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Old 22-12-2014, 08:18   #1
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Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Hello all. I really enjoy the diversity of this forum. It has been my life long dream to cruise the Caribbean and live on an island. I have married the woman of my dreams a little later in life and we are about to embark on our journey. I guess I am asking for some advice and tips from people who have done the same. I love hearing about people's experiences.

I am 40 and retired military. I have saved and have a good salary that will continue. We have a nice nest egg and will save a bunch monthly by living aboard. I own a nice boat that I have had for over one year. It is in good repair and I have spent and will spend time continuing to make improvements and upgrades until we leave. It is a 37' twin engine with a lot of great features. I have been a boat owner for 15 years. I am a pilot and I have mood navigation experience. We live in Austin, Texas. We have 2 younger kids who will be 3 and 6 when we leave. I went back to school and I will have a teaching degree. My wife is doing the same. The plan is to have the boat moved to Florida ICW in July of this year.

We want to spend time cursing and hanging out in Florida until November and then plan to take 6-8 months to get to the USVI where we will settle. We have started minimizing our stuff and selling vehicles. We will store what we want to ship in a container until we arrive. We aren't taking much. We plan to rent a place for awhile before we buy after arriving then buy a home. We will both be elementary teachers on STX.

We both think that this will be an amazing experience for ourselves and the kids. We like living with less and we are resourceful. Between us, we can catch, fix and figure out a lot of what we need to know. We are in the process of taking some classes on various skills to help us along the way. I realize that I don't know a lot of things and don't have the experience of many of the people on this forum. These are some of the things that I am thinking about now:

1. Water purification systems. These seem nice but costly and I don't see them on many boats of comparable size. My wife is campaigning for this feature. Does anyone have experience with buying used?
2. We plan to make the passage to Freeport. Has anyone taken a 6 month route through the Bahamas, Turks, DR, PR that took this long? Any suggestions? We aren't much for Nassau or over populated areas. I am installing solar on the boat.
3. We are buying a nice mattress. I am changing the microwave to a convection oven. I am having a new canvass installed. I am buying a 11' rigid dinghy and 15hp motor. I have 3 anchors. I have good GPS and navigation. Does anyone have suggestions for items of comfort or convenience that they wished they had or installed before a long trip?
4. We have a large german shepherd police dog that is really well trained. We can teach her how to do almost anything. I like the security of having this animal, who is also a service animal. Does anyone have experience with different considerations with large dogs on a boat? She loves the water, unlike many shepherds. I've never had a dog in the Bahamas. I understand the ?
5. We are thinking that the ICW and Florida will be OK and fun. We might be planning to stay for too long. Any thoughts?
6. Is satellite broadband a bad idea when we are anchored? I see portable systems for $2k but they have mixed reviews. We have Att and plan to be in marinas a couple days out of the week as we cruise, get off the boat a couple of times per month for a night or two.

Anyway, thanks.
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Old 22-12-2014, 09:02   #2
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Howdy Robert!

I read your post. I see it is one of your first 2 here on the forum. Welcome aboard!

I chuckled at the title of your post and a line in your note: "cursing to STX."

While I can't answer your questions, I do think it sounds like you have a nice plan and you are a lucky guy to have a wife who is into the big adventure you have planned.

I wish you the best of luck on your future. Teaching is a noble profession.
Good luck!
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Old 22-12-2014, 09:07   #3
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Damm it STX!
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Old 22-12-2014, 09:41   #4
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Thank you Sir! Well, I guess that was a typo and then again.. maybe it was fate that it ended up like that. I am sure I will end up doing a lot of cursing a long the cruise.
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Old 22-12-2014, 09:53   #5
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

If you aren't cursing now, you will be by the time your reach the USVI. It's all to windward.

On the other hand, people have been doing it since 1492, so you won't be the first. There's a ton of literature available so you may want to start there. There's also a ton of knowledge - good and bad - right here. Good Luck!

1. Water purification systems. If you're going to remote area for long periods of time it might be worthwhile to buy a new one, say a Spectra. Everywhere people live there is water available so watermaking seems to me to be a pain. OTOH, a good water filter is worthwhile. We use the one that the RV's use, plumbs right into the water line, costs about $20. Replace every couple of months, depending on how much water you use.

2. We plan to make the passage to Freeport. I am installing solar on the boat. Good plan, but avoid Freeport. If you don't like Nassau you will hate Freeport. Check in at West End and go on to the Abacos. Many people have made the passage you're comtemplating. Google 'Bruce Van Sant'. He wrote the classic book on traveling from Florida to the Carribean, 'The gentlemans guide to passages south'.

3. We are buying a nice mattress. I am changing the microwave to a convection oven. I am having a new canvass installed. I am buying a 11' rigid dinghy and 15hp motor. I have 3 anchors. I have good GPS and navigation. All good. Make sure at least one of those anchors is a 'new gen' anchor. Also use all chain rather than rope/chain on at least your main anchor. Canvas should include lots of sun protection. Install all the solar you can handle. Ovens are HOT in the caribbean. We don't even use ours in Florida. Might want to rethink that one.

4. We have a large german shepherd police dog that is really well trained. You will have to get papers for your pet, at least in the Bahamas. I love dogs but would personally not take one along, too much trouble, but the security angle always makes me rethink that.

5. We are thinking that the ICW and Florida will be OK and fun. We might be planning to stay for too long. Any thoughts? It's the best place in the world to work out all the kinks in your boat. Once you leave it will be more difficult and more expensive to fix or replace anything.

6. Is satellite broadband a bad idea when we are anchored? No experience there. We depend on Spot to keep our family informed of our whereabouts, and shore based internet to contact them or anyone else. Think Skype.
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Old 22-12-2014, 15:09   #6
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Thank you so much for all of this information! Hyperlinked and all. Wow.
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Old 24-12-2014, 01:30   #7
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Google: "The Thorny Path" for an education on the subject of your intended route.
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Old 24-12-2014, 08:22   #8
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re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

I have, thank you. I ordered the book/charts suggested also. Thank you for the advice!
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Old 24-12-2014, 10:11   #9
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Quote:
Originally Posted by onestepcsy37 View Post
If you aren't cursing now, you will be by the time your reach the USVI. It's all to windward.
Yes. Though from looking at it on a map, it appears that taking a boat from Florida to the Virgin Islands should be a very simple matter, it is not. Get and read "The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South." It will fill you in on the challenges of this voyage.

Good luck.
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Old 24-12-2014, 14:43   #10
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Thank you, I will! I ordered it today. Pricey thing it is.
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Old 24-12-2014, 16:10   #11
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Robert,

We live the life you dream of and have traveled from Florida to St Thomas 4 times.

With four on board a watermaker will make life much easier but they are expensive and require power from engine, wind or solar...A Honda 2000 is a great asset if you need ready power.

We have a gas stove and a microwave but in summer in the Caribbean we use the microwave and the rail mounted grill 90% of the time.

While many stay in the Hurricane Box July to November we never do...Study the link and see what happened in St Martin this Fall. We get to St Thomas by May/June and we are south of the Hurricane Box by July. We usually go to Bonaire with fabulous snorkeling and diving. I could not imagine basing myself in St Thomas unless I needed to work when the rest of the Caribbean is calling!

https://www.google.com/search?q=st+m...w=1242&bih=501

https://www.google.com/search?q=bona...ed=0CAkQ_AUoAg

Our dog hated the boat and you will have a great deal of trouble in British Islands where they deal with rabies by banning off-island dogs. Stick to the French and Dutch Islands.

Good Luck
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Old 26-12-2014, 08:58   #12
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

a great place is here in panama cost about 600 to go through the canal and you have san blas and all the Caribbean on one side and the perlas islands and ecuador etc on my side ,, i lived on my 42 solaris here off and on for 2 years now 200 a month for a mooring 5 bucks for a water taxi if you dont want the hassle of a dingy .. selling my solaris and the mooring if interested ,, i have known many cruisers came for a few weeks and stayed for years ,,
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Old 24-01-2015, 12:37   #13
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Hi Robert!
Please keep us updated on how the adventure is going. I am currently landlocked in Montana, but planning my escape. Likely I will end up being a part-timer as I don't think there is any way I will ever get my wife to move permanently. Sounds like you and your wife have an excellent strategy.
I am also interested in what you think of the books you're reading now, and if you agree w/others and would recommend.
Thanks for being a model for some of us who still want to go and wish we would have gone sooner.
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Old 24-01-2015, 13:06   #14
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Hello Otium. Thanks for the comment. I have recently read passages South, Explorer charts for various places in the Bahamas that we will travel through and the Cruising guide to Abaco. I have the others that people have recommended on my book shelve waiting for my time! I bought "tricks of the trade" by the same author as Passages and found it redundant.

I am spreading my time between all of the various skills I need to acquire or enhance to liveaboard now. I plan to take the USGC Master's Course in the spring. I have reached out to a lot of the people on this message board privately and received truly valuable information. I have reached out to others still, for the same results.

Our dream is a big one and it is exciting. Keep up on yours and I wish you great luck! We started a blog detailing our preparation, planning and then our voyage. It is linked under my signature. Talk later!
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Old 24-01-2015, 14:17   #15
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Re: Live-aboard and cruising to STX USVI

Robb - did you mean to specify St. Croix in the USVI? STX is the airport three letter code for the St. Croix airport and is also a commonly used abbreviation for St. Croix. If so, why specifically St. Croix? STT is St. Thomas and St. John, the third major USVI island, has no code because it has no airport.

Do you intend to get a marina slip or anchor/moor? All weather anchorages and anchorages in general in St. Croix are limited compared to STT and St. John, despite it being the largest island of the three. The good news is that once there, you don't have to stay on/near one island, nor ignore the Spanish Virgins.

Have you visited the USVI before? If not, perhaps you should to familiarize yourself before tackling the Thorny/Thornless path just to get there, then find out it's not what you expected. I have spent a lot of cruising time around all three islands and would be happy to answer any specific questions.

I have no experience with cruising power boats, but what refrigeration do you have and how do you power it? If you intend to stay in a marina, neglect this question as you'd just plug in. We run ours on solars, as well as our water maker and small house loads, but we have a lot more real estate for panels than you likely do. What other large electrical loads do you have? Generator?

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