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Old 26-08-2009, 13:02   #1
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If You Have 6-12 Months in the Caribbean...

If you had 6 to 12 months to cruise the Caribbean, when would you leave Florida? Where would you leave from? What kind of island hopping route would you follow? Is there anyplace you would avoid?

I'm thinking ahead to a long cruise that I'd like to take in the next couple of years and wondering how people would plan something like this and how they would work around hurricane season--it's my understanding that if you get far enough south, you don't need to worry as much about tropical storms.

So let me know your thoughts. How would you plan a trip like that?
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Old 27-08-2009, 05:46   #2
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Last winter I spent over 6 months cruising the Islands, starting in the BVI, and even though I sailed almost every day I only saw a small part of the whole island chain! Getting to the western Caribbean from Florida can be a chore, search for "The Thorny Path" for some details. If your wallet permits, it might be easiest to use a transport company to get to the USVI/BVI or St. Martin. After that the sailing gets easy.

The prime season for sailing is the winter, after the hurricane season ends. You can traverse the Caribbean on a southward course and be below the belt (around Trinidad) before the next season begins.

What sort of a boat is it to be and do you prefer being alone in an anchorage or in an area with bars/restaurants and other activity ashore?
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Old 27-08-2009, 10:11   #3
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- - For very rough planning for a distant future adventure - - It takes a whole season to get from Florida to Trinidad. A season being departing Florida anytime from November to February and then stopping and enjoying all the islands along the route. Usually that is the purpose of the "first" journey - to see and experience what each place has to offer so you can decide about future returns to your favorite places. The earlier you can leave, the more flexibility you have for extended stays and waiting for really good weather windows.
- - By all means get a copy of Bruce Van Sant's Gentlemen's Passages South. It will give you thoughts and techniques for getting from Florida to the Spanish Virgins (just off the east side of Puerto Rico.) The journey from Florida to the eastern side of Puerto Rico can be pure pain if you hurry or mildly uncomfortable if you wait for good weather windows. That makes the time needed vary from weeks to as much as 3-4 months depending upon your decisions and tolerance for nasty oceans and winds.
- - Once you round Point Tuna at the southeastern end of Puerto Rico, you will be entering sailing "paradise" and the time for rest of the journey is dependent upon on how many glorious places you choose to stop and enjoy versus what is left of the season. Technically the eastern Caribbean hurricane season starts in mid-August and runs to the beginning of November. Outside that time frame the Tropical Storms are generally in the western Caribbean. But Mother Nature does not always follow what is in our computers and statistical records.
- - If you have done the route before then some folks take the "I-65 bypass" directly from Florida (or above) to the Virgin Islands - which is about one to two weeks out in the ocean all by yourself. Statistically you will get clobbered at least once on that route, although some have had nothing but mild and boring conditions. Depends on your karma with Mother Nature.
- - You can expect that once you get all the way to Grenada (if you are not insured or willing to risk Mother Nature) or Trinidad (if you have an insured boat) - - You will not want to return back all the way to the USA. Most cruisers make it all the way south in one season and then when it comes time to head all the way back - don't. It is too wonderful and glorious down here and hurrying back just does not seem right. So they stay for an extra year or two or three. But techncially you can head south in January and be back in Florida the following January.
- - That said, you do not have to do the whole thing in one season. You can stop in the Dominican Republic and spend hurricane season there - flying home if necessary and returning after the summer to continue on. Or you can stop in Puerto Rico/Virgins and do the same thing. There are plenty of places along the route where you can put the boat in storage and then return in the fall. That way you can really get to know each area in depth before moving further south.
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Old 27-08-2009, 10:43   #4
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Osirissail has it correct... take 6-8 months.We did Miami to St Martin in 3 weeks and it was miserable motoring to windward for almost ten 24 hour days. Take your time, enjoy the Bahamas and the Islands all the way to Trinidad for hurricane season.

As I type I am looking at almost 1000 boats on the hard in Chaguarama, Trinidad. We are at the marina, 'Crews Inn', 78 cents/ft/day but that does include a free newspaper.

Phil & Nell in Trinidad
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Old 27-08-2009, 18:35   #5
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What sort of a boat is it to be and do you prefer being alone in an anchorage or in an area with bars/restaurants and other activity ashore?
I'm currently without a boat, but I'm looking (and I know this might be a popular thing to say here) at a power catamaran. It cruises around 15 knots with a range of about 350 NM, and dialed back to 7 knots it'll go about 550 NM without refueling.

I suspect that the catamaran aspect would make some of the rough passages more comfortable, but the somewhat limited range requires island hopping, as opposed to long stretchs in open water.
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Old 27-08-2009, 19:02   #6
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Osirissail has it correct... take 6-8 months.We did Miami to St Martin in 3 weeks and it was miserable motoring to windward for almost ten 24 hour days. Take your time, enjoy the Bahamas and the Islands all the way to Trinidad for hurricane season.

As I type I am looking at almost 1000 boats on the hard in Chaguarama, Trinidad. We are at the marina, 'Crews Inn', 78 cents/ft/day but that does include a free newspaper.

Phil & Nell in Trinidad
As an alternative, if your boat and crew are up to it, you could go offshore, heading due east and then due south, making landfall in the BVI's or Leewards. People I know strongly prefer that route, but I have not done it myself.
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Old 27-08-2009, 19:05   #7
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This is what I did twice and it worked well - go from Florida to Virgin Islands or better yet to Antigua, straight shot...about seven days, get the hard part out of the way all at once. Then you can island hop all the way to Grenada and back. The best timing that worked for me was to leave Ft. Lauderdale in middle of November, seven days to Antigua, another 3 weeks to Grenada and then a relaxed trip back downwind through all the islands including a long stay in the Virgin Islands, stops at Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, Exumas, Nassau, Berry Islands, Bimini, and back to Florida by the end of May - about 6 months. It was a wonderful trip, covering about 4,000 miles, and we didn't drag out the windward stuff.
Just one way to do it that worked once for me,
Brian
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Old 28-08-2009, 05:39   #8
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Brian's plan is a good one. I'm in the "take your lumps and get there quickly" camp. Sail east or ENE using as much of the Westerlies as you can, then turn right and go for the Trades. So you spend a week going to weather vs. two or three months following the "Thorny Path", waiting for weather windows.

The cruising season in the eastern Caribbean is November to May or June. The insurance companies will normally require you to be laid up ashore or out of "the Box" from July 1st through the end of October. Even if you don't have insurance restrictions, it's wise to do that anyway. So you have seven or eight months to enjoy the islands. My wife and I spent six months cruising the Lesser Antilles, two years in a row, and it still wasn't enough time.

If you take Brian's advice, you'll get a decent taste of the Lesser Antilles and can sample PR, DR, T&Cs and the Bahamas on your way back. Makes the most sense to me.
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Old 05-09-2009, 15:41   #9
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Or, if you don't have to range to go offshore going down, put your boat on Dockwise or some other transport ship to get it down to the eastern caribbean, and enjoy the islands and have a much better ride island hopping on your way back.
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Old 05-09-2009, 18:40   #10
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Not between July and Nov.

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Old 06-09-2009, 07:23   #11
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- - Dockwise Transport (DYT) is not a good way to get your boat to the Caribbean from the USA. They are very, very expensive, has schedules matched to the end of sailing seasons and you have to be physically present to load and offload which can be frustrating as their schedules move constantly due to weather and other shipping requirements. And they have been known to do hull damage to small sailing boats especially when intermediate stops are made.
- - For USA to Caribbean - if you cannot do it yourself - hire a delivery Captain to take the boat down to the Virgins or hire a Captain to accompany you on the "I-65" route and learn how to do it first-hand from a professional.
- - Six months is a little too short for a round trip down and back. If 6 months is all you have then plan to store the boat in Grenada or Trinidad and then return the following season or even two seasons and then do the return trip north. More than likely you will want to take 2 or 3 seasons to fly down to your stored boat and just cruise the eastern islands up and down each year then put the boat back in storage until the next season. There are almost a thousand boats currently doing just that now. In fact the boatyards are packed during the summer season as the owners fly back home to work or take care of business and "see the kids."
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Old 09-09-2009, 19:47   #12
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how tough would that passage be in a 21' boat
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Old 09-09-2009, 20:11   #13
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how tough would that passage be in a 21' boat
See this Hungarian young man who sailed totally around the world in a 21' boat recently:
Carina and me
US East Coast to the Virgins would be an itty bitty hop to him.
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Old 10-09-2009, 11:09   #14
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Quote:
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how tough would that passage be in a 21' boat
In a word.... VERY

It really all depends on your skills and your time schedule. With very good skills (sailing and weather skills are key) and no time limit it could be done but few would try it otherwise. Typically it would not be a pleasant sail, but would have some high points.
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Old 10-09-2009, 12:35   #15
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Lumps?

I'm in the "not take any lumps " category. Cross to the Bahamas, spend as much time as you want wherever you want, sail in good weather, head south if in the mood, turn around when it's time to get back before hurricane season, or head to Trini fast or store it nearby (?). I guess I was just lucky but cant really say I had any really big lumps in 3 seasons in the carribean....
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