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Old 08-31-2015, 06:53 PM   #1
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Blue Water Boat and the Caribbean

We've begun the serious looking at our next boat - the one we'll live on for 2 or 3 years, as we motor from FL all throughout the Caribbean, on no real schedule. Everyone seems to have a different opinion (imagine that!) about what makes a boat a "blue water boat", and about whether a "blue water boat" is even all that important for cruising from island to island in the Caribbean.

So, first, for those who have actually done it: if you're perfectly happy to wait for nicer weather, just how "blue water" does a boat need to be to cruise around the Bahamas, the VI and the rest of the Caribbean? Please give at least some explanation of your answer. ("At least 50 feet" - with no explanation, isn't going to help us find the right boat.)

I'll save the second question ("what makes a boat a 'blue water boat'?") until after this topic has been discussed. (If we don't need one, I don't need to know what one is!)

BTW, current boat is a 1974 Gulfstar Mk II Sundeck Trawler, which we've had for a little over a year, and have taken to the Bahamas 3 times for a total of about 6 weeks.
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:42 PM   #2
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Blue Water Boat and the Caribbean

I haven't done it, but I've stayed at a Holiday Inn express! And I've already wobbled around in the Gulf enough to know that if it's a powerboat going past the Bahamas, I would stabilize it, or buy one with stabilizers already installed preferably. IMO. But I don't know squat.

The real people who have actually been there and done that will chime in eventually. 😁
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:54 PM   #3
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Island hopping the Caribbean in almost anything can be done...but if you aren't just planning on staying down there...get something that can take those trade wind seas safely and enough boat to add some sort of stabilization gear to it. Day after day of that Caribbean chop is tough.
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:58 PM   #4
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Island hopping the Caribbean in almost anything can be done...but if you aren't just planning on staying down there...get something that can take those trade wind seas safely and enough boat to add some sort of stabilization gear to it. Day after day of that Caribbean chop is tough.
I know you're trying to be helpful, and I appreciate it! But this is the kind of thing we keep hearing - "get something that can take those tradewind seas safely" - that doesn't help when it comes to selecting a boat. We're trying to get a handle on the "something" in your statement - a clear idea of what is, and is not, "enough boat". (So... do you have more specifics, aside from the advice about stabilization?)
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:59 PM   #5
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You can get by with a non-blue water boat in the Caribbean if you wait for weather. You can always get to a protected harbor in a day or two so you don't need fully self sufficient blue water capability.


But as a PP said you may not like the rolling and pitching (which is going to happen even if on a blue water boat) unless it is stabilized.


I think for Caribbean use I would prefer a stabilized Gulfstar to an unstabilized Nordhavn.


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Old 08-31-2015, 08:29 PM   #6
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Ok i'll throw some suggestions out: 39 Krogen, N40, N43, N46, N47, Krogen 42. I would not do it w/o stabilization.
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Old 08-31-2015, 08:44 PM   #7
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OK we spend at least four months a year going up and down the Eastern Caribbean. Don't know how different the Western Caribbean will be. Four easy issues for the Eastern Caribbean:
You will want a boat in which you will be very comfortable going out with 1.5 meter waves on the beam. That is good weather. I have seen lesser heights but those days are the exception.

You want to be able to live at anchor. There are far fewer marinas available then in North America. The bulk of the boats rarely see a marina. Definitely be able to supply your own power, and most boats have water makers.

Your ground tackle must be able to comfortably anchor in 35 feet of water and withstand 30+ kt winds. While there are shallower anchorages and the ability to hug the shore for shallow depths this is not always the case and hugging the shore has security issues.

Your dinghy must be easily launched, able to take you a mile in a decent amount of time and be easily lockable. Many of the cruising regulars in the Eastern Caribbean are lifting their dinghys out of the water each evening. All lock them everywhere.

The Eastern Caribbean is a sailboat world. The trawlers we see are Krogens and Nordhavns. (Ignoring boats larger than 60 feet). Most are still in the 40 to 52 ft range.
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Old 08-31-2015, 08:55 PM   #8
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Now that Cuba seems to be opening up, you will be really be island hopping. Still need to be careful, but if you are doing this in retirement, what's the hurry. Once we finish the Loop we will see you down there!

Before Cuba was a possible stop I believe the biggest issue would be the run from the T&C Islands to the Dominican Republic (assuming you want to avoid Haiti).

The other question is do you continue up the coast of Central America after the ABC Islands or do you cut across to Jamaica? Obviously avoiding Venezuela.
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Old 08-31-2015, 09:04 PM   #9
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OK we spend at least four months a year going up and down the Eastern Caribbean. Don't know how different the Western Caribbean will be. Four easy issues for the Eastern Caribbean:
<snip>
The Eastern Caribbean is a sailboat world. The trawlers we see are Krogens and Nordhavns. (Ignoring boats larger than 60 feet). Most are still in the 40 to 52 ft range.
Now THAT'S the kind of specifics I was hoping for! Thanks so much.
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Old 08-31-2015, 09:10 PM   #10
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Now that Cuba seems to be opening up, you will be really be island hopping. Still need to be careful, but if you are doing this in retirement, what's the hurry. Once we finish the Loop we will see you down there!

Before Cuba was a possible stop I believe the biggest issue would be the run from the T&C Islands to the Dominican Republic (assuming you want to avoid Haiti).

The other question is do you continue up the coast of Central America after the ABC Islands or do you cut across to Jamaica? Obviously avoiding Venezuela.
Yes, we are doing this in retirement, and no, there's no hurry. (We're doing the Loop, too - but we call our version "The Great Southern Loop" - the navigation equipment on our boat won't go north of 28 degrees latitude.)

Cuba definitely opens up some possibilities, but we don't know if we'll try to visit there at the beginning (a year from now) or the end (3-4 years from now) of our trip.

RE: Central America - I guess we'll figure that out when we get to Venezuela!
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Old 08-31-2015, 09:40 PM   #11
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Yes, we are doing this in retirement, and no, there's no hurry. (We're doing the Loop, too - but we call our version "The Great Southern Loop" - the navigation equipment on our boat won't go north of 28 degrees latitude.)

Cuba definitely opens up some possibilities, but we don't know if we'll try to visit there at the beginning (a year from now) or the end (3-4 years from now) of our trip.

RE: Central America - I guess we'll figure that out when we get to Venezuela!
Re you Nav equipment - huh? What is that all about. Is it that you don't have the cards?

Are you sure you want to "get to" Venezuela?
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:33 PM   #12
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Re you Nav equipment - huh? What is that all about. Is it that you don't have the cards?

Are you sure you want to "get to" Venezuela?
Sorry - that was a joke. We have no interest in going anywhere colder than where we are now, so we pretend the boat won't go north.

Not sure we want to get all the way "to" Venezuela - would probably stop short of there, before heading west or back north.
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:35 PM   #13
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How about light blue? Or Blue water light?

I'm serious when saying that. It doesn't have to be a passagemaker but I want a boat that I know can handle a lot more than I ever hope or intend to give it. I also want one that will do it in decent comfort. It doesn't have to be a KK or Nordhavn or a 100' yacht. However, it can't be a 30' boat designed primarily for lake usage or coastal usage only on calm days. Many hybrids can do the job. A Grand Banks certainly can do it reasonably well. A lot of Sea Rays do it fine, range being the issue they first encounter. I do feel like on planing or semi-displacement size becomes more important than on displacement. For instance, I wouldn't want to do it in a 34' Carver. At 18,000 pounds a boat like that is going to get tossed around. Now would I do it in a 37 foot Sea Ray. But a 59' Sea Ray or a 72' Marquis is a different story.

Some boats that can do it are going to pound you to death too. I'll use the example of Pershing. Great boats. However, with Arneson drives not a good intermediate speed boat, so need to open it up and it's going to pound you. The same size Riva or Sunseeker will be smoother. I know this isn't a Pershing type crowd but just an example.

I also think there is a size below which even a full displacement trawler type becomes a bit small. For instance, I wouldn't do it in a 40' Nordhavn. I personally would want stabilizers on any Nordhavn I was taking into the ocean. I personally wouldn't do it in a 26' Nordic Tug. Even the 36' American Tug comes up a little "short" in my opinion.

I want to feel safe in 8-12' seas and reasonably comfortable in 6'. Then if I decide to only go out in 3-4' that's fine. But there are no guarantees they'll stay that way. Just crossing to and from the Bahamas, I've seen the change in the Gulf Stream make things pretty miserable and scare people. Last time I was returning in somewhat uncomfortable conditions I ran across several boats crossing at the same time. I saw a 76' boat of a fairly well known brand that would apparently keep slowing down to a crawl (or less) just to let their passengers regain their wits. I saw a 47' Sea Ray go smoothly by them at speed. I saw a smaller tug (I don't remember Nordic or American if I even knew at the time) that was proceeding at displacement speed but really being tossed and making very little headway. They were in for a long, long night.
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:58 AM   #14
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Many of the old , out of favor, sport fish have very good sea going ability.

But they don't "look" trawlery.
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Old 09-01-2015, 07:57 AM   #15
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Another factor to consider for the Eastern Caribbean is that the price of diesel is much higher than in the United States. The exception being Venezuela which has its own issues for American boats.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:24 AM   #16
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With any island hopping adventure such as that it is often the scheduling and comfort factor that are the deciding factors.


Having few months gives you a fair amount of flexibility to wait out the worst of the weather, so scheduling around the worst of the weather shouldn't be a problem.


I would say the limiting factor would be how much motion do you want to put up with.
Can you and your passengers put up with plenty of rock and roll and laugh it off, or do you suffer from sea sickness easily?
Is your boat set up with every thing bolted down solidly or do you sliding furniture and a rack of crystal champagne glasses?
I'd guess that your current Gulfstar would get you there and back, but you'd want an iron clad stomach or a set of paravanes.


In summary - its more than a question of which boat, but how is that boat set up, and what comfort level do you want.
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Old 09-01-2015, 09:46 AM   #17
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Brian, you do realize that to go from your current boat to something more comfortable in a seaway that you will need to move to a passagemaker style boat.

You already have a +40' Coastal Cruiser style boat I think. Here is a photo from yachtworld. is this representative of your current boat?



In order to see significant change from that you will need to go to a full displacement stabilized boat.

Something like a Defever 49, or a Hatteras LRC, or KK42

My question is why not try it in your current boat, if you like it and have it outfitted the way you want it. Then when you see what you are up against you can always "trade up" in capabilities. Your current boat will make it safely, you'll just need to wait for weather more often than a more rough water capable boat.

When anchor'd, they all roll unless you have an anchor stabilizing system, and that's relative new and expensive technology.
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Old 09-01-2015, 09:50 AM   #18
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Many of the old , out of favor, sport fish have very good sea going ability.

But they don't "look" trawlery.
Yeah but their stability comes from speed. They can get pretty rolly at trawler speeds.

They would not be a bad choice if you add stabilizers or a gyro if you want to keep the option of high speed. But then you are hauling around big old high HP diesels at trawlers speeds most of the time.
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Old 09-01-2015, 09:53 AM   #19
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When anchor'd, they all roll unless you have an anchor stabilizing system, and that's relative new and expensive technology.
No need to go to all that expense, passive at anchor stabilizers work very well for boats like that.
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Old 09-01-2015, 10:05 AM   #20
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No need to go to all that expense, passive at anchor stabilizers work very well for boats like that.
I know a couple of boats that use Forespar "flopper stoppers". We used the orange "Mexican" hat type when we had the sailboat. They worked great. Definitely worth the effort to deploy them.

Roll Stabilizer Flopper Stopper
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