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Old 15-10-2012, 23:26   #1
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Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

My partner and I have decided that we are in desperate need of an adventure! Hoping to gain advice on alternative sailing routes for first time sailors.

Based on the wisdom of these forums, our budgets and our experience we plan on flying from our NZ home to Florida, buying a 32-36ft sailboat (something from the 80s hopefully already fitted out for blue water cruising), and setting sail in 2013. At this stage we are aiming to sail for a year and see as much as we can while moving at a snails pace. We like to get the feel of a place, take things slowly. We also will be living off a $1200 USD a month budget (for 2) so it is very important that we plan well. Its ok if we can only see a certain area of the world -as long as we get to truly experience it. We heard the Bahamas is a great training ground for people with little experience and so thought that would be a perfect first stop.



Its currently October, and we need a few months to get educated/pack up our lives, so thinking that anytime after April 2013 would be a realistic time for us to get on a plane. We want to start this adventure as soon as possible! And April would be that date!

Unfortunately, mother nature also has her own schedule... If all things went to plan (ha!) than we would only have a month or so of sailing in the Bahamas until Hurricane season hits in June/July. We obviously don't want to begin our adventure only to have it end after one month.

So instead, is it a possibility to sail from Florida in April/May 2013 over to Mexico and cruise our way down through Central and South America, reappearing around the Caribbean (hurricane area) in Dec/January once the weather is clear? Or is that a terrible route and we would hit bad weather/ bad winds throughout?

Any alternative routes, or more appropriate departure dates/destinations would be more than welcome. We just desperately don't want to wait another year to start this journey in a more suitable month (say December 2013). Life's too short, and hitting the dirtythirties means we want to get a good year or two of sailing in before babies and mortgages come to claim our souls.



And thanks for reading my lengthy post.
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Old 16-10-2012, 02:24   #2
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

That's going to make for a very tight schedule -- especially because you will almost certainly need some time to prep the boat.

Do you have any sailing experience? Boat maintenance experience?

April/May is a good window for FL to Mexico, but I would go sooner rather than later -- we had tropical weather this season starting in May.

And, if you keep a close eye on the weather, you can cruise Belize well into hurricane season. Typically the NW Carib does not get very active until late in hurricane season. When it does, you can head for Rio Dulce, Guatemala...along with most of the rest of the fleet from Belize.
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Old 16-10-2012, 16:17   #3
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

Thanks for your reply belizesailor.

We have very little sailing, boat maintainance experience. I lived on a yacht as a child for four years, and have had several lessons as an adult, but I am still a total novice. My partner is a mechanical engineer and both of us can't wait to learn about the workings of a boat. These forums suggest crewing, and various other education routes that we are hoping to go down before purchasing in Florida. But, yes its a massive undertaking :-) A worthy one, we believe.

When you say people head to Guatamala, does that mean everyone hunkers down in the marina for months? Or can you still move around? I guess this is our main concern, that we will have to wait it out somewhere and waste precious months.

Are people commonly sailing from Florida in April/May to destinations other than the Carribean?

Our other option is to buy a boat in NZ (so expensive!!) and sail the Pacific Islands, but our first ocean crossing so early in the game seems a little nutts to us. (And we hear it is a bad one).

Any thoughts, suggestions re. our options would be most appreciated.
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Old 16-10-2012, 17:53   #4
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

In the spring time, most boat are not heading to the Caribbean for the reasons you already mentioned. If they are heading anywhere, they are heading up the East Coast, some to the Chesapeake and others to New England or perhaps Eastern Canada. It is possible to go most of the way on the ICW, which may be a good option for you if you are still learning the ropes. Lots for you to see and do all the way to Newfoundland if you so desire. After the summer, you can then head down south and on to the Caribbean. Assuming you have the right boat and experience at that time, you may even want to go offshore via Bermuda and get there in a couple of weeks.
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Old 18-10-2012, 07:24   #5
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mojo Rising View Post
...

When you say people head to Guatamala, does that mean everyone hunkers down in the marina

for months? Or can you still move around? I guess this is our main concern, that we will have to

wait it out somewhere and waste precious months.

Are people commonly sailing from Florida in April/May to destinations other than the Carribean?

Our other option is to buy a boat in NZ (so expensive!!) and sail the Pacific Islands, but our first

ocean crossing so early in the game seems a little nutts to us. (And we hear it is a bad one).

Any thoughts, suggestions re. our options would be most appreciated.
Yes, a big undertaking indeed...don't underestimate the conditions, and hazards, along this route (FL to NW Carib) -- you will be crossing a couple of major ocean currents (Gulf Steam, Yucatan Current, and maybe the Gulf Loop Current depending upon your route) and these combined with weather can produce nasty conditions.

Many cruisers leave their boats in Rio Dulce, Guatemala for hurricane season. It is common for them to head back home and/or spend some time traveling inland in Guatemala (an amazing country, for example go to Google Images search and type in "Chichicastenago"...the resulting thumbnails mosaic, mostly of the huge market there, is spectacular...we just got back from "Chichi"). I do occasionally hear people whining about being "trapped" on their boat for months...I don't understand this...there is so much to see and do here that I get slightly frustrated that I don't see more each off-season...I've been living here since 2006 (mostly during the off-season) and I still have not seen it all. If you add the rest of the region (Central America) to that then the options are almost overwhelming. So, "hunker down" NO -- get of the bar stool and explore this amazing region. For example, we cruised to Panama last year, left the boat there (no worries about hurricanes once your south of 12N either) and then traveled over land back to Guatemala...great trip...really enjoyed Nicaragua. Also, the Rio Dulce is a big place, and some cruisers do reposition around the Rio during the off-season. There is also the occasional sailing event like the regatta last month. Visit riodulcechisme.com - Home for some insight into the cruising community here (many gringos clear in hear and never clear out...I sailed in here in 2006 and made it my home base).

Almost every direction from FL puts you somewhere in the Carib (remember the Carib is a big place including the Bahamas all the way over here to Guate). The only non-Carib route would be to head north along the east coast. Some great cruising destinations along that route too. You would be hard pressed to find a better place to be in the summer than the New England area and summer is peak sailing season there. So, heading "down east" for the summer and then to the Carib for the spring is a viable option and it is not an uncommon itinerary. I've know charter captains for whom this was their regular seasonal run.
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Old 18-10-2012, 10:38   #6
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

Sailing the bay and central america coasts does not get you out of the way of bad wx, does it?

You can sail June/July to Spain/Portugal via the Azores, then slowly sail her Southwards and visit the goodies (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Madeira, Marocco, Canaries, Capeverdies), cross Atlantic in October (Cape Verde to Guyana French), or else in November, hit West Indies in December, spend 6 months there!

b.
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Old 18-10-2012, 10:46   #7
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pirate Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Sailing the bay and central america coasts does not get you out of the way of bad wx, does it?

You can sail June/July to Spain/Portugal via the Azores, then slowly sail her Southwards and visit the goodies (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Madeira, Marocco, Canaries, Capeverdies), cross Atlantic in October (Cape Verde to Guyana French), or else in November, hit West Indies in December, spend 6 months there!

b.
+A1... and think of the money you'll save for end of leg partying while at sea...
Oh... and don't take the Bermuda route if you can help it
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Old 18-10-2012, 11:43   #8
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

Or, just stay in the Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean for hurricane season. You need to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts, stay within easy reach of a hurricane hole, and make plans to get off the boat and into a hotel or shelter on land if a hurricane hits.

The Bahamas in summer are nice. So is the Eastern Caribbean. Less crowded both places.

I'm assuming you pay cash for your boat. Insurance companies don't usually like this approach.
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Old 02-11-2012, 18:55   #9
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Re: Route Advice: Carribean April - Dec

Thanks everyone for the comments. Much appreciated -and my apologies for the delay in responce. I also want to extend my thoughts to those of you who have been effected by Hurricane Sandy. We live in earthquake stricken Christchurch, NZ and it was not long ago that we were living for weeks with no power or water among the destruction of our neighbourhood. It's scary and hard, but witnessing the kindness and compassion people show towards each other made the experience a positive one for us in the end.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Lefebvre View Post
In the spring time, most boat are not heading to the Caribbean for the reasons you already mentioned. If they are heading anywhere, they are heading up the East Coast, some to the Chesapeake and others to New England or perhaps Eastern Canada. It is possible to go most of the way on the ICW, which may be a good option for you if you are still learning the ropes. Lots for you to see and do all the way to Newfoundland if you so desire. After the summer, you can then head down south and on to the Caribbean. Assuming you have the right boat and experience at that time, you may even want to go offshore via Bermuda and get there in a couple of weeks.

This is option would make a lot of sense. We are only hesitant to spend so long near the States/Canada because we are worried that cost of living will be more expensive in those areas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Yes, a big undertaking indeed...don't underestimate the conditions, and hazards, along this route (FL to NW Carib) -- you will be crossing a couple of major ocean currents (Gulf Steam, Yucatan Current, and maybe the Gulf Loop Current depending upon your route) and these combined with weather can produce nasty conditions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post

Many cruisers leave their boats in Rio Dulce, Guatemala for hurricane season. It is common for them to head back home and/or spend some time traveling inland in Guatemala (an amazing country, for example go to Google Images search and type in "Chichicastenago"...the resulting thumbnails mosaic, mostly of the huge market there, is spectacular...we just got back from "Chichi"). I do occasionally hear people whining about being "trapped" on their boat for months...I don't understand this...there is so much to see and do here that I get slightly frustrated that I don't see more each off-season...I've been living here since 2006 (mostly during the off-season) and I still have not seen it all. If you add the rest of the region (Central America) to that then the options are almost overwhelming. So, "hunker down" NO -- get of the bar stool and explore this amazing region. For example, we cruised to Panama last year, left the boat there (no worries about hurricanes once your south of 12N either) and then traveled over land back to Guatemala...great trip...really enjoyed Nicaragua. Also, the Rio Dulce is a big place, and some cruisers do reposition around the Rio during the off-season. There is also the occasional sailing event like the regatta last month. Visit riodulcechisme.com - Home for some insight into the cruising community here (many gringos clear in hear and never clear out...I sailed in here in 2006 and made it my home base).
.
Beautiful pictures of Guatemala. I cant wait to experience that area for myself. We are actually big fans of 'hunkering down' in countries. We believe it lets you really feel the place, get to know the locals, the culture. I have also heard great things about some of the off-season yachting communities out there. We just don't have a lot of time/money to spare and one of our reasons for choosing sailing, is that we want to have the freedom to move around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tia Bu View Post

The Bahamas in summer are nice. So is the Eastern Caribbean. Less crowded both places.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tia Bu View Post

I'm assuming you pay cash for your boat. Insurance companies don't usually like this approach.
Less crowded sounds awesome What do you mean by paying cash for the boat and insurance?

The more we research the more we are inclined to be patient (sigh) and wait it out in NZ until the weather is on our side. So this would mean boat hunting/provisioning in Sept/Oct 2013 and setting sail in Nov/December. BUT waiting is definitely not ideal (did I mention we live in quake zoned Christchurch?) and so we shall see.

The suggestions of heading over to Spain etc is one that we will definitely investigate. We are just worried that it might be a bit ambitious for us to sail that distance as 'beginners'. Do many 'new' sailors do this???
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