Captain Woody Cruising Adventure

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Q&A - #85

I get questions ...

Hoy Captain! For my next boat, I'm considering purchasing a boat from the fleet of one of the major Caribbean charter companies (Moorings, Sunsail, etc.). I'd like to get one with a year left on it's contract (to avoid The Governator's sales tax). After 11 months, I'd go meet the boat, repair and provision, and sail 'er back to SoCal. I've seen the boats. They're well-maintained and good buys. I'm looking forward to the experience, sailing, and fun. Whatcha think?-Patrick

I think it's a great idea. You didn't say what you would be using the boat for. A couple issues ago I commented that Beneteaus in general are not ideal for Horn roundings or North Sea Storms. Still, I would cruise in one ... carefully. I've considered the just-out-of-charter boats. Unlike buying a new, just-going-into-charter-program vessel, at least you know what you are going to end up with.

With your plan, a lot can happen in a year. I guess you would just be worried about exceptionally hard groundings. Tania and I found a Beneteau in Trinidad on our search for her boat. It had been grounded hard. The damage didn't extend into the hull. We checked on the repair cost. It wasn't real expensive. See if they will guarantee you receive your boat in a certain minimum condition.

Or just buy the boat after it leaves the fleet. It’s changed a lot over the years, but as I understand it, to get the tax free, foreign, status, we have to sail to Mex each year for a chunk of time. Say it with me, “Oh darn”. If you need to keep it out of the country for the first year maybe buy it after it's done chartering and cruise the Caribbean while you refit. Working in paradise ain't so bad. Haul outs can be cheaper. Some gear manufacturers are based down there, Kiss and Carib come to mind. Venezuela is still the best place to get hauled and get major work done. I know, I know, I've heard the propaganda too. Big business is upset with Venezuela (for good reason). The cruisers I'm hearing from are not having problems and loving having it all to themselves (though sharing with the odd European cruiser).

Point is, properly done, it would take you a year to get back to CA. Cartegena, San Blas, Las Perlas, Golfito, Puntarenas, Playa del Coco, Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, Acapulco, Navidad - must I go on!?

Shortened for space ...
Ahoy Captain Woody, First let me say that my wife and I just love your articles in Latitudes and Attitudes, it has become a regular part of our routine reading from cover to cover. (Capt. Woody note: I made room for that part.) Our names are Alan and Kathy we are both 54 years young and we both are in dire need of some professional advice.

After years of talking and daydreaming my wife and I are finally sailing. We currently own a Clipper Marine 23 with a swing keel and trailer. In the summer we joined the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore and enrolled in the basic keel-boat course which we both completed. We have been out on several open sails with the school and we have been out on our own boat about 8 times.

After our first season trailering the boat, launching and retrieving every time, we decided to prep the boat and move it to a wet slip to increase our sailing time. I am switching the (running) rigging to all rope and running the controls to the cockpit for ease of handling I am also rebuilding the mast and boom and re-rigging both.

Our goal is to become qualified enough to cross the Atlantic, and the spend several years coastal cruising all of Europe and the Mediterranean. While discussing our plans last weekend my wife thought it might be a good idea to take a 7-8 day ASA course over the winter so as to be better prepared for the spring season. All during this time I am constantly looking for our next boat, but I am unsure what size to get, rear or center cockpit, glass hull or cement. Should we go to 30-34 foot as an interim or jump straight into an ocean going boat and what size is ocean going? As you can see we are dazed an confused and are in need of some counseling. Can you help? Alan and Kathy Lunn

I love the enthusiasm. Good for you guys. As far as experience for crossing the Atlantic, I think you are on the right track with the courses and getting your boat out, and getting comfortable with her, in all kinds of conditions. Probably the best way to gain ocean experience is to do a leg with another boat. You want to do this cruise with a skipper that has done ocean legs before. Lastly, and this is after you've found your ocean crosser, you should live on her while you coastal cruise. You want to get comfortable with the boat and her systems - from plumbing to sail trim. Reefing and balancing the sails (for easy steering in various conditions) should be second nature.

I've only sailed the Atlantic that direction once. I was cruising on Lost Soul with Bob and Jody. We were coming out of the Caribbean and for whatever reason we decided to skip Bermuda and go straight to the Azores. I remember it was real nice for most of the sail but we had to beat the last portion of the trip to land in Horta. It was my first crossing. The sail from the Azores to Gibralter was mellow and then sailing/motoring around the Med of course was incredible.

Choosing a boat is such a personal thing. No matter what I say here I'm going to get an earful 'round our Harbor Hangout. And since that never stopped me before, let's get started. Rear or center cockpit: the purists like steering from aft but I think I’d give that up for that massive aft stateroom. Cement, wood, no. I like fiberglass and aluminum. I won’t say anything bad about steel because miss Tania just bought steel ... it’s supposed to be a real nice boat (I’m buying her scrapers and Ospho for the boatwarming - that‘s all I‘m gonna say!).

I’m thinking you’re looking at a 30-40 foot Island Packet or Com Pac (oops, both have ads in Lats) or a boat of similar design. I’ve said it before, if yer crossing oceans, a thicker boat is more expensive and may be slower but it is safer, especially if you don’t have a ton of experience. After that first year or two you may be looking for something that turns bigger numbers.

"30-34 foot as an interim or jump straight into an ocean going boat" What?? Don't let my Low Key hear you say that. She thinks that 33' is plenty enough to get you around. But seriously, people tend to think that a bigger boat is safer. In many ways, larger works against you - bigger sails and booms and anchors and higher tensions on lines and on and on. I’m not saying that if I had enough Euros I wouldn’t be singlehanding a 70’ sled round and around but with a bigger boat comes bigger expenses. You want to save some of your Drachmas for buying that Italian hottie 9$ Red Bull/Vodkas at the Hard Rock Mykonos so that she'll go to the after hours full moon spuma party at the Cliff House with you, which totally worked, but since you were the only one there not on X you passed out in her arms on the morning pink party-bus ride back to the marina. Sorry - flashback.

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