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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,

I have primarily coastal cruising experience. Mostly short day or weekend hops from marina to marina. However, a friend and I would like to plan a mild offshore trip. Something where we get into more 'blue' water.

We are thinking either San Diego to Catalina island or possibly Miami to Bimini islands. Anyone have any thoughts on if one is better than the other for a 'beginner' trip? Any other trip you may recommend? I don't think either are a difficult trip by any means (I have daysailed further distances) but since neither of us has done an offshore(<30nm) trip....

Any advice would be appreciated.
 

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SSQ74
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San Diego to Catalina is a good first trip (I have no expertise on the Miami/Bimini trip). A perfect solo hop, with navigation, a little chop, and some good sized commercial and military traffic.

The bottom line is that whether it is your first trip or your 4000th, preparation is the key to a smooth sail... preparing your boat and yourself are essential.Provision correctly, do your homework on prevailing winds, tides and both your departure and arrival ports as well as enroute navigation fixes etc will create confidence. and please keep a dual navtrack, one on paper and one via your gps..challenge yourself to be able to navigate without the electronics.

You will find Catalina avery nice port (take the island Tour) with much too see for the first time visitor, Also check out Two Harbors some nice things too see there as well.

Safe travels
 

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Salty
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Just a quick question as your target passages include both coasts. I am assuming you are looking to charter a boat for this cruise? If so, you better get your sailing resume together while getting some certs under your belts first. Even with that said, a junior Cap'n with a junior crew, sailing in unfamiliar waters, in an unfamiliar boat just may be a news headline waiting to happen. Sure, people do it...but they also jump out of perfectly good airplanes!!! My plans for this trip would be preceded by crewing on someone else's boat that has been there, done that.

I guess my point is to err on the side of caution as anything can and will happen at the most inopportune time. No sense in turning a great cruise into a nightmare due to lack of experience.

my .02......
 

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I don't believe a new to you boat, and unfamiliar waters are an upcoming news article. I have done it dozens of times, and with your coastal experience it will help. I have never sailed to Catalina, but I have sailed down, and up the coast. I have read about, and seen pictures of Catalina. It's a pretty spot, but the Bahamas are a completely different animal..

I have chartered out of Miami, and sailed to Bimini, Abacos, Stirup Cay, and back to Bimini all within 10 days. You will find the anchorages plentiful. The water not so deep for anchoring. The water warm enough to get in most of the year without a wet suit. Just south of Bimini a couple of miles is an old wreck where the snorkeling is fantastic.

I have used Florida Yacht Charters out of South Beach Miami. May & June are great times to go. You can go later, but HURRICANE season kicks in then. I have gone in hurricane season. You just have to pay attention to the weather.

You can also go southwest, and follow the Keys. It's beautiful, and diverse in it's scenery. You can PM me if you would like to see many pics of the Bahamas, and some information.

My thinking is that you will be limited at Catalina Island, and unlimited in the Bahamas. This is JMHO of course.....i2f
 

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Salty
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Agreed... New boat in new waters has been done countless times. It's that combination coupled with limited experience that may get to be a bit scarry. Most daysails or marina hops dont involve heavy weather sailing, emergency repairs underway, ciritical navigation and radio correspondance, night passages, filling float plans, customs clearing, etc. All these things put together can be a bit daunting/dangerous for a "beginner" trip to Bimini for example.

I am not saying it cant be done....but perhaps is better experienced as crew or accompanied by an experienced Cap'n for your very first trip.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Mster,

I appreciate your caution but my sailing buddy and I have a reasonable skill set. I have already had my fair share of
heavy weather sailing, emergency repairs underway, critical navigation and radio correspondence, night passages
However, I am lacking in experience with clearing customs and immigration (Bimini) and handling heavy commercial/military traffic (Catalina). I have done considerable river sailing with current but I have never crossed the Gulf stream with its 3 knot northerly flow. That would add a new twist to navigation... Although i'm confident it could be dealt with.

Ideally, one would crew on a boat a few times to learn all the nuances but we both don't have that opportunity. So, it will have to be a learning experience. Thus, my questions... Is one better suited for a first time trip? Any advice to consider about either trip?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Imagine2frolic,

Yes, I agree... Bimini would be a much nicer destination but I have some concern with the previously mentioned issues of customs and immigration. I think it is mostly an issue of just doing it and learning from the experience.

We would be going in May which is good timing but weather is still more of an issue in FL than in San Diego. Maybe someone can chime in about Catalina?
 

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Salty
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6-

Given your location, SW FL...I would than say the Bimini trip would be your best bet as you could better time your weather windows. Additionally, you may even find a few boats you may accompany on the trip. As for clearing customs, I have found a link for you which explains the process for clearing Bahamian customs and your return trip to the US.

Bahamas Ports of Entry - Bahamas Vacation Travel Guide by Bahamas-Travel.info
 

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Customs is a matter of walking up to the window, and filling out a few forms. You can ask questions if you don't understand. Traffic is a matter of keeping a watch. Yes, it's busy there, but no more than Catalina.

As far as the entry fee. The price is cheap when you take into consideration what you will experience. I have to laugh at people sailing , or powering boats worht hundreds of thousands of dollars, and will cry about the entry fee of 150 to $300 dollars for six months.

BEST WISHES in what ever you decide, and as I typed feel free to PM me with questions......i2f
 

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Here's a thought for you guys. Try signing up with John Kretschmer for one of his sails. He fills his boat with paying customers looking to get bluewater experience, and he teaches them about voyaging along the way. He has many options and a number of different destinations. He'll walk you through step-by-step on how to deal with all the things you reference. I have no affiliation with him, other than to say I know him and think he's a great guy. If you do look him up, tell him I referred you (and tell him he still owes me; he'll know what I mean. :) ). His website is John Kretschmer Sailing - Training Passages - Workshops - Presentations - Expeditions - Writing/Photography.

We also do something similar for our Bermuda rally, but your options are pretty limited with us -- sail from NY to Bermuda, back to NY from Bermuda, or both legs. We do one trip a year (end of June), so either you can make it at that point or you can't, which is why I suggest looking up John, as he has a lot more options.
 

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Six,

When do you plan to take your trip and for how long?

I've crossed the Gulf Stream lots of times since my first cruise from Key Largo to N. Cat Cay (Bimini) in 1999. This was my first real offshore passage and I still remember how nervous I was when FL finally disappeared over the horizon. I learned the importance of waiting for the right "weather window" on this trip.

I strongly second the advice you've already received. Visit the Bahamas, fall in love with the incredible water colors, learn to love conch and Kalik, and just kick-back and enjoy life. The Bahamas are among the finest cruising grounds you'll ever explore.

Pick up an Explorer or Maptech chart kit and perhaps Steve Palividis' "Northern Bahamas Cruising Guide".

Have a blast!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
We plan on going mid May and doing 4-5 days. I live in SW FL but my sailing partner lives in Portland OR. Either way, one of us is flying cross country. That's why we are considering Catalina or Bimini. My read is that Catalina would be easier for a first time passage but Bimini would be more fun!

Anyone recommend a bareboat charter outfit they have used in Miami or Fort Lauderdale???
 

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4-5 days is not worth the trip to he Bahamas IMHO. You can charter one way from Miami to the Keys with FYC, and that's pretty. Lots of snorkeling in warm water. 10 days, and you can do the Exumas in the Bahamas.

Go straight to Nassau, check in, and straight over to Allen Cay. From there it is hours to your next destination. Each destination getting better, and better each time. You will be able to make Thundeball Grotto at Staniel Cay where Splash, and Thunderball movies were shot.

From there shoot across the bank, and up the tongue of the ocean all a good on the quarter sail......i2f
 

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Hey all,

I have primarily coastal cruising experience. Mostly short day or weekend hops from marina to marina. However, a friend and I would like to plan a mild offshore trip. Something where we get into more 'blue' water.

We are thinking either San Diego to Catalina island or possibly Miami to Bimini islands. Anyone have any thoughts on if one is better than the other for a 'beginner' trip? Any other trip you may recommend? I don't think either are a difficult trip by any means (I have daysailed further distances) but since neither of us has done an offshore(<30nm) trip....

Any advice would be appreciated.
I would respectfully suggest that the two itineraries you submit here will offer you very little additional experience in "offshore" sailing beyond that which you already have from your coastal cruising. An idea you might want to try is one which we have been using for many years in the Bluewater Cruising Association Bluewater Cruising Association, Vancouver, BC, Canada called the VICE (Vancouver Island Cruising Experience).

Every year a number of boats assemble off the west coast of Vancouver Island and sail west into the Pacific for three days, then turn around and head back in. The intention is to give the skippers and crew a real-time look at how they and their boats handle an offshore experience. So far this year we have sixteen boats planning on sailing out from Ucluelet in the first good weather window after the 5th of July.

Even if you sail out for only two days, or even only one before turning around, you will gain much valuable experience on life aboard a small craft offshore, and this is experience that cannot be gained from a day trip.

My thoughts, anyway.
 

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I can't speak for the right coast trip, but I've done LA/LB to Catalina numerous times in my Cal 25. Catalina is lovely. It's a fairly straightforward trip. As former USCGAux in LA, I can say that a lot of people make that trip that have no business leaving the dock. No reason reasonably well prepared sailors coun't do it first time in an unfamiliar boat.
 

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I have sailed to Catalina and I have sailed to the Tortugas. (sorry for the cruddy pics, I had to scan them in...)






Catalina is not bad, but I would take the Tortugas over it any day. If you are in SW Florida, you can catch a Bluewater Charter out of Tampa that runs down there or if you have your own tub, you can do that too. You have some great reefs, an awesome fort, and outstanding snorkeling and diving in the Tortugas. It is one of my favorite places that I have been.

It is an overnighter. It is 121 km from marker 1 coming into Ft. Myers Beach. But, it will get you some good offshore time. You do NOT want to get caught in a northern out there, so watch your window closely. THe water does not get much deeper than about 130 feet, which makes for nasty waves in a northern blow!!

Brian
 

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For anyone looking for an educational bluewater experience, I concur with Dan on paying for a berth on one of John Kretschmer's offshore experiences. There are also some other folks that do the same thing, and will give you a similar level of experience. One is Mahina Expeditions, and the other is Paul and Sheryl Shard. Another good resource is Hank Schmitt and Offshore Passage Opportunities. They are the biggest crew/boat networking outfits in the country. Hank does paid for passages on his Swan, and he coordinates skippers looking for crew, and vice versa. Sometimes the passage is a paid position (DOE), sometimes it's free, and sometimes you pay...

Catalina or Bahamas? Hey, you'll have fun either way.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Wow, a lot of good info. I am intrigued with the Vancouver concept. My buddy is next door in Portland and I like the concept of some true bluewater experience.

I'll have to talk that over with my sailing buddy. We only have 4-5 days (damn jobs:mad: ....although glad I got one in this economy:) ) so we would likely only be able to do 2 days out 2 days back in.
 

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You might consider an alternative to sailing from San Diego to Catalina, that would be sailing from Long Beach to Catalina. This can be done in an afternoon easily and you do not fight the prevailing NW winds as you will coming from San Diego. My wife and I are beginning sailors (~1 year) and as part of our Basic Cruising course made this trip. The course was three days. The first was around the Long Beach harbor. The second day the instructor accompanied us to Avalon. Upon arrival the instructor left on the ferry back to Long Beach and left us with the boat. We kept the boat the rest of the week and sailed around the island. At the end the week we returned to Long Beach and the course was complete. We did this with 3 months sailing experience and had no difficulties and a very nice vacation. If you like more lively environment I would go to Avalon. If you like a more layed back environment I would suggest Two Harbors. Both of these locations are very friendly to the sailing public. If you do not have a dingy you can call a water taxi 24/7 and they will come to your mooring to pick you up (there is a fee of course). If you want the longer distance sailing experience I would suggest that you might look to return to the mainland via San Diego. The wind will be in your favor and if you have problems there are a number of harbors along the way to get you out of harms way.

I am sorry that I have no experience on the east coast yet but I will be working on it in the near future.
 
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