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LaceyKay 02-08-2006 10:41 PM

picking up and sailing away
I'm in my mid twenties and my husband and I have this urge to leave our job and lives behind us and spend a year on a boat in the Caribbean. Everyone thinks we're crazy, but we have been doing a lot of research and it seems that people realistically do this all of the time. Of course, we have alot of fears, and we are still trying to decide if we could possibly prepare ourselves and make this possible. We are about to sell our first home, for much more than we bought it for (we live in FL) and we see the money as an oppurtunity to follow our dreams. Please let me know from your experiences if you think we are nuts, or if it is a real possibility.

We both grew up in Florida and on boats all our whole lives. We go fishing almost every weekend, and have plenty of experience on the water. I majored in marine science in college, and teach it now. We both are more knowledgable about currents, weather conditions, etc than the average person. We feel completely comfortable on the water, and it our passion.

The problem is that we've never been on a sailboat before. Obviously the only affordable way to cruise the caribbean is by sailboat. So we would have alot of learngin to do. It is February now, and if this were to happen, we would leave in Oct/Nov. That gives us eight months of prepartaion. Is this enough time to safely learn to sail? We would most likely spend every weekend on the water from now till then. What do you think? After 8 months, would we be experienced enough?

Obviously we would also have alot to learn about navigation, what to do in rough conditions, boat maintence, etc...

Is this enough time? Is this possible? I've read about people who left for the Caribbean having never learned to sail, bought a boat there, and set off..... This seems a little extreme to me, and I want to be well prepared first.

Please offer any advice, comments, criticism you may have.

Bajamas 02-09-2006 02:54 AM


My wife and I are doing EXACTLY the same thing you are but we have been preparing for the last 3 years by reading everything we could on sailing and taking the ASA Keel Boat and Coastal Cruising certificates. We have been aboard a few sailboats in the last 3 years but never really got to take command of the boats and get the necessary skill-set we wanted to become more comfortable.

I thought that I knew a-lot by all the reading I did but WHAT A DIFFERENCE the hands on classes made in speeding up the learning process. You should consider a few of these classes and maybe join a local sailing club to get some hands on skills.

The last class that my wife and I took was the Coastal Cruising cert courses aboard a 37' Tayana in the Abacos (Bahamas) and it gave me the confidence to handle a larger boat since the rentals that we took out and sailed aboard were 25' or less.

We are currently in contract for our first boat purchase, a 32' Pearson and will sell our home later in the spring, move aboard, outfit for cruising and take off in mid Oct. or early Nov. for the Bahamas for an indefinate amount of time. I agree with you that this is an opportunity to experience a way of life that we have admired for years! (Hey, if not now when right?)

IMO, and partially my experience, the book knowledge is good but the hands on experience is better, so get all you can.

Best of luck to you and I hope it is everything you dreamed!

See you on the water!


JeanneP 02-09-2006 07:10 AM

Yes, you can do it. You're fortunate that you're in Florida so you don't have to stop for the winter.

Reading is good, but doing is better, as Bajamas said. Find a local yacht club that has a racing schedule and find a skipper willing to take you on as crew. That's performance sailing that will teach you more about reading the wind, trimming sails, moving around on a moving boat, and more. Keep your cool no matter how good/bad the skipper is. Some of them are pretty nasty. If you get a bad one, try to keep your cool, smile or shrug a lot, and next time one of the better skippers might take you on. The advantage of racing is that you get much better experience of all types of wind and situations than going on your own and avoiding rough weather and close calls. It also teaches you not to be afraid of the boat's movement, and the sail controls, etc.

For the nitty-gritty of living on a sailboat, a start is my Cruiser's Dictionary. It's a downloadable e-book, free.

I answer questions, too.

Do it! You won't regret it.

Fair winds,


Jack Tyler 02-09-2006 09:39 PM

Lacey, I would like to suggest an alternative for you.

Is 8 months time enough to get a boat, quit your jobs and start off cruising? Absolutely. Is it fairly certain that you will have made a good boat choice (that will resell well & quickly), had sufficient time and knowledge to outfit it properly & safely (vs. quickly), and leave with sufficient skills to make the first half of the next year 'fun' vs. full of anxiety? Probably not. That doesn't dismiss the idea as 'crazy' but it should place a perspective on the reality of it.

Here's my suggested alternative: What most folks find is that the experience of researching boats and choosing one thoughtfully, then researching what the boat truly needs for safe/comfortable operation (being so young, I assume you'll be on a budget), and building skills on your own boat while doing your own work in modifying it are each exciting, engaging activities - in a sense, they are when 'cruising' really begins for most people. These activities also serve as a 'test' of sorts, allowing you to confirm your interest & goals before burning (employment) bridges. So I suggest you keep the dream, even fan the fires...but give yourselves 8 months plus a year, and spend the time wisely by doing 3 things: 1) get on the water, as suggested above; 2) read, read, read...but do it selectively; initially focus on the references that are considered practical and authoritative; and 3) shop boats relentlessly; use, local brokers, follow up on private ads, all while being candid with yourselves about what you'll be able to afford.

Good luck to you; hope you follow thru on it but also hope you do it in a way that the fun will far outweigh the worry.


worldsurfsail 02-09-2006 11:22 PM

Good for you two! I have to post my two cents of agreement, however, with a couple of the previous posts. First, finding a good boat will likely take you 8 months in and of itself. My husband and I, who both have ALOT of boating experience just found our cruising boat after over a year of making it a 2nd job looking for one and very much disappointment in the process... Most brokers suck, be vary wary of being inexperienced and using a broker to find a yactht... Look at forgiving, seaworthy boats like Westsail 32's, CSY 37's, etc. Sacrificing a bit of speed for safety in my opinion is wise. Our new (to us) boat is a 54,000 pound, 44' steel schooner. Look in the Sailboat trader and even on Ebay. is verrrry educational but only allows brokers to list boats. Get someone who knows boats to help you. I would be happy to help, we live in the Keys.

Also, as Jeanne stated, the best way to develop max skill in a short time is indeed to get involved in racing. We raced at Davis Island in Tampa for some time on J-35's and I can't even tell you how much we learned... If you go the racing route, forget about the small boats for now and get on the keel boats to get the experience you need for your larger boat. Sailing is a fantastic experience that is as fun as it is educational. At Davis Island it was never difficult for "newbies" to find a ride, especially on the bigger boats and even more so when the wind was up. Familiarize yourself with the term rail meat... ;) On the same note, don't buy a racer to cruise even though they are a blast...

Consider adding a year to your timeframe, your patience WILL payoff.


Carol and Rich

S/V Sienna Belle

Swagman 02-10-2006 01:10 AM

Hi Guys,

All the words of wisdom have already been given. We've had pals who left Oz after only the same period from start to leaving - and fifteen years on they are still cruising...........

But Jacks point is solidly made over the issues of learning and getting ready.

He's spot on to advise you only go when its right for you both to do so - and we all hope you'll really enjoy casting off those land lines!

So good luck - go sailing.


phorvati 02-10-2006 06:22 AM

How much time is up to you.

Some people spend years getting everyhting ready(me being one of them)

Some just pack up and go. This depends on you. How you feel about it. Are you instinctive, or methodological. Drawing that line among the millions of options and decisions regarding boats, equipment, insurances, budgets, comfort,... is never gonna be smooth. You'll make endless amount of mistakes. The trick is to make the ones you can live with and correct and avoid the ones that will force you to abandon your dream.

Bying and installing equipment is probably not feasible given the time frame. So decide what you want to have onboard and then get a boat with all the goodies. Then spend the time to learn how to use them, maintain them and do small fixes.


Gallivanters 02-10-2006 11:04 PM

<font face="Arial"></font id="Arial">After 12 years and 3 oceans, I still wonder if I'm experienced enough! Don't let anyone talk you out of your dreams. Focus your energies, buy the most cruising boat you can afford when you're ready, make her safe & comfortable, get the feel of her... and go enjoy yourselves. I bought my last boat (fiberglass 37' pilothouse) in Hawaii for less than $20K and after selling the car & provisioning the boat a year later, set out to the Mariana Islands - 3500 miles west. I had exactly a thousand dollars left to my name and a job awaiting me in Saipan. Since then I've logged 25,000 nautical miles & smiles and crossed the Pacific, Indian & Atlantic Oceans, stopping for work when needed. Sure - there have been storms, mutinies, groundings & many moments of doubt, but few regrets and oceans of pleasure. Now, I find myself loving life in the Caribbean with a beautiful wife and a fine young son aboard a much larger & nicer boat - the "Ultimate Sounineers" of voyaging. The point to this ramble is this: since setting sail from Hawaii - I've never had to spend that thousand dollars I left with! We've prospered "Out There" by diligent & honest work in many of the world's most beautiful places. Actually - my only regret is not starting when I was your age! So - by all means - make your dreams a reality and have fun! And don't put it off any longer. Should your adventures bring you through the Virgin Islands, be sure to look us up. We live on the end of B Dock at Lavida Marine Center. We'll be here until Arrr Boy gains his sealeggs and then we'll be off back to the Pacific - where bigger fish await.

Carry on,

Kirk, Cath & Stuart McGeorge ~~~_/) ~~~ s/v Gallivanter ~~~ St Thomas

Jack Tyler 02-11-2006 10:50 PM

Lacey, there's nothing "bad" about a decision to leave sooner vs. later (altho' I'd point out you aren't choosing sooner over 'never'). If that's Your Plan, then good luck to you & here's a suggestion to help you mitigate the pitfalls just a bit.

You will face several major decision points during your initial period of 'diving in'. Several big ones that come to mind are:

1. Choosing the boat

2. Outfitting it thoughtfully, and

3. Choosing your initial cruising route

It's great to hear that some like Kirk & Cath have no regrets but it's also true that many aspiring cruisers put a lot of effort and money into Their Plan but bail out after a relatively short period, greatly disappointed. (Keep in mind you won't hear from them much on BB's like this one; they've moved on to other activities while those of us here are the 'converted'.<g>)

All 3 of those decision points I mention above can have a big impact on how trouble-free, enjoyable and anxiety-free your initial cruising period will be. Consequently, I'd suggest you keep your eyes open to see if you can locate a mentor or two who you can use as a sounding board and to help 'calibrate' you a bit as you work your way down each decision tree. You can either seek out one or more mentors informally, using your local network and/or you can ask for some help from a cruising organization (e.g. the SSCA, which has a Discussion Board located at NO willing helper will have THE answers for you; making your own decisions is part of the self-sufficiency that is a huge payoff when becoming capable cruisers. But where the helper can be very useful is in raising the right questions...and there are many, many questions wrapped up in those 3 decision areas I mentioned.

Jumping in full of ignorance will have it's penalties; if you're resilient and work at correcting them, you'll be fine. My suggestion is aimed at just reducing their number and significance upfront. Good luck to you both.


JeanneP 02-11-2006 11:25 PM

And what am I, Jack, chopped liver? She's got a great source of information right here - not just me, but lots of us.

Fair winds to you all,


JeanneP 02-12-2006 09:23 PM

Relax, and try not to take us too seriously:D . Even some of those who have basic boats without all the bells and whistles have their moments of doubt and conservatism.

Trust your instincts and use this board for the practical, "this or that?" type question. Even there I doubt you'll find much agreement among us, but at least you can hear arguments pro and con.

By today's standards Peter and I left with a basic boat and rarely spent time in marinas (in the early days I fought bitterly against EVER going into a marina). We still don't like them much and try to avoid them. We were away from the Caribbean for more than 10 years, so missed all the development that's been going on. But the Caribbean is still quite simple, with plenty of places with no marinas and lots of anchorages free to all.

Just be careful of any boat you buy that's come back from the Caribbean. Be sure it hasn't sunk. Be sure that maintenance was done. Have a professional check the engine to be sure it was cared for. A surveyor is a good idea as well. You might indeed find a "broken dreams" boat at a bargain. You want rigging to be in good shape - Caribbean winds are consistently strong and will test your rigging constantly.

Some comments on various places, pictures, at: (dash down the caribbean)

do read, but just as cautionary, "Hurricane Hugo":

and more:

Have fun.

Jack Tyler 02-12-2006 10:04 PM

Lacey, let me 'second' Jeanne's caution not to take us too seriously and to expect diverse views on absolutely everything. Also, try not to pigeonhole people before deciding on the opinions they offer you; just evaluate the usefulness of each opinion for you, which you seem to be doing just fine. We're a very diverse group 'out here' and you'll miss a lot if you preselect the 'good folks'.

As someone who cruised as a family of 3 on a 20' sloop, and who cruised simple boats when "simple" didn't mean lack of refrigeration but rather no GPS or inboard engine, I agree you don't need much in the way of equipment (or even displacement). And yes, you can find a boat easily. The challenge is often not to act, but to choose wisely when you do. Your Dad sounds like a great asset for you; who better to be a sailing mentor?!

Again, good luck to you.


Charlie Jones 02-12-2006 11:23 PM

From the 65 year old end of this spectrum, to a pair of 20-somethings looking to go cruising-

Go for it. NOW. I did it once for a few years when I was 40 and the only thing I really regret is stopping.

When they finally shovel dirt in your face, you'll regret the things you DIDN'T do much more than the jobs you may have had. You'll never look back and say "I wish I had worked more and sailed less"

Don't get too large a boat- many MANY will try to talk you into 35- 40- 45 footers. You don't need that much. For two, in the Bahamas, something around 30 feet, give or take 2 feet, will do fine.

Find the boat, climb on it and go- and have fun. Maybe I'll get another chance to do it one day.

benscottrobinson 02-17-2006 01:19 AM

Please go for it - my wife and I have been called nutters ever since we decided to do the same (we're about 5 years older than you) from everyone we know, but we have taken a year to get the qualifications and mileage, and are 12 days away from leaving, and now those same people are as sick as dogs...

I have a few suggestions on selecting a yacht gained from hard experience - look for an old GRP yacht from the 60's. They will be heavy, scruffy, probably unloved, but usually over engineered, tough as old boots and because they're not trendy, they are CHEAP.

Also go for a long keeled yacht if possible - I got shouted down on this before but after reading Olin Stephens intro to Heavy Weather Sailing and the following casae studies, a moderate long keeler is both the most comfortable and safest yacht in a crunch. Say what you like, but I prefer to trust a guy who's designed over a thousand yachts over the course of 50 years.

Choose a good designer or known model if poss, as there is a good reason they are recommended. Obviously get your choice checked for osmosis (a problem with old GRP yachts), and get the boat with the best/most recent setup you can afford. Put together a check list, such as sub five year old sails and rigging, recent/well maintained engine, big water and fuel tanks (over 50 gallons if poss.) comfortable cabin etc etc, and then ONLY get boats that fit your criteria. Don't get a boat to do up, as they cost three times more than you think they will. Remember that scummy GRP washes clean, but scummy wood is probably rotten.

An example is something like this

In fact there are hundreds on Yachtworld!

Sorry for the rant


10 days 12 hours to go...

Jim Wasko 02-17-2006 02:14 AM

I don't think it's all that impossible at all and after reading this persons website; who sailed fom Canada to the Bahamas and back via Cuba on a 25' sloop, kinda confirms that.

LaceyKay 02-17-2006 05:23 AM


How long have you been sailing? Thats my biggest concern, is that I'll prepare for the next year and work towards it so hard, only to reallize that a year wasn't enough time.

Gallivanters 02-17-2006 08:29 AM


Yawl will have a pretty good grip on everything by the time you reach the Windward Passage... your cats, too.

Like the Nike ads say - Just Do It!

Happy hunting,


benscottrobinson 02-21-2006 12:51 AM

Hello Kay

I've been sailing since I was 4, and have a degree in yacht and small craft design (although never used and a bit rusty now!)


This has mostly been in inshore waters around the UK - dangerous and tidal, but a different thing to long distance sailing. Also my wife has less than 4 years, and not many miles.

The thing is that last year we set a date, and have spent the year working towards it, doing everything from getting the house rented out, to passage planning (Cornells 'World Cruising Routes) saving money and spending a bomb on qualifications etc.

Em and I have a STACK of advice we could offer , but the one thing I would have done extra is to take a month or so to go and crew on a couple of long blue water legs (10 days or more). This is one thing we will have to practice when we arrive in Hawaii as part of our trials. It is a cheap holiday - flights and food only usually - and will also tell you if this is the right thing for you.

Well let us know if you need any other help, or check out https://ww as from next Monday!



6 days and 17 hours to go

LaceyKay 02-21-2006 09:33 AM

Thank you to all of you who replied to the earlier posts. Some of you made me realize that I am way ahead of myself, and the rest of you gave me great inspiration.

Our plan has changed a little - a little more sensible now than just wanting to sail off into the sunset. I have been doing nothing but reading for the last two weeks and i have a lot better idea of reality now.

We just a purchased an old 24' weekender for about $1500. We are enrolled in private sailing lessons for 3 days this coming weekend. After that, we will spend every moment possible on the small boat learning and practicing as much as we can. We will also begin looking for a larger boat, about a 32' or 34' around the $25,000 range to purchase in August. In September we move onto the boat. The big change in our plan is that we are going to stay at home here in southwest florida for a couple months, until we feel comfortable moving on, and at that point we will only move as far as to the Keys. A few months there, and by that point, we should know what we are doing, and if you still are enjoying ourselves, we will move on the Bahamas, and so on. So the Caribbean isn't totally out of reach, but I realized that its going to be a couple of years until i get that far. And thats OK.

Someone suggested that i stick around florida for longer, it is a beautiful learning grounds. and they couldn't be more correct. that is what i will do.

i am telling you all all of this, becuase of the inspiration that i have been getting, and also becuase of the criticism. It was all so helpful, and i welcome any that you may have of my new plan.


Charlie Jones 02-22-2006 10:36 PM

Sounds like a plan LaceyKay.

I might also point out that many years ago a couple of sailors took off on a 24 footer. They were asked if they were going to sail "around the world?" They responded- "no- just sailing to the next port, as long as it's still fun"

That couple was Lin and Larry Pardey>/biggrin.gif

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