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Old 15-07-2016, 16:13   #1
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Smile West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Looking at crossing the Atlantic to Spain in my Skookum 50’ CC Sailboat. It is my understanding that boats converge in St. Thomas and travel as a group for safety and security. All the latest RayMarine electronics are on board as well as a 6-man life raft, EPIRB. I would prefer to travel with larger sailboats due to the speed issues of smaller sailboats. My boat will cruise at 7-9 knots with a good stiff breeze. She carries around 1,000 sq. feet of sail in a cutter rig configuration with a mammoth asymmetrical spinnaker. She is very heavy at 22-tons loaded. I have a 160-gallon diesel fuel tank, but will carry 1-2 55-gallon plastic barrels for the mid-Atlantic doldrums. None-the-less, any group sizing is OK with me and my first mate.

Where and when do the sailboats converge and start the trip? My boat is in the San Juan Islands in Washington and I need to plan a departure time from this area and consider how long it will take to get through the Panama Canal with advance registration and with final provisioning in St. Thomas or another Caribbean Island. If anyone is sailing down the West Coast or through Mexico towards the Canal, we could play to meet along the way.

Thanks for your consideration.

Larry and Woody
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Old 15-07-2016, 19:17   #2
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Not sure what you mean by converging, security, etc. Is St Thomas a place in California or Mexico?

To me St Thomas sounds a Caribbean place ..

From the West Indies, boats just cross when the time comes. The time varies with specific year but has been found to be about late May (departure), give or take a couple of weeks. Bigger boats may depart earlier as they are less likely to get pasted in bad weather. Going late (July and later) you may catch a ride with a post tropical system (many recurve and chase the boats going towards Europe). You do not want this.

Many boats opt to depart from locations North of Martinique and East from Cuba. We depart from Guadeloupe or Antigua.

Right now my clients are about half way thru. It is all Easterlies for them. But there are no hard rules, only general guidelines. All Easterlies this year, maybe calms next year, who knows.

If you want to discuss weather matters, ask here or via a PM, I will try to respond.

If by converging / safety you meant the ARC Europe, email them; they will let you know the fees and their schedules.

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Old 15-07-2016, 20:27   #3
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

You're awesome. Given how little you know, just head down the coast. It will probably take you 18 months to get the east coast. Another 6 months to get ready for the passage, so 2 years. Don't try and cheat on the hurricane season.
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Old 16-07-2016, 05:42   #4
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Larry and Woody.

ARC Europe is the west-to-east Atlantic rally, sailing from the Caribbean or North America to Europe. Starting from Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola British Virgin Islands (in early May) or Ocean Marine Yacht Centre in Portsmouth Virginia, the two fleets rendezvous in St George's, Bermuda before crossing the Atlantic to the Azores.
After cruising the Azorean archipelago, boats sail to Marina de Lagos in southern Portugal, or sail independently to northern Europe.
Gord May
"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 16-07-2016, 08:34   #5
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

For a good read about crossing the Atlantic, try Airborne, by the late William F Buckley, Jr. It's amusing, self-indulgent (of course) and full of good ideas and information. The boat in question, Cyrano had an on-board piano, which I don't recommend as they go out of tune so quickly in stormy weather.
The Atlantic Crossing Guide published by the RCC Pilotage Foundation and World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell are mines of information, virtually bibles for what you want to do.
Bear in mind that the oceanic and wind gyre in the North Atlantic is clockwise, which is why sailing ships going west from Europe sailed down to the Cape Verde Island before heading West to the Caribbean, and returned by a northerly route but staying clear of the ice. That was convenient for the English pirates, who knew where to wait for the Spanish treasure ships.
Have fun on this great adventure.

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Old 16-07-2016, 23:34   #6
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

WOW a lot of fuel -- we sailed over in 2013 - we left from Antigua on May 1 and by ourselves. Not sure what security you need and as for safety - not sure about that unless someone is really close. We do have ssb on board and doing when doing our 2x/day weather look we got 2 boat alerts to be on the watch for 2 boats that went missing - neither were ever found only a quick epirp from one then nothing -

We do not sail with a group on purpose - we make our own weather decisions and if we do not like the weather we don't go and we don't need the party on either end nor the cost associated with it.

We sail a Jeanneau DS40 and had an additional 50 gal fuel tank installed years before and we did not even touch it. And when we passed Bermuda we were 500nm east of it. It took us 21 days and we made a bunch of mistakes and should have taken us 18-19 -

Get some weather charts and study them as to the timing as that is critical along with the route
just our thoughts and opinions
chuck and svsoulmates
Somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean
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Old 17-07-2016, 19:23   #7
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Thank you Chuck for the advice. Since this is my first trans-ocean passage, I thought it would be best to stick with a group of larger sailboats. My Skookum 50 CC is a full keel, cutter rigged and a well built vessel at 42,000 lbs. I am not that worried about her performance in a storm. Like you, a diligent watch on the weather is always a safe practice. If you do get caught, then simply go with flow, rather than fight it. There are no deadlines to meet. I will probably add another 600 lbs. of ballast anyway on either side of the mast compression mast. Have about 12 inches in width there.
I do not have a SSB radio, but I will carry a sat-phone instead.
I undecided about bring my AR-15 and shotgun. Any thoughts about these weapons in the various EU Countries. I realize that pirates will have you out-gunned, but I cannot go down without a fight.

Best Regards, Larry
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Old 18-07-2016, 09:42   #8
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Not sure if the existence of these pirates, of which you speak. I have no problems with guns, but not sure why you would need them for your planned route. Good luck.

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Old 18-07-2016, 17:17   #9
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Larry and Woody,
You ask some direct questions, and I will give some straight answers here, and will be PLEASE don't take offense...

There is a thread that you must will answer a LOT of questions for you, especially the ones that you did not ask!!
It's called "Azores 2014, how safe is it"

And, the follow-on from 2015...

And, here's Jack Tyler's article....much better writer than I...
Routes to the Azores

Also, please read Chuckr's posting above (post #6), again....and again!!!

But, now onto some direct answers...

In 50 years, I've never seen/heard of boats converging in St. Thomas for Atlantic crossings....
Some might meet in USVI or BVI, for a passage up to the US, in early summer...
And, some leave from St. Marteen, or even Antigua, for an Atlantic crossing...but never heard of any meeting in St. Thomas..

{FYI, there are others here with a bit more experience that me...but thought you might wish to get some blunt answers from someone who's been there and done it...
I started my cruising life as a kid in the mid 1960's, and have sailed, cruised and voyaged quite a bit in the past 50 years....many, many offshore passages, and my first of many Atlantic crossings in the late 70's...cruised Bahamas, Caribbean, the N. Atlantic, and the Med, all multiple times....explored many 3rd world areas (Haiti, Soviet-era eastern Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, etc...and then modern post-Cold-War Europe, as well as the pre-developed and post-developed Caribbean)...and made my most recent Atlantic crossings in 2007 and 2008....
I've made my living in hi-tech electronics/communications, but don't rely on it!
I'm an amateur meteorologist, and always defer to the pros...
Just wanted to give my answers some context... }

1) First off, "security" and "safety"...
a) sea, you will have NO problems, NO issues, NO hassles....

(you'll not be beating to windward to get to Venezuela, from Panama....and Venezuela is the only place within 1000's of miles of your route, that there is any security problem at sea! If you were sailing the Western Indian Ocean, around the Horn of Africa, then you'd want to worry about security, but no where else!!)

Security, in port....just like crime in the US, there are places and times NOT to go, ever....but 99% of the places and people are honest and friendly!

I don't wish to start a "gun" debate (I'm a gun owner, hunter, and target shooter...I've gotten my share of wild hogs, wild turkeys, and a white tail deer, etc...)
But, I do not sail with guns....never, ever found a need....and actually don't know anyone that ever has...

Stay away from Venezuela, stay away from high-crime islands (do a search and read recent reports on-line), and you'll be fine!!

And, FYI...a great way to spend 10 years in a 3rd world prison, would be to bring an AR into Mexico!!! (and into most other nations of the world!)

Larry, please know that I'm no anti-gun liberal....but fact is that most places you'll sail/cruise, crime is a LOT less than most places in our good 'ole USA!
Sorry, if I offend some of my fellow US citizens, but those are the facts...

b) "Safety"...
Once you are offshore, you are on your own!!
If you have an emergency that you cannot handle, activating your EPIRB and your HF-DSC-SSB Radio, will get you help from merchant vessels (or if close to shore, from a coast guard)..

There is NO added safety in sailing in groups, none!
No matter what the "rally" folks tout, facts are that you're not going to found by a fellow cruiser, winched out of the water, etc., from another sailboat who you think is "nearby"!!
It doesn't happen....

Now, even if you don't wish to believe that, think about how far apart these boats get, once a day of two out on a long passage (100's of miles, is typical), and how long it can take one to sail to another one (days), and not to mention how do get in touch with the other boats that are out of VHF range....
You use the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) know, EPIRB, VHF-DSC Radio, MF-HF-DSC-SSB Radio, INMARSAT-C....
(you're aware that a "sat phone" isn't part of this system, yes??? and you're aware that unless it's out in the open, in the clear, not down in the cabin, and charged...a "sat phone" isn't going to "ring", yes???)

Again, for "Safety" at sea....for the most part, you are on your own...
It's you, your seamanship, your crew, and your boat....know all 4 of these well....and you'll be fine...

Having a life raft is fine, but the idea is to keep:
--- Keep the water on the outside of the boat...
--- Keep the mast pointing up...
--- Keep the sails working / making way...
--- Keep the boat moving somewhere in the right direction...
--- Keep yourself and crew ON the boat, well fed and hydrated, and well rested!!

So, while being concerned about "Safety" is fine....but, thinking that a life raft will keep you safe is a red herring!

If the stuff hits the fan, carry a properly registered EPIRB, a MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radio ("SSB"), a VHF-DSC Radio, to signal for help if you need it, and get your raft ready (if necessary), and you'll be fine...

{FYI, the "rallies" are fun for some...they like the parties in port and feel better at sea, thinking there are others out there....but, aside from the parties and psychological effect, that's it...}

c) And, as for meeting up with folks sailing the same routes....yes, you will meet them along the way...
The most common locale along your planned route is St. Marteen, but you might find some as close to home as S. Cal, Mexico, or Panama...

2) Don't know much about the 50' Shookum's passage speed, but you should be aware that just 'cause a boat can make 7 - 9 kts, doesn't mean that it's good for it, the rig, the sails, etc. for weeks at a time...
Not to mention the wear and tear on you and your crew!!
{If, I reaching in a nice breeze I top 8 kts with ease....but wouldn't want to do this 24/7 for weeks at a time! }
At best, figure 7kts, for the average 45' - 50' cruising boat, on offshore passages...but for planning purposes, I'd say plan on 150 miles a day, MAX!!!

BTW, why so much diesel???
270 gallons!! (I carry just 88 gals...about 75 gallons usable...and will carry a couple jerry jugs, NOT on the rails, when necessary)
But, 270 gallons!!
Cannot imagine what you need even a third of that for???
A Shookum 50 is a sailboat, right???
{And, what kind of weird unbalances are you introducing with another 700+ lbs above deck?? And, why do you wish to add more weight to your boat??? It all seems a bit odd to me...}

FYI, on my last eastbound Atlantic crossing I used only about 20 gallons total (3/4's of that was the last couple hundred miles in a calm / flat sea, heading towards Gibraltar..)
At 5.5kts I use only 1/2gal per hour....7kts it's about 0.8 to 0.9 gal/hr....and 8kts its almost 2 gal/hr...(most cruising boats have similar fuel mileage sweet, you will need to find yours...

S. Florida to Azores in 19 days....Horta to Gib in 7 days...averaged just over 6.5 kts...
(BTW, I actually used my asym spin more than usual for a eastbound crossing....about 12% of the time! So, if no spin....would've taken a bit longer, or used a bit more fuel...)

3) As for "how long it will take you to get to the Caribbean"....that all depends on YOU....
It could be done in a few weeks, delivery style....
Or you could take a couple years....
Choice is yours....

4) Now, the one major issue I see is your contradictory statements...
You say: "a diligent watch on the weather is always a safe practice"...but then you say: "I do not have a SSB radio, but I will carry a sat-phone instead"???
You would be ignoring the "Gold Standard" of offshore / hi-seas weather info/forecasts (from the US NWS/NOAA) updated and transmitted multiple times each by the USCG (and others), over HF radio ("SSB")....via Voice SSB, WeFax (HF radio weather fax / weather charts), and HF SITOR...
And, instead you think you'll be sitting calming and calling a "weather router" on a "sat phone"??????????
Please, please, read the above referenced threads and the links there in....and have a look at some videos, etc....and I think you'll quickly see the fallacy of your plan...

I think you'll find these helpful...

PLEASE watch them, they are FREE...they don't sell you anything....they are made on a real, honest, offshore cruising boat, by an experienced offshore sailor....and they show, live, real-world use/demonstrations, not simulated, not in a classroom or lad, etc....but REAL, live use...

Offshore Weather

HF-DSC Communications

Maritime HF Communications

Atlantic Crossing Videos


EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odds

Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts

SSB Stuff...

There's a LOT more....but, I think this should get you pointing in the right direction....

I do hope all the above helps...

Fair winds...

John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110
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Old 19-07-2016, 15:18   #10
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

A lot was covered by the other posters but didn't see anything from others about going through the Panama Canal. Left California in late 2014 and am now on the way up to the Chesapeake.

My strong recommendation is to do nothing until you get there, and you certainly do not need to hire an agent. The canal is much easier than any country you will check into or out of on your way south.

Don't think you can do much in advance anyways if it is the first time through for the boat. Although you could probably get your "number" before you get there. After that it is quick and simple, and cannot be done until you get there (measuring). Never have to even get off the boat except to make a cash deposit at a Citibank branch. After you pay you get a date assigned. Last January it was about a 2-3 day delay. I did hear that Bill Gates didn't want to wait so he paid another boat $35,000 to "buy" their spot for the next day. Don't know if true, but a good war story.

I can send you my cheat sheet if interested.
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Old 19-07-2016, 21:14   #11
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

... adding ballast? In a full keel boat? How will you attach it? What is the purpose?

Ditch the 2 X 55 gallon drums... sail instead. You should have stern quarter winds or broad reach most of the way.

GL! Did I mention to ditch the ballast?
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Old 19-07-2016, 21:44   #12
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Smile Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage


Well the Skookum has 14,200 lbs. of lead ballast built in, but how could adding more ballast at the center sweet spot affect the boat's balance?
I was going to fiberglass the wgts. in place. All that should happen is that the boat will sit lower on the waterline - yes or no?
She does have a 260-gallon fresh water tank that I will keep full via the Septra watermaker.

I would agree to ditch the lg. fuel drums, but I will still carry 2x5-gallon plastic gas tanks, anyway. The boat burns 1.5-2 gallons/hr.

Where did you depart from and roughly how long did your passage take on your 53-footer?. What time of year did you depart. I was looking at early May 2017.

Thanks for your advice. Larry
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Old 20-07-2016, 00:34   #13
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Hello Larry,

Regarding the ballast; a Skookum is well reputed for its stability. Why add weight? The boat will be at least a ton .. probably 2 tons heavier than now.. when its ready for as long passage.

Leaving early May is normal for W to East ATL crossings.

Buy Jimmy Cornell's book too; treasure trove of information including average winds for the whole world by time of year. A MUST BOOK. In my opinion of course. Good luck.
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Old 20-07-2016, 02:40   #14
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

Originally Posted by elsid007 View Post
I do not have a SSB radio, but I will carry a sat-phone instead.
I undecided about bring my AR-15 and shotgun. Any thoughts about these weapons in the various EU Countries. I realize that pirates will have you out-gunned, but I cannot go down without a fight.

Best Regards, Larry
Lots of good information here ..

Trolling from sailboat - Cruisers & Sailing Forums

.. If you are fair dinkum I would like to point out that 'sailing in company' across an ocean just doesn't work... you will be on your own from day one...
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Old 20-07-2016, 03:39   #15
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Re: West US Coast toTrans-Atlantic Passage

You are kidding? Guns are a US thing; largely illegal in the rest of the world.

Kill a fisherman anywhere and find out what a real prison is all about...

Sail! :-)
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