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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related) > Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community
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Thread: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
08-25-2013 02:32 PM
capta
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Though it is probably the most expensive area in the US, you could not do better than the San Francisco Bay for a place to learn to sail. It is year around sailing in conditions so varied that you can sail in a flat calm to near gale conditions in a single day. Huge currents and even thick fog are great for learning to cruise and gain confidence. There are thousands of miles of inland sailing up the rivers and short coastal hops to a few anchorages to the north.
California has a multitude of crazy laws and very high taxes which are a serious detraction, at least to me, but that might be overshadowed by the sailing education one gets from the bay.
The biggest detraction to beginning a cruising lifestyle on the west coast, if one intends to cruise the Caribbean without circumnavigating, is "the hole" a difficult area east of Panama, which one must traverse to make easting. But heading to the Caribbean from the east coast via Bermuda in November is no cake walk either.
On the other hand, sailing to Hawaii from California is the easiest and safest 2000 mile shake down cruise one could ask for. Even without any form of navigation, one can just follow the jet contrails to Hawaii; you can't get lost! The trip back to the west coast is a bit more challenging, but an excellent test of one's knowledge and abilities.
It rarely gets excessively hot and humid as the mid-Atlantic states and the Chesapeake do in summer, though there are, it has been rumored, windless days on the bay, too.
There is a saying, "if one can sail the bay, one can sail anywhere in the world" and I have found this to be quite true, getting my sailing education there.
Good luck with your endeavor and I hope we see you out here one day.
08-25-2013 01:31 PM
John33
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Thanks to everyone for all the great ideas and discussion. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's posts and replies.

I think the early leader in the clubhouse is Oriental, NC. We checked it out as best we could online, and it sounds like a great little town to live in. A decent amount of things to do and see (especially for a small town), festivals, and weekly sailboat races. Sounds like fun . =) Not to mention the easy access to the ICW, plenty of opportunities for gunkholing, and lots of nearby places to sail to once we're ready.

Thanks for the help, everybody. Much appreciated.

- John
08-23-2013 08:04 PM
xort I love the open ocean too.

But for people brand new to sailing, I think staying in protected waters until they get some experience is a wise choice. From Charleston or St. Petes it is easy to venture out into the open ocean in less than an hour if and when they are ready.

Dolphins playing with us at dawn off Georgia...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jUjRiSnni0&feature=youtube_gdata_player
08-23-2013 11:38 AM
DRFerron
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Quote:
Originally Posted by xort View Post
We found the Chesapeake in summer to be miserable. VERY hot & humid, no wind, dirty water full of nettles. The no wind part makes it tough to learn to sail. Then the winters get rather cold. Sep/Oct and Mar/Apr/May are good.

Ft Lauderdale doesn't have much protected water, you have to go to the open ocean to sail.

We found Marathon to be dirty, unfriendly, expensive and again only open ocean sailing.

I would agree Charleston is worth looking at. Still hot in the summer but with good breezes to sail. A decent sized harbor to sail in without having to go out to the open ocean. Beautiful city.

St. Pete's also. Good protected sailing on Tampa Bay, nice city, big sailing community, not too expensive. And many places further down the coast to explore as you get more adventuresome. Pretty good hurricane protection.
Why don't you like sailing in the ocean? I found it awe-inspiring. The beauty of the coast is that you can mix it up. Go out for a day or two, head back in when you foresee bad weather or need a change of scenery. But the ocean? I would think it would be a fantastic learning experience for kids. They can see first-hand the sea turtles and the jelly fish and learn why plastic bags kill the turtles. The masses of jelly fish mostly all moving in the same direction was mesmerizing. They can see the changes in water color as you move away from the coast and learn what that means. Everyone should experience dolphins playing in your bow wake. We had a motor, of course, but when there was little to no wind, I tried to imagine how the explorers felt just bobbing away, and without ereaders to occupy their time. I understood why we have so much rope fancywork.

The Bay is brown from pollution and the fact that it's a bay with many tributaries, vegetation, etc. Turn it into a learning experience. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and learn how it came to be so unhealthy. Read books about the history of the bay. I found an old book in a bookstore in Northeast, MD about these five old guys who did a circumnavigation of the Bay. If I remember correctly it was written between the World Wars. I enjoy going to the same inlets and seeing if I can match up the shoreline and houses in the pictures with what is there today (some of the houses are still there). They talk about some of the same sailboat races that go on today and visit the same yacht clubs that are still there. One thing that stood out was when they discarded their trash. They thought that the environmentally friendly thing to do was to weight the trash bag down with rocks so that it sank to the bottom and didn't float down the Severn River. They were quite proud of themselves.

I wish I could have had experiences like this when I was a kid so I think I'm trying to make up for it now.

And we LOVE the heat. The hotter and more humid the better. Makes us appreciate even more the days when the wind is filling our sails.
08-23-2013 08:31 AM
xort We found the Chesapeake in summer to be miserable. VERY hot & humid, no wind, dirty water full of nettles. The no wind part makes it tough to learn to sail. Then the winters get rather cold. Sep/Oct and Mar/Apr/May are good.

Ft Lauderdale doesn't have much protected water, you have to go to the open ocean to sail.

We found Marathon to be dirty, unfriendly, expensive and again only open ocean sailing.

I would agree Charleston is worth looking at. Still hot in the summer but with good breezes to sail. A decent sized harbor to sail in without having to go out to the open ocean. Beautiful city.

St. Pete's also. Good protected sailing on Tampa Bay, nice city, big sailing community, not too expensive. And many places further down the coast to explore as you get more adventuresome. Pretty good hurricane protection.
08-22-2013 08:42 PM
CalebD
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Annapolis. A drinking town with a sailing problem.
08-22-2013 08:34 PM
wingNwing
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Quote:
Originally Posted by jameswilson29 View Post
I lived in Mount Pleasant, on the other side of the Wando River from Charleston, for 4 years, from 2001 to 2005. It is a beautiful community, great natural harbor, consistent breezes year round, mild winters, the best restaurants, fairly low cost of living, and friendly people.

My only complaints would be breaking into the local job market (which still has a good ole boy network and is somewhat backward - not many jobs outside of shipping, hospitality, and Medical University of South Carolina), the hurricane risks, and the heat and humidity in summer.

It is a great place to visit, to have a second home, to live if you are independently wealthy, and for retirement.
Thanx! We (especially Dan) had been considering Charleston for a more extended visit, a month or two, since we'd enjoyed it so far on short stays. You may have just convinced us. Luckily for us, job market isn't an issue.
08-22-2013 06:48 PM
wingNwing
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Quote:
Originally Posted by DRFerron View Post
I think one of the advantages of being mobile whether it's by boat or RV is that you can experience firsthand special places around the country or world. Every place has its advantages and disadvantages and I like to take each for what it is, not compare it to another location and try to make it fit that mold. Just go. Learn what makes where you are at the moment unique, experience and enjoy.
This.
08-22-2013 03:46 PM
Cruisingdad
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

John,

First of all, welcome to the life! We have been doing this with our kids for many years now, as you know. We have also done our share of camping/backpacking/trailering (though pre-kids). I grew up doing that and have been to almost every state in the union and have backpacked the best ones (all the cont. divide, canada, and most of the appalachians, including some other less notable but not less difficult!!). I suspect you will find many things that are common between the two, and many that are not. Luckily, there are a lot of system similarities between boats and RV trailers... and some that are not.

So, back to your question... where would I go?

Let me start by discussing what we look for and why...

I don't care at all for doing winters on the boat. We did them in Texas. Not my thing. I have a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most critical is the ability to get off the boat and do outside activities with the kids. This is not to say you cannot do this in cold climates, but the stuff you accumulate to do it there often overwhelms the boat. The coats, pants, tobogans, boots, etc are not really boat friendly when you multiply it times four. Plus the blankets, heaters, etc, and don't get me started on the danger of falling in freezing water beside a boat or frozen docks (which could be lethal). Then you add in the outside activities (how often can you play football, baseball, go for a swim, etc). Now for adults, single adults, or two adults on a boat - this isn't a big deal. No one more than me loves grabbing a good book (or writing one in my case) on a comfortable boat when the weather sucks. But if you don't get your kids off to get some energy out, it will be hell in your boat. It is like keeping a puppy trapped inside a dog carrier all day. When he does get out, it is chaos. SO, my first caution would be to avoid places that have a hard winter. It is hard on a boat with kids.

Second consideration is other kids. Adults are NOT a substitute for other kids. Camping out and backpacking, we saw a lot of other kids. They might be out for the weekend and tent camping, but we ran into a lot... comparatively. In boating, it is a bit more of an anomaly. Most of the people you will meet are in their 60s or more, retired, and have kids older than YOU are and grandkids older than your kids. I have a funny story (funny now, wasn't then) of a few months back when a wonderful couple invited us to their new Bene 46?, leather seats, $200 runners, fine china, crystal glasses, etc. They wanted to serve us a four course meal. Well, it was not done until around 700 and the kids had been pinned down below listening to adult conversation until then. You can guess how that ended, with both sides agreeing not to have that kind of dinner with kids again... and I do believe the stains came out, I hope. My point is that kids need other kids. They need kids to play with, horse around with, have friends (girlfriends), and just be kids. It builds social skills which may not seem important, but is very important because over time we have found our kids losing their ability to 'communicate' with other land-based kids. WIth adults - awesome. In fact, that was why they were invited to dinner. We are always complemented on how well our kids behave and how mature they talk and act. When they get around other boating kids (live aboards/cruisers) again, no problem. They speak the same language. But around land-based kids, there is a genuine disconnect. Since they will have to eventually be able to interface with these children in the future (when they become adults), social skills are very important. It is one of the tradeoffs we make as cruisers (which isn't in the pretty magazines). SO make sure you find a place that has other kids for them to play with.

Third is water quality. I do this life because I love the sea and the boats is my key through that door. I love snorkeling, diving, fishing, etc. I also wanted to instill that in my children (which isn't hard, btw). They are fish without gills. They are wonderful divers (hooklah) and outstanding snorkelers. They can identify fish (and often correct me) that most adults dont have a clue about. They have a respect for the water and the world we live above. I found that difficult (close to impossible) in waters with 1 foot visibility. You are just on the water. We did fish, but believe me, having clear water and being able to enjoy the sea as I (and they) picture it, is marvelous. As I write this, I can see below my rudder of 6 feet. Many places I have been I could not see an inch below my waterline. But this is all a personal call and different people will see it differently (no pun intended).

Fourth is the friendliness of a place. I could sure tell some stories about this. I have found some areas that have the most wonderful people in the world, and there have been a few that we put to our rudder and will never spend time there again. Like the water quality, this will be perceived by people differently, but quite candidly, the friendliness of a place can make all the difference. This especially becomes true for cruising kids. They are raised in a very friendly and loving environment (well hopefully). They are generally around others who are retired and living their dreams and obviously happy. So when they are exposed to bullying, nastiness, lying, or other such traits, they do not handle it well. In fact, they don't know how to handle it. As adults, we do. They don't. So you need to find a place and culture that fits you and your personalities and lifestyles (a friendly place in your eyes).

Fifth, is the access to shore-side items. This includes the obvious like grocery stores, West Marine, Gas/diesel, 'Walmarts', and hardware stores. But with kids, it also includes places to swim, beaches and parks to run, maybe baseball fields (esp if they want to play locally), movie theaters, 'toy stores', parks, and what the heck... even a good Pizza shop. Think like a kid and what they enjoy doing and remember the things you need to keep your household (boat) running. Don't get me wrong - my kids love the Tortugas and anchoring off of Cabbage Key is one of of favorites. But I wouldn't live there and kids will get tired of it before adults.

Lastly is expense. Some places, especially the more beautiful, are really hard on a family's budget. Budget differs for every person, but for example, you might get your dockage for $8/foot/month in Pensacola or Tampa, but that same slip in Key West is $34.50/month PLUS electricity which is expensively billed. It does not matter if Key West is the best place to be if you cannot afford it (and it isn't incidentally).

So all that said, of all the places, where would I go? Well, I am not a world traveller. I have not been to any place that has all of these things. THere is a tradeoff with them all. But the place that has met the most of these things is probably Marathon, FL in the Keys. A close second is Saint Petersburg (not to be confused with Tampa).

Marathon has the water and water quality. We have run into more kids and cruising kids than anywhere else, ever. Plus, given that it is an island (and a small island at that), most of the shoreside kids are pretty involved in the water and people living on boats or deep sea fishing or snorkeling washerwoman (etc). It is not an anomaly for them, it is a way of life and they understand the cruising kids much better. There is a fabulous park here (actually a few), with the best one right off the mooring field. Many (not all) of the conveniences of larger cities are here: West Marine, Home Depot, several grocery stores, and even a movie theater (which only has one screen... hehehehe). Schools are close and pretty good and everything is bikeable or walkable. We do not own a car and have not needed one to this point. All cab rides anywhere are $5 assuming you even need it. Negatives: The cruisers are generally friendly and the shoreside are moderately (6 on scale of 1-10) friendly. We have been to more friendly places with the PNW number one. Second negative (and a huge one) is the expense. VERY expensive. Our food bill jumped probably at least 1/3 if not 50%. Dockage is $21.50/ft/month in season, with a couple of places a bit less but not real nice. In fact, at $21.50/ft, you will be in for culture shock as they will likely measure you from tip of anchor to back of davits AND these are not very nice marinas (dumps compared to other places I have been). I am paying $600/month right now in the cheapest place in Marathon (summer, off-season rate) and it jumps to $21.50 after October or more. Another negative is the potential for storms. Marathon (boot key) is a hurricane hole, but if a big one is coming, it is generally mandatory evacuation and there is basically only a two lane highway (one each way) to get out of here. Nightmare in the making. If a big one comes here, you can probably kiss your boat goodbye too. Also, insurance here (to stay through hurricane season, which you will likely do if your kids find friends) is the highest in the country if I am not mistaken. I have never paid higher. For us, our policy at ~225,000 with 300k lia, runs about $3000/year. That is a lot lower than many people here pay, if they can get it at all. Our rate is low because we have been with the company for around 15 years and zero claims and are grandfathered in some of this stuff. A friend of mine who had a trawler at half our hull value was quoted $5000 from same company IF he passed his survey!! THat is $5000/year for $125,000 insurance! Wow!!

So there you go. I hope this information was helpful. I do not mind talking to you and your wife (or kids) about the area and what this life is about. PM me and we can discuss on the phone or via email. No problem. Your wife can also talk to mine if she wants the woman's perspective.

Look forward to seeing you out here, no matter where that may be...

Brian
08-22-2013 01:38 PM
DRFerron
Re: Mobile and Looking for a Great Sailing Community

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex W View Post

... You get fjords and real mountains that you can't find on the east coast, something that is important to me as a cyclist and hiker. ...
Hmph. Our mountains are real, they're just older and more weathered.

But, I briefly lived in Alaska and the scenery is fabulous.

I think one of the advantages of being mobile whether it's by boat or RV is that you can experience firsthand special places around the country or world. Every place has its advantages and disadvantages and I like to take each for what it is, not compare it to another location and try to make it fit that mold. Just go. Learn what makes where you are at the moment unique, experience and enjoy.
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