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post #1 of 24 Old 03-23-2004 Thread Starter
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Where to Go

You leave FL 11/1/04, you have 1 year, and you need to return to the gulf/east coast at the end of that year. You have alread spent significant time in the Bahamas.

Where would you go and why? Where would you return to and why?

You have a bluewater, capable boat and moderate cruising experience.
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post #2 of 24 Old 03-23-2004
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Sadie, you don''t tell us the critical variable: how much do you want to move and how often (and for how long) do you want to stop and sniff the roses.

A friend left Tampa, FL in the fall and returned the following April after having made it down to Trinidad and back. For most folks, that''s not the pace they would chose; he apparently likes to sail more than shop in the markets and actually ''see'' where he''s reached.

A second wrinkle is the back end of your timetable. If you really don''t need to be further N than Florida on 1 November, then you''ve face a dilemma: what do you choose to do during hurricane season? You could e.g. drop below most (not all) storm paths for the summer by visiting Trinidad (taking the route E then S as Bruce Vansant thoroughly covers in Passages South) -or- you could do the ''short circle'' via the Windward Passage, Jamaica, Caymans, Bay Is. and the summer up the Rio Dulce. We''ve done both and they each have their many attractions...but what do you do in October? The W Caribbean and Gulf get many of their storms late in the season, so pulling out of the Rio at that time is a risk...and the trip back from Trinidad is long, so altho'' you are enjoying lots of fair winds your window of exposure is lengthy.

Wherever you hope to reach in the Caribbean, I''d encourage you to extend the period by one to two months - a small period of time for a lot of safety insurance.

Jack
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post #3 of 24 Old 03-23-2004 Thread Starter
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We can extend or shorten the time - its about having the funds for approximately 1 year plus money set aside for returning.

There are so many scenarios that we could choose that I wondered if we''d missed any. Also wondered what we might get out of folks who have "been there done that".

The hurricane season is the biggest issue. An eastern Caribbean trip with a hurricane layover in Grenada (thereabouts), a western trip, or ....Mexico/Belize till march then back and up the East coast to Chesapeak.

If we do the eastern Caribbean trip, we will probably go east then south to the USVI so that we can experience a longer, off shore trip.

We''d like time to visit every island until we''re tired, but that is unrealistic. If we do well budget-wise, we may be able to stay out longer.
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post #4 of 24 Old 03-23-2004
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Sadie, two quick follow-ups based on your comments:

"If we do the eastern Caribbean trip, we will probably go east then south to the USVI so that we can experience a longer, off shore trip."
That''s fine, and folks often make that choice when it''s this late in the season (Spring) and they need to transit quickly so they make Trinidad before storm season. The snag in your case will be that the longer you hold off on departing (11/1 is a little early given the hurricane cycle we''re in now) the closer you get to the Christmas Trades when leaving the Bahamas, which makes the offshore ''Hwy 65'' route more difficult to accomplish. So...plan on the offshore run being Plan A but expect that it may be necessary to bail out and end up island hopping, instead (so a few basic charts will come in handy). We cruised with a Swan 50 footer that couldn''t make it to PR for this reason (it was January, so a little later than what you might be able to arrange).

"We''d like time to visit every island until we''re tired, but that is unrealistic. If we do well budget-wise, we may be able to stay out longer."
Hearing that, I can imagine how the E Caribbean choice would leave open more options. After arriving in Grenada/Trini in June/July, you can stay S to avoid the tropical storm paths and continue westward, then coming back north in Fall to cruise the W Caribbean before returning to the States. If you did the Windward Passage & Central Caribbean initially, you''d have fewer places to enjoy the following fall, altho'' that would give you longer spells for visiting & inland travel while waiting out storm season up the Rio Dulce and then gunkholing in Belize, Mexico and the offshore Atolls.

Both sound like good choices, don''t they?!<g> Good luck on setting up a careful budget with a modest built-in cushion for a surprise or two. You can cruise very cheaply all over the Caribbean so long as you set out with that goal in mind.

Jack
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post #5 of 24 Old 03-24-2004 Thread Starter
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Jack,

I appreciate your thoughtful input very much. I have one question from your last statement "You can cruise very cheaply all over the Caribbean....", can you define cheaply?
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post #6 of 24 Old 03-24-2004
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Sadie:

"I have one question from your last statement ''You can cruise very cheaply all over the Caribbean....'', can you define cheaply?"

Ahh, you want to know how many of those angels we can get to dance on the head of that pin, don''t you? <g> An honest answer is ''No'', I really can''t. There have been many threads on this topic on numerous BB''s (and some excellent detailed reporting done by Latitude 38 over some years now) and the answer always seems to be that cruising costs vary widely from one crew to the next and are often directly related to what''s in the wallet. (One corollary seems to be that fancier, more complex boats are sailed by crews who spend more, FWTW). To put this into positive terms, that means you really do have a great amount of control over spending...you just have to exercise it).

IME a careful look at what one CAN spend per month, and a willingness to put a little sweat equity into saving some money, can allow some crews to cruise on $800-1,000 USD/month in the Caribbean, but that excludes expenses back hoome, haul-outs, major repairs, insurance and equipment purchases (all of which are usually paid for before one shoves off). But that answer ignores a lot of pretty relevant variables, such as the material condition of your boat, how good a shopper you are, how full a tool box you carry (self-sufficiency), how simple/complex the boat''s gear is ($$), how well it sails to windward (fuel and engine maintenance = $$) and attitudinal issues, e.g. how much this will be a ''summer vacation'' kind of sabatical cruise vs. the real thing (where the longer you''re out, the more you count pennies) - it''s kinda amazing how much some crews think they are entitled to do/buy/consume and the lifestyle they are entitled to, even as the last few pennies are dribbling out of their pockets.

I know you were looking for hard data and not a philosophy lecture, but here are some data points you might find helpful in general terms:
1. Most island nations charge very little in the way of fees. The Bahamas and DR have both raised them significantly ($150/$300 as I recall, based on boat size, and now close to $100, respectively) but PR, USVI, St. Martin (French side), Jamaica, Haiti (Ile a Vache'', anyway), Grand Cayman and most of the Bay Is. levied no clearance fees when we visited. Trinidad and BVI''s were quite reasonable, as I recall -$40 USD each or thereabouts. As for the rest, you''ll find everyone weighs the convenience, the attractions, the protection of the harbors, and the cost of a stop, looks at their own imposed sked, and then makes up a somewhat unique itinerary based one what feels right. It is a norm to be able to stop in a protected anchorage or harbor to rest, not go ashore, and then carry on without any clearance formalities or charges.
2. We are talking ''tropical'' here, so there is usually abundant food and, after all, many islanders usually have little money for shopping so a willingness to scout out the local market will pay dependable returns. If the lettuce in the Georgetown, Great Exuma grocery store seems pricey, you''ll buy home grown cabbage and tomatoes from the ladies in the town square and mix up some dynamite cole slaw instead of having a tossed green salad...and that''s about how food purchases go everywhere. If you must have meat, meat, meat, there will be some expensive stops. If chicken and fish tickle the pallet, you''ll spend less. (Chicken in the Caribbean is typically fabulous when compared to the hormone/antibiotic-injected stuff at Publix).
3. Charts & guides can be expensive. OTOH there are LOTS of ''sabatical cruisers'' returning with relatively fresh charts/guides and a plan to sell the boat. Some digging should produce ample choices at reasonable prices without buying old stuff (ALWAYS ask their age). You might perch on www.ssca.org''s Chart Exchange BB and other places like that.
4. We''ve been enjoying an ongoing correspondence with friends who are doing the Thorny Path for the first time. In the last email, Mark described their l-o-n-g one day over-the-island trip from Luperon to DR''s capital city, Santo Domingo. It cost them $100 (a couple), they saw even less than they had time for (the guide was not reputable), and they returned in the dark, exhausted. In his words, it was a ''lesson learned''. When there, we took the local bus over the mountains (incredible scenery, BTW), stayed in a modest little hotel recommended by a local (clean but spartan) and toured in the Old City for 4 days, walked a lot, ate out carefully (easy to do in the DR) and took the luxury bus back (A/C!) and the whole 4-day trip cost us less than $100. I don''t think this was because we''re more clever but rather because we were stretching a budget more than Mark felt they needed to, and we were willing to do our own thing in a way we could afford. (And BTW we had a blast!)

Here''s my hunch: You ask good questions and you are working the ''cost'' issue with apparent care. Those are attributes of someone who can make it work and will stay in control of spending. My hunch is that it''s time to move onto the ''where & when'' and worry just a a bit less about the ''how much''. And I hope you too have a blast!

Jack
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post #7 of 24 Old 03-25-2004 Thread Starter
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Where to Go

Again, thanks, Jack.

We know what we have budgeted, I was just curious what your definition of "cheap" was. Seems everyone''s is different.

We still have time to buy our charts and books and make our final decision. We need a general starting path, then we''ll see what happens as we travel down it.

If you have any guides/books that you really liked, I''d love to know.
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post #8 of 24 Old 03-25-2004
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Sadie:

"If you have any guides/books that you really liked, I''d love to know."

VanSant''s Passages South, no matter what route you choose, is IMO a ''must''. His discussion on pulling down and using wx products alone justifies the purchase.

If cruising Jamaica, John Lethbridge''s Jamaica Cruising Guide (sold now by his wife, I hear), while dated, is still very useful. Good harbor/anchorage charts. Little has changed in Jamaica.

Find an old used copy of Wallace Stone''s Cruising Guide to the Caribbean; while researched and written 30-35 years ago, it covers some areas that have changed little (S coast of Hispaniola, Bay Is. are both examples) and the wx info and routing strategies haven''t changed a wit. Should only cost you a few bucks.

I happen to like Steve Pavlidis guides and recommend them, most especially the T&C and Puerto Rico guides. He''s a friend and perhaps that shapes my opinion some, but I find him sympathetic to the islander''s view of life and he works hard to offer credible history about each of these island nations, often using original sources. The chartlets of the anchorages in his books are excellent, altho'' I hear the electronic versions may not work well with some charting software.

Rauscher''s is the only viable guide for the W Caribbean, tho'' inevitably it is out of date due to storm damage...and her publisher is IMO too wary of offering GPS waypoints, which makes the charts of lessened utility.

Yachtie guides often seem to omit huge chunks of relevant landside info on history, culture, language, museums and transportation, when in fact that''s what yachties most need once they step ashore. We very much have benefited by Lonely Planet guides for the island nations we spent time visiting. Since you can''t buy them all, perhaps the one at the top of your list should be the LP (or similar) guide for Puerto Rico, if that''s in your future. It is our very own Commonwealth, and we their mother country, yet we Americans are ignorant of and treat her dysfunctionally. Maybe someday an American administration will wake up to the one part of the Caribbean - a proud part but also indulged in and spoiled - that is our very own, and makes up part of who we are...but in the meantime, we cruisers can start the process.

Finally, consider buying the SSCA CD that I always mention; it''s got 8 years of monthly bulletins written by cruising sailors, with a great deal of Caribbean content. It''s only about $20 (go to www.ssca.org, visit the store and select ''Pubs'') and offers more value per dollar than any other item I''ve listed except Stone''s guide. (And FWIW I wrote up a summary of our routing thru the Central Caribbean that has waypoints, anchorages, etc. and which may prove useful to you. Search under ''WHOOSH'').

Good luck!

Jack
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post #9 of 24 Old 03-25-2004 Thread Starter
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Thanks, Jack.

I''d love to find your post regarding the routes you took, but searching on your name is, unfortunately, not an option. It appears I can only search on keywords in the topic - any idea what they were?

I also reviewed your web site, but did not see that information listed.
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post #10 of 24 Old 03-25-2004
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Sadie:

No, the articles on John Stevenson''s website are geared solely to prepping a boat for the European infrastructure plus cruising issues related to Europe.

On my SSCA CD, you are offered a search on 4 categories, the last one being Contributor Index. That should produce a series of WHOOSH entries; is that not true for your CD?

If you''re having problems finding the article on the Central Caribbean route, feel free to email me and I''ll be glad to send it to you.

Jack
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