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Old 10-05-2017, 09:01 AM   #1
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Caribbean Cruising in a Mainship Pilot 34

We purchased a 2000 Mainship Pilot 34 in May 2017. Providence has a 36" draft, 12' beam, 36' LOA. She carries 250 gal of fuel and 70 gal of water. Her 350 hp Yanmar powers her nicely. We can get 10 gph at 2600 RPM, say 12-13 knots and only sips fuel at 7 ish knots.

We bought the boat now so we can get some miles under the keel in familiar waters before we venture into unknown territory. We plan to cruise the Great Loop when we retire in six years. This will give us the time to make a few minor tweaks and additions to make us a little more independent.

A side trip we are planning on includes the Bahamas. And the following year we would like to spend a year or so traveling through the Bahamas, the Leeward, and Windward Islands of the Caribbean. Crew includes my wife and I with an occasional guest now and then.

Is there anyone out there who has traveled these waters in a Mainship Pilot 34? If so, I have a few questions if you don't mind sharing.

1. How well did the boat handle the trade winds and seas?

2. What time of day did you find traveling to be the most comfortable?

3. Were you able to travel easily to outer islands and still have sufficient range to return and obtain clean fuel?

4. Were you able to obtain spare parts reasonably?

5. What did you learn about the boats capabilities and limitations?

6. What additions or modifications did you do to prepare for your trip?

7. What would you do differently?

I thank you most humbly for your knowledge.
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Old 10-05-2017, 12:47 PM   #2
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I currently own a Pilot 34 and have previously sailed the islands in a sailboat.

IMO the MS would be fine for a trip to the Bahamas, but obviously watch the weather for the right conditions for a Gulf Stream crossing. Once on the banks the seas will be fine in most conditions. We experienced 20+ kts of wind but seas of only 3-4' going from Great Sale Cay to Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos. It will be rough in the MS in those conditions, but tolerable.

The Windward and Leeward Islands are another story. Going from island to island once you are out of the lee of the island you have 20-25 kts of trade winds on your beam and that makes for 8' seas. Also the Mona Passage from the DR to PR can be a bear. I don't think you will be happy.

IMO there are very few "trawlers" that can safely handle the Leeward/Windwards. I know that statement will offend some who believe that a Grand Banks 42 can make it easily and maybe it can if you wait for just the right weather. But look in the anchorages and tell me how many GBs you find there. You won't even find many production sailboats like Catalinas and Beneteaus, only heavy scantling boats like Island Packets, Pacific Seacraft, Hallberg-Rassy, etc.

Only the very basic of boat parts are available in the Bahamas. Anything engine specific, electronics, or even something like a new potable fresh water pump will have to be imported. There are organizations in the US that will buy for you and ship to the Bahamas. Theoretically there is no import duty for foreign flagged vessels, but it doesn't always work that way.

So use your new boat for the loop and the Bahamas but skip the other islands.

David
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Old 10-05-2017, 05:46 PM   #3
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Have spent 15 years cruising the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Semi-displacement small cruising craft are a rarity for a good reason in the Eastern Caribbean. 6 foot waves on the beam are normal and it can get much worst.

Normal Caribbean equipment includes diesel generator, solar panels, watermaker, some sort of stabilizer system for anchoring, easily launched dinghy (not towed). Once you leave the Virgins, marinas are not the normal way to cruise. In the eastern Caribbean the marinas and boat yards frequently do not have North American electricity.

Additional factor talk with insurance companies to see if they will give you coverage south of the Bahamas.

My advice enjoy North America and the Bahamas. Think twice about going south of George Town, Bahamas.
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Old 10-05-2017, 05:50 PM   #4
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Have spent 15 years cruising the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Semi-displacement small cruising craft are a rarity for a good reason in the Eastern Caribbean. 6 foot waves on the beam are normal and it can get much worst.

Normal Caribbean equipment includes diesel generator, solar panels, watermaker, some sort of stabilizer system for anchoring, easily launched dinghy (not towed). Once you leave the Virgins, marinas are not the normal way to cruise. In the eastern Caribbean the marinas and boat yards frequently do not have North American electricity.

Additional factor talk with insurance companies to see if they will give you coverage south of the Bahamas.

My advice enjoy North America and the Bahamas. Think twice about going south of George Town, Bahamas.

When you say 6' plus wave size, what (average) wave period are you talking about?

Thanks,
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Old 10-05-2017, 06:30 PM   #5
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Good advice, I'll keep it in mind. When I brought the boat home, from NJ to NY, we were in 4-6' seas with a 9 second period. It looked and felt like a very comfortable ride for the 25 nm ride into NY Harbor.
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Old 10-05-2017, 06:33 PM   #6
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Have spent 15 years cruising the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Semi-displacement small cruising craft are a rarity for a good reason in the Eastern Caribbean. 6 foot waves on the beam are normal and it can get much worst.

Normal Caribbean equipment includes diesel generator, solar panels, watermaker, some sort of stabilizer system for anchoring, easily launched dinghy (not towed). Once you leave the Virgins, marinas are not the normal way to cruise. In the eastern Caribbean the marinas and boat yards frequently do not have North American electricity.

Additional factor talk with insurance companies to see if they will give you coverage south of the Bahamas.

My advice enjoy North America and the Bahamas. Think twice about going south of George Town, Bahamas.


Stabilizer system for anchoring...
Do you mean something like flopper stoppers?
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Old 10-05-2017, 08:03 PM   #7
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During the winter the "normal" weather in the US Virgin Islands is 15 to 20 knot winds and 4-6 ft seas. During the Christmas winds, 35 to 40 knot winds were normal. That is why the locals went boating in the summer, less winds and less tourists.
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Old 10-06-2017, 04:53 AM   #8
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Stabilizer system for anchoring...
Do you mean something like flopper stoppers?
Exactly, we have the Magnum Rock and Roll stabilizers with 9 foot poles which we use most nights. Many trawlers have different systems some are one off designs hung from the boom.
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Old 10-06-2017, 05:01 AM   #9
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When you say 6' plus wave size, what (average) wave period are you talking about?

Thanks,
CD
8 to 9 seconds

Travel in the Eastern Caribbean is basically north / south. The wind is basically from the east so the waves hit you on the beam. As you approach most islands the waves increase in height and frequency as you go over what we call the shelf (sea depth decreases from thousands of feet to 200 feet).

We have anchored out for 10 days at times waiting for the seas to drop below 2 meters (6.5 feet).

Bay Pelican is full displacement with active stabilizers.
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Old 10-06-2017, 05:37 AM   #10
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8 to 9 seconds

Travel in the Eastern Caribbean is basically north / south. The wind is basically from the east so the waves hit you on the beam. As you approach most islands the waves increase in height and frequency as you go over what we call the shelf (sea depth decreases from thousands of feet to 200 feet).

We have anchored out for 10 days at times waiting for the seas to drop below 2 meters (6.5 feet).

Bay Pelican is full displacement with active stabilizers.
With you there show wave periods are almost half longer than in the North Baltic Sea. I just looked at web pages with a wave height of 1.8m and a period of just 4.3 seconds.

Are the readings you mentioned in the old swell or the wind just made
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:14 AM   #11
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Generally when the waves are below 2 meters it is just wind. If there is a swell the waves are higher.

There are days each year in which the wind drops and you have 1 meter waves, we call it trawler weather.
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:15 AM   #12
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8 to 9 seconds



Travel in the Eastern Caribbean is basically north / south. The wind is basically from the east so the waves hit you on the beam. As you approach most islands the waves increase in height and frequency as you go over what we call the shelf (sea depth decreases from thousands of feet to 200 feet).



We have anchored out for 10 days at times waiting for the seas to drop below 2 meters (6.5 feet).



Bay Pelican is full displacement with active stabilizers.


Good to know, thanks. Would it be safe to say that the winds are calmer and the seas a little lower in the predawn and early morning hours than they would be in the afternoon?
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:36 AM   #13
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Exactly, we have the Magnum Rock and Roll stabilizers with 9 foot poles which we use most nights. Many trawlers have different systems some are one off designs hung from the boom.


Hmmmm, there seems to be no room for active or passive stabilization on my little MS Pilot 34. I may have to do some serious creative thinking.
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:43 AM   #14
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To me, there is a difference in cruising the Eastern Caribbean and getting there/back...... due to longer open water passages.

If I was taking the boat permanently there, I might give it a go.

But i would not consider a Mainship for cruising the islands except the Bahamas.

Of course it can be done, even safely in many eyes, but without stabilizers the passages are going to have long waits or miserable rides.

Heck we used to have a lot of uncomfortable dayys and nights on a 210 foot coast guard cutter down in those passes.
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Old 10-06-2017, 07:03 AM   #15
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Bahamas, even Turks and Caicos perhaps, but no further in that boat. Even not thinking of the seas, I doubt you have the range to go much further.

As to seas, they vary so widely, but the issue is that with the length of some runs you'd have they can change a great deal during that run. Today is failry normal, a little more swell and a bit less wind waves than typical. Go to Windy or another site and look at the seas. Look at wind waves and swells. Right now outside the Caribbean islands on the North and East you're talking 7' at 10 seconds and it's mostly swell. Inside today you're talking 3 to 5' at 6 to 10 seconds. I can't see those conditions being enjoyable in your boat. Now by the end of the week you're talking 5' at 6 seconds inside and that wouldn't be a fun ride.

I look at things in the following way. If the forecast is accurate will it be comfortable and pleasurable. If it's a bit worse than the forecast will I still feel safe and while not having fun, not having a horrible, never again type experience.

You want to lose all those who boat with you, just do a trip or two in conditions they'll fear, even if you know they're safe, or that will make them seasick, or that will just rip all the fun out of it.

For safety, the question is "can we do it."

For pleasure, it is "will we enjoy it."
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Old 10-06-2017, 08:10 AM   #16
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Predawn hours are usually calmer. But few if any trips are less than four hours, and many are 10 to 17 hours. You can't get to the Eastern Caribbean without a number of 100 plus nautical mile jumps, usually overnight. There are only a few anchorages that a prudent person would enter at night so you have to plan on getting to your destination a couple of hours before sunset so if you are delayed you still get there in time. We have repeatedly left at 4 in the afternoon so as to arrive around 9 in the morning or later. Thus both leaving and arriving were in daylight.
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Old 10-06-2017, 08:43 AM   #17
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Caribbean Cruising in a Mainship Pilot 34

I remember reading in The Gentleman's Guide that he almost exclusively traveled at night and tried to stay in the lee of the islands to stay out of the waves/swell.

6' plus waves at 8-9 second period doesn't sound too gentle to me. I have some steadying sails now but they didn't work that well last time I tired with 4-6' waves, but it was a following sea with little apparent wind so that didn't help. The sails seem to work pretty well on a reach and close hauled. Still learning...
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Old 10-06-2017, 01:25 PM   #18
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I remember reading in The Gentleman's Guide that he almost exclusively traveled at night and tried to stay in the lee of the islands to stay out of the waves/swell.

6' plus waves at 8-9 second period doesn't sound too gentle to me. I have some steadying sails now but they didn't work that well last time I tired with 4-6' waves, but it was a following sea with little apparent wind so that didn't help. The sails seem to work pretty well on a reach and close hauled. Still learning...


I read the same thing, that's kind of what makes me think about using my MS Pilot 34. I have a range of 350-400 miles at 2500 rpm (12-14 kts) depending on wind and seas.
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Old 10-06-2017, 01:31 PM   #19
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You can hide in the lee for a few hours, but not 10-17 hours. So eventually that open water is gonna get you.

But don't listen to me-- I haven't been. Bay Pelican has tons of experience there so definitely take his advice.
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