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Old 04-09-2010, 19:07   #1
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Question Be Patient with the Newbie, Please . . .

Hi everyone. Thanks for the wonderful spot. Great info on these boards!

Here are the facts: I will soon be in-between contract jobs and I want to go cruising. I am researching boats in the 30-32 range, and expect to buy one in the next couple of weeks. I have sailed in the past - most of it on my 22' Catalina on a large lake.

I want to cruise the Gulf and head south towards S. America. I don't plan on hitting many stops on the way down - just want to spend some good time at sea.

And I will be soloing.

In all my searching online, I haven't really found any good sources that explain a few things that keep nagging at me, and I was hoping you could help guide me.

-What does a solo sailor do at night? Clearly one must sleep SOMETIME. If out in open water without land in site....what happens? Do you just drift?? It sounds like a stupid question (at least to me).
-If I needed to just refill my provisions (fuel, etc), and didn't want to stay in another country, do you have to go through all the immigration paperwork, etc? I would think so, but I was wondering if that was required if all the provisions were at the marina.
-What are the best sources for international charts?
-How does one find the best marinas/ports for resupply?
-What's the story on recharging the batteries? I am trying to determine how much fuel I will need (and I realize that this all depends on usage and engine type, etc.), but I cannot find any rules of thumb on how long batteries last....and how long they take to recharge...and how much fuel is involved in each recharge.

Thanks for humoring my basic questions. It turns out that when you have sailed the same lake all your life, none of these issues ever come up!
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Old 04-09-2010, 19:33   #2
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In all my searching online, I haven't really found any good sources that explain a few things that keep nagging at me,
Many of your worries are easily resolved. I'm more worried for you that you're asking these questions to begin with. Suggest some formal training or time with more experienced sailors before you take off on a trip like this!
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Old 04-09-2010, 20:22   #3
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Originally Posted by uofte View Post

... just want to spend some good time at sea...
LOL

You masochistic?

Solo sailing is only for the toughest of us (and for some teenage girls too, or so it seems).

-What does a solo sailor do at night?

They sleep, if they can. But I met many that will sleep mosty during the daytime and keep watch at night.

-Do you just drift?

If the boat has a windvane or autopilot, they will just keep on going.

-If I needed to just refill my provisions (fuel, etc), and didn't want to stay in another country, do you have to go through all the immigration paperwork, etc?

You enter a port and you are supposed to check in. At times the officials are not very strict, but only at times.

-What are the best sources for international charts?

Most big marine stores have them.

-How does one find the best marinas/ports for resupply?

Probably by trying them out and then avoiding those that did not deliver. There are some places that have good reputation and you will know them from fellow sailors.

-What's the story on recharging the batteries? I am trying to determine how much fuel I will need (and I realize that this all depends on usage and engine type, etc.), but I cannot find any rules of thumb on how long batteries last....and how long they take to recharge...and how much fuel is involved in each recharge.

Get solar panels (if in the sunny clime) or a wind generator (if in a windy clime). And if you use the engine/alternator then invest in a good alternator regulator. How much you charge depends on how much you discharge and how fast you can charge. You will need to put in more than you take.

Many boats I have sailed were able to fully re-charge within 1-4 hours of motoring.

You will know how much fuel you need by taking the rpms from the engine's graph, finding the equivalent HP and multiplying your find by approx 200 gramms per hour. Out at sea you will probably charge while moto-sailing - to put some load on the engine (diesels do not like running light) - in such a case you will off course use more fuel if running the engine only to charge the batteries.

b.
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Old 04-09-2010, 21:21   #4
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Originally Posted by uofte View Post
-What does a solo sailor do at night? Clearly one must sleep SOMETIME. If out in open water without land in site....what happens? Do you just drift?? It sounds like a stupid question (at least to me).
-If I needed to just refill my provisions (fuel, etc), and didn't want to stay in another country, do you have to go through all the immigration paperwork, etc? I would think so, but I was wondering if that was required if all the provisions were at the marina.
-What are the best sources for international charts?
-How does one find the best marinas/ports for resupply?
-What's the story on recharging the batteries? I am trying to determine how much fuel I will need (and I realize that this all depends on usage and engine type, etc.), but I cannot find any rules of thumb on how long batteries last....and how long they take to recharge...and how much fuel is involved in each recharge.
night: Most folks use a wind vane or electronic autopilot to steer. Hand steering for any distance is very tough, especially for a single hander. I would not do that trip. You need to stay away from land and shipping channels. You can use a radar and set the alarm, but that's not in anyway foolproof and don't trust it. Basically it's risky but plenty of people do it. Just keep sailing. You'll get mowed down drifting just as easy as being underway.

customs: Do not mess around with this. Do what the country wants, or you will lose your boat and end up in a third world jail rotting away. It's not hard. Fly a Q flag, fill out some forms, pay a few bucks (often nothing), let them check to make sure you're not hauling guns and drugs. Imagine what the US Coast Guard would do if they found some Mexican boat floating around the coast that didn't clear in.

charts: You can get "cruising guides", NOAA charts are free to download and print (and cover the US), international you'll need Admiralty charts. Seabreeze bookstore in San Diego sells them but you can certainly find them online just as easy.

customs/ports: Check noonsitesite.com. They have all the latest customs info, port info, and updates coming in all the time. If you find a country that's a pain in the butt, avoid it. Most are great and you'll love the experience.

batteries: Totally depends. It's like asking how much gas you need in your car. Depends on the car, how often you drive, how long you drive, how fast you drive, etc.

Pick up a cruising book; it will be the best $20 you ever spend: Amazon.com: Handbook of Offshore Cruising (9781574092790): Jim Howard, Revised and Updated by Charles J. Doane: Books

That author is a single hander and breaks things down very clearly. Great sailor too.
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Old 04-09-2010, 23:39   #5
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[/QUOTE]

Quote:
Originally Posted by uofte View Post
Hi everyone. Thanks for the wonderful spot. Great info on these boards!

Here are the facts: I will soon be in-between contract jobs and I want to go cruising. I am researching boats in the 30-32 range, and expect to buy one in the next couple of weeks. I have sailed in the past - most of it on my 22' Catalina on a large lake.

I want to cruise the Gulf and head south towards S. America. I don't plan on hitting many stops on the way down - just want to spend some good time at sea.

And I will be soloing.

In all my searching online, I haven't really found any good sources that explain a few things that keep nagging at me, and I was hoping you could help guide me.

-What does a solo sailor do at night? Clearly one must sleep SOMETIME. If out in open water without land in site....what happens? Do you just drift?? It sounds like a stupid question (at least to me).
There are several options. Sleeping during the day, taking cat naps thru the night, finding a crew member. If you go it alone you roll the dice on collisions with other boats and windshifts that put you on the rocks.
Generally sailors use electrical autopilots or mechnical windvanes to steer the boat almost all the time, even with plenty of crew aboard. Windvanes have the edge in reliability and power consumption.

Quote:
Originally Posted by uofte View Post
-If I needed to just refill my provisions (fuel, etc), and didn't want to stay in another country, do you have to go through all the immigration paperwork, etc? I would think so, but I was wondering if that was required if all the provisions were at the marina.
Any place you go has the right to arrest you and seize your boat for not following their rules, same as the US does. An emergency would likely get you a pass. If you knew ahead of time that the officials at particular ports were lax that would make things easier. Try not to leave ill will for later cruisers to deal with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by uofte View Post
-What are the best sources for international charts?
My feeling is that the British Admiralty Chart Distributers in the US are your best bet. The requirements to become an official correcting distributor are kinda tough, so stores that do so are likely to be pretty good about their whole stock of charts. I'm not advocating the use of BA charts, merely that their distributers tend to be top notch.
How to Buy

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Originally Posted by uofte View Post
-How does one find the best marinas/ports for resupply?
Word of mouth. SSCA newletters. Try to keep the boat simple and well stocked, so you only need a major port call every 2-6 months.

Quote:
Originally Posted by uofte View Post
-What's the story on recharging the batteries? I am trying to determine how much fuel I will need (and I realize that this all depends on usage and engine type, etc.), but I cannot find any rules of thumb on how long batteries last....and how long they take to recharge...and how much fuel is involved in each recharge.
How long the batteries last depends on how many batteries you have and how big they are and how much electrical equipement you have on board and how much the equip is used. This is an involved question, get a book on marine electrical issues which will walk you thru it.
A quick answer is that if you keep your electrical use to minimum 4-6v golf cart batteries should keep you going for a couple of days between recharges.
For a good system lets say that recharging takes 3hr at 1/4gal fuel per hour charging from the main engine.
Wind generators and solar cells are also an option. Wind has safety and reliability issues compared to solar. The concencus I have heard is that start with solar and add wind if that isn't giving you enough juice.
With decent conservation 2 large panels will keep you going only having to run the engine every week or so.
A small Honda generator is also an option, better fuel economy, quieter and less wear on the main engine. Uses the same fuel as the dinghy if you have an outboard for it.

From your statement about experience is sounds like you need to spend 6 months or a year living aboard and doing coastal sailing whereever you are to gain experience be before going offshore.
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Old 05-09-2010, 00:26   #6
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I'm guessing you're a long way from actually deciding to do all this and hoping the questions are research. As others have inferred sailing solo 24/7 is not something to take on lightly as you risk the safety of others as well as yourself. Having said all that - good luck to you.

You asked: What does a solo sailor do at night? Clearly one must sleep SOMETIME. If out in open water without land in site....what happens? Do you just drift?? It sounds like a stupid question (at least to me).

You sleep whilst the boat continues to sail. So you do need some form of self steering be it mechanical or electrical. When in busy waters you'll sleep only for very short periods (20 minutes max and in the cockpit) and probably use an egg timer to ensure you wake to scan the horizon at least 3 times each hour. Reality is such passages are very tiring, very boring, and best avoided. Taking a crew member or day sailing will make them more enjoyable. When and if you go far offshore outside shipping lanes then you can take the risk and simply go below and sleep.

-If I needed to just refill my provisions (fuel, etc), and didn't want to stay in another country, do you have to go through all the immigration paperwork, etc? I would think so, but I was wondering if that was required if all the provisions were at the marina.

Yes you do have to clear in and clear out. It is clearing in / out of the country and its waters - not just the marina / harbour you're visiting.

-What are the best sources for international charts?

Others will disagree but it is much cheaper today to use electronic charts than paper ones.

-How does one find the best marinas/ports for resupply?

Pilot books for each sailing region will give relatively updated detail but if you can have a method of web access, sites like Noonsite are even more up to date.

-What's the story on recharging the batteries? I am trying to determine how much fuel I will need (and I realize that this all depends on usage and engine type, etc.), but I cannot find any rules of thumb on how long batteries last....and how long they take to recharge...and how much fuel is involved in each recharge.

Simply put you draw up an electrical consumption list showing what you'll be using typically each daylight hour, and each nigh time hour. Add it all up and that gives your total daily consumption in amps.
I suggest your battery capacity should be at least twice that total consumtion figure as its best not to run the batteries down below 50% of their capacity or you'll destroy them quickly.
Check out your charging capability (probably the size of your engine alternator(s) or other sources of electrical power) and by dividing the true output of those source into the amount you have to top up back into the battery, you then know exactly how long you need to run your charging device(s) to get back to full charge.
Once you know that time, and assuming you know how much fuel (if any) the charging device(s) use, you'll know how much you'll consume each day.
If you've the budget, size of boat to carry the devices, then try to plan so you'll never have to normally run the engine at all. But if you've no alternative source of power than main engine (which is typical) you'd probably end up charging via your main engine 2 or 3 hours in any 24 hour period.
Enjoy all this research and I do hope you get to a point where you can put it into practice.
JOHN
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Old 05-09-2010, 08:32   #7
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Thanks to all for the replies. I feel I should make some clarifications.

-All the boats I am interested in have auto pilot. I wouldn't dream of sailing distance solo without it. However, everything I have ever read says to always have someone on watch, etc. I just wasn't sure if soloist kept the auto pilot on when they slept, or not. I will look into the other posts referenced here.

-Regarding immigration - I wasn't looking to "skirt the rules". I just haven't had to deal with it, so I wasn't sure if a quick stop at a port would require it. I figured it would be needed to clear in/out, but wanted to ask to make sure.

-For the charts, I have already d/loaded some online charts, and have Seaclear loaded on my laptop. I will continue to look for more sources and add to what I have (both online and in print).

-Best ports and marinas - I will look into the Pilot Books mentioned here, and I just opened Noonsite.com in my browser to see what that's all about. Also, I like the idea of the cruising book mentioned above by Rebel Heart.

-Regarding the charging. The boat I am currently eying has a wind generator. I like the idea of solar. Anyone have any idea of the cost of a typical system? The Honda generator is an interesting idea as well. I hadn't thought of that.

Well, this is exactly why I came here. Very good messages (and IM's) posted. I really appreciate the information, and also the caution advised by the posters.

If anyone else has anything to add (or the same posters have more), please continue to respond. I am sure I will develop more questions as I progress in the research.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:18   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uofte View Post

-All the boats I am interested in have auto pilot. I wouldn't dream of sailing distance solo without it. However, everything I have ever read says to always have someone on watch, etc. I just wasn't sure if soloist kept the auto pilot on when they slept, or not. I will look into the other posts referenced here.
There is no way to long distance solo and meet the COLREGS requirements for maintaning a look out. For a discussion of this check out the Interpreting ColRegs thread starting at about post #59.

That said, the ocean is a very big place so if you use some discretion, the odds of having or causing an incident are small and a lot of people do it.
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:35   #9
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Get and read the following > great education for only a few bucks > and I think you'll discover that the education and preparation will be as much fun (almost) as the passage or cruising you anticipate.

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Amazon.com: Rough Weather Seamanship for Sail and Power : Design, Gear, and Tactics for Coastal and Offshore Waters (0639785802525): Roger Marshall: Books

Amazon.com: Heavy Weather Tactics Using Sea Anchors & Drogues (9780939837373): Earl R. Hinz, Richard R. Rhodes: Books

Amazon.com: The Complete Anchoring Handbook: Stay Put on Any Bottom in Any Weather (9780071475082): Alain Poiraud, Achim Ginsberg-Klemmt, Erika Ginsberg-Klemmt: Books

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Originally Posted by uofte View Post
Thanks to all for the replies. I feel I should make some clarifications.

If anyone else has anything to add (or the same posters have more), please continue to respond. I am sure I will develop more questions as I progress in the research.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-09-2010, 11:34   #10
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Quote:
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-Best ports and marinas - I will look into the Pilot Books mentioned here, and I just opened Noonsite.com in my browser to see what that's all about. Also, I like the idea of the cruising book mentioned above by Rebel Heart.
Consider checking out ActiveCaptain as well. The database there is growing rapidly and includes quite a few foreign ports. See related discussions in various other forums here on CF. Jeff Siegel, the developer of that database, is registered under user name "ActiveCaptian".

Quote:
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-Regarding the charging. The boat I am currently eying has a wind generator. I like the idea of solar. Anyone have any idea of the cost of a typical system? The Honda generator is an interesting idea as well. I hadn't thought of that.
We spent about $4500 for our solar panel installation four years ago.
Broken down:
~ Four Kyocera 130W panels - $425 each (wholesale through a friend)
~ Outback MX60 Charge controller - $600 (cheaper models are available but I wanted top of the line for reliability)
~ Cables, mountings, connectors, etc. - $500 (special connectors are pricey. I have four 10 foot extension cables I'm not using now if anyone wants them.)
~ S/S support frame on stern - $1700 (made in Guaymas, Mexico)

Someone who really shops around and isn't as worried about reliability and durability could probably get similar components for less money.
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:28   #11
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i have solar--incoming of 130 watts on one regulator and 6 1/2 amps on the other....i want to add wind. i have honda 2k for backup and emergencies and a perkins 4-108 for propulsion and fridge. my solar system cost me , so far, 300 dollars, as i find my panels used and as seconds. they work just fine--have to check connections regularly. input drops drastically with dirty and corroded connections.
yes i find things at very low prices --and folks find me with the items i usually need --close to the time i need them--is unusual, even weird...
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Old 23-09-2010, 17:31   #12
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I think an early poster's statement about formal training bears serious thought. Not only do you get better at sailing and seamanship, you share the dream with others who are pursuing it, too. Very supportive.

I needn't mention who I work for, it is not germain. Find a school you like and take course work through ASA 106 level. I bet you will never regret it.

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Old 24-09-2010, 09:41   #13
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I think an early poster's statement about formal training bears serious thought. Not only do you get better at sailing and seamanship, you share the dream with others who are pursuing it, too. Very supportive.

I needn't mention who I work for, it is not germain. Find a school you like and take course work through ASA 106 level. I bet you will never regret it.

Norm
Agreed, except for the 'formal'.

If someone needs a supportive group it can suggest the person is into socializing rather than sailing.

I (for one) got much more training by sailing than by joining any formal groups. Sure thing, when the best way to get some sort of skill or know-how was by participating in a formalized course, then that's exactly what I did.

Otherwise, I always recommend joining a crew, going on the water and just doing it, before joining a sailing course.

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Old 29-09-2010, 22:05   #14
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Question back at ya, Poster.

I learned to sail in the gulf and its bays. I have never sailed an inland puddle. It seems that I will be land locked for the next year and have been invited to join a local sailing club. It is on a lake, Harding in GA, formed by a dam. It is deep and decently wide and has lots of islands to dodge. I am told that the winds are shifty -can't imagine it could be otherwise. I am think'n it might be good practice and entertaining in the interim. What do you think? Are there issues / hazards that don't exist in the Gulf? The best "chart" (the producers call it a map for good reason) I have found shows 5+ times more land than water - very little detail. Is there a place to get good inland chart that I don't know about?
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