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  #1  
Old 02-08-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

I''m in my mid twenties and my husband and I have this urge to leave our job and lives behind us and spend a year on a boat in the Caribbean. Everyone thinks we''re crazy, but we have been doing a lot of research and it seems that people realistically do this all of the time. Of course, we have alot of fears, and we are still trying to decide if we could possibly prepare ourselves and make this possible. We are about to sell our first home, for much more than we bought it for (we live in FL) and we see the money as an oppurtunity to follow our dreams. Please let me know from your experiences if you think we are nuts, or if it is a real possibility.

We both grew up in Florida and on boats all our whole lives. We go fishing almost every weekend, and have plenty of experience on the water. I majored in marine science in college, and teach it now. We both are more knowledgable about currents, weather conditions, etc than the average person. We feel completely comfortable on the water, and it our passion.

The problem is that we''ve never been on a sailboat before. Obviously the only affordable way to cruise the caribbean is by sailboat. So we would have alot of learngin to do. It is February now, and if this were to happen, we would leave in Oct/Nov. That gives us eight months of prepartaion. Is this enough time to safely learn to sail? We would most likely spend every weekend on the water from now till then. What do you think? After 8 months, would we be experienced enough?

Obviously we would also have alot to learn about navigation, what to do in rough conditions, boat maintence, etc...

We can afford to spend anywhere between $20K and $40K on the boat and from what I''ve seen there are many options for a boat at this price between 30 and 36 ft. What size would the best? From what I''ve read, about a 33 or 34 would suit us well.

Is this enough time? Is this possible? I''ve read about people who left for the Caribbean having never learned to sail, bought a boat there, and set off..... This seems a little extreme to me, and I want to be well prepared first.

Please offer any advice, comments, criticism you may have.
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Old 02-08-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

I don''t think your nuts. A lot of sailors have the same dream. I know people who do think its crazy, but those are the people that have both feet firmly planted on shore. They do not share the same passion for the water and open seas as you have.

I seems as if your going about it the right way. Take your time to learn your new boat inside and out. Preppare yourselves and your boat as best as possible, than when the unexpected happens, you will feel confident that you have done everything in your power to avoid any possibly dangerous situations.

Best of luck to you and keep us updated with your progress.

Regards,
Tim
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Old 02-08-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

LaceyKay,

As to your last questions, it certainly is possible, but I do not think eight months is enough time to develop the skills and knowledge appropriate for taking your lives in hand by heading out in your own boat. To do so with reasonable safety, you need to making continuing decisions about boat selection, equipment, upgrades, maintenance, itineary, naviation, anchoring, etc. You will generly need to make these decisions without a ready,authorative source to give you advise.

Dive into sailing, take a learn-to-sail class, join a club, take the power squadron piloting course, buy a small boat, say 25'', in particluar find opportunities to sail with experienced people, read a lot of books. You''ll start to soak up knowledge and experience and in doing so, start to appreciate what you still have to learn. After perhaps a year or two, you should be far enough up the curve to begin thoughtful planning.

If you really don''t want to wait, quit now and get a deck hand job on a cuirusing/charter yacht. After a few months on board and at sea, you''ll be way up the curve.
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Old 02-09-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

We''re about to do something similar. My wife and I are in our early 30''s and have purchased a cruising sailboat. We are leaving our profession behind for now (both designers). We''ll spend spring/summer learning and practicing in various conditions, etc. Though we will have more time than just weekends to get ready. We''re considering semi-living aboard right away since the marina we''d be at is just 2 blocks from our house. We''re on Lake Michigan, which as you may know, has conditions as crazy as most coastal areas. We''d also like to end up in the Caribbean by next winter, and then leave our options open after that... Boat wise we''ve found a sailboat that is affordable, very roomy, has a full keel with a shallow draft (3''11"), and handles big weather well. It''s a 1975 Morgan OutIslander 33'', and they sell around $20-30k. It bunks 7, and at 6''4" I can stand up in the cabin. Have it marine surveyed for sure, but the fiberglass construction was very beefy back then so most have held up well. We''ve seen a few listed for sale in Florida.
Don''t listen to the gaggle of nay-sayers you''ll come across. They''re everywhere, trapped in their boxes. I just read a decent article you might like. It''s in Nat.Geographic Adventure (Feb 2005) you can read the beginning at this web link...
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0502/excerpt1.html
They were young, inexperienced, a couple, and made it from NYC to the caribbean, then to Mediterranean Europe aboard a 38'' ketch.
I hope that''s inspiring! Good luck to you both.
Jason & Nicole
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Old 02-09-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

SailMonkey,

Hi, Mister Naysayer here! Thanks for the link, that''s an interesting story that I''ll make time to read. It''s always wonderful to see the adventurous things people can do. But just becuase someone else pulls off an adventure like the Bennetts'' doesn''t make it a wise thing to do. Ms. Bennett''s concern that "My main goal here is to not die," hits the point - should people put them into circumstances like that? Just because you can buy your way into an Everest expedition (try the book Into Thin Air) doesn''t make it intelligent to do so...

Putting oneself into risks one is not equipped to handle may be adventerous, but it is also dumb.

Going offshore is like a personal Everest - a sensible person should be well prepared. Although I''ve owned sailboats over thirty years, and my current boat has crossed half the globe with a PO, I''ll want a year of preparation before my first trip.

It isn''t a question of not going, it''s a question of improving the odds before you go...

Another story relevant to this subject can be found at: http://www.equipped.com/0698rescue.htm
Experienced sailors with two years of preparation and yikes...

A final comment - I doubt too many knowledgeable sailers would consider an Out Island 33 (not an "OutIslander") an offshore boat, but I''m an admitted naysayer and hey, its your boat and your family.

Absolutely the best of luck to everyone!
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  #6  
Old 02-10-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

Some people used to teach their children how to swim by throwing them in a pool and saying, "sink or swim." They trusted that desperation, and the child''s natural resourcefulness, would prevail, but, to my way of thinking, that''s no way to teach a child to swim. It''s more likely to be a nightmarish experience that is likely to haunt the child long afterward.

It''s also no way to learn long-distance sailing.

You have eight months to prepare yourselves and the boat for an extended cruise.

You''re talking about buying an older boat, and any older boat is likely to have leaks that don''t show up very much at the dock, but they will soak everything inside the boat when at sea. The boat may need to be recaulked. The boat will likely have many other repairs and upgrades to its sails and its systems that will need to be made. It will take time and money to find all the boat''s flaws and maintenance issues and to repair them. If you have to pay to have them done, it will cost more. The boat may need a bottom job before you leave on an extended cruise, and that''s a big job. You won''t be able to sail the boat while you''re doing some of the work that will need to be done. That means you won''t be able to practice sailing the boat, trimming the sails, learning navigation, learning how to use all the boat''s hardware, learning "seamanship" (i.e., the easy way to do everything on a boat), learning to handle the boat around the docks, under power ( even if the boat has wheel steering, it isn''t at all like driving a car.), etc. If you''re going to be on your own, at sea, you need to know enough about all the boat''s systems to be able to make emergency repairs yourself.

You can speed up your learning curve by taking all kinds of courses, but that all comes at a cost of time and money.

I''m not going to say you can''t do it in eight months, but it would be a big job to prepare yourselves and the boat in that period of time, and it would require an all-out effort to do so. My suggestion is to work towards that goal, but, as the time nears, make a hard, realistic judgment as to whether you and the boat are ready for the trip. If not, then cruise the coast for another year, learn for another year, and go when you''re ready. There''s a lot of nice cruising to be done in Florida, and another year learning and cruising there wouldn''t be too painful.
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  #7  
Old 02-10-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

You make a good point. If you can get the boat ready for the trip, and learn as much as possible along the way, then perhaps you can find either a professional delivery skipper, or a friend with bluewater experience, to help you make the long passage. You''ll learn a tremendous amount on the passage, and, after you''re there, you''ll probably be able to handle the short passages on your own. By the time you''re ready to come back, you''ll probably be well-seasoned, and able to do it yourself.

Maybe you''re not crazy.
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Old 02-10-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

Sailermon6,

That is good point - to take someone more experinced along for the tougher ride down, then continue alone. Thanks for the input, that is acutally somethign I think I might look into.

Salingfool,

I read your article you posted. Obvisouly the big differnce here is they are sailing across the Pacific ocean to Hawaii. Florida to the Caribbean is not quite the same. It would only include one, possibly 2 overnight passages. Most passages would take me not far from land, and within easy reach of satefy. Of course, there are many things that could go wrong along the way, no matter how far you are from land, but what are the chances of so many things happening at once, as did to them? I guess what I''m sayign is that a person can take as many precautions as they feel necessary, but if somethings going to go wrong, its just gonna happen that way, wether we are prepared or not. Thruthfully, I feel that out on the water, on a boat you are in control of on your own, you are less at risk of an accident than you are in a regular lifestyle, driving back and forth to work everyday. Looks at the statistics and compare.

Also, from my discussions with people so far, I have been told that a 33 or 34 is just the size needed for this type of trip, but I saw that you told SailMonkey that you wouldn''t consider it an offshore boat. His trip sounds similiar to mine, so I was just wondering if you could explain that a little better, since you are first I''ve heard to say this. Or was it not necessarily the size, but the type you were referring to?

I''m not tryign to be argument here, although it may seem that way. Obvisouly I realize you are much more knowledgable than myself on this topic, and i repect your opinions, and am glad that you have given them, as it gives me more to think about towards my decision. You have made some great points. Thank you everyone for your input - my decision is getting harder and harder each day!! But i want this more than anything...
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Old 02-10-2006
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Crazy dream or reality?

LaceyKay,
You ask many intriguing questions, I''ll try to do justice to a few. i think there''s two critical factors for to successful cruising (IMHO, in my own boat I''ve never been more than 40 miles from dry land...), the boat and you.

"what are the chances of so many things happening at once, as did to them? " brings up the problem of the boat. The answer is - attempt a similar trip with a boat of similar consrtruction, and you have a good chance that all of them would happen again (or problems similar), excepting the crew illness...That story should end any bar agruments about whether a Catalina 36 is a "blue water" boat. Most boats arn''t designed and constructed for offshore use, otherwise they''d be too expensive. Note that the Catalina hadn''t even been exposed to what would be called stormy weather, and yet it was starting to come apart... I''m sure Catalinas have made the trip successfully...do you feel lucky today?

So picking a boat capable of a safe passage is step one - the challenge is how to reliably do that without the personal experience for such a decision?? Beats me, that why I recommend building a base of personal experience before chosing the pasagemaker.

An interesting question - in the success story above, how did the Bennetts, new to sailing, pick a Shannon 38 and spend three times what they planned to spend? They apparently figured the problem out..as they made a good choice...

It is not a question of boat size - size is nmore a question of comfort than safety, Some folks camp in a pup tent and others want a a 40 foot RV, they''re both camping...A classic book making this point is Dove (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060920475/002-7481026-1874401?v=glance&n=283155) in which a young guy circumnavigates in a Cal 24. Big or little the boat needs to be constructed to take a beating and not have any weak points, or be upgraded to that condition.

One last comment, dangerous situations don''t develop only 100 miles from land. I''ll bet first night you awake in the middle of your first 50 MPH gale, hanging on an anchor 100 yards from a leeward beach, you''ll wish it WAS 100 miles. These are every day occurances where the suitability of your exquipment and your knowledge as to how to use it, can have consequences.

If you commit yourself to learning and soak up all the experience you can, you''ll learn fast and grow in confidence, and sooner or later you''ll know you are ready for big decisions. In fact, it may be a good sign when you can figure out why an Out Island is not an offshore boat for yourself...

Good luck and get reading...
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Old 02-28-2006
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Ahoy Lacey!!!!

First, I wish you and your other half all the best. I always believe in living ones dreams not just dreaming them....but thats just me!
I have sailed from Ontario, Canada to the Caribbean single-handed and you should have heard everyones opinions on that one!!!! lol Most of my friends/family thought I was nuts!!!! But somehow I survived and so did my boat. I would suggest the 2 of you go to a marina or 2 . There is always someone looking for crew members. Thats how I started and although I had little interest in racing I learned some very valuable skills that can't be learned in books... so try that route. It cost me zero which was a bonus! Also start collecting sailing/navigating books. The internet is great too.I recommend taking sailing classes as well.
As far as selecting a boat thats something that you will get various opinions on and can be confusing as well!
My opinion is: the length of boat should NOT be a main factor in your choice!
For example there are some 38' boats I wouldn't go near bluewater in and they were not designed to handle the stress and heavy loads that you experience in the ocean. And there are some boats under 30' that have crossed many a sea. Therefore I suggest you focus in on boats that were designed for the type of sailing you plan on doing...whether that be racing,coastal/bay cruising or bluewater passages. Some folks will tell you that such and
such a make crossed an ocean by so and so. Big deal!!!! That doesn't mean it is a safe boat in bluewater. Just means the sailor was a fool and got lucky. And not all bluewater sailing conditions are the same...eg = if your sailing in parts of the Bahamas a deep draft can pose big problems just like ICW. Also another important factor is provisioning,water& fuel tankage.
Lastly don't figure that since a boat charter company has a certain line or model in the Carribbean that it makes for a safe bluewater boat. They are in it for profit and most of those boats never venture far from their moorings.

There ends my lesson! Fair winds, Allan
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