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Nione 03-10-2012 10:08 PM

A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
Greetings! I'm a writer, in desperate need of some aid from real, live sailors. Google and Wikipedia can only help so much. Hours of scouring dozens of sites have only driven home the fact I am way out of my depth here!

This is the scenario:
Three people (two experienced sailors and one prisoner) are traveling from the New Jersey, U.S. coastline to a southern Caribbean island. It is November, present day time period. They are purchasing a small boat second-hand from a random harbor, and must be able to travel non-stop as discreetly as possible. Money is not an issue.

My main questions, broadly:

-- What sort of boat would they buy?
-- What is a small blue water boat actually like on the inside?
-- How long would this journey take, approximately?

Opinions and personal anecdotes are wonderful! If you want to go on at length about a boat you built or a journey you took, that is more than fine! I also welcome suggestions for further resources.

Thank you very much in advance!


Specifics, my thoughts, and research:

First of all, I need to know if I'm even looking in the right direction when thinking "sailboat." Maybe these people should use a motorboat. Or power sailor. What do you think? They can't stop and refuel.

The next question is, What kind?

So far from my research it looks like they should be getting some sort of a sloop, yacht, or cruiser, (maybe something like this boat?) but it has been surprisingly difficult to locate a diagram of the various levels of any sailboat. I get the technical parts of the boat, electrical and plumbing diagrams, or (at best!) deck plans of large commercial vessels. So I feel rather ignorant but must ask: What do you see when you get on the deck of a boat, besides the mast, sails, boom, etc.? How do you get to the cabin; where is it? What are the various levels? What other spaces would it have, where, and how do you get to them? Or, could/should these people get a boat that has none of this, and just sleep on the deck? What supplies would they need to take on with them? (Generator?) How much could they take?
Basically, what is it like on and in a boat?

They want to move subtly, so I would imagine going on the open sea rather than keeping close to coasts would be preferable, but that could just be my ignorance talking. As I haven't yet researched entering/exiting international waters and harbor patrols I won't ask about that, but I'd like to know how realistic it is for them to head out to the open sea and not come near a coast until they've almost hit the island. And then would it shorten or lengthen the trip, since they could take a straighter line? (Or could they?) And just how much danger does that add? The narrator is the prisoner, so I don't need to know every detail of tides, etc., but I do need a general time frame. If they leave in November, approximately when would they reach the area near South America?

My research:
Believe me when I say that I have been researching this like mad, and would not bother actual people if I weren't utterly at a loss. GFE, right? If one of you wants I am willing to post as many used keyword combinations as I can remember and as many titles of Wikipedia articles that I read as I can recall. I've checked out the sticky on this forum about boats for off-shore cruising; I've read posts and searched boat sale listings. Looked at stuff like James Baldwin's Good Old Boats List. Everything gives me all the details I don't understand and almost none of the details I need. I have burnt, choked, and tortured myself in the name of writing research, and only go to other people when my at-hand resources fail me. So please see this post as the appeal to expertise that it is, not an attempt to get quick answers the easy way. Of course, ideally I would get on a boat, but I can't even begin searching for a way to make that happen until I know what kind of boat on which to seek experience.

I am very grateful for any help here! Who knows . . . Maybe learning about this will bring me to become enamored of sailing and one day I shall rise amongst your ranks!

FSMike 03-10-2012 10:48 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
There are a lot of answers to your questions. If I were you I would first go physically look at some 35'+ sailboats. Sailors love to show off their boats, go ask 'em some questions.

jameso 03-10-2012 11:16 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
well, it's fall (getting cold) boats will be on the hard (out of the water) or winterized. Random harbor, maybe walk up to a salty looking guy in a well turned out trawler and make him/her an offer they can't refuse, the ower is going to insist you transfer ownership, I should think, but if that can be arranged then fuel her up, buy some food and head south

CalebD 03-11-2012 12:04 AM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
One thing you did not mention is the Gulf Stream - the generally northern flowing warm water current coming out of the Gulf of Mexico. Most sailors try to minimize their time fighting against the Gulf Stream by going farther out in the ocean, to Bermuda almost to get past the current and then head south for the Caribbean Isles. The other choice is to go further south and head off across the Gulf Stream for the Bahamas and then southeast towards PR and the VIs (the so-called Thorny Path).
Another problem with your scenario is that with 2 sailors and one prisoner trying to mostly sail towards S. America is that with only 2 reliable crew they should take turns standing watch/steering the boat. While one is on watch the other would usually rest for about 4 hours at a stretch. Someone also has to keep an eye on the 'prisoner' unless he/she is handcuffed or otherwise restrained (tied up - sailors like rope and knots) leaving little time for either crewmen to rest. The 'prisoner' would also have to make ablutions as this trip, if done totally offshore with good winds could take 2 - 3 weeks starting from NJ. They would need food, water and what not for that time as well.
It is a bit difficult to describe what standing a 4 hour watch would be on your vessel (not the 19' you linked to BTW) without knowing what equipment it carried. I think we are talking about a 30+ foot sailboat for 3 people.
On one blue water trip I helped with there was Radar, an autopilot hooked into a chart plotter, SAT phone, multiple GPS as well as VHF radio on a 50' Beneteau. The owner could have sailed it by himself but I was along to spell him on watches every 3 hours so he could rest up for his next shift at the helm. The off-watch crew would also be the one to prepare meals and clean up as obviously the helmsman would be concerned with the sails, the 'vector made good' or course and watching out for shipping and the weather. Many boats also carry a computer and either using SSB radio or a SAT phone they can download weather forecasts on the open ocean (look up 'grib files') as a forecast is only good for a few days, if that.
There is also a slight chance of a late hurricane or TS in the Atlantic in November although the hurricane season is largely over by then. Weather like that would certainly make life miserable for your fictional crew and captive.
The weather is it's own character as are the boat and the ocean.
You really owe it to yourself to at least hitch a ride on a sailboat in the 30 - ? foot range to see what it is like during the day time. At night it is a little more intense as you lose the visual horizon while the boat continues to move to the ocean swells (a calm ocean has 3' - 6' swells). Seeing the Milky Way and the stars at night is phenomenal if it is not coudy, as is the phosphorescence trails the boat leaves behind in warmer waters.
There is really too much to include in this reply.
I'd suggest reading a few blogs by folks who are doing some ocean traveling by sailboat. Here is one that comes to mind:

Geoff54 03-11-2012 12:36 AM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
I agree with everything that CalebD said + some random thoughts:
Not many pleasure boats, sail or power, leaving the northeast / mid Atlantic coast that time of year.
How long? You don’t give a very specific destination and without trying to plan an actual trip I’ll pull a number out of a hat – 3 weeks.
What's the minimum you need? Food, water, fuel (typically you run the engine for an hour a day for hot water and to charge the batteries) and some means to navigate (charts and gps would be reasonable).
What’s a sailboat like? Wow! Go to select a boat and then select 360. You can view the inside and the cockpit interactively. Go to Welcome to Conch Charters, your charter provider in the British Virgin Islands select fleet and look at the videos of the boats. Go to Boats for Sale, New and Used Boats and Yachts - search for sail from 35-45 feet, pick a few at random and look at the pictures and descriptions. You really need someone to help you just to get the terminology correct. Maybe if you post your location someone nearby will offer to let you look around his or her boat.
Good luck

WDS123 03-11-2012 10:57 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
A fellow with handle Joshua Slocum could Provider some insight - he sailed NJ -Brazil a few times with his Wife

Slocum hasn't posted in a while, but he is The best source.

crazystrause 03-11-2012 11:14 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
You should check out this video.

<iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="400" height="225" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe><p><a href="">Hold Fast</a> from <a href="">Moxie Marlinspike</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Nione 03-12-2012 05:09 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
You are all wonderful! Thank you! This has really helped get me moving in the right direction.

Of course I'll keep checking back daily. Now I really want to get out on a boat! :-)

jameswilson29 03-12-2012 05:21 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
You should. Post a "crew wanted" listing. If you survive the trip, you will have many accurate details for your book.

BTW, don't volunteer to be the "prisoner", even though you may have that experience with any crew position.

killarney_sailor 03-12-2012 05:33 PM

Re: A trip from NJ to S. America--Type, journey length, boat details?
OK, I will play, since I am a writer too, but not fiction. We sailed from Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean in early November a couple of years ago. Some thoughts:
- lots (~150 boats a year) head to Caribbean each year from US in November.; Two reasons for date, it is after the normal hurricane season (although you can get the odd hurricane in November); also most insurance does not cover you until Nov 1 south of Cape Hatteras (North Carolina)
- most go from the Chesakeake, although some leave from further north; further north you are, the nastier the weather although you can (and do) get pasted further south
- generally people aim for the British Virgin Islands and then head further east and down the chain of islands
- in your subject line you mentioned South America; that is hard because of foul currents south of Trinidad; if you wanted to go to Brazil for example the approach would have to be different
- someone mentioned the Gulf Stream; it is a concern but does not extend all that far; check on line and you can see where it is and how wide it is
- the reason for heading towards Bermuda is that you want to get far enough east before getting into the trade winds (google it). In general an L-shaped route makes most sense since you end up going across the trades, which is good, rather than into them
- since your protagonists want to be unobtrusive, it would make sense to hide in the small crowd of boats heading south - ie don't look suspicious
- assuming the above, you could have them go to the BVI and then do a couple of overnights from there; It is easiest and check in and out of the French islands (Guadeloupe and Martinique) since you only have to sit down at a computer and do it yourself; most other islands you are dealing with officials
- don't know if you are looking for them to go an uninhabited island - those are really rare and even rarer to have one with an anchorage
- as to the boat they would take, do your shopping at - the boats for sail there typically have lots of pictures
- if I am a 'money is not a problem' kind of guy, I might look at a Hallberg-Rassy 43 or slightly bigger (might as well not suffer on the trip)
- it is not like buying a used car and driving away, the boat has to be properly-prepared for a journey like this and well-provisioned; the boat you buy might have been prepped for ocean voyaging and then the owner got ill - that is not too rare unfortunately; now your people only have to go shopping before leaving

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