Places I'd like to go
on a sailboat.
Mostly harmless Please send any comments to me.

This page updated: September 2011
      




Characteristics Of Various Areas section
Possible Itineraries section
Weather And Route Notes section
Maps section
Travel: Customs, Immigration, documents section
Destinations And Areas section
Atlantic Crossing section
My Bahamas page
My USA East Coast / IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) page
My Florida Keys page
My Sailboat Home Base page (includes some Florida Keys info)
My West Coast of Florida page
My Inland Rivers in the USA page
My Caribbean page
My Hurricane page


Circumnavigation: the longest distance between the same point.

Note: I don't repeat information you can find on charts or in guidebooks. And I do focus on things that fit my cruising style: I anchor out, use libraries for internet, don't go to restaurants and bars.




Characteristics Of Various Areas


Some characteristics of various areas at each time of year (including average low/high temperatures in Fahrenheit and average rainfall in inches, from sites such as USA Today's "Online weather almanac" and Washington Post):

Area Jan Feb March April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Bermuda
61-69°,
5"

60-68°,
4"

60-69°,
4"

63-71°,
4"

68-75°,
3"

73-81°,
5"

77-85°,
5"

78-86°,
5"
stormy
76-84°,
5"

72-80°,
7"

67-75°,
4"

63-70°,
5"
Southern
New
England
(Providence)
cold,
gales

19-37°,
4"
cold,
gales

21-38°,
4"
cold,
gales

29-46°,
4"
cold

38-57°,
4"
cold

47-67°,
4"


57-77°,
3"


63-82°,
3"


62-81°,
4"
cold

54-74°,
3"
cold

43-64°,
4"
cold,
gales

35-53°,
4"
cold,
gales

24-41°,
4"
Chesapeake
(Norfolk)
cold
31-47°,
4"
cold
32-50°,
3"
cold
39-58°,
4"
cold
47-67°,
3"

squalls
57-75°,
4"

squalls
65-83°,
4"
humid
calm
70-86°,
5"
humid
calm
69-85°,
5"

64-80°,
4"
cold
53-70°,
3"
cold
44-61°,
3"
cold
35-52°,
3"
East
Florida
(Miami)


59-75°,
2"


60-77°,
2"


64-79°,
2"


68-82°,
3"


72-85°,
6"


75-88°,
9"
Tstorm
76-89°,
6"
Tstorm,
hurricane

77-89°,
8"
hurricane
76-88°,
8"
hurricane
72-85°,
6"


67-80°,
3"


62-77°,
2"
Northeast
Caribbean
(Turks)


73-80°,
1"


73-81°,
1"


74-82°,
1"


75-83°,
1"


77-85°,
1"


79-86°,
2"
Tstorm

80-87°,
1"
Tstorm,
hurricane

80-88°,
2"
hurricane
80-88°,
3"
hurricane
79-86°,
3"


76-84°,
4"


75-82°,
3"
Southeast
Caribbean
(Barbados)
74-82°,
3"
74-82°,
2"
75-83°,
2"
76-84°,
2"
78-85°,
4"
79-85°,
5"
78-85°,
6"
78-86°,
6"
78-86°,
6"
78-85°,
7"
77-84°,
6"
75-83°,
4"
Mediterranean
(Malta)
cold
49-59°,
4"
cold
49-59°,
2"
cold
51-61°,
2"

54-65°,
1"

59-72°,
0"

66-80°,
0"

71-86°,
0"
windy
72-86°,
0"
windy
69-82°,
1"

64-75°,
3"

57-67°,
4"
cold
52-61°,
4"

"Ice and sailing are only associated at happy hour."
Pic





Possible Itineraries

"We've got no plans and we're sticking to 'em."

These itineraries attempt to follow the "rules" for avoiding hurricane season and gales, hitting good temperatures, using currents, etc.

Most of the info is from "World Cruising Routes" by Jimmy Cornell (on Amazon).

Circling the east Caribbean and North Atlantic in one year:


Circling the east Caribbean and Mediterranean in one year:


Oscillating up and down the east Caribbean in one year (not intended to specify "best" stops; just to get an idea of route):




Note: To be conservative, you should expect an average speed of 3 knots ! This can be caused by unfavorable weather and waves and winds and currents, small mishaps and detours, etc. Absolutely ideal conditions could result in 6 knots.

Many areas: go to Bluewater Web and click on "Passage Planner".






Weather And Route Notes

"A storm is any wind five knots faster than the crew has experienced before."

Weather web-sites:
Weather Underground's "Tropical Weather"
Weather Underground's "Marine Weather"
NOAA's National Data Buoy Center
NOAA's "Marine Radiofax charts"
Seahunters.com weather links
WindGURU


From DBM on Cruising World message board:
Florida and Bahamas weather is very predictable with the exception of the summertime convective thunderstorms. The large scale systems that affect the region are but two, cold front/high pressure from October to May and tropical waves/cyclones from June to November.

Let's do winter first. From late October onward, cold fronts pass from W to E or NW to SE weakening as they move down the Florida Peninsula, weakening even more as they encounter the Gulf Stream and warmer waters south through the Bahamas. Early signs of frontal approach are:
  1. Wind veering from the prevailing E-SE to SSE or S and becoming gusty ... the faster this occurs the faster the front is approaching.
  2. Cirrus approaching from the west or northwest.
If the wind is already SW frontal passage is usually imminent and your anchorage should offer protection from W through NE. Once the front passes, the wind will continue to veer over the next few days, depending on the strength and movement of the high-pressure ridge, ending up between NE and SE. This process typically repeats itself all winter, more frequently further north and in late December through January, and less so at either end of the season and further south.

In the winter, and this next situation is rare, if the wind backs instead of veers, you are experiencing one of two situations:
  1. A secondary cold front is overtaking the one that just passed. Again, you'll need shelter from W to NE.
  2. A low pressure center has formed south of you and an old fashioned Noreaster is coming up ... wind will typically back from SE to NE, stratus and mainland style cold rain will begin.
Tropical Weather [summer]: My first rule of hurricane season is that if the wind has any North in it down here then at the very least, a tropical wave is passing to your south ... be very suspicious of this situation during the season. If the backing wind has been preceded by an increasingly long period ground swell, then your "tropical wave" is more likely a storm or hurricane. In any case protection from any fetch is called for.

From Tom F on Cruising World message board:
You should not make a crossing of the Gulf Stream when there is a northerly component to the wind, at best it can be very uncomfortable, and at worst it can be very dangerous. In typical north wind conditions, you will find waves the size and shape of houses out there - closely spaced and steep. I've seen them once, and I don't want to ever see them again.

This gets complex, because at the time you have chosen [winter] you can have strong cold fronts that make it impossible to cross for periods as long as a week or ten days. You may have luck otherwise, but I have sat at West Palm waiting for weather for a Christmas in the Abacos, and barely made it to West End on New Years eve.

After one cold front blows out, the wind will clock to the northeast, and then east. That's the time to go. You have to monitor the situation very closely. If there is another cold front close behind, the wind will then go southwest, and then turn north when the front passes - you don't want to be out there then.

If you hang out in the logical anchorages for a departure, places like the hurricane hole west of the Cape Florida light in Miami, on the city moorings at Ft. Lauderdale or in the anchorage at the north end of Lake Worth above Palm Beach, you will see other boats congregating. Like you they are ready to make the crossing but waiting for that elusive weather window. You compare weather notes each morning, share a drink or dinner - and pretty soon you realize there are six or eight boats right there ready, like you, to cross in company.

This is hard to do if you are waiting in a marina. Once you are ready to go, just go anchor out and you will find other boats looking to cross. Incidentally, most boats cross at night, leaving at dusk, 10 PM, or somewhere inbetween depending on speed. The idea is to arrive in the Bahamas when the light is good for coming back into shallow water and Customs is open.

From McRory's Logbook:
Understanding weather and being able to apply it to our route is the single most important factor in safe, comfortable cruising. Impatience, or not having good criteria for the right time to leave, can be hard on the crew and the boat. A weather window really depends on where you are going and what area you are in.

To cross the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas, you wait for the south-southeast winds of less than 20 knots for the next 48 hours. If it's been blowing hard from the north, you may have to wait for the northerly swell to settle down before leaving.

When we left the Dominican Republic, we waited for a cold front to roll down the U.S. and Cuba. This created a stalled area of light easterly winds in front of it. We followed that front to Puerto Rico.

The trade winds follow a cyclic pattern. If not influenced by cold fronts or tropical disturbances, they follow a predictable pattern moving from south, southeast, to east, and diminishing in strength as they move to the east. Sometimes if the wind is blowing hard southeast it will just stop for a day then pick up slowly from the east. These cycles can take from two weeks to six weeks. By paying attention, it's easy to pick up on them.

Interesting weather photos: Australian Weather Photography

Gulf Stream:
Johns Hopkin's "Gulf Stream Region" imagery

Strongest current occurs where the temperature gradient is steepest.

If cold north winds hit warm Gulf Stream, they settle toward sea level and speed up.

To find the Gulf Stream when at sea, look for fair-weather cumulus clouds (created by the warmth from the Stream).


"What a filthy job !"
"Oh, I don't know, could be worse."
"How could it POSSIBLY be worse ?"
"... Could be raining."
[Immediately starts pouring rain.]
-- from "Young Frankenstein"




Maps


Maps from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas at Austin: Caribbean, Mediterranean

See Paper Charts section of my Boat Navigation page and Software and Electronics section of my Boat Navigation page













Travel: Customs, Immigration, documents

Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.

Types of regulations:

When entering a country, should have:
USA State Dept's "Foreign Entry Requirements"

When entering a country, do these in order ?
  1. Enter territorial waters, raise Quarantine flag, call harbor on VHF, ask procedures.
  2. At port: dock/anchor, then either wait for officials to come to you, or skipper only goes ashore to officials.
  3. Doctor issues "pratique" (clean bill of health). Lower Quarantine flag.
  4. Customs.
  5. Immigration.
  6. Maybe Agriculture.
  7. Maybe harbormaster, coast guard, police, cruising permit.
  8. Pay fees.
As you're checking in, ask everyone what you'll have to do when you check out.

On most Caribbean islands:
  1. Enter territorial waters, raise Quarantine flag.
  2. Anchor, then skipper only goes ashore to officials.
  3. Customs, Immigration, fees in one office.
  4. No need for crew lists, radio licenses, ship's stamp.

From letter from Bill and Laura McCourt in 2/2004 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
Tips for handling Customs/Immigration:

Sailnet - Liza Copeland's "Entering Foreign Waters"

When leaving a country, get a certificate of clearance (next country will want to see it).
When leaving USA, it is Customs form 1378 or 1300 or what ?
From Bryan Sawyer:
I have entered the Bahamas, Cuba and Mexico directly from the USA and I have never been asked for exit papers. We got a "dispaticho" in Mexico to clear into Cuba with. I think most of the world realizes that the USA does not routinely issue exit paperwork to its own flag vessels that originated in the USA. All the rest of the countries south of here will want a "dispaticho".
From JeanneP on Cruising World message board:
We've never cleared out of the U.S. The Bahamas didn't care when we checked in there, neither did any country in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico to **, USVI to ** and back). The U.S could care less if we've checked in or out - we've been back many times, never been questioned once (though never on the boat - only by plane) - but it doesn't matter. The U.S. really only cares where you came from, and if you're a U.S. citizen. If a citizen, you have no obligation to check out or in (they don't usually stamp your passport when you come into the U.S., for example, unless you ask them to for tax purposes). When we come back into the U.S. by boat (if we ever do), we'll have clearance from our departure point. That's enough.
From Ric on Cruising World message board:
Have gone to the Bahamas many times, never have cleared out of the US. We used to clear out of the Bahamas before returning to the US, but Bahamian customs now say it is fine to mail exit forms back after you get home. Having seen first-hand how they file forms in the Bahamas (one room behind the customs desk with floor-to-ceiling piles of loose paper forms stuffed in, sitting on the floor, falling over, being walked on, etc), we have even become less concerned about mailing the forms back.
From Jas on Cruising World message board:
Just as you should provide a list of possibly dutiable items before you leave on any overseas trip -- by plane, train, automobile, or any other conveyance -- it's a good idea to let USA Customs know what you are taking out of the country by boat. They might not believe that you didn't purchase them in a foreign country.

USA Customs Service User Fee Decal
Makes it easy for USA boats to re-enter USA.

Decal took 10 days to arrive when ordered through web in 2001.

After landfall, skipper goes ashore and calls Customs at 800-432-1216, and reports: Customs gives you a clearance number. May tell you to contact Immigration. If non-US-citizens on board, skipper and non-citizens will have to go to Immigration.

Florida to Bahamas and back,
with USA citizen owner, USA boat, 2 Canadians and 2 cats aboard:

Florida registration: if you leave for a several-year cruise to foreign countries, you can let your Florida registration lapse. When you re-enter Florida after your cruise, give the tax people a short letter saying the boat has been operated outside Florida for that time. They will re-start your registration from the day you re-entered Florida.

Useful things:
About ship's stamp, from Jim / MorningStar on the WorldCruising mailing list:
... All Latin countries love stamps, seals, flowery signatures and the like. The more the better. Yet I'm sure they know gringos don't normally use such trappings. For example, in Mexico it is the Notary that has the power, or the ability to make a document "official". Lawyers hold a second place. They can write what they want but unless it gets stamped it's not official. ...
About ship's stamp, from Steve Strand on the WorldCruising mailing list:
We simply had a rubber stamp made that had the name of the boat, the document number and a logo of a sailboat. It was remarkably helpful in a number of out of the way and mainstream places.


SailNet - Kathy Barron's "Becoming Accustomed to US Customs"

For regulations about a USA Ham operator operating in foreign countries, see ARRL's "International Operating". For many European countries, you just have to carry the right documents. For some South American and Caribbean countries, you have to buy ($10/year) a permit through ARRL.

Always think carefully before answering questions from officials; think of the consequences of your answer. My friends on "Exuma Grouper" admitted to having half a bag of garbage aboard when they entered Puerto Rico. Officially, you're not allowed to bring garbage into Puerto Rico. Their answer set off days of back-and-forth (complicated by boat not being in a Port Of Entry), including officials putting them in contact with an officially-certified garbage-collection company that would be happy to pick up their garbage for a mere $250. Eventually they took their garbage to an official who carefully put it in an official bag (probably cost the taxpayers $100) and took it to an official disposal facility.

Just go with the flow and satisfy whatever weird requirements the officials come up with: pic.






Destinations And Areas


                                                           

Places where "people don't have the common decency to speak English !"
- Steve Martin

Decent book: "World Cruising Handbook" by Jimmy Cornell (on Amazon).
Has port entry details, but lacking on fees, fishing regs, medical requirements.

Many areas: go to Bluewater Web and click on "Passage Planner".


See my Bahamas page
See my Caribbean page
See my USA East Coast / IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) page
See my Florida Keys page
See my West Coast of Florida page
See my Inland Rivers in the USA page


Flags:
Book recommended by someone (I haven't read it):
"Courtesy Flags Made Easy" by Mary Conger (on Amazon).
Also: "Make Your Own Courtesy And Signal Flags" by Bonnie Ladell and Matthew Grant (on Amazon).

Make courtesy flags out of sturdy, UV-tolerant fabric.

From Missi on "Too Lazy To": make courtesy flags by painting on white fabric.

Christine Davis Flags
Waypoint's "Courtesy Flags"
American Flag and Gift

In some countries (e.g. Bahamas), the "courtesy" flag a visiting boat should fly is not the same as the "national" flag.

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
We worried inordinately about this too; don't. Get a Pratique, French, Dutch, Panamanian, British, and US flag, maybe Mexico, before you go. Carry some red, green, blue, yellow and white adhesive sail-repair tape and some sail cloth and cobble up your own flags using scissors, a little heat and magic markers -- at a distance nobody can tell, anyway (particularly on those fussy, intricate flags).

From Pierre Mitham on The Live-Aboard List:
Buy some permanent markers and some flag nylon. Draw out the courtesy flag you will need next and then cut it out with a hot knife (an old knife heated on the stove works).

From my sister Jane:
The easiest way is to use sharpy markers on white fabric. ... You could also get this iron-on stuff, cut a base piece of fabric, cut the colored fabric, and lay them out and iron it on using this stuff that you put between the layers and you iron it and it sticks. If you have a fabric store or a Walmart, they would sell the stuff.

From my sister Carol:
Nylon or dacron fabric might be hard to paint on, but permanent markers might work if you can get the colors to go on dark enough. Cotton fabric would be easy to paint on, using fabric paint, but it might fade. Personally I'd try tyvek. Just yesterday I heard an NPR interview of an artist who uses tyvek (and housepaint) to create huge murals; he likes it because it's flexible and durable. Can you get a few free Fedex envelopes (the bigger, soft kind, they're made of the right kind of tyvek), turn them inside out so they're white, and paint them with permanent markers or housepaint?

Craft stores carry "fabric paint". Avoid "dimensional" paint; get "sun" paint.

My experience, after 10 years aboard:
For a while, I made my own courtesy flags. Now, I just don't bother. I fly a yellow Quarantine flag when entering a country, then take it down and fly no courtesy flag after completing check-in. No one seems to care. If an official hassles you about it, just say the wind shredded the flag and you haven't had a chance to buy a new one. All the officials really care about is that you checked in and paid the fees; they don't care about flags.


Expat Exchange

travlang Travel and Language Supersite
Downwind Marine's "Spanish For The Gringo Yachtsman"

On-line charts:
NOAA NOS Data Explorer

Jimmy Cornell's "Noonsite" (clearance formalities, visa requirements, fees, weather, special events for 1162 ports in 190 countries)
Travel Document Systems (facts, visa info, etc)
Escape Artists's "Visa Requirements Worldwide"

Places I probably won't go:
Latitude 38's "First Timer's Guide To Mexico"
"North Along the Baja Coast" article by Bob and Carolyn Mehaffy in Sep/Oct 2000 issue of Ocean Navigator magazine
Club Cruceros de La Paz (Mexico)
Cruising the Erie Canal



From Paul Gebert on Cruising World message board 12/2004:
Well, the San Blas Islands of Panama did not live up to the hype ... Two things stuck in our throats – a fee of $5 to $10 for EVERY anchorage even though only a few miles apart, and a fee of $2 to walk the islands. That is $2 to go east around the island, $2 to go west around the island, $2 to go up the hill, $5 to go up the river, $2 to take a picture. Also the reefs near the villages were totally stripped of life – dead. NO edible fish in sight; bleached and/or fished to death.

... their crowded villages packed sardine-like on tiny islands have outhouses on stilts out from the waterfront all around the circumference. On a calm night if one anchors near a village, the eau de outhouse can nearly gag a fellow. ... Once you get south and east of the Turks and Caicos Islands you discover that our Caribbean Island friends have no regard for their environment whatsoever, and true also of the San Blas, WHATEVER is not needed or wanted is thrown into the ocean. Trash abounds around every village and shoreline from the Dominican Republic to Grenada, Venezuela, Columbia and Panama.

... be sure to have super-shiny topsides before you get to the San Blas. After the hundred or so canoes are crunched into the sides you will have an artistic mosaic of pretty red, yellow, blue and black marks. You see, every lady in every village just knows you will buy a mola from her. ...
From Jack Tyler on Cruising World message board:
This discussion lacks perspective, altho' there is IMO much truth ... The whole time I've been sailing (3 decades) this same "paradise is spoiled" view has been expounded on ... and to a degree, justified. But things are hardly black and white and, as Paul points out, there are great cruising grounds even in small bodies of water like the Caribbean. Jamaica offers some great and unpopulated spots, Grand Cayman's North Sound is a treat, Haiti's Ile a Vache is safe and fascinating (imagine walking thru the front cover of a 1940's Nat'l Geographic), the S coast of the DR is little changed since Hart and Stone wrote their Caribbean Guide in the early 1970's, the Rio Dulce may be seeing development but you'd never know it when you step 10 miles inland, and so forth. The advice to listen to where the bulk of the cruising fleet is going and then go elsewhere is good advice, and will be richly rewarded.

The same broad, sweeping comments are made about Europe: highly regulated and rule-bound, congested and expensive, etc. We have a hard time squaring that with our cruising in Scandinavia (perhaps the best cruising we've ever seen) or what we hear about Scotland's west coast and the Irish Sea. I'm also unimpressed with sweeping generalizations about the vast Pacific when I hear such discrete, unique and diverse descriptions - even today - about places like Vanuatu, Tonga, Sabah, Kiribati and the Phillipines (yes, even the safe parts of the Phillipines).

IMO one of the biggest contributors to this Paradise Lost theme is the expectations we bring with us, along with the crowd mentality we operate from. We want Hal Roth's Pacific or CDR Nicholson's Caribbean, which of course do not exist today any more than 29 cent gasoline, but we begrudge island nations imposing cruising fees (part of our entitlement mentality), whine when we can't find boat parts and web access, and are afraid to go off the beaten track to find the experiences we claim we want. Instead, many of us stick among our own cruising clans and grouse about how bad things are.

Some places have been despoiled. Others haven't. Most of those rich cruising yarns we remember, and the idyllic cruising grounds they described, came from folks who were sailing away from civiliation, not looking for it. The earth is still big enough to offer that experience but many of us aren't willing to step off the edge of the earth to the same degree sailors did in the past ... or at least that's what I see. Pogo was right; we're just reluctant to admit it because it puts the responsibility on our shoulders to step off the beaten track.

But to return to Paul's original comments about the Kunas, of course they're going to demand and loiter and demand some more. Guess who taught them?
From Jon Eisberg on Cruising World message board:
Cruisers are part of the herd, just like everyone else ...

I'm amazed that there still are so many gems still sitting right under our noses, and yet how few sailors make the effort to seek them out. Even in a crowded area like New England in the summer, it's still possible to a certain extent to find solitude, and get away from it all. In Maine, for example, all one has to do is sail east of Schoodic a bit. Yet, I'm amazed at the number of cruisers who appear to think Mt. Desert represents the very edge of a flat Earth, and would not dare to sail further East. Nantucket harbor can be jammed with boats, but how often do you see a boat anchored off Coatue beach in prevailing conditions, or around the western tip of the Island in Madaket?

Travelling even on the ICW, examples of the reliance on cruising guides abound. The entire length of the Pungo River is lined with beautiful creeks that would be delightful to explore, and make perfect anchorages. Yet, you will see a dozen boats squeezed into the few that are "officially endorsed" by Skipper Bob or the Waterway Guide. It appears that cruisers have completely lost the ability to determine what may constitute a fine anchorage simply by reading a chart.

It has always surprised me how many cruisers will not venture one mile further than Georgetown, Exuma. Within 2 days sailing, there are some incredible places - Conception, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Long Island and Salt Pond, and the Ragged Islands. In the Raggeds, you can sometimes feel as if you're the only person on earth; most regulars there say there are rarely more than a dozen boats in the entire chain at one time. And yet, 50 miles to the north, 400-500 boats sit in Georgetown. Of course, it's tough to find internet access in the Jumentos (grin).

Most of my dreams of travel and cruising have come as a result of poring over maps and charts. I'm sure there are many of us here who would sit looking at a world atlas for hours as a kid ... how a place looks on a map or chart was enough to make the determination, "Now THAT looks like it would be a cool place ...". I think the modern cruiser's over-reliance on electronic charting has a lot to do with the loss of this art; no one seems to spread out a large scale paper chart to plan a cruise any more. That's the biggest disadvantage to electronic charting, IMHO, its lack of utility to easily "browse" on a larger scale, and be intrigued by the location or "look" of a certain place. Paper charts, spread out on a saloon table, or read in front of a fireplace in the dead of winter, permit your future destinations to "come to you" in a more serendipitous and meaningful way. Electronic charts, on the other hand, generally require that you know where you're headed in advance, and then prove their utility in helping you get there with a minimum of cross-track error, and little risk of getting side-tracked into an unplanned exploration of a spot that might intrigue one without his electronic blinders on along the way.

You're right, Jack, there still are PLENTY of great spots out there - one just has to keep your eyes open, and nose to the wind, rather than buried in some guide book.

From Dave Barry:
The travel rule I wish to stress here is: Never trust anything you read in a travel article. Travel articles appear in publications that sell large expensive advertisements to tourism-related industries, and these industries do not wish to see articles with headlines like:
URUGUAY: DON'T BOTHER

So no matter what kind of leech-infested, plumbing-free destination travel writers are writing about, they always stress the positive. If a travel article describes the native denizens of a particular country as "reserved", this means that when you ask them for directions, they spit on your rental car. Another word you want to especially watch out for is "enchanting". A few years back, my wife and I visited The Blue Grotto, a Famous Tourist Attraction on the island of Capri off the coast of Italy that is always described in travel articles as "enchanting", and I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one Travel Adventure that will forever remain a large stone lodged in the kidney of my memory.

...






Atlantic Crossing


Terrific book, especially applicable to England-Africa-Caribbean crossing:
"Your First Atlantic Crossing" by Les Weatheritt (on Amazon)

From Janusz Czura 6/2010:
My Atlantic Crossing by Janusz/John Czura

I am sending you a copy of the letter describing some details of my recent (first) passage across the Atlantic. I am a quite unexperienced sailor when it comes to the Ocean sailing. I wrote this letter to my friends from my Yacht Club, the HYC Toronto. You can use it on your website if you find it interesting. I just thought that I want to share my experiences with others.

...

Dear Friends,

It is my second week in Calais, France. After the arrival I took a train to Poland to have a chance to see my wife while she was still there. I returned about a week ago. I think I'll have to be here for few next days "licking my wounds" after the passage. After that I want to finish my trip as planned, sailing to Szczecin in Poland. Finally (off course) I will take a course to the South of Europe and most likely, return to the area of the Mexican Gulf.

I'd like to tell you about my trip across the Atlantic, my experiences I got from taking this route.

After cruising around Cuba I returned to West Palm Beach, Florida for preparations for the trip across the Atlantic. I stayed there, on the anchor for about two weeks. Preparations included getting food for at least three months and the water. I bought mainly canned and dry soups and food I could mix with soups to enrich them: canned vegetables, canned fish in water. I also bought oat and corn flakes and dry milk (in bags) as a quick food. I installed two new water tanks of the capacity of 15 gallons each (my built-in tank has about 20 gallons capacity). Soups were a good choice: easy and quick to prepare, nutritious with ingredients I mentioned. The nutrition problem: lack of vitamins and mineral elements has became visible after certain time. I had the beginning of scurvy (quickly fixed with vitamin C I have on board). The other problem was not so obvious: after the passage I noticed that my legs (knees down) and hands (palms) were severely swollen. My sister (during my stay in Bielsko in Poland) found the reason: calcium and magnesium were washed out from my skin. This can cause a serious health condition (she said, ending with death). The swollen parts of my body were the ones which were almost all the time exposed to the salt water. The elements were washed out through the proces of osmosis. The food suplements and fresh food quickly healed my body. To add to this: I do not have good rubber boots and gloves. I had plenty of water, I was using about two liters a day for drinking and food preparations only but without restrictions.

Getting ready for the trip I bought two Davis radar reflectors and hung them in correct position under the spreaders. Meetings with ships were my worry since the beginning of the trip, and became a nightmare when my radar failed. I was expecting to have heavy ship trafic for a good part of the route. In fact since I left coastal area of America, I saw the first ship about five hundred miles from the shores of Europe (after about four weeks of sailing). The reflectors worked well, I did not have any close encounters with ships (with one exception, in the English Channel when the ship almost run me over, not a joke). I also had nice encounters with ships: three times ships approached me when I was working with a jib (the main was flopping) and changed the course seeing that I am OK.

In preparation to the trip I also worked out all the route finding and entering to the GPS safe waypoints and "warning points" of dangerous areas and places (some two hundred points) considering bad weather and opposite winds. I was going to sail along the coast of Florida and other states of the US until aproximately 42 deg N / 55 deg W with the Gulf Stream and to begin the Great Cirle to the Bishop Rock at the entrance to the English Channel. In fact I did not make it as planned: freezing cold (hail storm for instance) forced me to change course to the (magnetic) East at about 38 deg N. Later on I sailed more or less parallel to the great circle, depending on the winds. I left West Palm Beach on April 16th and I arrived in Calais on June 12th, 2010 (I entered the English Channel about one week earlier).

The choice of the Atlantic Northern Route was caused by my desire to meet with my wife who was planning to be there from the beginning of June till June 17th. Only taking this route was giving me a chance to make it in connection with strong and favourable westerly winds (plus the currents). It was in it also a bit of my bravery: I wanted to do something considered to be difficult. I almost made it in time. I was making regularly (with exception of few days with no wind by the coast of Florida) about one hundred miles a day. I did not make it because when I approached and entered the English Channel, winds became very weak and often opposite. It took me more than a week to pass through and when I was at the North Sea past the Dover Strait, the strong northerly storm forced me to seek shelter back in the Channel.

The problems and difficulties on the way ... Of course, most of them was caused by the lack of experience resulting in insufficient preparation. First damage, still close to America, the upper swivel of my furler got jammed. Not a big deal, I fitted a boat with an inner stay and a full set of hanked sails. In fact I considered this not a problem but an inconvenience. Pretty soon I got used to changing sails.

What happened next was more difficult to handle: I almost lost my windvane. One (stormy) night, sleeping in the cockpit, I woke up seeing that it is moving in some strange way. I found it hanging on one bolt, three other were broken like in tensile test (not bent or fatigue). The damage was done by the hit of the wave from the side. My windvane, the Hydrovane, has its own rudder which makes a large lateral surface. The solution was to set the boat in self-steering by balancing carefully the sails. Luckily, probably because I did not reach the higher latitudes, I was in the area of variable winds. In fact during the route I had the winds in all directions. Setting the boat in self steering was the problem only when I had the westerly winds (from the stern) when balancing sails just did not work or I just do not know how to do it. Then I had to stay at the wheel and, depending on conditions, either correct the course frequently or just hand steer. It became the most difficult in the English Channel which required more precise navigation.

Next thing which happened, my backstay broke. Luckily it happened when there was almost no wind, I found parts for the repair and repaired it, strong enough.

I still did not mention that I could not start my engine (the A4). I found that dirty carburetor was the cause but I wasn't able to clean it. In an effect (in short because it is the longer story) I had to ask for towing to enter the marina in Calais (700 euro for two hours of towing). OK. I will tell the story because it may convey the message: never leave your boat when it is not anchored. When the last the storm was over (the one which forced me to go back) I was in the area close to Calais. There was no wind so I was going to tow the boat with a dinghy attached from the side of the boat. I launched the dinghy and attached it but I noticed that the air is leaking from one of the balloons (I did not close the valve). No problem, I thought. I took the air pump and stepped into the dinghy which (having little air on one side) turned over. I fell in the water but I quickly got back on the boat. I took the engine and the fuel tank on the boat but the air pump was drifting away. I could not afford to lose it so I sat in the dinghy, as it was, partly deflated and paddling with one oar went to get it. This what happened: when I reached it, the light breeze came and my boat started drifting away from me. It took three hours to get back on the boat, paddling as strong as I could. The ships were passing by (I was in the area of the heavy ships traffic, close to the harbour), I was waving with a paddle, nobody seemed to see me. I was literally exhausted when I got back, fell in the cockpit and then I've heard a ships horn close to me. One of the ships (the ferry) came back asking if I am all right. I asked to call for the towing service ...

The smaller things that caused some inconveniences were: broken lever of the foot pump causing no (easy) access to the main water tank (no problem, I had the 15 gallon tanks) and clogged sour system (how come???). The last thing was the failure of the steering system ... luckily, in the best moment it could happen: when I was entering the marina in Calais. If it would happen earlier or after my departure from the marina ... The turnbuckle at the end of the steering cables broke. I am just waiting for parts to be made for the repair.

That wouldn't be all about my experiences if I hadn't told about the sleep issue. One thing was sailing when my windvane was working, I was just frequently napping (sleeping in short periods of time) and I basically did not have the problem. It was more difficult with a broken windvane on the ocean, but still was not a big problem. The problem arised when I entered the English Channel in connection with a need for a precise navigation and quite heavy ships traffic. It was, with exceptions, less than I expected, but still I had to be aware of it. Doing my best to stay awake, several times I was falling asleep instantly, not being aware of it. I knew what happened waking up, also in an instant, on the cockpit floor or in some other place.

The related subject, very interesting for me was watching my mind in this condition. To describe it I have to say that I was constantly wet and cold. All my clothes were wet. Changing them would not make much difference: the choice was to be wet and cold with clothes splashed sooner or later with a salt water or wet with a sweat and little warmer having the weather gear on. Next, I was certainly tired plus I was not getting enough sleep fot the extended period of time. I am talking now about the trip across the Atlantic. The story I want to tell is: during this period of time I did not have any feelings solitude. It was not surprising for me: I was busy more or less all the time, there is no time for such a feelings. But ... One day I remembered, I mean I found in my memory, the memory of something seemingly unimportant: that I know about the marriage of my friends. Ok, I asked myself, how do I know about it? I tried to trace the source of this information. I found that my other friend just told me about it ... and I realized that I am for one month away from anybody (plus, none of them was somebody I know from this material world). I found that I constantly live in two parallel worlds: in this material world and in the dream world. My memory was a complete mess, I was finding mixed informations from both worlds. Dealing with it was easy knowing about what is happening, I just had to be attentive. As the explanation: tiredness and in particular lack of sleep is causing that the barrier between the consciousness (of the material world we live in) and so-called subconsciousness (where our dream world is) is getting weaker (or, is disappearing).

To sum this up, difficulty of sailing through the North Atlantic was caused by the constant stormy conditions (80% of the trip). Storms were not really strong, probably some 7 to 8 in the Beaufort scale. Practically it was the cold (sometimes freezing cold), wetness (all my clothes were wet, nothing to change), all the time grey sky causing a light depression, lack of energy. Probably it was also tiredness, lack of sleep and certainly long, much too long, time of travel. In the end I was just praying for this trip to be over. It would be, regardless of what I said before a good adventure, but it was just too much to handle for one time. The problem was: I had no choice but to continue.

You can ask if the entire trip was such a bad time. No, I had days of wonderful sailing, surfing down the swells and maneuvering between breaking waves. I also love the moments when the breaking wave takes the boat from the stern and it gets the speed (to twelve knots). You can feel energy of the powerful swells ... I had the beautiful views of the sea, saw the rainbow of the moonlight (I did not know such a thing exists), scary but beautiful views of lightning going down and between clouds. Sailing in the fog with the sunshine going through was another beautiful thing. Watching dolphins swiming gracefully and the whole beauty of the sea, every day different ...

Do I regret I did it? No, but I won't do it again. Probably ...

This is the end of my story but you can ask questions, my email address is januszczura at hotmail.com

All the best to you all.

...

My boat, "Kirke I", is the Hughes North Star 35 (35 feet long, 11 feet beam), built in 1977 in Canada. It is a light displacement sloop with a roller-furled jib. The draft (by design) is six feet, fin keel, rudder on the skeg. Typical interior layout for this period of time and size: small galley (port) and quarterberth and following navigation table (starboard) by the main companionway, salon with a table and two berths. Next the head (port) and a hanging locker and the drawer cabinet (starboard). There was a V-berth, now used as a storage space. To increase the storage on the boat, I installed there two shelves made of strong netting between the tubing for light items, clothing. It has a steering wheel in the cockpit where also are two cockpit lockers.

The boat is equipped with three GPS (one of them is a handheld), two depth sounders (the Interphase fwd-looking sonar is one of them), speed gage and the radar, two Davis radar reflectors. I have the Hydrovane windvane and Autohelm 3000 to help me with steering. I installed the inner stay and I have a full set of hanked sails. Anchors: 45 lbs Bruce (main one), 35 lbs CQR, 30 lbs Danforth and 10 lbs Bruce (auxiliary). I have a 700 W Lofrans Marlin windlass. Electrical charging system: two 75 W solar panels (regular panels, not marine) and a wind generator. I do not have a fridge, just an automotive cooler. I also have the Ham radio on board, not fully installed yet.

Practically, I can store the water and food for six months, for one person, that's the range I can sail without coming in to harbours. I sail alone, occasionally with friends. I started my sailing adventure when I was fifteen years old, in Poland and continued through the times of my emigration to Canada till now. I have very little cruising experience which I try to compensate reading books and articles on sailing and being as careful as I can.







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