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Old 27-07-2009, 21:10   #1
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Thorny vs Thornless Path

Many have stated the book to read is Van Sants 'Passages South' for those crossing from Fl to the VI. I just did searches on Thorny and Thornless and numerous times the book is mentioned. And, not only in this forum. I find the 53 pages on weather and weather statagies absolutely unreadable. Is it just me? It isn't learning all the new terms it is the way it is written.

Has anyone read and understood the weather information and actually have it help them get through the Thorny path Tornlessly?

I just ordered Chris Parkers 'Coastal and Offshore Weather', maybe his sentence structure is easier to follow.

Sorry if I sound a bit touchy but several days of trying to read this stuff is getting to me.
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Old 27-07-2009, 21:22   #2
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Well, i meet mr Van Sants one time in Luperon Domican Republic, a strange man , and the book is funy in some pages, and the weather info in the book help in some way , the funys part in the book is about Chicken Harbour in Exumas for me, i think the Chris Parkers book is more realistic, any way the trip is a pain in the neck, lots of engine and pounding sailing.
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Old 28-07-2009, 20:23   #3
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Janice... best plan heading on the Thornless path is NOT to follow VanSants advice...but to hire Chris Parker for weather on SSB/E-mail for the voayge and let him tell you exactly what you can expect each day where you are...and when it is both safe and good to make a passage. I found VanSants advice understandable, and his route descriptions and charlets are quite helpful...but I would take a real live Chris Parker along with me any day over VanSants weather advice.
Chris' prices are pretty reasonable for what you get. He can be found at caribwx.com and if you have an SSB or portable with SSB bands you can get a good feel for what to expect from him by listening in on his morning broadcasts. We were highly satisfied customers. You can get both a daily personal SSB check in and advice AND a daily regional e-mail forcast for $300 a year..and he has lower cost/length plans available.
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Old 29-07-2009, 06:39   #4
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Bruce Van Sant's book is A Gentleman's Guide to Passage South which is available in most major boat stores. The nickname for the book is Thornless Path South. It is sort of a "bible" for sailing from Florida down to Puerto Rico via the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. The book is written for a small sailboat with minimal engine motoring capability. - I call it the "worst case scenerio." The information is gathered over decades of traveling on that route. The book does not deal with current weather, obviously since is is many years old.
What the book contains is the strategy and chartlets for the possible interesting stopping places along the route. Also of most importance is that it discusses the typical weather patterns and weather strategy to use when heading south and east into the Trade Winds. Also it contains local information about major stopping points along the way. Kind of like a omnibus guide book. All of the information in the book is slanted towards the small sailboat without a motor. So the routing techniques in the book are very useful for bigger boats who experience engine failure and must "revert back" to the core sailing principles. Kind of like a "baseline" of information and tactics.
Van Sant also puts out a smaller version of the book that only contains the weather tactics and does not include the place and harbor guides. This might be a better choice for an experienced sailing cruiser. Heading east into the Trade Winds and current is not fun and knowing how to do it in the most painless fashion is quite useful.
I have a rather large motor-sailor yacht and can "bash" my way east if necessary, but the ride is not comfortable or enjoyable - so I meld in some of VanSant's techniques to lessen the bashing and minimizing the uncomfortable parts. So you would thoroughly read the Thornless Path to get a base of information and then modify it for your own boat and degree of comfort you want getting from Florida to Puerto Rico. If things start to quit, break or complicate a passage I want to have the basic knowledge of how to do it the basic old fashioned way.
**Warning** Chris Parker provides a weather source service. He provides to you his interpretation of weather conditions along your projected routing. He does not and can not tell you when or where to go. Only the Captain of the vessel can make the decisions of when to go and where to actually go. Chris Parker does NOT know when it is "safe and good" to go anywhere. Weather forecasting is an art form of trying to predict what Mother Nature is going to do in some future time and location. Nobody on this planet can tell you what the weather "will be." They can only tell you what the weather "might be" or "could be." It is up to you to decide if the weather forecasts make sense and the probabilities are acceptable to you. Basically there is a legal and moral liability issue here. Do not leave harbor because somebody has told you the weather is "safe and good" to sail. Leave harbor when you think the available weather information looks reasonable and safe in your mind based on gathering information from many sources, not just one.
There are multiple weather sources available to the cruising sailor on the HF SSB radio nets and fax charts; from the internet from NOAA in both chart form and text formats; and from just learning how to read the sky and being aware of the seasonal history of weather systems in your region of interest. All of the information Chris Parker puts out is available for free from sources I listed above. Chris does a great service of distilling and organizing the available information for cruising sailors over specific areas of interest. You can also just listen in to his broadcasts for free and there will be plenty of other "members" requesting information about an area of your interest. Look up the Caribbean Compass - Caribbean Yachting News Magazine website and download the Caribbean Weather Nets page to get all the SSB times and frequencies for weather services/information.
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Old 29-07-2009, 06:45   #5
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Van Sant's strategies are good if his writing style and language are a little tough to understand.

You can get better weather forecasts now than when he wrote the book. Chris Parker has been mentioned. He is worth the price but remember, no weather forecaster is always right. You will get some surprises.

Van Sant's suggested routes and waiting for weather advice are excellent. I have a little higher tolerance for wind and sea conditions when not going to weather than he suggests, but when going into weather I am all for less than 15 knots even if that means I have to motor more than I want.

George
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Old 29-07-2009, 06:54   #6
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Second item - If you are going "non-stop" to the Virgin Islands from Florida or elsewhere along the US East Coast via "I-66", then Van Sant's book is of no interest to you. It only covers the slow, island hopping route through the Bahamas, T & C, D.R. and Puerto Rico. This route typically takes 2 to 4 months depending upon the season, weather and how much fun you are having at the various stopping points. The non-stop route via "I-66" - which is heading east north east in the westerly wind patterns to longitude 066 west then turning south directly to the Virgins - takes one to two weeks at sea. The average is 11 days at sea.
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Old 29-07-2009, 08:01   #7
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Where does that 11 day average come from. Two years ago about 75 boats in the Carib1500 left Hampton for Tortola. All boats were finished in 10 days.
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Old 29-07-2009, 08:18   #8
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Originally Posted by speciald@ocens. View Post
Where does that 11 day average come from. Two years ago about 75 boats in the Carib1500 left Hampton for Tortola. All boats were finished in 10 days.
The 11 day average is just that an average of boats leaving from the Chesapeake and everywhere in between on down to Florida/Bahamas. Naturally, the one week passages started from the southern sections and the 2 weeks passages started further north with slower boats and occasional storms slowing things down. Speed over the ground of different size boats can cause times to vary by 100% and then add in no-wind and too much wind days.
One week, plus or minus, in the cruising world would be considered as a very minor/small difference. Waiting a month for good weather is not uncommon and at the high end waiting for the proper season (6 months +/-) is so basic it is not considered.
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Old 29-07-2009, 08:56   #9
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I have never subscribed to Chris. I do listen to what he has to say, and a couple of times he sailed me right between 2 systems. One was from Bimini to Mayport Florida. No one is 100% accurate, but Chris is pretty reliable. He is also easy to understand over the radio. BEST WISHES in a successful journey. I personally do not see this as a thorny path. We have made the Exumas with day hopping, and lingering around in 10 days with ease from Miami.......i2f
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Old 29-07-2009, 09:30   #10
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Hi Janice
Bruce supplies proven experienced based strategies melded with personal musings in the form of a "Guide". He is the first to state in the front pages that his should not be the only book you read nor does he claim it is the best. You will find many items in Bruce's book which are not easily found within other publications, even some on the weather and what the effects of island masses and temperature on the winds. I would suggest his book as an essential first buy to those wishing to travel south from Florida if for nothing else it will make you think of buying additional books on subjects he mentions. There are many detractors of his stragies but of the three I have talked to it was basically due to them not wanting to wait for a weather window or wanting to go south then east and getting thumped by the weather. Bruce doesn't write for those in a hurry but for those who want to travel in comfort with a minimum of thrashing and pounding. It is supposed to be fun you know. Good luck on your trip.
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Old 29-07-2009, 10:01   #11
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This is the best blog account that I have read on the subject of which route to go. Ultimately they chose the I 66 route and give you a detailed account of the trip. A must read:

Indigo Moon - Offshore Passage to BVI
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Old 29-07-2009, 10:11   #12
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Van Sants is very useful, I took the weather info as generalities though. I left Luperon with a different plan (against his wishes) but all worked out fine.
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Old 29-07-2009, 10:41   #13
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Cheech...ha! I left Lupe just as you did...still here too!!
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Old 30-07-2009, 08:57   #14
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That is why I mentioned that Van Sant's book is written for small sailboats with limited or no engine power. When you have a larger and more powerful boat you can deal with less than truly ideal conditions. On average an ideal weather window passes Luperon every 5-6 weeks, acceptable windows probably every 3-4 weeks. Speed over the ground in headwinds and contrary currents is the determining factor. In my boat getting from Luperon to Samana is 22-24 hours; to Mayaguez/Boqueron is 42-48 hours, so I wait for ideal conditions. I crewed a powerboat east once and it took only 14 hours in not so nice conditions which was acceptable because of the short duration of the trip.
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Old 30-07-2009, 09:21   #15
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Bruce's book is a collection of tips, tecniques, and strategies he has personally followed over the years on various boats as have countless others in a diverse collection of vessels. IMHO it would be incorrect to give readers the impression that it is not relevent unless they have a small underpowered sailboat. The book is relevent if you wish to take a nice comfortable trip from here to there.

You are right on though to say it is not a guide to getting from here to there as quickly as possible. Have a nice day.

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