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Old 21-11-2007, 05:53   #1
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Beginner questions

I looked thru the FAQs but didnt see any of these very basic questions answered. I apologize if this is posted in the wrong area.

My wife and I want to buy a boat (most likely a Catamaran) in a few years when we retire. My sailing experience is limited owning a 16' Hobie cat about 20 years ago. We dont know the slightest thing about sailing at this point so we are starting to do research now. Im currently reading "The Annapolis Book of Seamanship".

Obviously I wouldnt do this right off the bat , but lets say we wanted to sail from Ft.Lauderdale to the Bahamas.

Other than "dont hit anything"....what are the main concerns that I need to worry about?

1) I assume I can get a map of the area somewhere? Is there a website where i can buy maps of different areas that tell me exactly how to get there? Maps of the coastline area?

2) What do people use to find out about the forcasted weather?

3) I think there are maps that tell me about currents, typical winds and obstacles in the area?

4) What do I do when I get there? I have to "check in" with someone correct? Immigration or customs? Do I contact them by radio?

5) Is there some sort of cruising guides available to tell me where the harbors are so I know in advance where I'll be "docking" or using a morring or whatever?

I know these are very very basic questions and I really dont even know enough to know what to ask at this point, but I have to start somewhere right? Thanks for taking the time to help a rookie.
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Old 21-11-2007, 10:12   #2
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I would start by taking some sailing lessons. A good school can teach you the very basics in a couple weekends. Go on to the more advanced sailing courses that teach you offshore sailing, navigation, heavy weather sailing, meteorology, etc. It's money well spent and the time you spend learning will help you in making a more educated decision about the type of boat that you want.

Although this is a great forum for asking specific questions, sailing lessons can better answer your very broad questions better than anyone can in a few paragraphs.

Other things you can do is lots of reading, which it sounds like you are already doing and to read through this forum and other forums. Also, try to get as much sailing under your belt on different boats as you can.
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Old 21-11-2007, 11:14   #3
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I was planning on taking sailing lessons but I didnt realize that they covered these types of things. I thought the lessons would only cover the actual sailing of the boat.
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Old 21-11-2007, 11:29   #4
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Aloha Iceman5,
Any inexpensive clubs in your area? Nautical Charts are available through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There are many catalogs. You can also do a search through the internet for Nautical Charts (not maps). Try your local library for reading materials and do take a sailing class if you can find anything reasonable where you are.
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Old 21-11-2007, 13:17   #5
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Check into doing a Charter/Lesson sailing from the Fort to Freeport or some other Bahamas location.

Get your sailing/nav. lessons and your clearing customs lessons first hand and take GPS waypoint/notes along the way so when you get your boat you have somewhere to go that you have already been.

Wish I would have taken waypoints when I was working out there.

Check out Blue Water Books in Ft. Lauderdale they have all the books and charts you need.
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Old 21-11-2007, 13:20   #6
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Welcome:

The crossing from Florida to the Bahamas is a relatively short trip with a unique feature - the Gulf Stream. As a result you must be very careful in selecting your weather window. The good news is that there are several common staging areas in Florida (including Ft. Lauderdale) where you will find many boats waiting to do the same thing. Basically you need to avoid any wind that has a northerly component. North winds oppose the Gulf Stream current and cause nasty waves to build up. The prevailing wind is generally from the east or southeast - you want it to be light because it will be against your direction of travel. This time of year you must be wary of continental cold fronts.

Navigation aids are virtually non-existent and you need good charts. Explorer charts are highly recommended for this area. You also need a cruising guide - Pavlidis is good. Yes, you must check in and there are several ports of entry - if you do not have a passport, get one. You can call by VHF, but most people just go ashore and find the customs office. It's usually pretty laid back, mon.

You can get basic information here:

Bahamas Ports of Entry - Bahamas Vacation Travel Guide by Bahamas-Travel.info

The Bahamas are spectacular cruising grounds - don't miss them!
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Old 21-11-2007, 13:28   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slomotion View Post
... Basically you need to avoid any wind that has a northerly component. North winds oppose the Gulf Stream current and cause nasty waves to build up. The prevailing wind is generally from the east or southeast - you want it to be light because it will be against your direction of travel. This time of year you must be wary of continental cold fronts ...
As a cold front approaches, usually from the North East, the winds will begin clocking towards the South then West, and finally North.
Any change, veering or backing, from the prevailing Easterlies will generally indicate approaching “weather”.

Depending upon wind strength, a few days after a Norther returns to an Easterly (something), indicates a decent weather.
Obviously, specific weather reports & forecasts will/should be more accurate than these general “rules of Thumb”.
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Old 21-11-2007, 22:45   #8
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Iceman - Welcome Aboard. You have found the right place to ask questions and absorb a ton of practical knowledge.

Your boating adventure is a journey of learning. There are lot's of topics here about cruising in the Bahamas and many members who do the trip routinely.

The one thing you can't replace, buy or fabricate is time on the water. With a few years to retirement getting lessons, maybe a starter boat and getting time on the water is the best advidce you can get.

I didn't pick up on where you are located, maybe you can fill in some of your profile and someone from your neck of the woods can chime in with sailing school recommendations.

In the meantime you can browse and search for posts related to bahams cruising and do some reading.
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Old 22-11-2007, 05:27   #9
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If you are seriously considering a catamaran, you should seriously consider sailing lessons/teaching charters on a cat, not a monohull. Cats react differently to wind than do monos, and the need to reef earlier and prevent overpowering is very important to both your safety and enjoyment. There are other distinctions as well, and not everything they teach on a monohull translates well onto a cat.

I would also recommend the US Power Squadron courses as a good way to learn navigation and other important skills.

Fair winds and have fun with the process.
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Old 22-11-2007, 07:37   #10
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I currently live in Dallas but will be retiring in Fort Lauderdale. There is a pretty big lake 5 mins from me and they do have sailing lessons but for some reason I doubt they would be as good as lesson from someone on the coast. I doubt they concentrate much on blue water issues. Also, I dont believe there are any Cats of any size on this lake so monohull lessons would be my only option. I think lessons here might be a waste of time to be honest.

Thanks
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Old 22-11-2007, 10:50   #11
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Any time on a boat is beneficial. See if there is a local sailing club you can join and get aboard whatever you can. See if you can get on a boat that races. You'll learn lots.
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Old 22-11-2007, 11:45   #12
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Are you talking about Lake Livingston? We looked at property briefly.

I agree with Joli - Get out there and get sailing. Even dinghy time will make the transition quicker. There are a ton of skills to acquire.
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Old 22-11-2007, 12:14   #13
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Also, if you can afford it, you can go for the jugular. You can charter a cat with captain in BVI or St. Lucia/St. Vincent. Don’t know much about chartering in the Bahamas, but you can probably do it there as well. If you do this, you will learn some sailing skills, get an idea of what it's really like cruising on the kind of boat you think you want, and you will have a blast.
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Old 22-11-2007, 14:59   #14
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Aloha Iceman5,
Don't sell your local sailors short. Many times there are folks who did lots of cruising who needed to move inland. They miss sailing the open oceans and help teach at inland lakes.
I think it is good to learn to sail on a small monohull, then move to a Hobie Cat and then move up to a larger boat with more systems. Start with the book "Start Sailing Right!" if you are going to buy a book.
Kind Regards,
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Old 22-11-2007, 19:39   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iceman5 View Post
I looked thru the FAQs but didnt see any of these very basic questions answered. I apologize if this is posted in the wrong area.

My wife and I want to buy a boat (most likely a Catamaran) in a few years when we retire. My sailing experience is limited owning a 16' Hobie cat about 20 years ago. We dont know the slightest thing about sailing at this point so we are starting to do research now. Im currently reading "The Annapolis Book of Seamanship".

Obviously I wouldnt do this right off the bat , but lets say we wanted to sail from Ft.Lauderdale to the Bahamas.

Other than "dont hit anything"....what are the main concerns that I need to worry about?

1) I assume I can get a map of the area somewhere? Is there a website where i can buy maps of different areas that tell me exactly how to get there? Maps of the coastline area?

2) What do people use to find out about the forcasted weather?

3) I think there are maps that tell me about currents, typical winds and obstacles in the area?

4) What do I do when I get there? I have to "check in" with someone correct? Immigration or customs? Do I contact them by radio?

5) Is there some sort of cruising guides available to tell me where the harbors are so I know in advance where I'll be "docking" or using a morring or whatever?

I know these are very very basic questions and I really dont even know enough to know what to ask at this point, but I have to start somewhere right? Thanks for taking the time to help a rookie.
Welcome Iceman!
Since you are planning on some "blue water" cruising, you have a lot of preparation/learning ahead of you.
As a start, do take lessons, preferably on the type of boat you are buying but any water time you can get, will be better than sitting in a chair at home.

When you are sitting in a chair, read publications like; "Hal Sutphen's "Advanced Blue Water Cruising" ISBN O-9704560-0-X) published by the Cruising Rally Association. Books like this and others will address some of the topics you mentioned, (things you need to consider) selecting a boat, sails, dinghies, engines, batteries, preventative measure, weather, navigating, communications, provisioning, etc.

Getting instructions on how to sail is vitally important. In the interest of saving time, start where you are now, but when you get to Ft Lauderdale, find someone to give you "on the water" instructions and share local knowledge with you.

From Ft Lauderdale to Bimini, is approximately 70 miles. With "full sails" and the right conditions, passagemaking that distance isn't too difficult, especially for a knowledgeable sailor. If possible, do take a ride with someone else who is making the trip over, before you start out by yourself.
You might even find someone in a local Yacht Club who is willing to go along on your first trip, to show you the way.
"Passage making" is what most sailors do or at least dream of doing. Keep your expectations low and your goals high, and you will not likely be disappointed.
Bon Voyage,
Hawk
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