I am new here and new to sailing. Our goal is to sail to the Caribbean and cruise. We plan on living aboard most of the year and island hop. I would love to hear from serious cruisers on what we really need to know before we start out. And what we need to do prior to starting out. I am not even sure of the rules if there are any traveling international waters as a non-commercial sailboat. I've done some research already but the best knowledge always comes from those who are or who have done what one is considering doing. Direct me to sites and books. Reading is always a great way to learn.
And in advance thanks to anyone who takes the time to answer.
If you haven't already, you may want to check amazon for books. I know I have seen many there about cruising and living aboard sailboats. Maybe someone can recommend which are the better ones.
Many of the Caribbean islands are sovereign nations, others are still parts of France .. in any event for the most part every time you change islands you'll be needing to properly 'clear out' and 'clear in' at the next port.
Some islands are fussier than others, but somehow you need to get on to the required protocols. Ignoring or violating their rules can result in serious problems. I think Noonsite is one area that has a lot of info.
The Doyle guides are used by most in the Eastern Caribbean: Doyleguides site lobby
We have sailed a bit with friends who winter there (essentially what you plan to do) - this is their 10th season. They are very careful not to alienate the locals... patronize the 'boat boys' to some degree (but don't be taken advantage of), they don't 'go into town' in swimsuits - many locals dress very nicely day to day.
There's a definite different flavour between, say, Guadeloupe (a department of France) and Carriacou or Bequia.. Saba is a world of its own. The cruise ship stops are very different places when the tourists come to town...
Island hopping is a great way to go.. daysails of 40-50 miles in the eastern chain with reliable winds, mostly reaching at good speeds. For the most part reasonably good anchorages abound.
For us, (we've covered most islands between Grenada and St Maarten) favourites include Guadeloupe's Iles de Saintes, Bequia, Tobago Cays and Carriacou. Saba was special in many different ways but it's not an easy stop - no real anchorage and no real shelter from swells. Still in the right conditions it's a memorable visit.
Welcome to Sailnet, Sea Witch.
For reading material, check out this thread on recommended reading.
In between buying all the books you might want to peruse the Cruising and Liveaboard forum.
You will find that half of the responses will tell you to just jump on a boat and sail away, the other half will suggest that you should take some sailing courses, learn your legal responsibilities as a boat owner and the rules of the road, charter, make sure the entire family even likes to sail and live in a space the size of your shoe closet.
Whichever course you take, good luck.
Thank you everyone for replying and offering up wonderful suggestions. I will definately be taking a look at all of the suggestions. In our current world I can't beleive that it is as easy as just getting in the boat and going. ;) We are liquidating our life long possesions to purchace the boat and sure do not want to wind up in a wreckage somewhere because we didn't prepare well enough. Nor do I want to over complicate it. We are not strangers to boating but we've never sailed.
Oh a nother question I had. Like needing a drivers license to drive a car is there certification you are required to have to sail, espceially the larger ones?
It depends somewhat on where you are and whether you're doing it for money. But in your scenario, probably not.
Your assumption is correct. Our dream is to cruise in the Caribbean for most of the year as retirees. :D
We have done the whole house/family/JOB thing for far too long. So we are in the process of pursuing this dream and trying to dot all the i's, cross all the t's and get our ducks all lined up. ;)
I simply don't want to wind up in trouble because I didn't know I was suppose to know and do something.
There are many things for you to sort out.
Budget is the first.. we get a lot of posters like yourself that want to do this sort of thing on $20K - not realistic. A decent, appropriate boat for what you plan to do is likely going to run around $100K or more, especially once you've upgraded, fixed and prepared for such a voyage. Even if money's no object and you spend half a mill on a superb boat it's going to take you months or more to sort out all the systems and learn how to handle her - esp with no significant sailing experience to start with. Much like flying, it's the landings and takeoffs that can be most challenging, esp with bigger boats.
"The plan" is another... Buy a boat in the NE and sail/traverse the ICW, then the 'thorny path' to get to the "idyllic islands"? Or buy a boat already there? Do it next week? or with a reasonable couple of years to prepare yourselves and the boat? All these decisions are going to make a big difference to your ultimate success, as will your own personal fortitude and skillsets. Each chosen 'path' has it's own challenges and issues.
Have you every experienced ocean swells? Storm conditions at sea? It's not necessary to have survived the 'perfect storm', but being physically and mentally prepared for the eventuality is important.
Can you get some sailing experience on the Lakes in the meantime? Can you spend some time and money chartering boats similar to what you'd like to get first hand the 'feel' and handling of such a boat? Other than the crowding I believe a charter in the Virgins may be a good way to get a taste. No long passages, relative shelter. A skippered charter would make most sense for the first time. It's at some cost but that may well pay off down the road.
Anyhow, best of luck. It's an exciting idea, and is doable as long as you stick to the sentiment in my signature ;).
Welcome SeaW -
Certificates ? In the US, not required unless working on boats.
Passage making can be a delight. I'd suggest taking the typical ASA or US sailing courses and then going on a charter for a long weekend - with another couple who has some experience. You don't have to go to the Carib. There are charters available all over the US, one might be close to you.
From the long weekend, then step-by-step take longer and longer voyages.
First, simple costal day trips where one sails only in the day and moors/docks in a marina at night.
Second step, a coastal trip with a overnight passage.
And so forth until one is comfortable sailing offshore for 7-10 nights.
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