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Old 23-10-2018, 14:41   #1
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Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Okay. I thought I had a great plan. Our short situation: 2 year sabbatical. Wife and 6 kids, ages 9 and down. We currently sail; Iím a dinghy/J22 instructor/lifeguard with NO experience beyond 36í monos. New boat is day charter equipped Lagoon 450F.

Current Plan:

1. Rent our house in California.
2. Road trip leisurely across the US after Christmas to Ft. Lauderdale where we have a private slip behind the home of a professional charter/delivery captain (who would also help bring the boat up).
3. Leave the family at Disney World for two weeks and fly to Aruba with crew to sail our sailboat up to the reserved dock. (Over 1,000nm).
4. Move aboard leisurely using AB&B when boat is untenable.
5. Complete solar array, house bank, inverters, etc., enclosures, radar, biminis, H2O maker, etc. (lots I can do myself IF parts are available).
6. Shakedown in the Florida Keys/Bahamas. (Many Captains around to help learn the boat).
7. Cast off after a few months.
8. Hurricane plan for 2019...???...yikes.

BUT, my wife just asked why we donít scrap the plan and fly to St. Thomas and live there while outfitting and learning the ropes. Her intent is to get to the destination and simplify the plan.

ANY WISDOM/CONCERNS WELCOME!
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Old 23-10-2018, 15:22   #2
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

The only downside I'd see to St. Thomas, is that anything you need has got to be SHIPPED THERE. So, something that might be available within a hour's ride, or overnite by Amazon on the US coast, becomes a week's waiting time for shipping, plus costs.

How big an issue that is, depends on how much work you want to put into the boat, and whether "untenable" means you're going to be tearing it up for extensive work.

And I suspect that food and lodging in St.T. are going to cost you more than in Florida.

As to hurricane plans...with the weather these days, you might try spending June 1 to November 30 in Scotland.(G) Best to ask your prospective insurer what they will demand of you, and work around that, as best you can.

It seems like Cat 4 storms (Irma, Michael, Matthew, and the one in Mexico now) are becoming more common, and wider, so they cross over from "hurricane" to "killdozer" and there's no effective way to duck them, except to try evacuating from the entire guessed route two or three weeks in advance.

On the bright side, it has been a long time since NY Harbor iced over for the winter. (In the 1770's folks actually skated from Brooklyn to Staten Island.)
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Old 23-10-2018, 15:44   #3
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Thanks HelloSailor,

All good points. The shipping/receiving aspect worries me. Itís been hard enough to get products from neighboring islands that different continents is daunting.

Scotland sounds nice, hehe.
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Old 23-10-2018, 16:12   #4
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

how about this plan:

1. Rent our house in California.
2. Road trip leisurely across the US after Christmas to Ft. Lauderdale where we have a private slip behind the home of a professional charter/delivery captain (who would also help bring the boat up).
3. Move family on board in Aruba. Go sailing. Island hop in a north bound direction.
4. After sailing a few months reevaluate upgrades required. Make priority upgrades that are convenient and cost effecive while continuing the cruise.
5. Get to North Carolina or Virginia for hurricane season 2019. Do major refit in New Bern or Deltaville per experience with the boat . Complete solar array, house bank, inverters, etc., enclosures, radar, biminis, H2O maker, etc. (lots I can do myself IF parts are available). Whatever is still left to do. Use Air B&B as required.
6. After refit head north to Maine for July August, and early September
7. Spend October in the Chesapeake, then in November return to the islands and finish sabatical.
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Old 23-10-2018, 16:51   #5
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Hello Stella Maris,
I echo HelloSailor. The shipping costs and unexpected time-whims of shipping companies in the Caribbean will drive you nuts.

I once delivered a custom 72' sloop from MA to Tortola around this time of year. We were struck by lighting off Bermuda and all electrics fried.

Despite almost immediately ordering replacements of everything upon arrival, the various components took 4 or 5 weeks to arrive and then there was the slogging away at the installations in the heat at Christmas time. And that was with a professional crew of 3 with no small people running around.

The short of it is the owner and guests expected to be on board from Boxing Day (Dec 26th) for 2 weeks and we had to cancel their plans because the boat was just not going to be ready.

So I validate HelloSailor's perspective. It's a significant one. And Sparx - I expect StellaMaris would like to ensure the boat is seaworthy before his wife and 6 kids move aboard full-time...? "Set up for day charter" doesn't sound reassuring to me - but that's just my 2-cents.

Best of luck with your sabbatical, Stella Maris!
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Old 23-10-2018, 17:25   #6
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Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Sparx - While I do love your idea, and maybe an adaptation of it should be applied, the others have voiced my concerns a bit.

While my wife and I could happily live aboard this stock L450 with the already 415watts of solar, a portable Honda genny, and jerry cans of water. Having the will-be 5 month old and siblings in tow makes me nervous to be too Ďadventurousí (a relative term I know). I need radar/weather forecasting at a minimum.

Also, insurance wants me signed off still for vessel this size; which could be done in Aruba/wherever (but Iíll still be green on this boat).

Maybe I apply the slow-to-refit idea and spend more time on day/weekend sails around southeast Florida with lots of support nearby?

Myself and a dozen friends/family built our new home four years ago. Everything planned to the hilt; yet years later I would have done so much different .
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Old 23-10-2018, 17:48   #7
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

OK, when I equipped my last two boats I had to deal with a similar situation.
My last boat was in Sardinia, the one before in rural Greece where there isn't much boating industry.

Also I don't speak Italian or Greek beyond what you need to get a beer, and the locals typically don't speak english or German. So very hard for me to source what I needed.


I first visited my boat for a couple of days and planned all installs down to the screws and nuts required, tools, wire length, etc. I took lots of photos and measurements.

At home I re-evaluated my plans, and planned every step of the installs. Bought tons of stuff online over winter time, packed a huge box and had it shipped to the boats.


Then I went there and installed everything. Of course I missed a few small things here and there but these small bits were easily sourced.

Projects included:
All electronics, sensors, network
Inverter
Large Solar & controllers
Batteries
Chargers
Additional fridge
watermaker0
Forced air diesel heater
Hardtop bimini
and many more


So yes, this is possible and cost effective. Shipping costs are easily offset by cheaper online sources.
Youj just need lots of planning time.
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Old 23-10-2018, 22:45   #8
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

"5. Get to North Carolina or Virginia for hurricane season 2019."
As many folks in NC found out the hard way this year, first they got clocked by a hurricane moving up the east coast. Massive devastation. Then, what, three weeks, a month? later they got clocked AGAIN when Michael came inland in Florida and blew north and east, and hit NC again--from behind.
Or, the massive late-season TS Sandy and before that hurricane Irene, both destroying boatyards and everything else up past NJ and NYC.
The old standard of getting "north of the FL-GA border" just isn't a guarantee any more.
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Old 24-10-2018, 00:41   #9
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

How livable is the boat now? Assuming it's mostly cosmetic or nice-but-not-critical, take the family to the boat and sort out what you need to update later.

For a 2 yr sabbatical, I wouldn't want to do a major refit. If it's minor stuff you can live with, plan on taking the whole family to the boat and maybe plan on a couple of flights back to Florida (or other cheap US destination) where you can hand carry key items back.

One thing we found when we moved aboard is once we started living aboard, some of the items we planned to change/add/upgrade...they really weren't that important and we never followed thru on them.

Biggest issue I see (assuming you actually want to get out and cruise), you will eat up at least half you sabbatical before you are ready to pull away from the dock in Florida. If you trade off the cost of delivery captain/crew, slip in Florida, airbnb in Florida, even if Aruba is a more expensive place to refit, odds are the net won't be much different.
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Old 24-10-2018, 09:54   #10
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparx View Post
how about this plan:

1. Rent our house in California.
2. Road trip leisurely across the US after Christmas to Ft. Lauderdale where we have a private slip behind the home of a professional charter/delivery captain (who would also help bring the boat up).
3. Move family on board in Aruba. Go sailing. Island hop in a north bound direction.
4. After sailing a few months reevaluate upgrades required. Make priority upgrades that are convenient and cost effecive while continuing the cruise.
5. Get to North Carolina or Virginia for hurricane season 2019. Do major refit in New Bern or Deltaville per experience with the boat . Complete solar array, house bank, inverters, etc., enclosures, radar, biminis, H2O maker, etc. (lots I can do myself IF parts are available). Whatever is still left to do. Use Air B&B as required.
6. After refit head north to Maine for July August, and early September
7. Spend October in the Chesapeake, then in November return to the islands and finish sabatical.
I like this plan better.

Florida sucks with 6 kids and you won’t go sailing much around Lauderdale.

Everything is upwind from there.

Parts are cheaper.

You will adjust to boat and kids will too IF you are having fun. Sitting behind a house on a canal with six kids doing boat projects? Misery.

We did the ‘buy 50’ cat” and just cruised her for a year with NO mods as well (with a one and four year old). Quickly learned what mattered and what didn’t. That is good advise.

Radar? Nice but not a must have in the Southern Caribbean. Weather? Turn on the VHF, iPhone or talk to “that guy” who spends all day following Chris Parker’s every breath. There is one of those guys in every anchorage and he never leaves :-)

Your wife is right, the trip east to west is magic. West to easy, not so much.
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Old 24-10-2018, 09:58   #11
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

If the boat is a charter equipped Lagoon I doubt you will be forced to lug around jerry cans of water. After all, the boat is set up for guests that are paying a good bit of money and expecting a fair degree of comfort and facilities.

In this situation I would make a solo trip to the boat to evaluate how much it will need to get it ready to go sailing. It wouldn't have to be perfect, just seaworthy and with reliable basic comforts. To me this would be:

Seaworthy - engine, fuel systems, sails, rigging, pumps, communications all 100%. I wouldn't worry too much about electronics as long as I had a good VHF. A handheld GPS and paper charts would get you on the road.

Comforts - Water of course, heads, fridge, galley.

Once that was all confirmed then bring the family down and make a leisurely trip north.
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Old 24-10-2018, 10:09   #12
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Do get a watermaker installed before putting your 6 kids and wife onboard. The rest you can figure out. Watermaker install shouldn't take long and you should be able to get someone on the islands qualified, or if not, fly someone down from Spectra or whoever you decide to go with. Need recommendations once you figure it out, just post. You'll get quite a few good ones...

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Old 24-10-2018, 10:18   #13
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

Sounds cheaper than leaving the family at Disney for a couple weeks. This would be the extent of my first hand experience with your plan.
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Old 24-10-2018, 10:46   #14
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

I must be missing something here. I have cruised in the Caribbean with a child under 1 year old and in BC and SE AK with 2 children 7 & 9. Here we are talking 6 children from newborn to 9. You are proposing a leisurely car trip across the US, leaving the family in Florida for a few weeks while you bring a boat North, living aboard for an extended period while refitting the boat, etc. This is nothing I can imagine doing in my worst nightmare, unless I had others helping my wife and I seven ways to Sunday. Are another family member or two available to assist in caring for and entertaining the children? Is a paid caregiver/nanny a possibility? Are you planning to take along crew to assist in boat handling on these "family" cruises?
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Old 24-10-2018, 11:04   #15
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Re: Bad Idea? Starting our cruise in St. Thomas (ish) vs. Florida? 6 kids...ya

I like your plan in general but would suggest going to St Martin for your refit rather than St Thomas. It has the head offices of the two big marine chains in the Caribbean (Island Water World and Budget) and a wide range of marine professionals if you need them.The Dutch side is also duty-free which is a plus. For hurricane season I would go to Grenada.
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