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Old 25-09-2012, 09:52   #1
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Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

November 2012.

By Halloween, I will be sailing to Dominican Republic with an old sea dog who wishes to retire down there. Likely stops include Cuba and Bahamas. This will be my first sailing trip. Although I have been at sea for an extended period of time (64 days in the Southern Ocean from McMurdo to Punta Arenas, Chile), I was not involved in navigation in any way since it was a research cruise.

The vessel this time will be a 29 ft fractional rig, and we'll be sailing. I have not discussed the details yet with the captain/retiree, but I presume we'll be heading south-south-east from Panacea, Fl toward the Keys. We'll have Nav Charts, GPS, depth finder, possibly a few other gadgets. A visit to Cuba was mentioned, so I guess we'll head from Key West to Havana....

There is a month before the cruise is underway, and I wanted to share my thoughts and ask for advice/experience everyone here has to offer.

I have personally sailed for only a single hour in the Gulf of Mexico, but otherwise have spent 1000s of hours on the water. It makes me nervous a little that my first sailing experience will be at least two weeks, including the crossing of the Straits of Florida.



What do you folks think? I'll keep the information flowing as soon as I get updates.
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Old 25-09-2012, 11:29   #2
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Sounds like a great trip. A few suggestions. First, there are legal concerns for US citizens visiting Cuba. You might want to click on this link to read one of the more recent discussions.

Cuba for a small US Flagged S/V?

Also, post #6 in that discussion will link to to six previous discussions on the subject of Cuba travel.

Next, regarding time for the trip, I think two weeks is seriously underestimated, especially if you plan to stop anywhere at all on the way. I have taken two months to do a similar trip. You need to make sure you have much more than two weeks for the trip or some way to get home when you have to be back.

In addition to the distance it could be very slow going because from Florida to the DR it is against the wind all the way. The sailing could be pretty bumpy unless you hole up and wait for calmer conditions which might involve motoring for hours and hours. You might want to check with the captain to make sure the engine is in good shape.

Don't want to discourage you as the trip takes you through some of the most beautiful water in the world and could be a wonderful voyage. But you say you have very little experience so you do need to know what's in store.
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Old 25-09-2012, 12:23   #3
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Sounds like a great trip. A few suggestions. First, there are legal concerns for US citizens visiting Cuba. You might want to click on this link to read one of the more recent discussions.

Cuba for a small US Flagged S/V?

Also, post #6 in that discussion will link to to six previous discussions on the subject of Cuba travel.

Next, regarding time for the trip, I think two weeks is seriously underestimated, especially if you plan to stop anywhere at all on the way. I have taken two months to do a similar trip. You need to make sure you have much more than two weeks for the trip or some way to get home when you have to be back.

In addition to the distance it could be very slow going because from Florida to the DR it is against the wind all the way. The sailing could be pretty bumpy unless you hole up and wait for calmer conditions which might involve motoring for hours and hours. You might want to check with the captain to make sure the engine is in good shape.

Don't want to discourage you as the trip takes you through some of the most beautiful water in the world and could be a wonderful voyage. But you say you have very little experience so you do need to know what's in store.
I had a look at all the comments on the Cuba travel issue. For me, as a US non-res, I would travel from the US to the Bahamas and then to Cuba. My return would be to the Bahamas or any other Caribbean port before I sailed back into US waters. I surely should be safe from harassment form the US authorities then; or would they confiscate my 1 year cruising permit?
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Old 25-09-2012, 12:45   #4
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

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I had a look at all the comments on the Cuba travel issue. For me, as a US non-res, I would travel from the US to the Bahamas and then to Cuba. My return would be to the Bahamas or any other Caribbean port before I sailed back into US waters. I surely should be safe from harassment form the US authorities then; or would they confiscate my 1 year cruising permit?
Non-res but I think also not US passport. Didn't you mention UK and S Africa?

Reason I ask, if you are a US citizen or US passport, no matter where you reside, the US will want you to play by their rules.

Even as a UK or other country citizen I have heard several reports of US officials harassing boaters coming from Cuba, mainly in the Keys and south Florida. To be safe, if you travel to Cuba, even if you stop in the Bahamas or other countries before checking in to the US I would avoid south Florida and try to clear in in Ft Lauderdale or points north (or Tampa/St Petersburg on the west coast).
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Old 25-09-2012, 14:06   #5
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

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Non-res but I think also not US passport. Didn't you mention UK and S Africa?

Reason I ask, if you are a US citizen or US passport, no matter where you reside, the US will want you to play by their rules.

Even as a UK or other country citizen I have heard several reports of US officials harassing boaters coming from Cuba, mainly in the Keys and south Florida. To be safe, if you travel to Cuba, even if you stop in the Bahamas or other countries before checking in to the US I would avoid south Florida and try to clear in in Ft Lauderdale or points north (or Tampa/St Petersburg on the west coast).
Yeah I will have a UK passport with me. My South African one needs to be renewed unfortunately. I agree, rather not take any chances and check in further North. No way I would want to jeopardise our boat.
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:14   #6
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

I've made a similar trip from Bahamas to Luperon. My two cents:

29' fractional rig, 1,000 miles to weather, before the end of hurricane season, two weeks time.....not saying its impossible or even dangerous, but it will be a trial by fire for sure!

What kind of boat? It will make all the difference. Autopilot will be a big deal if you are pushing that hard.

“Adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine.”
J.R.R. Tolkien
Good luck!!
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Old 25-09-2012, 18:21   #7
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Yea sounds like fun, I would take a personal EPIRB.......just sayin.
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Old 26-09-2012, 08:09   #8
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

EPIRB! I may not have the cash in time to get one of these lifesavers, but a recent canoe trip made me want one!

(Tangent: A friend and I left Dog Island after sunset, which is only three miles from shore, but we were seeing waves as high as our chests, and the wind was pretty awesome. We had to paddle landward on a close haul, which kept the waves from breaking broadside. We never capsized, but it was frightening to go through all that at night. After 2 1/2 hours of race-worth paddling, we made about 3.5 miles of water, landing only one mile south of where we parked the truck.)

Ok, thanks all for the posts. This is what I got out of it...
  1. 29 Ft sailboat, 2 men, headed to DR from Apalachee Bay, FL
  2. 2 months, give or take, should be alotted for the trip
  3. visiting Cuba: requires (1) US permission (2) Cuban Tourist Card ($20) + passport, snacks, toys, etc. for "happy" officials; 2-3+ hrs in customs; Tobacco+Rum!
  4. Winds against us, close hauling... no autopilot...

I'll be packing weather gear">foul weather gear, First Aid Kit with sewing needles, etc., flares....

Another thing that my girlfriend brought up: When I went camping in Chile for 5 days, there were no communications. It was something I treasured, but family and gf were very anxious about. Does anyone here place mortal value on having a SatPhone, or would money be better spent on an EPIRB?

With a Sat.Phone, there would only be a guesswork of where to look for floaters... so EPIRB seems better...

I've also thought about wearing a hunting vest of mine, with loads of pockets all over it, packed with survival goodies. It would be something I wear most of the time... This being my first trip, I am obsessing about everything....

Thanks everybody!

oh yeah... and Pirates... I'll search the forum, but we plan on having a pistol and rifle aboard, which isn't much, but it's the minimum--I think--that we are willing to take.

noonsite.com

Piracy in Caribbean
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Old 26-09-2012, 08:18   #9
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

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oh yeah... and Pirates... I'll search the forum, but we plan on having a pistol and rifle aboard, which isn't much, but it's the minimum--I think--that we are willing to take.
Now you have opened another, very large, can of worms. Guns on boats can be a big problem. In some countries they are illegal. In many countries, like Cuba, you have to turn them in to the authorities when you check in and hope to get them back when you leave. If you plan to check in at one port and depart from another you will probably never see the guns again.

Some countries you run the risk of arrest. Search previous threads on this forum about guns. One member was arrested in Mexico for possession of a pistol which he claims was legally declared on entry but...

Here is one of many, many threads on guns.
Firearms Regulations by Country
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Old 26-09-2012, 11:14   #10
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Absolutely would not go without an autopilot. It's the essential 3rd crew on the boat. If someone gets sick or hurt or a gear failure requires "all hands" the limitations of having to manually steer will become painfully obvious. Tired crew make mistakes!
Your odds of needing an EPIRB or gun are miniscule IMHO.
Congrats on extending your window to complete the voyage - smart move!
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Old 16-10-2012, 08:26   #11
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Trip UPDATE:

Our vessel is a 1978 30' (29'11") O'Day. We'll have a chartplotter, autopilot, and a backup GPS. VHF radio, as well as handheld. No refrigeration.... not so bad. We might also have a second mate, making a crew of three.

Getting a Cuban courtesy flag and Q flag today. Probably getting food this week also. As the trip is soon approaching, the excitement is growing. If there are problems in the first week or two of the cruise, then delaying the cruise and mooring somewhere in Florida is a viable option. Other than that, it's looking pretty good.
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Old 28-10-2012, 14:24   #12
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Cuba is probably out of the question, as we never got Dept. of Treasury approval. Another trip maybe...

November 1 is a go, so far. Hurricane Sandy has passed us and now haunts the Northeast. I picked up a logbook for the trip, to ease Customs/Clearance procedures. We plan to make landfall in Cofresi (Ocean World Marina), just west of Puerto Plata.

I've never really sailed before, so as you might expect, "I'm freakin' out!". Anchoring at night, 3-5 miles off of Florida, my father recommended night watches to avoid getting run over by barges/commercial freighters. However, the owner of the vessel seems to have no problem sleeping through the night. Any recommendations/experience is appreciated. (We have anchor lights.)

Once we depart Marathon, there won't be anymore anchoring until Dominican Republic, save for emergencies. Basically, is the bottom line that we sail in shifts? 24/7 until we make it to DR, right?

Ugh! I'm still researching what I can on currents in the Caribbean, but the captain has sailed to DR on a handful of occasions, as well as other places. But I feel responsible to know everything I can....

Thanks all!
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Old 29-10-2012, 08:35   #13
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Ok.

I found the answer to Keeping Watch: here and a few other places. I got a book on seamanship, specifically for sailing, so I'll keep going through that, in addition to Boater's Reference Guide, a beautiful collection of knowledge. As for the deep waters to DR, via Nicholas Channel and Old Bahama Channel (Chart 11013), there are shallows in Bahama Territories, but requires a check-in ($150) before anchoring.
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Old 29-10-2012, 09:12   #14
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

When you factor in that the nautical miles from Marathon to Ocean World, D.R. is about 660nm by the most direct route and 720nm by the "normal" route - you will see that your 2 weeks is grossly inadequate. Averaging 4 kts for that size boat gives about 7 to 8 days underway - but - you would be astronomically lucky to be able to experience good sailing conditions at this time of year to allow a "non-stop."

Frontal systems normally pass eastward off Florida every 5 to 7 days and it is normal to have to wait for maybe 2 or 3 fronts to pass before you get acceptable weather to continue from one weather "port of refuge" to another weather "port of refuge." Especially in such a small boat and assuming that it has minimal, if any, engine propulsion and fuel.

It is the weather conditions and the stamina of the crew to endure potentially nasty and smashing conditions for day after day, hour after hour, day and night. Although such a schedule could possibly be done - I would with certainty say the trip would be an ordeal from hell - or - just plain - not fun!

Allocating two or three months and including stops in Miami, and throughout the lower and eastern Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos would change an "ordeal" into a great adventure. Look at the CF threads on the HMS Bounty to imagine what can happen when you have a "schedule to keep."
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Old 29-10-2012, 10:04   #15
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Re: Sailing from Panacea,Fl to Dominican Republic

Thanks Osirissail.

I looked at clearance into the Bahamas this morning in case we decide to go that route. Yes, it is certainly clear that 2 weeks is naive--ignorant in my case. I have my new passport, so there is no time limit for our arrival in the DR. Although back by Christmas would be nice. We have food for at least 30 days, probably closer to 45. Water that should last nearly a month.

The owner/operator doesn't want to work himself to death before taking it easy in the DR. We will probably end up sailing about 8 hours in the beginning--with cooperative weather, until I get more comfortable sailing, then maybe longer in shifts. I'll keep a log and report back to you guys how the trip goes.
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