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Old 17-07-2020, 09:23   #1
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Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Hi there,

I'm a newbie in search of a 30' trawler to liveaboard and cruise. I live in Denver CO now, but came from San Francisco and know the west coast way better than the east coast of the usa. I hear tell the boats are better priced in FL, and that got me thinking, if I buy a boat in FL, but want to marina it in CA, wouldn't it make sense to pilot to vessel through the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast?

I haven't really seen anyone talk about this. Is this a trip nobody wants to take? If so, why not? Thanks,

Ross
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Old 17-07-2020, 09:34   #2
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Cheaper and easier to send the boat by truck and cruising in the Keys and Bahamas is excellent except for the occasional hurricane!
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Old 17-07-2020, 09:36   #3
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

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Originally Posted by rossikle View Post
Hi there,

I'm a newbie in search of a 30' trawler to liveaboard and cruise. I live in Denver CO now, but came from San Francisco and know the west coast way better than the east coast of the usa. I hear tell the boats are better priced in FL, and that got me thinking, if I buy a boat in FL, but want to marina it in CA, wouldn't it make sense to pilot to vessel through the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast?

I haven't really seen anyone talk about this. Is this a trip nobody wants to take? If so, why not? Thanks,

Ross
I would submit that if your goal is to save money, than you're unlikely to do so buying a boat that requires a 4,500 nautical mile journey to get it to where you want it. Gas alone is going to cost you a significant fraction of the cost of the boat for that trip in a trawler.

If you actually want to make the trip, then by all means do it for that reason and that reason alone. It's definitely doable, but it is a long trip. Just don't fool yourself into thinking its a way to save money, as it isn't. That's why you don't see anyone here doing it for that reason.
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Old 17-07-2020, 09:43   #4
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Great input. Reason to buy on East Coast is to hopefully save some money on the purchase. That's the end of that story. However, it just seems odd to me that everyone seems to want to cruise up and down EITHER the East Coast or the West Coast, but not many people talk about going East to West (or vice versa). Long trip...maybe, but isn't the journey what people boat for, more than the destination? I've seen poster stating they want to take two years to complete the Great Loop. As long as I can check out all these cool anchorages along the way, I might just spend two years making that journey west...don't really know. Is this passage through Panama a dangerous one in terms of criminal elements in some other countries?
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Old 18-07-2020, 09:20   #5
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Will you save money? Maybe. Depends on many factors besides the initial purchase price.
What does your new to you boat need to make such a long trip? Repairs, equipment , insurance etc?
I once bought an airplane in Maryland for that exact reason, then flew it home and had the time of my life. A trip I will always remember. But that trip was only 7 days and airplanes are maintained at a pretty high level not like boats.
If you can spend a year or 2 bringing it back to CA and you want to do such a trip then go for it. Panama canal is a business. A big business. They don't put up with problems on boats. Now you may have to wait somewhere for 2 weeks waiting for your time slot and depending where you wait and what you do you could run into some trouble. Checkout Noonsite.com. I'm sure a google search for both ends of the canal for most recent cruisers experience could be found. Of course with the current pandemic most countries are closed so after you get through the canal you're pretty much stuck at the other end as Mexico would be your 1st country you could reenter from sea.
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Old 18-07-2020, 09:49   #6
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Quite a few people cruise through Latin America. Check out Latitude38.com for their "Changes in Latitude" section on cruiser updates.

Cruiser Rally's that often begin a cruiser's Latam cruising

Baja Ha Ha (Lat 38 sponsor)
Pacific Puddle Jump (also Lat 38)
Panama Posse

My plan was to head from Ensenada MX to my home in Florida, but with C19, I may just put her on a ship in November. But I've done the trip before - there's plenty to see and do. There isn't much written on forums like these as folks like myself are mostly desk-bound cruising vicariously vs out doing it. But there are plenty of folks cruising these routes.

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Old 18-07-2020, 10:01   #7
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

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Originally Posted by rossikle View Post
Hi there,

I'm a newbie in search of a 30' trawler to liveaboard and cruise. I live in Denver CO now, but came from San Francisco and know the west coast way better than the east coast of the usa. I hear tell the boats are better priced in FL, and that got me thinking, if I buy a boat in FL, but want to marina it in CA, wouldn't it make sense to pilot to vessel through the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast?

I haven't really seen anyone talk about this. Is this a trip nobody wants to take? If so, why not? Thanks,

Ross
The main reason that this is not such a popular route is the bash up the west coast against the current and wind. A lot of people who do the Baja Haha have a difficult time finding crew for the return voyage up to California and that's not near as far as Panama to San Francisco. The trip is apparently so bad that many people just head to Hawaii from Panama and then north until they find favorable wind conditions to reach Seattle where they can catch the favorable current and wind south down the west coast. It's a loooong trip.
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Old 18-07-2020, 10:04   #8
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Mainly it's a long trip either way. West to East you have to bash your way East from the canal and it's notoriously bad unless you go North first through a bunch of shallow water. East to West you have to make the trip North from the canal, which is a real bash against prevailing strong wind and seas also for long stretches.
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Old 18-07-2020, 10:05   #9
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

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The main reason that this is not such a popular route is the bash up the west coast against the current and wind. A lot of people who do the Baja Haha have a difficult time finding crew for the return voyage up to California and that's not near as far as Panama to San Francisco.
True it can be a bear but he's in a powerboat not a sailboat. Leave very very early in the morning and be at your next anchorage before the wind and the waves pick up. It's an advantage power boaters have.
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Old 18-07-2020, 10:25   #10
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

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Originally Posted by rossikle View Post
Hi there,

I'm a newbie in search of a 30' trawler to liveaboard and cruise. I live in Denver CO now, but came from San Francisco and know the west coast way better than the east coast of the usa. I hear tell the boats are better priced in FL, and that got me thinking, if I buy a boat in FL, but want to marina it in CA, wouldn't it make sense to pilot to vessel through the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast? Ross
Plenty of 30' trawlers on the west coast, especially where we are in PNW.

We are from San Francisco, which is awful for living aboard or cruising. What are your plans/desires?

If you like tropical warm weather, the Carribean and Mexico are for you. If you're like us and prefer the west coast and cooler climes, the PNW is a cruiser's paradise, particularly for small trawlers.
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Old 18-07-2020, 10:48   #11
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

The bash is no joke. I crewed on a trip from FL to San Fran Bay, but due to circumstances left the boat on the northern edge of Costa Rica. I felt like we moved through our stops really fast and just the section of it my wife and I were on took almost 4 months.
The owner carried on with fresh crew and basically explained we had the best of the entire trip as from then on it was motor sailing hard on the wind for 60+ days straight. He said if he were to do it over, he would go to Hawaii and back to save the bashing north. He stopped as often as he could before the afternoon winds set up, but it was not always practical and he also tried heading offshore 150nm to get a longer wave period for a week at one point, which he said did help. There is a very good guide book for the journey as well, but its not called "The Bash" for nothing.

Having sailed around Vancouver Island for many summers: I would do that. California is hardcore coast for sailing.
I live on west coast of FL and our boat is currently stranded in the Bahamas (covid) and I can tell you: its some darn good sailing on the east coast US and the Bahamas.
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Old 18-07-2020, 10:58   #12
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

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Cheaper and easier to send the boat by truck and cruising in the Keys and Bahamas is excellent except for the occasional hurricane!
That will depend very much on the size of the boat, particularly beam and vertical clearance. A power boat with a bridge could easily exceed the vertical clearance limits which is around 13-14' requiring some deconstruction.

Any beam over 8.5' requires special permits (that cost). Much over 8.5' (10 if I recall) and it requires a chase car, more width requires cars in front and behind. Also can have restrictions on day travel only.

A really large boat cannot be transported across country at all. Moderatey large could easily cost $15-20,000.
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Old 18-07-2020, 10:58   #13
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

In 1967 we made a cruise from Bath Maine around the Horn and up to Long Beach Ca. Best cruise ever many ports of call on both sides of South America and Southern Mexico. Whole trip was sponsored and funded by the American Tax Payers and the Ship was a Nuke Powered war ship.
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Old 18-07-2020, 11:01   #14
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

Considering the trip is around 6,000 miles by sea, unless you get the deal of the century, any savings you realize in the purchase will be lost in moving the boat.

Unless you want to do this to enjoy the trip, buy a boat where you intend to use it.
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Old 18-07-2020, 12:03   #15
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Re: Nobody cruises from San Francisco to Miami

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Originally Posted by rossikle View Post
Hi there,

I'm a newbie in search of a 30' trawler to liveaboard and cruise. I live in Denver CO now, but came from San Francisco and know the west coast way better than the east coast of the usa. I hear tell the boats are better priced in FL, and that got me thinking, if I buy a boat in FL, but want to marina it in CA, wouldn't it make sense to pilot to vessel through the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast?

I haven't really seen anyone talk about this. Is this a trip nobody wants to take? If so, why not? Thanks,

Ross

The title of your post is wrong. You want to say "Miami to SF".

If this is your first time ocean boating experience, don't do it until you get some sea time in that boat in various conditions.

You'll encounter generally benign conditions on most of the trip if done in season and with forecasts, but you'll have some rough going when you get to the west coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua due to the papagayo winds.

30' is a bit small for this trip, and in a single engine trawler. Having one engine and no sailing ability would freak me out. But if really seaworthy and reliable it would be OK. You should be experienced in fixing diesels, fixing that one in particular, and have many spare parts.

Be prepared; you can't economically or time-wise afford to fix things like watermakers and reefers in these little countries.

30' trawler can be shipped by truck. No risk to you!
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