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Old 29-07-2009, 17:31   #1
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Three 20 Year-Olds Planning Caribbean Trip - Help!

Hey all,

Here's the deal:

Three Canadian 20-year olds sailing from November through March/April in the Bahamas/Caribbean area. We're starting out in Florida, probably doing the keys, then heading over to the Bahamas.

The Boat:

We will be buying a boat in Florida. Looking for a boat anywhere from 27' to 32' in size. Given the recent economical situation we figure we can get a good enough boat for $15 - 20 000 dollars, hopefully closer to the 15 end of things. Does this seem reasonable for what we are looking to do?


Really not sure what we're looking at for this. Is insurance on the boat mandatory? recommended? how expensive is it? do weneed new insurance for each new country we're in?

Food, mooring and such:

We're counting that we can live on about $400 a month each for food, mooring and other living expenses. We plan on catching a lot of our own seafood, anchor as much as possible, and really live on the cheap. part of the experience in our minds.


Is piracy a big deal? I feel right now that it won't be because I've heard the area is relatively friendly, and we won't exactly be a flashy, touristy, loaded with money. but still i'm sure we'll have to be careful. experiences?

Other dangers? Reefs, storms, wildlife etc?

Lastly, would love to hear some stories from people who have done similiar things.

If anyone has answers to any of these questions it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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Old 29-07-2009, 17:42   #2
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Daniel, it might be helpful in answering your questions if you add what kind of cruising experience you and your crew have in addition to appraising boats and working on them. Also what kind of boat are you looking for? I assume sail, but you do not specify. Also does your time frame include shopping, buying and getting a boat cruise ready or do you have time prior to that?
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:53   #3
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Our Captain, Liam, has by far the most experience. He has sailed on tall ships from Japan to Vancouver, as well as From Scandinavia to West Africa to Brazil. He has owned his own 23' sailboat for the past 4 years, fully maintaining it and doing countless trips on it. He's crewed charter boats and worked in boat yards for the past couple years since graduation. Chris and I, the two others on the trip are only modest sailors with not as much experience.

And yeah, we will be on a sailboat, guess i should have clarified!
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Old 29-07-2009, 18:45   #4
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There will be naysayers, don't let them get you down. I do think you do need to let there be at the least 1.5 months to get to know the boat and fix as yall see needed in a home port that is reasonable in boat yard fees. Ground tackle, multiple low end GPS units, charts and guide book/charts (thats what I'm about to head out with). Good luck and remember K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid), or more is less and more is more of a pain in the a#@.
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Old 29-07-2009, 19:10   #5
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haha, K.I.S.S., I like it. Any home ports you'd recommend? Probably staying in the states is the cheapest. Florida or??
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Old 29-07-2009, 19:38   #6
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Just about to start out on my voyage next year. I'm sailing in Texas for now, from what I hear you can find some areas in FL that is affordable but dont know first hand and hear there are many areas there that are not cruiser/liveaboard friendly. I have heard that the Gulf side of FL is more vruiser friendly but thats just hearsay from multiple fourums. Read through and anything sailing has a great thread on sailing the Bahamas also sailnet, and of course this site for great info just start looking into old threads.
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Old 29-07-2009, 19:40   #7
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I think it is entirely possible to do what you propose but feel boats at the low end of your price range will have significant issues to deal with which take time and money that you will not have.
Suggest you limit your dreams to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas given your time frame and the difficulty of going further. You will have PLENTY of exploring and fun in those locations.
Yes it is possible to eat on $400 a month but do your Bahamas provisioning heavily in Florida as many things are quite a bit more expensive there. (beer for one!). Bring fishing and lobstering gear to save lots of $$.
Bahamas has a $150 entrance fee for that size boat cruising permit. will not need insurance. Can you afford to lose the boat or get sued or worse if you sink and spill oil or run into a reef, or damage another boat etc. etc. etc.?? Policies are written once by one company for your cruising grounds. The boat will need a survey which you should get in any event before giving your money to anyone for a boat.

There is NO piracy in these areas. Petty crime...dinghy theft.

Other than that...never cross the Gulf Stream in a north wind...and have a great time.

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Old 29-07-2009, 19:42   #8
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Ah to be young again...

Do it - enjoy the ride. Some people hike Europe, why not sail the Caribbean if you can afford it?

YES buy the insurance. For the amount of time you will be sailing it is worth it and here is why.
1. You are at the helm, a sudden jibe, causes major injury to one of your companions. You as boat owner, and at the time Captain - are now liable. Medical bills, negligence, all sorts of things that will make you share your wages for the better part of your life.
2. Pulling into the perfect harbor your buddy is distracted and slides straight into the side of the nice man's $4.5 million dollar Cat. Just buffing the gelcoat costs him $10000. They may not let you leave until you make good on the loss.
Food, mooring and such:
$400? Count your costs today. You may be able to save a little on the noodle diet, but chances are you will need to double that with three of you.
We plan on catching a lot of our own seafood
Do a search on fishing. Planning and doing are not the same. You may be able to do it, but what if nothing bites? Backup plan MREs or something.

Piracy is a real. Will it happen? Like car jacking, it is statistically rare, but we lock our car doors.
Be smart - no weapons. Be very smart - make sure no one else has them. Show up in a foreign port with guns (and they will search your boat) - very bad.

Other dangers? Reefs, storms, wildlife etc?
Depending on your timing you could be there in Hurricane season. The safest place in a Hurricane is Ohio. Short of that, know the plan if one is heading your way.

Before leaving, see your doctor and get any vaccines you may need for the area you are going. If you each local foods, small bites, wait a few. Three days of sharing the head is enough to end a three month cruise.

Drugs - I don't know you, or your friends but all you need do is search this or any sailing forum for drugs and you will find ANY - even a pot seed - will get your boat seized and all of you in jail. Zero tolerance is an under estimation in many countries. Further, as a non-resident, you may have few rights at all.

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Old 29-07-2009, 19:44   #9
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To just get into it quickest planning on staying around the FL area may work best to start. It gives better access to familair things as you make ready and practice. You can do some test trips and get to working as a crew well enough this way. For longer trips you each have to be able the handle the boat. You have to gain some practice is weather that isn't perfect though I wouldn't go looking for trouble. It just has a way of finding you. Over this period of your trip you'll get some.

Even at that you can still sail, live on the boat do stuff on shore and just have a good time. This way the captain gets to have some fun too. In the mean time you read more information here than you could ever learn on your own, and study some subjects like navigation learn about places you might go and just genrally get this trip planned out.

It really is more than just showing up and waiting for the boat to fall from the sky and then go. I think you can understand all that even now. There is a lot of planning and preparation to do these types of adventures. The boat needs a crew that can do things togther and be ready for changes in weather or emergencies. You still need to eat and dealing with the collection, preparation and storing of food. It is a big deal too. You may as well eat well givcen all th work you'll be doing. It's too much fun not to. It's a skill you could learn in time yet improve along the way too.
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37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 29-07-2009, 20:34   #10
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Everything here solong to me has not been anything but good advice. Even a brand new boat will have things that will break or not work for the type of sailor you and your crew are. As far as insurance thats almost a political or religous topic but to me, if your in the states and not jumping alot of states its to cheap not to have. I'm just starting to look in to my first stage of cruising which will be the bahamas but Im really thinking of not dealing with the costs of insurance while out cruising.
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Old 29-07-2009, 21:31   #11
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Several people have responded as if you said $400 total, when you really said $400 each. $400 each is plenty as long as:

1 - You do not spend many nights in Marinas or at mooring balls
2 - You do not spent many nights ashore at bars or restaurants
3 - You are keeping the alcohol costs under control
4 - You do not have any major maintenance issues with the boat

#4 is the potential killer, but it is a small risk to pay for a great adventure.
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Old 30-07-2009, 07:33   #12
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Most of the advice so far has been excellent - but here are some very basic considerations, especially as "20-something" folks.
1. When you leave the USA or Canada you are also leaving behind all the legal "protections" against "stupidity and naiviety" and entering a world where you are solely and completely responsible for your actions and any consequences of your activities.
- - What this means is - violating any local laws intentionally or accidentally, or getting drunk, rowdy or argumentative while within a foreign country means you will be going to jail, you will be convicted (regardless of any right or wrong - you are the "outsider" and a potential source of money for the locals and local government), and you will be asked to leave or be deported. If deported, you will be forever denied entry to almost every other country in the world for the rest of your life. So you must be attentive, patient, polite, and submissive with any officials and make sure that you do not get involved in any activities that might get you arrested. Your home country can do nothing for you legally beyond recommending a local lawyer (who will also see you as a "revenue source").
- - Most countries guard their local natural resources and prohibit fishing or taking of marine organisms by visitors, or require a fishing license and also have restrictions on where or what you can fish for, etc. Especially the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. Trying to live off your own fishing, lobstering, etc., is not easy. Most of all the edible sealife in the Caribbean has been caught and consumed by the locals - basically - the fish, etc. are not there anymore. However, just as there are folks with "green thumbs" in gardening; there are folks who "know how to fish" and manage to catch plenty while everybody else is looking at empty hooks. Here again, there are "parks" and "reserves" that you must be aware of and not attempt to fish there - even - if you see locals fishing there.
2. The Boat - you can find excellent boats - under 30 feet - that have been sailed by other "young people" at reasonable costs and are actually in quite good seaworthy condition. Make sure the draft is less than 6 ft (1.8 meters). These boats are not attractive to middle age and older cruisers so are available at reasonable prices - almost "ready to go." However, you will be living in a "pup tent" environment and walking and climbing over each other most of everyday. "Old folks" cannot deal with that kind of living so go for the larger boats.
3. Insurance - Inside the USA you must have insurance to be in a marina or boatyard. City owned mooring fields generally also require insurance. Outside the USA it is not required and is usually only necessary for major theft or damage to your boat or somebody else's boat. Cruisers with large, new boats all have insurance mainly because the loan company requires it, Or their investment in the boat is too large to abandon if something happens. Or they are financially vulnerable should they be sued. If you have no assets, nobody will bother to sue you as there is nothing to collect. A company called I.M.I.S in Annapolis can sell you "liability only" insurance which is all the boatyards and marinas inside the USA require.
4. Moorings, anchoring, food. You can generally anchor just about anywhere outside the USA for free. Most moorings are privately owned and not available to you. Finding a free anchorage site inside the USA and especially Florida can be difficult. Speaking of inside Florida - The Florida Keys are fun and wonderful - but - there are significant ecological restrictions and "beyond belief" fines for damaging any of the local ecology. You really have to be aware of where and when and how you can anchor. Mooring are available but expensive. I would recommend skipping the Florida Keys and going directly to the Bahamas until you are all very experienced in sailing, anchoring and storm tactics.
- - Food is very expensive in the Bahamas and most other Caribbean islands as it is all imported and rarely grown locally. Get as many plastic - sealable - containers as can fit in the boat to store personal items, food (cans and packages), and anything else. An alternative is a kitchen "vacuum packer" or sturdy "Ziplock" type baggies. Salt air is very damp and will rust cans and parts and make stored clothing yuckie after only a short time. Speaking of clothing, it is rarely worn on board except for a swimming suit and/or t-shirt. Ashore it is another matter, these are poor and proud people who are rather conservative. Wear trousers and a regular shirt when dealing with officials or visiting shopping areas or tourist sites. Visitors in shorts and tee-shirts or bathing suits are marked by the locals at "ugly/disrespectful tourists" and are prime "marks" fo being relieved of their money and valuables. For females - shirt with short sleeves (no bare shoulders) and even bare feet in sandals/flip flops is not respectful. Bottom line, you can have a lot of fun and pretty much do what you want - except when dealing with officials or visiting certain areas/cities.
5. Safety - This is a biggie, but simply put use common sense and plan ahead. As stated "piracy" is not a factor in the Bahamas (if your ignore government officials and their fees). Theft is a problem as the "paradise" atmosphere can make you lax and not vigilant about locking up the boat, locking the dinghy, dinghy motor and fuel tank with small stainless steel chain and strong padlocks. Do not leave anything in a beached dinghy that you do not mind getting taken/stolen. Do not carry your passports with you unless you are going to check-in/out or going to a bank to change money. You can get local money from ATM everywhere so large amounts of cash onboard is not necessary. Locate or build a "hiddie-hole" somewhere on the boat to store excess cash, electronics, passports, etc. to prevent them from getting stolen when you are away from the boat. Remember, any local stealing from you will rarely be caught or prosecuted since you are the "foreigner" or transient who will not be around if and when the criminal ever gets to court. Simply put, "no witness/accuser, no conviction" - so the local officials think why bother. Anything from simple theft up to murder is rarely successfully prosecuted when a transient cruiser is the victim.
- - This means you are solely responsible for your own safety - so use common sense and avoid getting in situations that expose yourself to problems with locals. Then you will have a glorious and fun time without nasty "incidents" or future damage to your ability to travel.
- - Boat safety is subjective beyond making sure the boat is truly seaworthy. Different cruisers/sailors have different levels of tolerance and abilities to prevent and recover from problems at sea. Yet again, it all boils down to common sense and being a little conservative until you reach a level of experience that can "handle" more advanced problems. Almost every sailor/cruiser will agree that having a "deadline" or "must be there by" is a sure invitation to disaster or major grief. . .
- - Navigation - Mandatory -> Get the Explorer Chart books for the Bahamas!!!!!! They are not cheap but they are the only reliable charts. Good guide books with plenty of "recent" harbor/anchorage sketch charts are also very helpful. " Recent" being in the last 10 years. But basically all you need is the Explorer Charts, two or more hand held GPS's, a hand compass, and binoculars. Everything in the Bahamas is visible to your eyes during daylight hours. Night sailing is not recommended unless you are experienced in Bahamas waters.
- - If you remember that you and you alone are totally responsible for your safety and happiness you will have an experience of a lifetime and might just like a lot of us old-timers out here - develop a strong distaste for "big brother" governments who like to run your life for you and "protect" you from yourself.
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Old 31-07-2009, 20:38   #13
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Thanks so much for all your replies. I'm learning so much from reading them and am actually becoming more motivated and optimistic about this trip - something I wasn't expecting to get from these forums.

a couple remaing questions: you guys have generally said that insurance is a good idea. any idea what will it cost approximately for us? given a $15 000 - 20 000 boat with three 20-year olds on it?

what have other peoples experiences been like with fishing? are you able to catch enough to make an impact on food costs?

thanks especially osirissail for your elaborate reply. there's a lot of good information in there that i'll be sure to re-read again before we ship out.

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