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Old 03-04-2015, 01:38   #1
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Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Hi everyone,
I'm a newly registered member here although I've been a 'lurker' for quite a while. My question(s) concern a prolonged (7-10 year) trip throughout the Caribbean.

I have a decent amount of experience sailing inland lakes on sloops and catamarans, but I've finally decided to start the planning and prep work for my dream of a long term cruise throughout the Caribbean. I would like to start in South Florida and work my way down the ABC islands, but as I'm not familiar with water sailing">blue water sailing (as I said my experience is primarily inland and some light costal daysailing) I'm curious to know if the boat I'm looking at (a Catalina 30) would be proficient to make the trip.

I am also interested in any other pertinent information such as provisioning info, possible routes (either inside or outside), how much cash to have on hand (not money in the bank but actual paper currency for customs, emergencies, etc.), and anything else you think I should know.

Thanks a bunch for reading a long drawn out post. Hopefully I will get some great advice as I know this forum is home to a ton of excellent sailors!


-Thomas
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Old 03-04-2015, 03:57   #2
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Thomas.
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Old 03-04-2015, 04:35   #3
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Welcome Thomas!

Will you be alone on the boat or +1 or +family?
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Old 03-04-2015, 06:20   #4
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Hi Carlos and welcome to the forum.

The Catalina 30 is more than adequate for cruising the Caribbean. Like any boat it requires intelligent management and must be sailed within it's limits. As many say, the most important equipment on a boat is the captain.

The Catalina is very roomy compared to most similar sized boats and sails pretty well. But if you're buying an older one just make sure you check out all critical systems before taking off.

Most islands in the Caribbean will have ATMs, provisioning and all the other benefits of civilization. Might not have all the food and brands you were used to at home but you will eat. The Out Islands of the Bahamas are a bit more deserted and you will have fewer options.

Not sure what you mean by routes inside or outside. From south FL to the islands there are lots of options depending on where you want to go. Basically eastern or western Caribbean.
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Old 03-04-2015, 07:20   #5
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Sorry, meant to say Hi Thomas.

Trying to read a work email from a guy named Carlos and type on Cruiser's Forum at the same time. Guess I'm getting too old and senile to multitask.
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Old 03-04-2015, 08:31   #6
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

I would not take a Catalina 30 offshore without thousands of $ in upgrades heavier rigging chain plates etc. Better to buy an older offshore type boat. You would find at 30 feet you were smallest boat in area. My Valiant 37 seemed tiny in the Car rib.
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Old 03-04-2015, 08:40   #7
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

My wife and I lived on a 32 footer for 10 days and found it small and slow. Did I mention SLOW! 36 plus!!! Life gets better at 40.
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Old 03-04-2015, 08:44   #8
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

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My wife and I lived on a 32 footer for 10 days and found it small and slow. Did I mention SLOW! 36 plus!!! Life gets better at 40.
What boat is big enough or not is so much a matter of personal preference.

I've met people that thought anything below 50' was tiny. On the other hand, I met two couples from Germany cruising the Caribbean on a 27' boat. Had been out for close to a year when I met them and all were perfectly happy with the boat. Of course I'm sure by that time they were all very good friends.
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Old 03-04-2015, 08:50   #9
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

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I would not take a Catalina 30 offshore without thousands of $ in upgrades heavier rigging chain plates etc. Better to buy an older offshore type boat. You would find at 30 feet you were smallest boat in area. My Valiant 37 seemed tiny in the Car rib.
Interesting since I haven't heard too many reports of major rig failures on the dozens of Cat 30s out cruising.

Had a good friend whose father had a Cat 30 that he raced in the local yacht club weekenders as well as cruising the far south Bahamas. They beat that boat way worse in races than anything I would ever do cruising and managed to keep the boat in one piece.

The entire Caribbean you can sail with mostly day sails with just one or two overnight passages. With just the minimum attention to weather and routing you would never have to sail in really nasty conditions.

Not saying you shouldn't carefully survey the rig and boat overall. But I think to say the boat is unsafe without major rigging upgrades I think is a bit too much.
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Old 03-04-2015, 08:56   #10
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

We have met two Cat 30's in the Indian Ocean that were circumnavigating.......'nuf said.
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Old 03-04-2015, 09:09   #11
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Sounds reasonable, if you take some time in Fla to do a serious shakedown and add all of the things you think you'll need or want.

From Fla to St. Martin is heading east. Unless you take the long offshore route that means there is a lot of uphill!! Read VanSant's book. Even though I don't think all of his suggestions are correct, there is a lot of great information in it. I did the thorny passage on the north coast of the DR several years ago and it's tough!

There are a small number of passages that would really benefit from a second person to stand watch, though a lot of people do them singlehanded.

There is one funny detail that you'll have to consider. Many countries will only allow a limited time cruising without having to "import" your vessel. That includes Florida! For example, you are limited to a year in the Bahamas. Check Noonsite for other restrictions.

Weather is going to be your biggest enemy. So make sure you have good ways to get weather reports. We used SSB weather...check out the Marine Weather Center https://www.mwxc.com/ But there are lots of options and since you are planning such an extended time, you may do just as well with internet at each stopping point.

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Old 03-04-2015, 09:46   #12
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

I would think it difficult to bring a Catalina 30 to the Caribbean without the experience to upgrade the rig, rudder, etc. to offshore standards. They were never sold as offshore boats and I know you can basically sail anything anywhere but why? Plenty of more robust used smaller boats on the market now. We just dropped anchor at Pigeon island, Guadeloupe having only come down from Dashaies and the wind was gusting down the mountain s at 35+. We had 2 reefs in the main and only the staysail out on our cutter rig and had all we could handle!
When in Curaçao on our last boat 5-6 years ago met a Canadian on a Catalina 36 who loved the boat but was headed home to buy a bigger one! Good luck and don't be afraid to sail to the Bahamas for a season to get the experience anchoring. Etc., before heading down-island


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Old 03-04-2015, 10:49   #13
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

Thanks everyone for the great advice so far! I did forget to mention that I will be doing this solo at least for the majority of the time (it's likely I'll meet up with some friends throughout the time I'm down there).

This is a long process as I'm still fairly early in the planning phase, so a Catalina 30 is only one of many options. I'd be more than open to any suggestions on which type of vessel to do the trip with although I don't want an overly large boat. I feel like singlehanding the trip on a 30 footer will be arduous enough.

Another thing on my long list of questions had to do with the various generators on the market and the approximate amount of power to expect out of them. I don't plan on having a fridge onboard and would be converting any lighting to LED's before the trip. The only power requirements I would have besides the ships equipment would be charging my macbook and powering up some speakers for some tunes while cruising. Not sure if a few solar panels and a wind turbine would get it done (never really had to budget my electricity) or am I way off?

Thanks again for all the help so far everyone!


-Thomas
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:02   #14
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

The Cat 30... if well inspected and up to snuff... will work. 7 years in the Carribean you wont need to go too fast! Other than the ABC's the long passages are overnighters . You might think twice about going to the ABC's and trying to get back in a Cat 30, you might be pounding to weather a lot.
I would focus on Rig, Rudder and Keel/bolts for sure.
If you mean you don't have the Cat 30 yet, then as mentioned above I would go with a more stout boat and one with a keel integral to the hull... just to cross one worry off the list.
There are many great 30-32 footers out there.
If you are not having refrigeration you life gets real easy. You don't need much charging ability. A good alternator, maybe a solar panel.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:19   #15
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Re: Questions about a prolonged trip in the Caribbean

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Originally Posted by ThomasWeiss View Post
This is a long process as I'm still fairly early in the planning phase, so a Catalina 30 is only one of many options. I'd be more than open to any suggestions on which type of vessel to do the trip with although I don't want an overly large boat.
I suggest you keep an eye on the small 'blue water' boats from the 70's and 80's.

I agree that a super sturdy and conservative boat is not necessary for the Caribbean. However, a lot of those boats have already traveled extensively and are sold with the cruising doo dads on them that you'd want. Windvane, nice anchoring system, hf radio, nice dinghy, and etc.

If that stuff works it can be a huge value and a whole mess of work you don't have to do.

I haven't checked on Yachtworld, but my instinct is that it's easier to find a 'well setup and reasonably ready to go' Westsail 32 or Pacific Seacraft or older Island Packet than a Catalina 30.

For your question about making electricity -- I'd start with a Honda 2000 portable generator. Super easy, it will 'just work', relatively inexpensive, and easy to sell at a cruisers swap meet if you later want to go all solar or wind.
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