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Old 12-08-2016, 11:32 PM   #1
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cruising in groups

My Husband and I are new to cruising and were hoping to join up with other boaters for our first long trip. We are planning to head to St Thomas from Pensacola, FL by way of Apalachicola-Tarpon Springs-Ft Myers-Okeechobee Waterway- West Palm-Bahamas-Turks and Caicos- Puerto Rico-St Thomas. How do we find other boaters planning to take a similar route and join up? We are somewhat flexible with dates but are hoping to be in the Bahamas by early January. We cruise comfortably at 7-9knots. Thank you all for your help and advice!
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Old 12-09-2016, 02:42 AM   #2
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You're most likely to meet people along your way that are making sections of that trip around the same time as you.

One way to meet other boats is when you all get held up in the same place waiting for a good weather window for your next leg.

But I'd be prepared to make some/many of those legs on your own.

Also be prepared to sit in the T&Cs for quite a while waiting for a break in the wind to make the jump to the DR and on to PR. I've been stuck there for close to two weeks waiting on a break in the wind for the seas to die down. And that was in a boat twice as long as yours. :-)
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Old 12-09-2016, 03:04 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by THarpsCommodore View Post
My Husband and I are new to cruising and were hoping to join up with other boaters for our first long trip. We are planning to head to St Thomas from Pensacola, FL by way of Apalachicola-Tarpon Springs-Ft Myers-Okeechobee Waterway- West Palm-Bahamas-Turks and Caicos- Puerto Rico-St Thomas. How do we find other boaters planning to take a similar route and join up? We are somewhat flexible with dates but are hoping to be in the Bahamas by early January. We cruise comfortably at 7-9knots. Thank you all for your help and advice!
Short answer, I doubt seriously you do.

Longeer answer. You may just by spreading the word luck into someone, even running an ad in some boating papers. Far more likely is to find travelers along the way doing some of the same segments of travel. Until you depart the Bahamas for Turks and Caicos, you're likely to be around a good many boaters at all times. It's from there south that it would be nice to find another or at least know others following a similar path that you'd agree to share plans and keep in contact.

Now, if you're new to cruising, I'd be careful about doing too much too soon. I don't know your boating experience, but there are different challenges along the way.

I see steps and learning periods as this:

1. Get use to cruising your boat near home.
2. Go from Pensacola to West Palm. This should familiarize you with many of the things you'll face.
3. Go offshore, deal with crossing the gulf stream, deal with the lack of depth in many areas of the Bahamas. Enjoy the Bahamas and get more comfortable while you do.
4. I wouldn't go further without experience. Either a captain or you having experience by the time. You're into open water and well out of the range of the US tow services and most other support you might find. You can make manageable legs.
5. We went from Clarencetown to Blue Haven Marina, T&C, about 190 nm or so if I'm remembering correctly.
6. Then from there, to Puerto Plata, not much longer trip, around 205 nm I think on our route. From there to Samana, DR only about 140 nm.
7. That left us with only about 280 nm to BVI. However, you can shorten that leg by making your next stop Puerto Rica. Then work around the island toward St. Thomas.

You can limit your longest leg to no more than 200 nm by good planning. If you're not in a hurry, you're likely to run across others headed your way on the legs. You're also never more than 100 nm from shore doing it that way, so never more than 12 hours or so.

What size crew will you have? How many experienced captains or helmsmen?

The biggest thing is no forced calendar. When in debate on whether conditions are ok, don't move. And don't let other "traveling partners" talk you into going outside what your comfort zone is.

I assume in undertaking such a trip, you really have no time constraints. So take advantage of that and make it leisurely.
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Old 12-09-2016, 06:11 AM   #4
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waiting on weather

We had hoped to make it to St Thomas in about 1 month, but no real time constraints. We will definitely wait for good weather. My husband and I will take the boat to West Palm on our own and then friends will meet us there and go the rest of the way. We have varied experience but did bring the boat from Melbourne to Pensacola last year. We hired a capt for a few days but he quickly pointed out we didn't really need him. We have been learning everything we can about the engine and boat and re-doing much of it and completing the maintenance ourselves. I am all in favor of shorter crossings and I can think of worse places to be stuck. Our boat only drafts 3.5' so hopefully we wont have too much trouble in shallow water. Thank you all for the advice!
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Old 12-09-2016, 06:48 AM   #5
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Making that trip in 4 weeks during winter months will severely limit your weather windows. It has happened to us several times as we have worked our way south. When a good window opens we use it as far and as long as we can. Sometimes the passages are longer than we had hoped, but didn't want to get stuck somewhere for another few weeks waiting for the next window. Places get "skipped". Traveling with someone else can be a pain. We tried to help a singlehander after his wife had to fly home unexpectedly. It screwed us royally. Never again. There was also an incident where the buddy boat pulled away and left the other boat behind resulting in a robbery and assault. Make sure you trust the buddy boat!

At the very least read Bruce van Sant "a gentlemens guide to passages south". It may help you with realistic planning of legs and times needed.
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Old 12-09-2016, 06:51 AM   #6
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http://www.noonsite.com

Good resource if your staying on the move
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Old 12-09-2016, 07:42 AM   #7
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You have received some sound advice. My 2 centavos worth -

Until you have the requisite skills, confidence, repair capability and knowledge stay closer to home. It is a roll of the dice to rely upon others of uncertain background to assist you. We do have some good friends with considerable known and verified experience. They are fun to travel with on short hops, splitting up and then rejoining on repeated occasions.

Your cruising plans should be supported by a sound and properly equipped vessel.
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Old 12-09-2016, 08:08 AM   #8
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After looking at the specs online I have a few comments and questions.
1. I didn't see any type of stabilizers, are there any?
2. Unless you have changed them, the ground tackle is too light. The Danforth 45# would be good as a stern anchor. The 65# CQR is too small and not the best style of anchor.
3. What type of commercial trawler is it? Used close inshore shore or ocean going?
4. You could spend a month just waiting to cross the gulf stream.
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Old 12-09-2016, 08:14 AM   #9
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Personally I think a month is to short a time frame unless all you want to do is travel and not get to experience much on your way.

As others have said, be careful who you put your trust in as to buddy boats.
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Old 12-09-2016, 08:30 AM   #10
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group cruising often results in doing things you dont want to do and worst of all going before you are ready.
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Old 12-09-2016, 09:53 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meridian View Post
After looking at the specs online I have a few comments and questions.
1. I didn't see any type of stabilizers, are there any?
2. Unless you have changed them, the ground tackle is too light. The Danforth 45# would be good as a stern anchor. The 65# CQR is too small and not the best style of anchor.
3. What type of commercial trawler is it? Used close inshore shore or ocean going?
4. You could spend a month just waiting to cross the gulf stream.
Thank you all for the advice. Lots of good tips. We will take our time. Our safety is more important than any timeline.

Meridian, no stabilizers. We did upgrade to a Rocna 55 (121lb), which holds the boat well. She was built as a long line fishing boat, so offshore capable.
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Old 12-09-2016, 10:19 AM   #12
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When we first got our boat (our first time with a boat in a marina as opposed to trailering), a bunch from the marina decided to go on an extended weekend cruise. They invited us to go along.


To make a long story short, when we got to our destination, we were all walking around and found a bar that was celebrating being open for five years and was serving free drinks. The whole group spent the rest of the day and evening in the bar and some got very intoxicated. We didn't see much of the town, only the inside of the bar.


The point of this story is, if you cruise in a group, you are sort of obligated to do what the group wants to do, leave when the group wants to leave, stay at the marinas the group wants to stay at, etc.


Since that time, we have pretty much cruised alone. Most of our friends have jobs or businesses they have to take care of while we are retired and have fewer obligations.


We often meet people while cruising and sometimes go to dinner together or go shopping with them. Sometimes we will run into these same people days, weeks or even years later but there are no obligations.
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Old 12-09-2016, 11:19 AM   #13
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A month on that trip is too much like a delivery with the only purpose moving the boat. This is a two to three month trip to be enjoyed at all.

As to the group concept, if you don't feel confidently self sufficient then you shouldn't be crossing oceans or seas as in this trip.

I would never base my schedule on that of others or tie into their exact cruising plans. Your speeds aren't the same, your attitudes aren't. I also wouldn't put my trust for decisions in the hands of strangers.

As outlined, you can make short crossings with the longest just over 24 hours.

A bit about trip planning. At your speed, you have 30 days of actual cruising to get there. Then you add time to enjoy the stops.

I see perhaps 6 stops on the way to West Palm of at least a day. At least 6-8 (10 better) in the Bahamas, 1 in Turks/Caicos, 2 in DR, 2 in PR. Decide where you want to stop and what you want to see. But that's at least 20 stops along the way and if you average 2 days each, 40 days. That has you up to 70 total days. Then add in at least 2 weeks, as many as 4 for weather windows. So now you're to 85-100 days. That is a three month trip if it's to be a pleasure trip. Most cruisers would tend closer to 6 months.

Last January we went from Fort Lauderdale to the BVI. We travel the Bahamas all the time so only spent two days at each stop, still that's two weeks enjoying the places along the way. However, we spent 5 days at Leeward, T & C, then spent 3 at Puerto Plata and 3 at Samana. Each PR stop merits 3.
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Old 12-09-2016, 11:24 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by WesK View Post

To make a long story short, when we got to our destination, we were all walking around and found a bar that was celebrating being open for five years and was serving free drinks. The whole group spent the rest of the day and evening in the bar and some got very intoxicated. We didn't see much of the town, only the inside of the bar.

The point of this story is, if you cruise in a group, you are sort of obligated to do what the group wants to do, leave when the group wants to leave, stay at the marinas the group wants to stay at, etc.

.
What you experienced is way too common. Seems often that the number one activity of cruisers when reaching destinations is drinking. We have no desire to meet up with a group of people for drinking or to be around a bunch of drunks. Not our thing. If we go to a destination, we really want to see it and enjoy it. If the idea is to drink, then we could just stay home and do that, although we wouldn't.

Now, the group so anxious to hit the bars wouldn't like our itinerary of landmarks, lighthouses, museums, art galleries, music, parks, etc. We go sightseeing.
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Old 12-09-2016, 01:07 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Panhandler View Post
Thank you all for the advice. Lots of good tips. We will take our time. Our safety is more important than any timeline.

Meridian, no stabilizers. We did upgrade to a Rocna 55 (121lb), which holds the boat well. She was built as a long line fishing boat, so offshore capable.
IMO, you're going to wish you had stabilizers once you get south of say the T&Cs. If not well before if you're going to be running at slow speeds most of the time.

Unless is a very low center of gravity boat.

Can you post a picture of the boat?
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Old 12-09-2016, 01:37 PM   #16
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There is a lot of really great information listed here by the contributors of this post. When we first purchased our cruising boat I hired a captain to help my wife and I get from San Diego to Ensenada, about an 8 hour trip. I hired the captain because, even though I had 40+ years of boating experience I was really unfamiliar with the new boat and because of use tax rules I needed to get the boat out of California. During the 5 months we were berthed in Ensenada we took numerous day trips and several over night runs to get used to the new vessel.

When we were ready to bring Freedom back to the U.S. we gathered 3 friends from our Yacht Club who had extensive boating expense giving us a crew of 5 to make the trip from Ensenada to San Francisco Bay. We experienced some minor mechanical problems going north and unexpected 40 knot winds (the weather man really blew it that night) transiting Point Conception. Having experienced boaters on board made the trip easy and also helped me really become comfortable with the boat and her systems.

When we were finally ready to cruise we were pretty prepared for about anything - and believe me you will experience just about anything. We cruised for 10 years without any major incident but mechanical problems always show up. Often we kept bumping into the same folks a various anchorages but the only time we really buddy boated was a flotilla of 13 boats who made an overnight transit from Chamela to Puerto Vallarta after waiting 5 days for a weather window around Cabo Corrientes.

Several things we learned:

Never put yourself into a position that you can't wait out a weather
window. We have a good friend whose wife will never go offshore again
because they tried to get friends back to Vallarta to catch a flight. We
always told friends who whet cruising with us not to book a round trip
flight because I couldn't promise that I could get them to the airport on
time.

If you are doing overnight passages remember that your job when
you are not on watch is to sleep. I always hated 24 hour or less
passages because I had a hard time forcing myself into a routine.

Learn all the systems on your boat and be able to fix them / learn also
to jury rig because it will become necessary sometime during you
cruising.

Have a good supply of spare parts and the tools to use them. Also
you will no doubt find that regardless of the number of spare parts you
have you will probably need the one you don't have. I was told this by a
friend who is a delivery captain and laughed until I needed a temperature
sending unit and didn't have one.

Take your time and enjoy cruising. If you have to leave you boat
somewhere and fly home just do it.
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Old 12-09-2016, 01:42 PM   #17
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BandB, thank you. We are hoping our return trip will be more leisurely. Our trip down will probably be as quick as weather and safety allow, like a delivery as you pointed out.

Capt.Bill11, you are correct. We have already wished we had stabilizers. Paravenes may be in the cards at some point, but not before this trip. I don't seem to have any photos accessible at the moment but one of us will post some soon.

rjwilliams, good advice, thank you.
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Old 12-09-2016, 02:04 PM   #18
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The fishermen that fish in Alaska and live in Washington state run up the inside passage every spring. They raft up at anchor and stick together. For safety.

I'm too indepent to go cruising w others. I could see being in a boat club but I could'nt even buddy boat so going w a group is unlikely .. but possible of course.

But people do to sociaize and be safer. I do suppose the anchorage choices are very limited if the group is somewhat large. But they could raft like the fishermen.
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Old 12-09-2016, 04:15 PM   #19
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Lot's of good suggestions offered. But one thing caught my eye: a 3.5' draft on a 50' trawler??? That doesn't sound offshore capable. Offshore capable IMO means fixed ballast of at least 10% of displacement, high engine vents and companionway to allow significant heel before water downflow occurs, stout windows that can take a blue water wave, a totally reliable propulsion/steering system, solid communications with power redundancy, etc.

I found your picture from your post this spring. Sure looks like a coastal cruiser.

If it doesn't meet those criteria, then you can still make it, but it means really watching the weather.

And if the shit hits the fan offshore, that buddy boat won't help a bit.

I would limit my trip to the Bahamas or at best, the T&Cs.

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Old 12-10-2016, 09:01 PM   #20
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cats

Due to my work assignment in St Thomas we will probably try to make it down as quick at weather permits, and plan to enjoy more leisure time in the USVI, and take it slower when we head back towards the US. We will also have our cats with us and are learning that we can't go some places, like T&C very easily. Does anyone know much about traveling with cats/dogs? How strict places are? I did just take them to the vet and have signed certificates of health and recent rabies vaccination.
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