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Old 23-09-2009, 11:55   #1
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Cruising South America - Need Advice

Thursday we bought a SeaWind 1000 Cat. We initially thought we would sail the Bahamas and make our way to the BVI. However, we have reconsidered since we are having the boat ferried to Kemah, Texas (long story). We now are thinking of cruising Mexico and South America and end up at the BVI. My question is where do we get current information about where it is safe and what area's (if any) we should avoid. My husband works Turnarounds at Petro Chemical companies and we are going to work, liveaboard, and sail in-between jobs. Any and all help is appreciated. I have had some difficulty negotiating around this forum but I am sure it is operator error. Thanks in advance.
Linda
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Old 23-09-2009, 11:57   #2
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Old 23-09-2009, 17:58   #3
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Originally Posted by Linda Sitton View Post
where do we get current information about where it is safe and what area's (if any) we should avoid. Linda
Hi Linda,

You get it 'on the road'. So each port you go to you will find everyone talking about the next ports - good and bad. So we are in Johor Bahru, Malaysia now and people we are bumping into are telling us what their experiences were like further up the coast. We are now Phuket experts - but we havent been yet!

So by the time you are in the southern Carribean you will find people who have just come out of South America and will be able to give you the full drum on whats best.

We want to do South America soooo bad! I think Nicolle already has her Samba dress designed

Just head the way you think you want to go and the information will find you
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Old 23-09-2009, 18:27   #4
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CIA has good site with up to date info on safety for US citizens.
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Old 24-09-2009, 05:39   #5
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Thank you all for your response. I am a planner and very cautious by nature so letting the information find me is a difficult position for me to take. It makes the most sense since conditions are fluid rather than static. I guess part of this adventure is getting outside my comfort zone.

Linda
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Old 24-09-2009, 05:49   #6
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If you read Jimmy Cornells's "World Cruising Routes" you might decide you are doing the trip the wrong way round. Panama to the Virgins might be a very long slog to windward into the current.

If you have moderate experience Florida-Bahamas-Islands will be easier still a slog to windward but with more nice places to stop or get things fixed.

It is the way we are doing it; we have just done Florida to Trinidad.

Good luck and it really is not as hard as it might appear.
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Old 24-09-2009, 06:09   #7
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Linda,

Along with the recommendations in the previous posts, the Caribbean Safety and Security Net is another pretty good resource, although it's reports are not vetted. Also, the U.S. State Department publishes and updates information, including security alerts, for individual countries here: Country Specific Information .

However, I'd caution you to be careful how you digest and act on the information you get, from whatever source. It would be easy for someone new to cruising, especially one with a cautious nature, to conclude that there are mortal dangers lurking everywhere. That is absolutely not the case, and thinking it so could ruin what should be the most wonderful experience of your life. The vast majority of us who have cruised the areas you're planning to visit have had marvelous times, and have experienced no crime whatsoever.

Read what you can find, and listen to others' opinions, but keep in mind that some people revel in overstating "doom and gloom". Practice situational awareness and take normal precautions, and you should have no troubles at all.
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Old 25-09-2009, 15:21   #8
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... However, I'd caution you to be careful how you digest and act on the information you get, from whatever source. It would be easy for someone new to cruising, especially one with a cautious nature, to conclude that there are mortal dangers lurking everywhere. That is absolutely not the case and thinking it so could ruin what should be the most wonderful experience of your life. The vast majority of us who have cruised the areas you're planning to visit have had marvelous times, and have experienced no crime whatsoever.
Read what you can find, and listen to others' opinions, but keep in mind that some people revel in overstating "doom and gloom". Practice situational awareness and take normal precautions, and you should have no troubles at all.

Indeed !
Wise and perspicacious advice, as always.
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Old 25-09-2009, 21:55   #9
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- - For the first time I would have to strongly disagree with HUD3. Melodye's Caribbean Safety and Security Net does "vette" the reports she receives. Many of the reports sent in to her are rejected unless she can get supporting information. I do that for her occasionally. In the last 5 years the security situation in the eastern and southern and western Caribbean has worsened. To put it in perspective it has gone from "rarely happens" to "occasionally happens". The percentages are are still very low considering the volume of boats transiting the areas. But if you are one of those ones that does get hit, you could care less about all the ones who did not get hit.
- - I would argue that "normal precautions" are not enough anymore. You need to be more aware and do more research and better prepare yourself with plans of action should you have an encounter. Planning and preparing for an incident will greatly reduce the likelihood a lot of times and especially prepare you mentally for the trauma. As populations increase everywhere and jobs disappear young people do whatever is necessary to get what they need.
- - That should not in anyway discourage you from heading out on your adventure. It is still very true that the vast majority have no problems whatsoever. But the "not-vast" group is growing - either from increased activity or increased reporting.
- - One sort of new precaution, in light of recent reports - is to travel in a group rather than striking out on your own, especially in areas of reported increased activity. And anchoring out away from the "herd" is definitely very risky now. The pattern is emerging that the "bad guys" prefer to "pick off strays" away from the main herd.
- - I know people and have seen people who can cross an interstate highway blind drunk and never get a scratch. But unless you life falls in that category of karma, taking a few precautions, educating yourself and planning for possible encounters ahead of time can go a long way towards shifting yourself into the "vast majority" category.
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Old 26-09-2009, 10:06   #10
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I agree with Osiris; we've been in the Caribbean for 7 years and have seen the gradual change.

Also, recent political issues, like the coup in Honduras and the weapons-race Chavez seems to be in, worry me too. I know Chavez talks more than he attacks nations but things are in motion towards the wrong direction. I would not be very surprised if (civil) war breaks out in the mentioned areas in the years to come.

cheers,
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Old 29-09-2009, 04:13   #11
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the best way to find out info is as marcj stated - 'on the road'. The problem with advice about safety is that most people who give it are just passing it on from someone else who passed it on from soeone else, you rarely get as much first hand info as the person telling you would have you believe. That is why you will get more accurate information when you are only a port or two away, you are speaking to people fresh from there...

...you are also going the 'hard way' round and will have strong headwinds and large swells, might want to rethink your itinerary...
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Old 29-09-2009, 05:02   #12
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I have lived and/or travelled overseas since I was 9 years old. I havent been on a boat until the last few years but with all due respect to those living long term in the Caribbean (and yes, I lived there for several years too) much of the talk strikes me as that of naive and paranoid Americans who didnt imagine that things could ever be unpleasant in the beautiful tropics. Of COURSE they have civil wars and coups in low income countries. When didnt they? I have lived through wars, states of siege, evacuations, etc. To think that you can just say "tra la la" and dance blindly through the islands never was the case and it isnt now. As someone above said, take reasonable precautions and you will be OK. If it is obvious that civil order has broken down somewhere then dont go there (duh). But I have to say, NOTHING I have ever seen down south has ever been as dangerous as Central Park in NY used to be. Or other parts of NY still are.

I think part of the problem for some is that in other cultures the "street sense" radar that might work for you in a city at home doesnt work as well. The social cues are sometimes a bit different and your sense of when to go somewhere and when not to might not be the same. Oh, and I have always found those state department security reports to be ridiculously overblown - They often take one incident as a reason to declare whole countries or provinces as too dangerous to go to. The Brits are often a lot more believable.
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Old 29-09-2009, 09:31   #13
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- - I think that "Sck5" is a close as you can get to the core of the situation anywhere. "Street sense" means how you sense and look at the world. Knowing the language, blending in with the local population, having a positive upbeat attitude matched with a constantly wary eye, and listening and evaluating what other folks have to say about a particular area is the secret to "uneventful" journeys.
- - Total "doom and gloom" or being total naive is not a recipe for happiness when cruising. I would suggest a blend somewhere in the middle is the best. And having tracked things over a couple of decades or more, I found it all runs in cycles. For a period of time one area will be idyllic and 5 years later very dangerous - give it another 5 years and it is back to idyllic. The period of time in a cycle can vary significantly, but the point is things are always changing which is why general past history is a fine starter but current information obtained "down stream" from others just leaving the area holds a lot of strength. It would be horrible to miss a glorious experience because something that happened 5 years ago scared you off.
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Old 29-09-2009, 11:45   #14
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Wow! Thank you everyone. Based on advice given here we have revised our plans of going to Mexico at this time. We certainly don't want to take the harder route and we value the wisdom of those with experience. Our boat is in Brunswick, Ga and we considered just leaving her there but we want to be with family while we are making some needed repairs. She needs new windows, bottom paint, we are putting in A/C ( I know I am a wimp), a fresh water maker and hopefully a microwave/convection oven. I am sure some are thinking "why is she leaving home?" but I am not a great minimalist. I totally admire those who are "true sailors" but I am afraid I am not in that category. Maybe I'll evolve Anyway, we are having her ferried to Kemah. We will outfit her here and then I think we have decided to go along the Gulf Coast to Florida and then the Bahama's. Allons-Y' (what we are naming her) will get a good sea trial while we are in US waters. Our families are much happier about our decision and that does factor into our decision some. We are planning on having sailmail. How do computers fair for extended periods of time cruising? Should we have a back-up with us or have one sent to us if the need arises? We are so grateful for everyone who is being so generous with their knowledge. We want to be considerate, gracious sailors.
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Old 29-09-2009, 21:38   #15
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- - We use normal lapbook computers - wide screen - as do many other cruisers. You can get them off the internet or your favorite discount stores like BESTBUY, WALMARTS, CIRCUIT CITY, etc., etc. But pay attention to the brightness of the screen. Using the computer in the cockpit or outside a marina can result in not seeing what's on the screen if the LCD does not have good brightness. For water protection get a PELICAN case that fits the computer.
- - As a back up and second computer for the wife, we have an ACER One Netbook. These are the smaller computers about 11" wide and an inch thick. They are fabulous as they fit nicely into a 2 gal ziplock baggies for water protection. Samsung and HP and others make the same size Netbooks. Of course get the big hard drive 160Gb.
- - Also an external powered WiFi USB antenna is a very good idea. Then you can sit in your boat and pick up local WiFi and you are "on the web." Radio Labs has a popular waterproof one specifically for the marine environment. ¤RadioLabs || WaveRV Marine - Wireless antenna There are others available, just be sure they are omni-directional, powered and waterproof with a USB cable to connect to your computer.
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