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Old 10-11-2015, 19:27   #1
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How stupid is this idea?

Recently, I've been thinking about taking a year and living aboard. Ideally, I'd like to do this within the next year and a half. I know that there are a fair amount of threads with similar topics, but my question pertains mainly to age. I'm looking to spend the year sailing with a friend and we will both be 18 at time. Is this a bad idea? We both have a lot of experience racing small dinghies and have spent some time crewing on a larger (70 ft) schooner. We're looking to by a 25-30 ft boat for under $10,000. Is this realistic? We want to go towards the Caribbean and island hop after that, anchoring each night. Are there problems that we'll face because of how young we are? We don't want to dock for financial reasons, so this may help with some potential problems. Coming out of the US will we face legal issues? I know most people tend to cruise after they retire, but neither of us want to wait that long. We're looking to do it as a gap year before college, so it will only be for the year. Any thoughts would be helpful and thank you in advance!
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Old 10-11-2015, 19:57   #2
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

At 18 you're both adults....no reason not to do this. Get your passports and go. It's relatively cheap if you don't take all the amenities, rather get a good small boat and use it like a Taj Mahal tent.


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Old 10-11-2015, 20:02   #3
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

I cannot speak with authority on the legal issues, but would imagine if passports and ownership papers are in order (vessel is too small to document), I doubt that you'll have any.

As to the general question - take it slow and careful and have a great adventure.

My brother and a friend sailed throughout the Puget Sound and Gulf Islands (Salish Sea) on an Oday 21 for a good chunk of a year and both saw and learned a lot during the trip. 30 years on, one is about to set off on an around the world cruise, and one owns a successful shipwright company.
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Old 10-11-2015, 20:07   #4
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 420sailor View Post
Recently, I've been thinking about taking a year and living aboard. Ideally, I'd like to do this within the next year and a half. I know that there are a fair amount of threads with similar topics, but my question pertains mainly to age. I'm looking to spend the year sailing with a friend and we will both be 18 at time. Is this a bad idea? We both have a lot of experience racing small dinghies and have spent some time crewing on a larger (70 ft) schooner. We're looking to by a 25-30 ft boat for under $10,000. Is this realistic? We want to go towards the Caribbean and island hop after that, anchoring each night. Are there problems that we'll face because of how young we are? We don't want to dock for financial reasons, so this may help with some potential problems. Coming out of the US will we face legal issues? I know most people tend to cruise after they retire, but neither of us want to wait that long. We're looking to do it as a gap year before college, so it will only be for the year. Any thoughts would be helpful and thank you in advance!
It can be done, and there is nothing wrong with doing it at your age, particularly as you already have sailing experience. Living on the hook in the Caribbean is no issue, and is actually far preferable, as well as cheap, by and large. In between professional work on other boats I spent half a decade on the hook in various areas of the Caribbean. No issues in terms of regulatory for a US citizen cruising the islands. I would suggest Eastern Caribbean: Windwards and Leewards, rather than Western and coastal. Best to start in the Bahamas, perhaps for a long while. There is a lot to see and do there. Just beware of the crime and stay away from drugs. The latter invites trouble in the Carib regions. It is more what I think you want. If you do end up going further then long slog to windward will likely be your first series of hurdles (after the set up lot), but once in the EC it is reaching most of the time, followed by a long reach/run back. Make sure you get yourself a SOUND vessel, buy a small chartplotter and some paper charts as well as a handheld GPS, or two reliable gps sets, which can be bought cheaply or second hand. Ideally would be good if you could gen up on some celestial navigation, but it is essential to have a good navigational understanding in any case, and not rely solely on tech which may fail. Do have a decent radio, and do have some means of long range distress signalling. A correctly registered 406 EPIRB is best.

Make sure you get your papers in order (boat papers, registration, your own passports etc. You should have insurance as well, as some jurisdictions require it, and foreign medical insurance is a good idea… And respect the tropical seasonal rotation: do not play dice with tropical storms or hurricanes. You will find the Caribbean expensive, but go local and small and you will do just fine. Definitely fish!

Avoid lonely anchorages near population centres, and stay away from Venezuela.

Be conscientious and careful in your passage planning and planning in general.

Have at least a plan B and C for all eventualities.

It has to be said you are going to struggle to do it on the budget you suggest, though… but certainly it can be done. Do not to cut essential corners however, and be sure your boat is sound, first of all!

Also, try some shorter trips first, then expand. Try not to go big first off. Learn by errors and expect lots of hard work in maintenance and preparation.
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Old 10-11-2015, 20:22   #5
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Stupid? It's a great idea! A bit difficult to implement, but still a great idea.

Everyone who hasn't seen it, watch Hold Fast, then tell 420 why he shouldn't try.

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Old 10-11-2015, 20:40   #6
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Sounds like a great idea for a gap year!

Go for it.
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Old 10-11-2015, 20:46   #7
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

It's a great idea and I wish I'd done it myself.

Assuming you don't run out of money you'll be laughing. As long as Mum and Dad can bail you out when your eftpos account runs out I can't see a problem :-)

Enjoy.
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Old 10-11-2015, 20:49   #8
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Muckle Flugga View Post
It can be done, and there is nothing wrong with doing it at your age, particularly as you already have sailing experience. Living on the hook in the Caribbean is no issue, and is actually far preferable, as well as cheap, by and large. In between professional work on other boats I spent half a decade on the hook in various areas of the Caribbean. No issues in terms of regulatory for a US citizen cruising the islands. I would suggest Eastern Caribbean: Windwards and Leewards, rather than Western and coastal. Best to start in the Bahamas, perhaps for a long while. There is a lot to see and do there. Just beware of the crime and stay away from drugs. The latter invites trouble in the Carib regions. It is more what I think you want. If you do end up going further then long slog to windward will likely be your first series of hurdles (after the set up lot), but once in the EC it is reaching most of the time, followed by a long reach/run back. Make sure you get yourself a SOUND vessel, buy a small chartplotter and some paper charts as well as a handheld GPS, or two reliable gps sets, which can be bought cheaply or second hand. Ideally would be good if you could gen up on some celestial navigation, but it is essential to have a good navigational understanding in any case, and not rely solely on tech which may fail. Do have a decent radio, and do have some means of long range distress signalling. A correctly registered 406 EPIRB is best.

Make sure you get your papers in order (boat papers, registration, your own passports etc. You should have insurance as well, as some jurisdictions require it, and foreign medical insurance is a good idea… And respect the tropical seasonal rotation: do not play dice with tropical storms or hurricanes. You will find the Caribbean expensive, but go local and small and you will do just fine. Definitely fish!

Avoid lonely anchorages near population centres, and stay away from Venezuela.

Be conscientious and careful in your passage planning and planning in general.

Have at least a plan B and C for all eventualities.

It has to be said you are going to struggle to do it on the budget you suggest, though… but certainly it can be done. Do not to cut essential corners however, and be sure your boat is sound, first of all!

Also, try some shorter trips first, then expand. Try not to go big first off. Learn by errors and expect lots of hard work in maintenance and preparation.
I interjected the bit about the drugs in a later edit. What I meant by "it is more what I think you want" is the islands from the Bahamas on round and down to Grenada, rather than the Gulf and West.

Also avoid Haiti, sadly, for obvious reasons. Cuba is a go now, though, I would think, given the regulatory changes recently.
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Old 10-11-2015, 20:50   #9
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

If I were 22 again, I would not hesitate. It's the old "if I knew then what I know now" thing.

In any case, I don't have experience to draw on and offer advice. But you might read Orca by John Penning for inspiration. He bought a Cape Dory 30 for 20,000. He and his girl friend set out with 20,000 in the bank, and, with a lot of luck and work permit, (he worked for 6 months in NZ) In all they were gone for 4 years and still came home with 20,000.

Obviously this 4 year circumnavigation is not what you have in mind, but the story does illustrate that with planning and frugality, you can do a lot with very little. Planning is the big thing here. You want to have realistic expectations before you go, so no nasty, dream killing surprises.
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Old 10-11-2015, 22:10   #10
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Get a good boat and go. Wear your PFD, tether, sailing helmet and titanium tipped boat shoes (plain steel tipped rusts and then mars the deck in tsunamis). It won't kill you to call your mother once in awhile. Bring plenty of water, some food, perhaps one bottle of rum in case you need to trade.
Have fun, get scared, then have some more fun. Repeat until end of cycle.
Where are you now, where and when do you plan to launch? There is plenty of advice to be had about such a voyage, some of it actually good.
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Old 11-11-2015, 01:00   #11
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

It's dangerous, specifically I think it is very likely you're going to have the time of your life and never be able to bring yourself to enter into the rat race that so many people end up being dragging into into day after monotonous day if you experience sailing and living aboard full-time...

Other than that main advice, which is partially a repeat of what other people on this forum have already pointed out:
- Make sure you get a seaworthy vessel
- Become very familiar with all critical onboard systems of your boat with backups (and sometimes backups of backups) along with thinking through ways to fix critical systems
- Work to balance self-confidence and humility while asking for advice from multiple sources (but only actually take the advice that your gut instinct tells you to). It's a lot of work to live aboard and cruise, but it's a truly great way to experience life.
- Buy the best ground tackle you can afford if boat doesn't already come with it and at least one really good backup anchor setup.
- Always pay attention to and respect the weather, and plenty of other stuff you'll learn as you go along :-)

Fair winds and following seas,
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Old 11-11-2015, 01:11   #12
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

go now without all the hassle of boat ownership
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Old 11-11-2015, 01:31   #13
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

atoll makes a good point prior to getthing into your own boat, and findacrew.net is another option if you go that route...
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Old 11-11-2015, 04:07   #14
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, 420.
Good idea!
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Old 11-11-2015, 04:38   #15
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Re: How stupid is this idea?

Life sneaks up on you pretty fast...

If you don't go for it... You might be saying...

"I wish I had gone..." Far too many times...
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