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magnusmurphy 12-24-2006 08:35 PM

6 months from West Coast Florida round trip??

We've just bought a bluewater boat on the East Coast ( I meant East Coast Florida by the way...) and plan a round trip starting from Florida. The trip will start beginning of December 2007 and end somewhere in June of 2008. I know it's a year away but we're trying to plan ahead. We would appreciate some opinions on a possible itinerary.

Here is some information that might help:

We are a family of four; my wife, myself and two daughters - will be aged 12 and 14 (grades 7 and 9) at the time. We have extensive coastal cruising experience on the West Coast (Pacific Northwest), including taking our previous sailboat (which is currently for sale....a VERY well fitted out Dufour 36 in perfect condition - lying Sidney Vancouver Island) to Alaska and back. I'm the only one with some limited offshore experience (one trip around Vancouver Island and one 7 day trip from Aruba to Grand Cayman).

Our new boat is a well equipped "go anywhere" bluewater boat (Shearwater 39).

We would certainly like to cruise the Bahamas. However, we would really like to visit a Spanish speaking country since both our children are taking Spanish in school. Since they're also taking French, it would also be great to visit a French country but that doesn't seem possible.

We don't want to try and do too much. We want to take it "relatively" easy and smell the roses along the way. Bear in mind that we're going to homeschool so we will need time to just stay in one place and work on that.

I've been thinking perhaps Cuba, but the political hassles and uncertainty regarding the US Coast Guard's handling of foreign flagged vessels (we are Canadian) returning from Cuba probably rules that out.

Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins seem to be a LONG beat away, directly into the wind and no fun for anyone, so that's out.

So here are the options as I see them at this early point:

1) VERY laid back: Staying in the Bahamas for the entire 6 months. Getting our "Spanish immersion" in Florida if possible.

2) More challenging: Bahamas - then from Inagua (or Providencialis), to Little Cayman, then Grand Cayman, then to Cancun - then back to the Floriday Cays and Miami

3) Bahamas, Cayman (Brac, Little, Grand), Belize, Yucatan, Florida Cays

The last two bring us to Spanish Mexico but introduce some significant open passages. That per se is not a problem (at least they are downwind). I'm more worried this is trying to do "too much". I'd really like to hear from those who know these areas and have sailed these itineraries. I notice that the trip up from the Yucatan to the Florida Cays can involve a lot of beating.

Also, if there is anyone with children more or less the ages of ours planning a similar trip at approx that time, we'd like to hear from you as well.

Any ideas appreciated. This will possibly be the only trip on that coast before we truck the boat over to the West Coast.



magnusmurphy 12-24-2006 08:54 PM

One more thought: I noticed that stopping in Jamaica would be a nice break in the passage to Cayman. Any opinion on that? If so, where to stop. Is it safe?


magnusmurphy 12-24-2006 09:07 PM

Ok I know this is irritating but here is some more information to chew on when giving us advice:

The above ideas make a few assumptions; the main one being that the boat will be in southern Florida.

The facts are however that the boat currently is in Newport. We are going to cruise July and August from there, probably spending time in NY and DC (visiting friends and family) and then some time in the Chesapeake. We then need to return home but plan to join the boat in December. My plan is to get a delivery skipper to take her South after the Hurricane season. Since it is then cold again however (and no heater installed yet), we're not relishing doing the ICW ourselves so therefore the idea of the delivery - and picking her up in Florida again.

We will then have six months starting December and want to make the most of it, given what I've said above.

camaraderie 12-24-2006 11:36 PM

Magnus...the Dominican Republic /Luperon is a destination after the Bahamas which would give them some Spanish. There would be no "Easting" involved and just one overnight sail to get there after island hopping down the Bahamas to the Turks & Caicos. The problem is conditions in Luperon.
We found Luperon very dirty and unsanitary, officials somewhat corrupt and provisioning meager...really third world environment. BUT...the people are friendly enough and they do speak Spanish and you can take road tours to the other side of the island and Santo Domingo which is a nice city and full of history. Whether you want to place your kids in this environment is the question. You might private message Sialia who had his family there with him a couple of yeas back for his perspective on this.
Other thoughts:
-I think you can spend months seeing the Abacos and Exumas and the Bahama out islands and the kids will never tire of it.
-You should see and do the ICW once if you never have. A beautiful and interesting trip with lots of neat places from cities like Savannah/Charleston to incredible preserves like Cumberland island. November 1st or thereabouts is not too late to head down in comfort . If you have a cockpit enclosure...even better. But you don't need heat on board to do it...just sleeping bags or blankets till you get a bit south. From Norfolk it is easily done in one month with time off to see stuff.
-If you want to do Mexico as well...I would head back from the Bahamas to the Miami area and do the Keys to Key West. Then on a good forecast, leave from Key West to IslaMujueres which should be a 3-4 day trip in the Gulf. There is another recent thread covering this trip but it is obviously quite easily do-able in the time you have.
-You might check on some of Steve Pavlidas's threads over on if you are interested to Jamaica/Cayman/Belize. He is currently aboard in Belize and working on publishing a new guide to the Western Caribe and is most generous with his expertise.

magnusmurphy 12-25-2006 01:14 AM


Thanks for your advice. I don't think we'll take the chance on the DR. A viable idea is the one where we do the ICW ourselves and then only the Bahamas - maybe with the Keys at the end.

However, the problem is that we're only going to rejoin our boat at the END of November. If we leave her in the Chesapeake, that is very late to start a trip South. We could go further South this Summer however, since we do have two months - but how far should we go, given that we have NO experience with hurricanes and will have to leave the boat somewhere at the end of August and fly back to Calgary. If we go further South it should be somewhere from where we could pick up the journey in December as well as somewhere where we can leave her in the care of someone. It should also be a safe area for hurricanes. If you or anyone can help with this problem, we may have the beginnings of a plan!

Thanks for the advice!


camaraderie 12-25-2006 09:03 AM

You're right...beginning of December is late to be starting from the Chesapeake and end of August is peak hurricane season. Insurance coveverage may be an issue for you if you venture south of the Chesapeake. I know you can get it but it may cost a lot more...still they insure all those boats in Florida!
As to where to stash the boat for a few months that won't be too cold when you get there in December...I am thinking that Wilmington or New Bern NC might be good places to keep your boat. Both are off the ICW and a bit more inland which I think is good if a 'cane did come close and both have several marinas, good services and are safe places. Wilmington is closest to SC and placing yourself there would be the equivilent of leaving the Chesapeake around 11/15 which is certainly not too late. It also leaves several of the more open sections of the ICW behind you so you wouldn't have to worry about nasty weather much. Obviously...there is no guarantee in the Chesapeake OR anywhere in the southeast that a 'cane won't get you but I'd say Wilmington or New Bern are reasonably safe unless you just get damned unlucky.
If you really want to get south...then I'd recommend Isle of Hope Marina just south of Savannah as the location is good and they have an enclosed basin and well cared for facility. Problem there is that you' d have about a 2-3 week trip in peak 'cane season to get there.
As to the Bahamas...I think you'll be really pleased with the choice! Get a copy of the Dodge Guide to Abacos this winter if you want to get really excited about it!! Merry Christmas!!

magnusmurphy 12-25-2006 01:28 PM

Thanks again. So many options and choices! Well, I guess that's part of what makes cruising so interesting and captivating a passtime!

If anyone else has ideas - let them come.

I'll order the book asap - thanks.


ebs001 12-26-2006 06:50 AM

If you want to visit a spanish speaking area go to Miami and if you want to speak french you can go to Hollywood (FL) and speak Quebecois french.

chuck5499 12-26-2006 04:55 PM

i would not rule out Cuba -- as a Canadian citizen on a Canadian passport flying the maple leaf it should not be a problem with the USCG -
chuck and soulmates

hellosailor 12-26-2006 05:15 PM

"We would certainly like to cruise the Bahamas. However, we would really like to visit a Spanish speaking country since both our children are taking Spanish in school. Since they're also taking French, it would also be great to visit a French country but that doesn't seem possible."

You might also get some difference of opinion about "Spanish" being spoken in the Caribbean. Hispanic, Latino...many names but it won't be Castillian or Andalusian. As an Argentine-born friend of mine said on hearing "east coast spanish", "I know what espanish is, and that is not espanish." Of course, what your kids are learning in school may not be "real" Spanish either.

The USCG and US policies on Cuba would make it unwise to cross directly from the US into Cuba or vice versa, but I'm told that the US essentially ignores traffic coming/going via a third country, so that your course is not *directly* between the US and Cuba. Especially if there are no Cuban goods to be found on your boat when you do return to US waters.

The USCG sometimes is in a hard place between what the authorities require them to do, and the missions they would prefer to concentrate on, like SAR. So they've become fairly adept at walking a fine line and doing what they are required to do--and ignoring what they are allowed to ignore. (Like where you came or went to from Mexico, rather than the US.)

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