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Old 16-06-2016, 14:01   #1
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Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Hi, new here. We are in the early stages of getting a cruising cat. Still doing research, still planning our sailing classes, but 3 months deep on research. We are in no rush... kids will all be gone in about 2 years, and we will be financially positioned to purchase a liveaboard around then.

However, while researching boats/models/sailing/maintenance/terminology/etc we realized that we haven't seen much on process/procedure when you make your first journey.

We've done diving trips around the Caribbean, but I'm curious about:

How do you research/decide how long you are staying? How much arrangement can be made ahead of time and how much needs to be done in person? Are you always in a Marina or do some people moor/anchor and travel by dinghy?

For instance, let's say we have our boat and we've been certified to sail and we are planning to go for, say, 3-6 months to do some touring/diving/fishing.

Where do you start, and how much time does it take to make arrangements?

If we are near Belize, who do we need to contact and check in with, and when does this need to be done?

Can you anchor and look at something before you arrive and check in?

At any point, are you free to snorkel/spearfish/freedive a certain distance from shore or can you only do these things in designated areas?

I'm guessing you need to know what fish you're allowed to spear in each country, but what about fishing open water in transit?

We've been so focused on boats and sailing, I've never even thought about the actual trips. If cruising to a location is just as regimented as flying there, it takes some of the fun out of it. I'd like to think there are opportunities to explore, not just a whirlwind of paperwork and fees?

Oh, and excuse my lack of proper nautical terminology, we hope to have that down well before we purchase the boat. This is just more early research.

And if there are posts that go over this already, save yourself some writing and just point us to them. All helpful advice will be appreciated.

thanks!

LFoD
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Old 16-06-2016, 14:53   #2
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

A useful site is "noonsite.com"
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Old 16-06-2016, 19:08   #3
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

What's your sailing resume? If you don't have one, or very little, stop and get some time in before committing to a boat or a route or anything. It is rare for anyone to buy the right boat with little experience. You don't want to make a very expensive mistake that could scuttle the whole project.
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Old 16-06-2016, 19:39   #4
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

First, understand that the Caribbean islands are almost all separate, independent countries and every one has it's own laws, rules and regulations.

So if you want to know about fishing you need to research the exact countries you plan to visit.

Also, just like flying you have to clear customs in every country and the rules and procedures again will vary place to place.

How long to stay? That's the beauty of having your own boat. Stay as long as you want (within the limits of what the country allows) and leave when you're ready.

Yes there are many discussions on this forum about all the above. You have so many questions it's hard to point to specific threads so I would suggest you start by going to the top of the page and click on "Forums". That will drop down a menu of the different subject areas like navigation, maintenance, liveaboard, etc. There is a wealth of information that will keep you busy for hours. Better than a library of books.

One hint, do not ask questions about anchors, monohull vs multihull, what bluewater boat and never, never mention guns on board.
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Old 17-06-2016, 02:51   #5
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Although my cruising has been limited to Puerto Rico / USVI & BVI, I can't imagine cruising, power or sail, without our trusty 10' inflatable RIB with its Yamaha 15 HP outboard for getting between the boat and shore. There are many places to moor or anchor that don't have marinas and are much less expensive or free.
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Old 17-06-2016, 03:41   #6
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, LFoD.
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Old 17-06-2016, 06:50   #7
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Like others said, you have a lot of questions and just spending time browsing these forums will give you a lot of the answers. I would also "ditto" the comment that you should get some sailing experience before spending a lot of money buying a big boat. You won't really know what you want and need until you have spent some time on various boats. Bareboat chartering is a good way to get experience spending time on a variety of boats.

That said, here is my take on a few of your questions...

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveFree0rDie View Post
Are you always in a Marina or do some people moor/anchor and travel by dinghy?
Lots of people spend almost all of their time anchored, rather than in a marina. Of course, in a marina you usually have more facilities available: showers, laundry facilities, restaurants, and so on. Your choice. Most will mix it up, spending some time in marinas and some time at anchor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveFree0rDie View Post
Can you anchor and look at something before you arrive and check in?
Generally, no. We get questions about this on here a lot. Mostly from people who are trying to figure out a way around the law. They want to stop, anchor, even visit an island--all without checking in. In most countries, the law requires you to check in at your first and closest opportunity. (Now stand by for posting about how you can skirt the law by pretending that you have an emergency. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveFree0rDie View Post
At any point, are you free to snorkel/spearfish/freedive a certain distance from shore or can you only do these things in designated areas?
As already mentioned, almost every island is a different country, and every country has its own laws. As a general rule, be careful about spearfishing--a number of the Caribbean countries prohibit it. Most will require you to get a fishing license to do any fishing in their waters. On the open ocean you are free to fish as you like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveFree0rDie View Post
I'd like to think there are opportunities to explore, not just a whirlwind of paperwork and fees?
There are lots of opportunities to explore, but this is the modern world. You are going to have to deal with paperwork and fees everywhere that you go. It is an annoyance, but in most countries it is really no big deal.

Good luck.
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Old 17-06-2016, 09:38   #8
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

I second the reference to noonsite.com, it is full of helpful information.

Basically, cruising in the Caribbean is easy. You pull into a harbor, drop anchor, and go in to clear customs. You stay as long as its fun (really long stays, 3 months or more, can involve issues with immigration, though). Then you check out and move to the next island.

In practice, in over 6 years of cruising there, we tend to stick around for a week or two. That is long enough to really explore the island, get to know some local people, and make connections with other cruisers. It is certainly possible to stay longer, and sometimes we do. We spent 5 months moored off the coast of Bonaire, enjoying the diving. There are a few places that we treat as waypoints on the way to our next destination, staying only 1 or 2 nights. You figure this out as you go.

The geography of the Caribbean, along with sailing realities, often dictates the sequence of islands that you visit.

Regarding fishing and diving, it is very much island-dependent. You have to research the rules for each island and it is very wise to follow those rules.

It's fun!

Wishing you fair winds,

David
s/v Callisto
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Old 17-06-2016, 10:04   #9
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Yo Skipper,
I have been sailing the Carib for 20 years+
Most all of your questions can be answered, & I recommend, by doing a BVI Charter on the boat you think you might purchase, (Cat vs Monohull, Size etc..)
This will give you a good feel for what to expect and the Moorings staff can answer first hand customs of all the islands in the Windward and Leeward Island chain(s)!
Enjoy!
Cheers,
Captd
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Old 17-06-2016, 10:35   #10
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captdd View Post
Yo Skipper,
I have been sailing the Carib for 20 years+
Most all of your questions can be answered, & I recommend, by doing a Charter on the boat you think you might purchase,
Cheers,
Captd
I do second this suggestion. If you're not an experienced sailor it will give you an idea about the boat (not that a few surprises wont be left) and the area.
On the other hand there are a lot of good cruising guides which will help you to avoid the mistakes of total novices. Comes tho think of, Don Steed or Street? was a good one.
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Old 17-06-2016, 10:45   #11
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

The Cruising Guide books by Nancy and Simon Scott- full of specific information for each island, with answers to every question you can imagine. They are updated regularly as well. I don't think I could have sailed without them. Well, I could have, but would have made lots of dumb mistakes.
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Old 17-06-2016, 14:05   #12
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Get the absolutely latest guides, bookmark the Local Notice to Mariners, and make sure your navigational software is up to date. If you are going for a really long cruise, join the SSCA(seven seas cruising association). Tons of advice, info, and local knowledge about the Carib. Night anchor well away from channels. Lots of unlit night traffic running at high speeds.
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Old 19-06-2016, 07:56   #13
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

A lot of questions and I can offer my 2 cents on some.

I have been sailing Grenada and St. Vincent Grenadines since 2001. Just did a charter out of Horizon Grenada north to Tobago Cays. Did one to Bequia two years ago. One big thing to me is doing the 'Customs' dance. Skipper goes ashore with all passports and there can be unexpected costs and line-ups. When going into a new jurisdiction one should be aware of 'overtime' costs. Depart and arrive during regular work hours Monday to Friday. On Saturday you must do paperwork before noon or will be charged 'Overtime'.

More later............cheers
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Old 20-06-2016, 10:21   #14
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

Folks, you've all provided some great feedback, and as I expected, there were things I hadn't thought of.

Yes, we have a 3-year (maybe 4) plan to get a cruiser. We already looked into a few options to pick up sailing experience, including classes, charters and such. Hope to schedule at least 1 trip in 2017, hopefully 2 in 2018.

There seems to be a wealth of info on the types of boats, pricing, budgeting for liveaboard, equipment, sailing, etc... I was just having a hard time finding much on the actual travel and visit portion. You folks have helped out a lot and I will scour the noonsite pages in the evenings.

After that, I will swing back and ask anything that I haven't figured out yet.

Thanks again, everyone who replied.

LFoD
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Old 20-06-2016, 11:11   #15
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Re: Need advice on cruising Caribbean (legalities, etiquette, costs, gotchas, etc...)

go to sailblogs and start perusing random blogs
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