and of course, Van Sant's big book - and read it.
- - Once you get east of Puerto Rico the anchorages are very deep and having a lot of chain and a heavy anchor - preferably a couple of different types will make your nights less worrisome.
- - Make sure everything inside the boat is secured or held in place by doors or bunghy cords. I have found that buying a couple of the large packs of Walmarts/K-marts super cheap washcloths/hand towels and use them to stuff and prevent rattling is great while underway.
- - Have a very large, if not whole deck, awning for your boat when anchored. The sun down here is brutal and keeping the boat cool is nearly impossible without a good awning.
- - Once you have survived the passages to Puerto Rico, the passages further down island are almost all daylight hops with only a few exceptions. Compared to the trials and tribulations of getting from the Bahamas to the eastern side of Puerto Rico, you will now be in sailing "paradise."
- - Security - be sure your have a good system to lock your hatches and other access points to the boat while you are ashore. Also a very long chain or "life-line" cable lanyard to lock your dinghy when ashore. Make sure the outboard is chained to the dinghy. Padlock system mounted on the transom screws don't work as they can be broken free with a large screwdriver. The by-word down here is "Lock it or lose it." Stainless steel padlocks are the best (expensive) and all bronze/brass the second best types. All the others quickly rust and stop working.
- - There are a hundred other hints and helps for making your journey a joy rather than an ordeal and I am sure others will suggest some more. The idea is that if you have thought of and are prepared to take care of these "little" things, then your journey will be all about having fun rather than recovering from one disaster or another.
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Old 04-04-2011, 09:12   #3
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

Oh! This is a great time to head down island. The ports and anchorages are half empty these last two years as very few cruisers are heading down island compared to past years. I have been getting all the "choice" spots in each anchorage and boats are not having to crowd each other. businesses are being more attentive to you as it is not uncommon that you are the only customer in the store/shop. Great for us, not so good for the local businesses. So you can expect a little more "aggressiveness" on their part to get you to part with your money.
- - Speaking of which local currency is available at convenient ATM's everywhere. Be sure to have your financials set up for internet access and control.
- - Which brings up WiFi - get a powered - preferably 1 watt(1000mw) USB external antenna for your computer so you can access the internet from your boat at anchor.
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Old 04-04-2011, 09:54   #4
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

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Originally Posted by Lowcountry View Post
My current plan is to get all the way down to Grenada, but you never know what might happen. I am looking for quality sailing blogs done by people who have made the trip. I'd like to find some blogs that are heavy on the sailing aspect of the trip and lighter on the sight-seeing side of it. Any links anyone here has would be greatly appreciated.
I have been following several Texas cruiser's, and thought you might enjoy this one - Sailing on Anchor Management Steve is single-handing as well.
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Old 04-04-2011, 10:04   #5
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

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- - Which brings up WiFi - get a powered - preferably 1 watt(1000mw) USB external antenna for your computer so you can access the internet from your boat at anchor.
Agreed, in spades, OTHER THAN - USB sux other than the convenience to haul it to town with your laptop. POE, Ethernet, and an external WiFi adapter and antenna is the way to go.

However, if you're not a geek and entirely comfortable with network tweaking, do as I did and go to Marine PC's & WiFi by IslandTime PC, and get your setup from Bob Stewart, a full-time cruiser who swallowed the hook to care for his aged parent.

His page will show you our installation as well as two other boats' installations; all work, but atop the mast is your best bet.

Do a google search for Flying Pig and Island time PC and you'll see many threads about this subject, along with ample confirmation from others that this is da bomb.

Not going to cost an arm and a leg, either, and as it's plug and play, you won't be tearing your hair out trying to make parts you source yourself play nice.

The owner is also the king of customer service. Give him a call. See my most recent log posting for the story of what happened immediately after we landed in the boatyard we're currently enduring, too!

L8R

Skip, over my WiFi which has yet to fail me, even 5-7 miles offshore, under way...
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:42   #6
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

Thanks for the response, Osirissail.
-I have been collecting spares for a couple of years now. Filters, belts, impellers, plugs, lines, nuts/bolts/screws, etc., etc.
-I am moderately mechanically inclined. I have a good set of tools, and manuals for all of the systems on my boat. Also, my boat was repowered in '07 with a new Yanmar, which still has less than 1,000 hours on it and has been meticulously maintained.
-I already have the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas. I will be buying Van Sant's book about cruising south, and will look into the squiggly lines charts for the T&C. To be honest, I am trying to avoid even going to the T&C for a couple of reasons. One, I have a dog with me, and am not going to fool with British territories on this trip (with the possible exception of the BVI). Two, I've heard that crime in the T&C is awful, and I really don't want to go there. I'm looking more at leaving the Bahamas from Great Inagua and sailing from there to the DR.
-My Yanmar burns about 1/2GPH, and I have a 48 gallon tank. I will also be carrying 20 gallons of diesel on deck in jerry cans. This gives me a motoring range that should be more than sufficient.
-I do have davits for my dinghy, and they are reasonably high. I have yet to dip the caribe in the water while under sail, so I should be fine there (especially while going to windward).
-I also have cables and locks for the dinghy and motor (20 year old johnson 2.3hp, no prize there), hablo un poquito espanol, etc.
-As for deep water anchorages, I have a 45lb CQR on 175 feet of G4 chain for my primary, which I would think should suffice.
-I know there are a million other tiny details, but I live aboard full-time, and have copious lists of things to do to make the vessel and myself ready. Thanks again for the advice.
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Old 04-04-2011, 12:06   #7
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

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. I'd like to get down-island quickly, and then take my time and cruise back up. Again, any info or insight is appreciated.
Why not sail direct Charleston to the VI and from there on work you way to Grenada, and then work your way back up again? This certainly will save you time (Charleston to VI non stop will take you approx. 10 to 12 days days).

Sailing solo on the Atlantic route heading somewhat for Bermuda's direction first is much more pleasant then to stay close to the coast and work against the wind your way down solo. (we depart in November from Charleston SC directly for VI non-stop)
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Old 04-04-2011, 12:52   #8
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

Mundinho,
I'd love to be able to do that, but I am single-handing. I don't have a radome or AIS, and thus do not like to sleep when I'm offshore, which really limits me to passages of 30 hours or less. Also, I'm travelling with a 14 year-old Jack Russell Terrier, and I think it would be harmful for him to spend that much time non-stop at sea. A non-stop passage like that is definitely in my future, but not this time around.
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Old 04-04-2011, 19:54   #9
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lowcountry View Post
. . . I already have the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas. I will be buying Van Sant's book about cruising south, and will look into the squiggly lines charts for the T&C. To be honest, I am trying to avoid even going to the T&C for a couple of reasons. One, I have a dog with me, and am not going to fool with British territories on this trip (with the possible exception of the BVI). Two, I've heard that crime in the T&C is awful, and I really don't want to go there. I'm looking more at leaving the Bahamas from Great Inagua and sailing from there to the DR.
. . .
Just a note on the Turks and Caicos - It is not necessary for cruisers to go ashore except to check-in/out and there is really nothing there anyway. The value of the Caicos banks is they afford you good water to work your way east so that you can have a southward shot to the D.R.
- - Animals have never been a problem there as they stay on board in any "inhabited" place like Provo.
- - There is a main current flowing westward along the north side of the Caribbean islands from the Leewards to Cuba. Add in the Trade Winds and you really do not want to be sailing dead up current, up wind from Great Inagua to Luperon or Samana. That would be a real exercise in self-abuse.
- - From Long Cay in the eastern side of the Caicos Banks you can head to Great Sandy Cay in the southern Turks and from there have a straight shot southbound for 104 nm from Long Cay or 80 nm from Great Sandy Cay to Luperon.
- - If you are thinking to heading south from Great Inagua to the south coast of the Dominican Republic you get involved in two things. One you need to circumnavigate the western and south sides of Haiti and secondly you will add over 300 nm to the route to Puerto Rico. The Windward Passage in not a pleasant place to be traversing down the middle. Also you will looking at a 500nm non-stop leg before you can go ashore again at Marina Zar-par near Santo Domingo.
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Old 05-04-2011, 12:36   #10
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Re: Heading to Lower Caribbean via "Thorny Path"

Thanks again for the tips, this is exactly the type of information I was looking for.
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Old 05-04-2011, 14:20   #11
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Re: Heading to Lower Caribbean via "Thorny Path"

How practical & how long is it to sail from Bahamas to Virgin Islands directly? Or to eastern Puerto Rico?
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Old 05-04-2011, 15:20   #12
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Re: Heading to lower Caribbean via "thorny path"

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Mundinho,
I'd love to be able to do that, but I am single-handing. I don't have a radome or AIS, and thus do not like to sleep when I'm offshore, which really limits me to passages of 30 hours or less. Also, I'm travelling with a 14 year-old Jack Russell Terrier, and I think it would be harmful for him to spend that much time non-stop at sea. A non-stop passage like that is definitely in my future, but not this time around.

Very smart decision! "Singlehanding at sea" is only legal and responsable for the length of time that you can stay awake and on watch. No electronic aids allow us to cruise with no one on watch... not just for ships, but for that wooden boat that may well not show up on radar.

There are also constant weather & sail decisions to be made, and things to avoid like huge floating trees, or crab pots in > 200' of water!

Enjoy your trip, we did! M.
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Old 05-04-2011, 15:30   #13
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Re: Heading to Lower Caribbean via "Thorny Path"

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How practical & how long is it to sail from Bahamas to Virgin Islands directly? Or to eastern Puerto Rico?
If "Low Country" could get crew for a week... We headed out from Georgetown Bahamas on an approaching north wind, went east for three days, turned south for two, and landed at Boquerone PR. 5 days!

The first three days were to windward and rough, but it was worth it... VS the slow, tedius, "Gentlemans Passages South" route, at least for us.

From PR, you can pick your weather and day hop as far as Grenada.

Mark
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Old 23-04-2011, 12:08   #14
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Re: Heading to Lower Caribbean via "Thorny Path"

If in Dominica see Pancho in the south west or Cobra to the north. Keep in mind refilling LPG or propane tanks can be a problem, as there may be only one refilling station on the island.
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Old 05-05-2011, 07:06   #15
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Re: Heading to Lower Caribbean via "Thorny Path"

I would read Van Sant before you get too far down the road in your planning. Also I found that this blog was a good one MLCS Home Page. It is much more practical knowledge than the adventure blogs.

I also recommend reading "Island Hopping to the Caribbean" by David and Annie LaVigne. They cover the trip from Florida to northern caribbean and it is a good read.
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