|Places I'd like to go
on a sailboat.
This page updated: September 2011
Characteristics Of Various Areas section
Possible Itineraries section
Weather And Route Notes 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):
"Ice and sailing are only associated at happy hour."
"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 - paid link).
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 Underground's "Tropical Weather"
Weather Underground's "Marine Weather"
NOAA's National Data Buoy Center
NOAA's "Marine Radiofax charts"
Seahunters.com weather links
- Go East coast USA to Caribbean in May or October,
either down Intracoastal waterway or down coast or via Bermuda.
Weather can be dangerous.
SailNet - John Kretschmer's "Thoughts on Sailing to the Caribbean"
Indigo Moon - Offshore Passage to BVI
- East coast USA into Atlantic:
East Coast to Azores article by Brian Hancock
in 10/2000 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine.
"Transatlantic Tactics" by Charles Doane in 10/2000 issue of Sail magazine
Bermuda/Atlantic weather/route articles in 9/2000 issue of Cruising World magazine
From Brian Grant on Cruising World message board:
New England to Bermuda is regarded as an unpleasant passage.
You would be crossing the gulf stream at a wide and difficult to predict
part with lots of eddies to make navigation and wave action onerous.
- Florida to Bahamas:
If you try to go east, the current will make you head southeast, which
is straight into the prevailing wind (little headway; long and bumpy ride).
Instead, take the ICW south before jumping off, and then head
northeast (Miami to West End, or Key Largo to Bimini).
From Gary Elder:
... several of my friends do it this
way: Several days prior to their planned departure they begin monitoring
the normal marine forecast on VHF - they are looking for hints of
approaching fronts, wind speed and direction, etc. On the morning of their
planned departure they monitor the marine forecast, and if the forecast is
favorable, they literally go to the top of the tallest building (or up the
mast if it's the tallest structure around) they can find and look east at
the horizon. If they see 'lumpiness' on the horizon, they don't go. They
repeat this process every day until the conditions are acceptable - then
Even though much has been written about the Gulf Stream currents, I don't
know of any cruisers who try to monitor the Stream currents, they seem to
consider that a total waste of time.
Mediterranean Sea Maps
From article by Nick Nicholson in 12/2001 issue of Practical Sailor:
... We spent the summer crossing the Mediterranean ...
From article by Richard Kidd in 5/2002 issue of PassageMaker magazine:
... we did very little sailing. ...
Cruising in the Med, the saying goes, consists of motoring
from gale to gale. Another ditty has it that that there are two
kinds of boats in the Mediterranean: powerboats, and powerboats with masts.
There's a lot of truth in both those statements. ...
In fact, we motored or motorsailed about 80 percent of our 2,400 miles
of Mediterranean cruising ...
- All-weather construction transformer (available in Gibraltar;
e.g. manufactured by Clarke in U.K.) can convert 240 AC to 120 AC.
Frequency is still 50 Hz, but most equipment tolerates that.
- Almost no places to anchor in eastern Spain.
- Practice Med-mooring.
- Construct a ramp from your stern to the dock. Essential.
- Conditions too rough to cruise from October through March.
- Get pilot book for each country/area (e.g. from Imray).
- Lots of anchorages in Greece.
- Greece is windiest and often roughest area in the Mediterranean.
Lots of big wakes from speeding ferries, too.
- Diesel is tax-free in Gibraltar and Malta.
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:
- Wind veering from the prevailing E-SE to SSE or S
and becoming gusty ... the faster this occurs the faster the front
- 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:
- A secondary cold
front is overtaking the one that just passed. Again, you'll need
shelter from W to NE.
- 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
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 from the Perry-Casta�eda Library
of the University of Texas at Austin:
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:
- Customs (transit of items).
- Immigration (transit of people).
- Veterinary (animals).
When entering a country, should have:
USA State Dept's "Foreign Entry Requirements"
- Always asked for:
- Proof of registration/ownership of boat
("ships papers"; some places require original, not copy).
- Often/sometimes asked for:
- Clearance papers ("zarpe") from previous country.
My experience: not usually asked from Bahamas down to Virgin Islands,
but always asked from St Martin down to Grenadines.
- Visas (for some countries, or for long stays;
see Travel Document Systems).
Sometimes need passport photo's for them.
- Ship's radio station license, and Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit
(see my Radio On A Boat page for more details).
- Crew list (boat's name and hailing port, and then
name, nation, passport number, home address, and role for each person on board).
Best to print crew list on ships-letterhead paper; that impresses the officials.
Print by itself on a full page.
Sample from Dave Richardson
- Proof of financial resource (bank statement,
credit card statement showing credit limit).
- Rarely asked for:
- "health certificate".
USA form PHS-731 from GPO.
(Just a little booklet that records vaccinations; only needed for some countries.
See the Illnesses section of my Boat Medical Information page.)
- List of controlled medicines on boat.
(Give list of all medicines, let them decide which have to be declared.
Best to have copies of prescriptions, too.)
From Roger on the
WorldCruising mailing list:
Also, when dealing with Customs and other officials, remember to call these
"prescribed medicines", not "prescription drugs". Don't use the word DRUG!
- List of equipment/provisions on boat.
(apparently: rarely required, and then always on their forms
and to different level of detail)
- Proof of liability insurance.
- Captain's competence certificate.
- Certificate showing navigation lights conform to international regulations.
- Declare any speargun on board in some places (Bermuda), maybe get a permit.
- Best if no animals, plants,
guns (Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical's "Should We Take A Gun?").
When entering a country, do these in order ?
- Enter territorial waters, raise Quarantine flag,
call harbor on VHF, ask procedures.
- At port: dock/anchor,
then either wait for officials to come to you,
or skipper only goes ashore to officials.
- Doctor issues "pratique" (clean bill of health). Lower Quarantine flag.
- Maybe Agriculture.
- Maybe harbormaster, coast guard, police, cruising permit.
- Pay fees.
As you're checking in, ask everyone what you'll have to do when you check out.
On most Caribbean islands:
- Enter territorial waters, raise Quarantine flag.
- Anchor, then skipper only goes ashore to officials.
- Customs, Immigration, fees in one office.
- 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:
- Dress respectably.
- Learn "hello" in their language, shake hands.
- Be respectful; officials are police/military.
- If they board your boat, don't offer food or drink; it is not a
social visit. If they go below, accompany them, and ask them to
go one at a time.
- Never bribe. Request a receipt if you think something is wrong.
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,
- Vessel name and registration number.
- Owner's name.
- Skipper's name and birthdate.
- Crew names and birthdates.
- Foreign ports/places visited and duration of stay.
- Total value of all acquisitions and purchases.
- Customs decal number.
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:
- Before leaving USA:
- No need to contact Customs (unless taking out
items that will look suspicious when
they are brought back in).
- Call Immigration (305-296-2233) to notify them about
the Canadians leaving the USA.
- No need to contact anyone about the cats leaving the USA ?
- After returning to USA:
- Call Customs (800-432-1216).
- Customs will tell you who else to call/visit.
- Call Immigration (305-296-2233) to notify them about
the Canadians re-entering the USA.
- May have to drive down to Key West for Immigration
interview with Canadians.
- No need to contact anyone about the cats re-entering the USA ?
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.
- Ship's stamp (rubber stamp). Makes officials happy.
- Passport photo's for visas.
- Power of attorney document giving captain's rights to
someone in case of death/injury/illness/absence of owner/captain.
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:
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 - paid link).
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
- Florida in general:
Andraecium's "From Pine Island FL to Melbourne FL (the hard way)"
Florida Sea Grant College's Anchorage maps (SW Florida)
Charternet.com's "marinas in florida"
Articles in 12/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine
NDBC's "Florida Recent Marine Data"
Subscribe to Claiborne Young's "The Salty Southeast" quarterly free newsletter:
send email containing
just the word "subscribe". Heavily oriented towards marinas and restaurants,
but has other information too.
My USA East Coast / IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) page
My Florida Keys page
My West Coast of Florida page
Dialog I had with John Dunsmoor, 7/2001:
> Is there anywhere I could take my boat to
> escape this heat and humidity [July in the Florida Keys] ?
> Not that I'm ready to go any distance, but in looking
> at weather reports, it seems that all
> of the NE Caribbean and coastal SE USA is at this
> same temperature range (or worse). Is there
> a place where the humidity is less ?
> Without leaving me totally exposed to hurricanes ?
Short answer nope, it is summer and you still have not seen the
worst of it, wait till September. And the bad part is, it does
not break till mid October. Put the boat in storage and go for
a bicycle ride in Canada.
Long answer, anchored out in the Bahamas is better than it is here.
But you and the boat aren't really ready yet. ...
- Southeast Florida:
Entering the USA via Miami, 4/2002:
Call Customs on 800-432-1216. Took us 1.5 days to get through;
maybe they were closed on Monday after Easter Sunday for some reason ?
They asked very few questions once we gave
a US decal number, mainly name and address.
Their automated system says you must be "docked" somewhere,
but they didn't ask.
From Warren on The Live-Aboard List:
But since one of the crew was a Canadian, we all had to go to Immigration,
which is on Dodge Island, on the south side of the main road (Port Blvd), about halfway
down the island.
From Coconut Grove, we took the 48 bus (comes on every hh:30,
$1.25 plus $0.25 for transfer)
to Government Center, which is big bus / Metrorail
hub. Got Seaport Connection bus (every 15 minutes) to the port.
Get off near Security toll-booths, talk your way through.
Immigration is at 1500 Port Blvd, about 100 yards past toll-booths on south side,
in middle of big Customs building.
We were told of two other ways to get there:
Dock or dinghy ashore at Bayside Marina (west end of bridge onto Dodge Island),
then walk east on Port Blvd to Immigration. Or,
Call at least 24 hours in advance, ask to dock at Terminal 3 dock/moorings at
west end of Dodge Island. Unclear if Customs/Immigration will come there,
or you have to go to them.
Each of the officials had a different
impression of what the security rules were, how easy it was
to get through the security checkpoint, etc. Very confusing.
My family and I cleared back in from the Bahamas about a month ago [4/2003]. Here is
You must now clear back in to the USA with BOTH Customs and INS (which now
has a new name, which I forget, and is a part of the Department of Homeland
Clearing in with Customs is the same as it has been for several years. In
Florida, you call the Customs number and in most cases you will be cleared
in and given a clearance number over the phone. Customs may, at their
discretion, come to your boat to inspect it. Normally the captain does not
need to personally go to the nearest Customs Service office.
You now must clear in with INS also. Actually this law has been on the
books for several years but was not enforced until after 9/11. All persons
on board, US citizens and non-citizens alike, MUST travel to the designated
Customs office to present their documentation - passports (or other proof
of citizenship), green cards, or visas, etc. Call Customs and clear in with
them first; they will give you the INS number to call. If they don't, ask
them for it - the fines for failure to comply are heavy.
We cleared in at Fort Lauderdale. Clearing in with INS was actually rather
painless, except for the not insignificant cost of the cab ride. The INS
office there is staffed 24/7, and I think this is true for most of the
Someone who is smarter than I am can explain to me how this enhances our
Excite about Bermuda
Bermuda/Atlantic weather/route articles in 9/2000 issue of Cruising World magazine
Spearguns and flare-guns must be declared,
will be impounded or sealed for duration of stay.
From letter from Phillip and Denise Gibbins in
9/2002 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
"Probably the most expensive place on earth."
- Mediterranean in general:
The Starboard Home Chronicles
The World Cruise of Veleda IV
If your boat is less than 7 years old (some say 15), is of non-E.U. manufacture,
and is in the E.U. for more than 6 months out of 12,
you must pay VAT (approximately 20% of value of boat).
Enforcement and details vary from country to country ?
From NigeCh on Cruising World message board:
The EU has rules and rules.
The French, Spanish, Geeks and Portu-Geeks make up the RULES as they wish.
All you need is hand-made photostats of the complete set of ships documents*
(40 copies of each to hand out as required) to ensure a safe passage with
no more than $200 per week shelling out of greasy palm monies.
*Documents includes: Builders original certificate;
current EU RCD compliance certificate,
a certificate of ballast weight declaring that non-depleted
uranium or lead are used as ballast;
VAT paid (or not paid certificate);
Douaniers Certificate of 'International Certificate of Competence' in French;
Gas permit to light the stove; Non-Rabies Certification;
A certificate signed by a US Consul to say that you haven't
eaten any British Beef during the past 14 months;
A Certificate signed by the Italian Consul to say that you
are not hiding any Serbian War Criminals;
A Certificate signed by the Greek Consul to say that you
have no turkeys on board; A certificate from the Turkish Consul
to say that you will only eat marinated olives;
A Certificate from the Libyan Consul to say that you
agree to abide by only using green toilet tissue ...
Happy days sailing in the Med ... Don't fall overboard.
The Med is the most polluted water in the world ... even
PUR watermakers won't remove the nasties.
From letter from Kipp and Sami Gosewehr in
6/2000 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
... We totally enjoyed the Med ... Like everyone else,
we concluded that in the Med the sailing is terrible,
but the destinations are worth the effort. ...
Summarized from letter from Roger and Molly Firey in 9/2000 issue of
Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
Few anchorages: Cyprus, Greece, Italy.
Crowded anchorages: Turkey, Greece, Balearic Islands.
From Jan Bruggeman on World-Cruising mailing list:
... most good anchorages in Italy, France and Spain have
been taken by marinas. It's a very densely populated area. There are
anchorages, but no "in all weather safe" ones. Don't forget the wind can come
from any direction and change 180 degrees overnight. No tradewinds here !
From Terry and Shari Owen in 1/2003 issue of Latitude 38 magazine:
Cruising the western Mediterranean:
Use Imray Coast Pilots (in English), and Livre de Bord (in French, but easy to decipher).
In 2002, didn't have problems finding space in marinas, even in summer high season.
Stayed in marinas 60% of time, anchored out 40% of time. Most
marinas had anchorages nearby too.
Best places: Villefranche (between Nice and Monaco), Calvi on Corsica, Alghero on Sardinia,
Plenty of wind, but usually less than 7 knots or more than 20, and
can shift up to 180 degrees abruptly.
From The Molitor Family in 2/2003 issue of Latitude 38 magazine:
In Croatia can anchor out most places.
Southern Italy: poor and lots of crime.
Sardinia is wonderful.
Able to anchor off Capri.
"... in the Med ... there are some places where it's easy to anchor for free,
but there are other places where you almost always have to go
into a marina."
From Colin Powell on Low-Cost Voyaging mailing list 1/2004:
Countries such as Spain and Italy require all pleasure vessels
entering their waters to hold adequate 3rd-party liability
insurance. Seizure of the vessel and/or imprisonment is the penalty
for contravening their regs. The attitude of France is similar, but
with lesser penalties (afaik). I was asked for insurance docs once
in France, but challenged his authority to make such a request. The
official simply shrugged his shoulders (like they do) and walked
away. Dunno if I'd try this in Italy or Spain though ... Greece's
rules are uncertain (does anyone know for sure ?).
This issue is currently a political hot potato, as the UK doesn't
have any requirement for skippers of pleasure craft to hold
insurance, nor to hold any sailing qualifications whatsoever to sail
within UK waters - the sea being one of our last (mostly unregulated)
freedoms, which we're hanging onto with true Brit grit. We also
have the lowest per-capita sailing accident rate in the world - maybe
there's a connection ? Some marinas may require insurance, but all
they are empowered to do is turn you away. (I've never been asked for
insurance docs - which is just as well as I've never had any !)
The controversy exists because EU members are prevented from placing
any restriction on movements between member states - hence a
requirement for compulsory insurance undoubtedly contravenes EU regs,
because liability insurance is impossible to obtain for single-handers,
as the insurance companies claim that a proper lookout
cannot be maintained, and thus the vessel is being sailed in a manner
contrary to COLREGS. All-in-all this appears to be a sticky issue
which no-one really wants to deal with - so it continues to be
ignored, year after year.
The RYA is stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one, as this
organisation famously promotes international single-handed sailing,
and yet wishes to stay neutral on the EU legal issues. And so the
RYA just acknowledges the problem and advises everyone visiting the
Med to hold liability insurance, whether it is legally mandatory or
not. Advice re: the single-hander/'can't get insurance' issue is not
SailNet - Paul and Sheryl Shard's "Strait of Gibraltar Strategies"
From Pete / Brilliant on SSCA forums 7/2010:
Re: Riding out Winter on Europe side:
You are correct in thinking it gets cool in the winter in the Med.
It's on a par with winter in Georgia or North Florida depending on where you are.
Mostly it's cool, wet and stormy with the occasional freeze. We wintered in Crete,
Turkey, Malta but found Almerimar, Spain was our favorite. It is possible to cruise
during the winter, but I wouldn't recommend it. The Med is notoriously dangerous
with some truly nasty storms in the winter and you would have to make fast passages
to safe harbors as weather allowed. Just easier to winter someplace and use the time
to land tour Europe or fly back to the states to visit and restart your Schengen Agreement clock.
I wouldn't recommend wintering in the Canaries if you intend on returning to the Med.
It's about a five day passage from Gib to Lanzarote with the wind, and it could be a
tough beat into the NE trades to make your way back to Gib from there. If you do decide
on wintering in the Canaries, Las Palmas, Grand Canaria isn't the only choice. We spent
almost three months on Lanzarote and loved it. The Canaries Islands have lovely weather
and are wonderful cruising grounds that most cruisers don't have the time to truly see.
You could easily spend 6 months there, hopping from island to island.
I agree that your plan to cross and see Europe in one season was flawed. We met quite
a few boats that did the Atlantic loop and never got past Spain, much to their disappointment.
Remember you should leave the Med for the Canaries by the end of September for favorable
winds then wait there until early December (after the hurricane season) before you make for the Caribbean.
You can't even begin to "see" the Med in one season, it's over 2000 NM from Gibraltar
to Israel with way too many places to visit in between. We lived on Crete for two years,
then bought "Brilliant" over there and cruised the Med for five more years. We easily could have
spent another five years and still not come close to experiencing all the Med has to offer.
In my opinion the best cruising in the Med is on the eastern end; Greece and Turkey are
fantastic. Give yourself plenty of time to slow down and enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle;
don't rush through and miss it.
From article by Amy Ullrich in 3/2003 issue of Sail magazine:
Croatia (Dalmatian coast of Adriatic Sea) is very nice: clean water, lots of great
anchorages, great towns, 1100 miles of coast and 1200 islands.
From Capn BJ on SSCA forums 5/2011:
Right now I am cruising the Greek Isles. The Med is not all that it is cracked up to be.
The sailing season is relatively short. This year April was very cold and windy ... 25-35 knot gust on a regular basis.
July and August are hotter than hell. The gales begin in November. Best times are April - June and September - November.
Coincidentally these are the off times of the tourist season, so the charter boat crowd thins out.
You might want to look at my website, www.sailpolaris.com, along with photos, I have my cruise log ...
you can get an idea of different places all around Europe.
My favorite area so far is still the British Isles ... the season is also short there.
In fact there are times when there is no season.
Sailing the Portuguese Coast
- Aegean Sea:
The season is May through October.
The summer (especially July and August) can have extreme heat.
The water is quite cold.
From Renyi Shraga on WorldCruising mailing list:
... I cruise the Greek waters in my annual holidays during 12 years.
September is a wonderful season there: after the strong Meltemes, before the
winter gales and the anchorage are less crowded.
If you can start your cruise from Rhodes, I propose the following route:
Rhodes - Simi - Niseros - Kos - Leros - Amorgos - Ios - Santorini - Rhodes
From Bill on WorldCruising mailing list:
We sailed in September, and got plenty of Meltemi winds. Very strong up to
55kt from the N-NE. Typical daily breezes were 25-35 kt. We sailed with a 3
and a reef or two much of the time. They mostly shut down at night, though
not always. We did sail through a very windy night one time.
- Canal-boating in Europe:
Information on European canal-boating seems to fall into two separate
categories: Britain, and the rest of Europe.
George's Canal Boating in the U.K. and Europe
(includes UK Waterways Information for First-Timers
Waterways FAQ (British))
Residential Boat Owners' Association (RBOA) (Britain)
NarrowboatWorld (Britain only)
Canal Boat and Inland Waterways magazine (Britain)
French Canal Routes and Sea Routes between English Channel and Mediterranean
R K Swanby's "Wandering the European Canals and Rivers"
George Pearson's "Multilingual French Waterways Links"
Bill and Nancy’s "Life on a barge in France"
A Couple of Aussies Barging thru Europe
General idea of European temperatures (average lows and highs; mostly from Weatherbase):
A cruiser with European experience told me: don't go canal-boating in
Europe; buy a camper-van and see Europe that way. There are many cheap/free
camping spots, and you'll be able to see much more of Europe.
From NarrowboatWorld's "Basics":
You do not need any qualifications to own or cruise a narrowboat.
A licence is not needed to drive a narrowboat.
Speed limit of four miles per hour on British canals.
The huge majority of narrowboats are powered by diesel engines, the fuel being readily obtainable
at boatyards and marinas along the waterways.
From George's Canal Boating in the U.K. and Europe:
The locks on many U.K. canals are only 7 feet wide; you will need a "narrowboat" to travel them.
Wider boats can be used in the U.K. on river navigations, wide canals, and the Norfolk Broads,
and on most European canals.
A 'broad' lock
(14 ft wide) on a broad canal takes longer to work through than a
'narrow' lock (7 ft wide) on a narrow canal.
From Waterways FAQ:
One can license a boat with British Waterways (BW) as "permanently cruising", which removes the need to have a home
mooring, but then one is limited, in theory, to never stopping anywhere more than 14 days. A lot
of people who do this actually pay for a winter mooring each year. But BW are talking of changing
this system and introducing some form of "intensive use" license.
If you use your boat for cruising away from your home base, you can moor at most places on the
canals for up to 14 days without charge. Certainly no one pays for overnight moorings (it's
different on rivers like the Thames). If you are weekending and need to leave the boat somewhere
between trips, then it is often possible to find towpath moorings in villages that will be safe,
and once again you would only expect to pay if you were staying there for an extended time. Or you
can pay to put your boat in a marina or boat-yard. Prices vary quite a bit for this.
The next main cost is your license. For British Waterways (covering nearly all the canals and
quite a few of the rivers) the cost is about GBP400 a year for a 48 foot cruising boat and about
GBP490 for a 60 foot boat. Houseboats and multi-user boats pay more. Outside the BW system, the
Environment Agency (the Thames, Great Ouse, Nene and Medway) and various smaller navigation
authorities have their own scales of charges. BW charges are based on boat length, whereas the EA
license fee is based on length multiplied by beam.
Insurance - Premiums depend on the value of the boat but a member of the group with full no-claims
bonus is paying about GBP 200 per year for fully comprehensive insurance including contents cover.
It's well worth going to a company with specialist experience of canal boats, as you are almost
certain to get a substantially lower premium than from a marine insurance company more used to
dealing with sea-going craft. Much cheaper insurance is available restricted to third party cover
You need a boat safety certificate, which has to be renewed every four years. If the boat you buy
already has one, then the renewal cost should be negligible, although the technical requirements of
the scheme change from time to time. Also, beware if you change any of the equipment (especially
anything to do with fuel, gas or electricity), because the new stuff must comply with the
regulations. The old equipment may have been exempt from some of the requirements. If you're
looking at a boat with a view to buying it, then be very wary if it does not have a certificate
already, as bringing a boat into compliance that was not originally built that way can be very
expensive - which may well be why the boat is for sale.
From RBOA's "Buying a Boat - What You'll Need":
Before you launch your boat, you need to buy a licence (or registration). This allows you to
cruise around and to keep your boat on the waterways.
Almost all of Britain's waterways are run by three main organisations, each of which issues its
own licences and registrations:
- British Waterways runs almost all the canals, and rivers such as the Severn, Trent and Yorkshire Ouse.
- The Environment Agency runs the River Thames, the River Medway, and the rivers of East Anglia.
- The Broads Authority runs the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.
Just like a road tax disc, you will need to provide evidence that your boat meets safety standards
(the Boat Safety Scheme) and has third-party insurance before being issued with a licence.
[Gold licence, covering all British Waterways and Environment Agency waters. Costs between GBP299 and
GBP784 depending on length of boat.]
From Sarah Tanburn on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: estimate of per diem costs to cruise the UK:
I guess it's very subjective and depends how you want to live. ...
Famously/notoriously the UK is expensive for marinas,� particularly the
South Coast. In our marina (Ipswich Haven, East Coast), pontoon berths are
�1.80 per metre per day, reducing of course for longer stays to �184 per
metre for an annual berth (2004 price list). This is considerably less
than the South Coast from Falmouth to Dover, but considerably more than the
North of England, Scotland or North Wales. Costs generally include water
but exclude electricity.
Outside marinas with pontoons, there is much greater variation,� particularly
if your boat can go on a drying mooring (i.e. do you have bilge keels?) or you
take a swinging mooring.
Payment for anchoring is a hot topic here and the subject of great legal
debate. Many rivers and offshore anchorages are free, but you may see a
harbour charge, particularly May-September, of �4-�10 per day.
Prices are much cheaper on the other side of the channel - Northern France,
... Communications, I
think, are dearer than you are used to in the USA (I don't know about Canada)
- if email/internet is important to you, then investigating local mobile
charges is really worth it and may well still be dearer than your
experience. Some marinas are introducing wi-fi networks, but in our
experience none are working well yet and they are expensive so far.
There's tons of lovely sailing here, many friendly people, and hey, we (sort
of) speak the same language!
From Le Boat:
[Maybe just about France:]
You can moor up just about anywhere along the canals, unless otherwise posted.
Just be sure to keep a proper distance from the locks. Be careful not to tie
your lines across the tow-path, but�put stakes into the ground on the canal-side of the towpath.
From Gordon Endler :
You don't want to come to the UK:
�5 per gallon of fuel, 17% tax (VAT) on nearly everything,
and polluted rivers and canals. I will not even dive here in the Solent,
only off the back of the Island. Even then it is not good:
you are lucky to get 5 feet viss. Also the average temp over here in
the summer is 20 C [88 F] with 40% humidity. If you want to do the Canals,
you should try the French Canals down to the South of France and the Med. ...
[I asked about public libraries, with newspapers and internet access:]
One thing about the UK is we are way ahead of you in the USA with our net
and phones I don't know why we have not had Internet cafes for a long time.
It is all done wireless now most places you can just go on line with your
laptop whereever you are and 99% of homes have Internet most of our
mobile phones have it as well. ...
The libraries do have the newspapers but they are not as good as your
libraries over there usually the oldest run down building in town
the net has killed them. ...
From The Wheelhouse:
In France, for example, the waterways are free and there is no charge for using the locks.
In Belgium and the Netherlands there are more marinas than in France,
but even in those countries stopping in a town or on a canal is free.
From R K Swanby's "Wandering the European Canals and Rivers":
Almost everyone in Holland speaks English, so language is not a problem ...
another reason to shop for a boat in Holland.
Holland has lots of nice mooring facilities for pleasure boaters,
quite unlike Belgium, which caters to the commercial bargers,
and has all but forgotten pleasure boaters, except for Ghent and Brugge.
The cost to moor in Holland averages about $US11-16/day depending on
facilites and location. sometimes there is coin-op electricity and showers.
Other times, by tying to a piling/railing/tree or staking into the bank,
it's free. There is no license or permits required to cruise in Holland ...
but studying and understanding the boating regulations, charts, and navagational
systems, is a must before casting off.
Upon entering Belgium the first big
locking system you encounter will have an office where you must purchase a
permit to cruise in the country. The permit is affixed to your window and
is checked as you go through subsequent locks. It costs about $US25 and
is good for 90 days and is renewable. Moorage in Belgium, when you can find any,
will cost about the same as in Holland.
Again, soon after entering France
there will be an office at the locks where you will be required to purchase
a permit to use the French waterways. There are three options; by the year,
30 days or two weeks. Cost is calculated on the basis of cubic volume of
your boat. I found most people went for the 30 day permit since the days are
only applied when your boat is actually moving ... days tied to the dock
do not count. This permit cost me about $US220. The funny thing is
that you are given a card to tape on your window that has 30 blank squares
on it in which you are to note the days you have moved ... after a while
I was forgetting to sign it as I moved along ... but no one ever checked it anyway
... but at many locks you must go to the office and give them the name of your
boat and your permit number.
We eventually approached Paris from the west
and made our way up the River Seine past the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral,
under countless bridges, amidst heavy barge traffic to the marina at the Bastille.
The trip from Amsterdam to Paris had taken us just under 7 weeks of leisure travel.
The Bastille marina has a convenient location in the heart of Paris and costs about $US28/day.�
From Bill and Nancy’s "Life on a barge in France":
A long-stay visa must be requested from the French consulate before your departure.
The initial process was time-consuming, but we now just submit simple paperwork to renew it each year.
We started our application for a long-term visa at the French consulate in San Francisco.
You must show your passport to enter the building, so bring it along on your
first visit even if you are just going there to pick up the forms.
Be sure to read the entire application form very carefully and follow the instructions exactly.
You will need several different letters stating your income source, health insurance, etc.
Make sure that these letters are succinct as each letter will need to be translated
into French by a translator from the consulate's approved list and long letters will be more expensive.
Check each translator's fee, as we found they varied greatly.
The process took about 4 months on the American side. We made a mistake in the initial
paperwork and that seemed to complicate the whole process for us.
Once we were in France it took us another four months to complete the French side
of the process. After we arrived in France we were asked for an original birth
certificate (with a stamp), and this was something that they had not asked for
in San Francisco. After we obtained an original, they asked that it be translated also!
This translation was done for us by a French friend with no problem from the
Mairie (town Hall) about official translators.
We would advise you to make several copies of all of your original letters and their
translations, as you may need to resubmit some of the same paperwork after your
arrival in France. You should also scan copies into your computer for safekeeping.
We also scanned our passport photos into our computer and have often reprinted
those photos when we have needed to submit a passport-type photo for our visa
renewal or when we renew our international driver's licenses by mail.
The process of living in France begins with having an address.
When we made our visa application in San Francisco they asked for our future
French address. We were lucky that a barge broker helped us by providing us
with a letter stating that we would have a mooring in their marina for a year
after we purchased a barge from them. Once here you could ask your port captain
for a letter that states you have a long-term mooring. Then you will be
allowed to use the port address. You will need an address to open a bank
account as well as to complete your visa application.
"The Barge Buyers Handbook"
(on Amazon - paid link
is a must "how to" book for anyone looking to buy a barge.
It is available through the DBA website. Also,
"Barging in Europe"
(on Amazon - paid link
an essential guidebook by Roger Van Dyken which explains barging
The air draft is an important consideration when buying a barge.
In Holland where many barges were built, there are many lifting bridges
and height is not a problem, but it is on the French canals.
A barge with an air draft less
than 2.7 meters or with a wheelhouse that can collapse to that height,
can go anywhere in France, and therefore it can also go easily through
Belgium and Holland. With an air draft of 3.1 meters or a wheelhouse
that will collapse to 3.1, you will be able to travel on almost all
of the French canals. The majority of the bridges along the French
canals are 3.50 meters or higher.
A barge with a water draft of 1.2 meters can travel on almost any canal.
Ideally, you would want the water draft of your barge to be closer to 1 meter.
In Europe, there are two diesel fuels, white and red. The red diesel,
which is just white diesel with red dye added, is much cheaper,
about half the white price. In the EU countries all cars, trucks and boats
must use white diesel in their engine of propulsion. Red diesel can only be
used for domestic use, such as in generators and furnaces. Like most barges,
we have two separate fuel tanks, one for white and the other for red.
In Belgium they use only red diesel. If you travel into Belgium and put red diesel
in your white fuel tank it is recommended that you keep all of your fuel receipts
to prove to the other EU boating police that you purchased the red fuel while in Belgium.
If you are caught with red fuel in your white tank and do not have your Belgium receipts
you will have to pay the tax difference and a large fine. Fuel tanks are one thing
the French police will always check on your boat if you are boarded.
Owning a French-registered boat requires that the operator have a French boating
license and to get that license one must take a test - in French!
Yes, there is a fee for using the inland waterways of France.
VNF (Voies Navigable de France) issues permits for 1 year, 30 days, 15 days or
just for one specific delivery. In 2003 we were charged 106.00 euros for our 8-meter boat.
The permit must be displayed in the boat's window so its number can be seen by lock-keepers.
From A Couple of Aussies Barging thru Europe:
No qualifications are required for rental pleasure boats, but if you
contemplate staying longer than 6 weeks on anything bigger than 20 metres,
you will need a Certificate de Capacit� (known as the 'PP') qualification in France.
This comes at the cost of a weeks course (about $A 1500) an examination (in French)
and most likely, a practical test on your ability to operate such a vessel.
This of course means that you will have to have some grasp of the language,
a boat on which to learn, practice and take your test and preferably, a skilled instructor.
Visa: You must be a European to live in Europe or you need a visa.
Since I am an Australian, I need a Carte de Longue Sejour (Long Stay Visa)
if I am to stay for more than one year in France or a Carte Sejour for a
year - otherwise I have to leave and re-enter each 3 months.
In order to get a Carte de Longue Sejour, I need to prove I am of good character,
have an income sufficient for my needs, health insurance, and a place to live.
I also have to have an address (no, not a barge) and a bank account and
telephone account (more on that later). Here's where it gets interesting.
In order to get a visa you have to have an address or a bank account (which
you cannot get if you don't have an address - Catch 22). If you plan to live
on a barge, that is a difficult one. More interesting is that the address
is supposed to be one where you have received accounts from the electricity
company in your name (no not the phone, water, gas or rates).
And no, they don't deliver electricity to moving barges.
We think we have the answer here, as they appear to be willing to accept
a cancelled cheque from your French bank account as proof of your existence
since, as in Australia, it is difficult to get a bank account without
extensive identity checks. We understand that others have been able to
get bank accounts set up with La Poste, the French Postal Service,
which also runs a banking service, an internet service provider and
poste restante services and, is in every town and village throughout France. Ideal !
Fortunately, life is quite cheap on the waterways of Europe. ...
To run the boat in France one also needs local qualifications,
gained at some expense in November 2000 in Cambrai on Tam and Di's Barge Friesland.
Tam is a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor and examiner who has a
very good working relationship with the French Inland Waterways department
who administer the Certificate de Capacite or PP as it is known.
Doing a course with Tam and Di involves a 3-day barge handling and 3-day intensive
PP study course plus the bonus of some cruising in Champagne or St Quentin.
Tam has been on the water in narrow boats in the UK and now Dutch barges in France since the 60s.
Qualification this way comes with the bonus of a British Inland Waters Helmsman Ticket,
membership in the RYA and the opportunity to also join the
Dutch Barge Association (barges.org) - worth its weight in gold for
the electronic contacts available on every subject from the arcane to the very practical.
... Information on power systems,
electricity supplies and issues, hulls, toilets, rules and regulations, best areas
to cruise and restaurants to frequent - absolutely everything you may need to
know is available though this great organisation.
From Sarah Tanburn on The Live-Aboard List 2/2005:
[About boating in general, not canal-boating:]
... each country has its own requirements, but in EU mostly
these can be met by what (in UK) is called the International Certificate of
Competence. In the UK this is issued by the Royal Yachting Association, and
the details of the ICC requirements are on their website
. They accept a
number of other qualifications as equivalents, and issue the ICC on
production of the relevant evidence.
In addition of course, each/most EU members have their own governing body
training and certification, but the only one I know about is the British one.
What differs is how heavily this is enforced. There's lots of scuttlebutt
about this, but the last I heard Spain cared, Portugal was beginning to be
bothered about it, most Scandanavian countries don't seem to care. This can
be checked out on various lists I'm sure, but the simple answer is to get the ICC.
This should not be confused with the CEVNI, which is the acronym for the
Certificate of Navigation in Inland Waterways (I think the original wording
is French). This is an absolute requirement in various canals (though not
the Kiel Canal which connects the North Sea and the Baltic), and is I
believe quite strictly enforced in France. Again, the details are on the
From "Egide - Living in France":
To obtain a residence permit (carte de s�jour) entitling them to stay in France, all foreigners
must be able to prove that they have health insurance (couverture sociale) covering partial or
total reimbursement of medical expenses (hospital, doctor, dentist, medicines).
Would be good to have a bilge-keel / twin-keel boat that can tolerate
low tide where water disappears entirely.
From Jim Mitchell on The Live-Aboard List:
> Is it possible to cruise rivers and canals in Europe
> from Nice to Amsterdam? Is this a practical idea for
> a 4'6" draft sailboat, mast down? Would there be free
> anchorages, or would we be required to pay to tie up
every night? Is there any other recommended route for a
> one-season trip that is a low percentage of open-water
We've gone from Amsterdam to Lyon on 'Santorini', which draws 4.7 feet, without
running aground more than once or twice ...
There's a fairly well defined route south - basically from A'dam take the
Maas River SE to Maastricht where it dives into Belgium and becomes the
Meuse - wander through Belgium heading generally S-SE past Liege and Namur.
You enter France at Charleville, and shortly thereafter join the Canal du
Nord (O'est) which goes through Dinan and Verdun, basically using the
Moselle and short linking canal sections. The Canal du Nord is fairly long
and has something like 228 locks as I remember - but it will eventually drop
you on the Saone river which you can take S to Lyon where you join the Rhone
river which will take you to the Med.
Mast down is no issue as long as you are comfortable maneuvering in tight
quarters while carrying a spear on your boat - do get it high enough to see
and move under.
Bank moorage is typically free and open unless otherwise posted - rivers
allow for stern tying (it's considered polite to mark your anchor with a
small, red ball buoy) - many cruisers carry bank stakes and screw-in land
anchors to create their own moorage if bollards aren't available (tying to
trees and infrastructure is frowned upon, if not forbidden, in most places).
We use two stakes and a center screw-in for spring lines, which are critical
since passing barges can create very powerful standing waves.
The only time you pay for moorage is if a town has constructed dockage or
provides electricity - typically pretty cheap at 4-5 Euros/night. We pretty
much follow the 3-B's rule for canal travel - looking for spots which have a
Bank (so or 'deep' draft can get close), a Bar (so the Capt and Mate are
happy) and a Bollard (so we don't have to fuss with the damn stakes).
From Hugh Barrass on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: Units of measure: If you sail across the pond and try to put 100 gallons of diesel into a 100
gallon tank you will get an awful mess. Just remember, a Texan's 10
gallon hat is EIGHT gallons in England!
Probably a good idea to have fenders or car-tires on all sides of your canal-boat.
- Madeira, Canaries, Cape Verde:
SailNet - Michael Carr article
- Northeastern South America:
Guidebook: "Brazil and Beyond" by Annie Hill
(on Amazon - paid link) ?
About 900 miles from Trinidad (N11 W62) to mouth of Amazon River (N1 W50).
Possible stops on the way:
- Boca Grande, Venezuela. No town, just river mouth.
- Georgetown, British Guiana. Towns: Aurora, Parika.
- Paramaribo, Surinam.
- Cayenne, French Guiana.
- Macapa, Brazil (60 miles inside mouth of Amazon River, on north bank).
Northern Brazil: low, swampy land with mangroves.
Amazon River: water and fish contain mercury from gold-mining operations.
Famous sailor Peter Blake was murdered by thieves on his boat
at the mouth of the Amazon River 12/2001.
Yellow-fever territory: you will need proof of immunization when returning to
About the Amazon River, from Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia:
- Salinity and color of Atlantic Ocean are altered for a distance of about 200 miles
from the mouth of the river.
- Mouth of the river is a broad estuary about 150 miles wide; main
mouth is about 50 miles wide.
- During full and new moons, a tidal bore causing waves up to 16 feet high sweeps upstream
more than 400 miles at speeds in excess of 40 MPH.
- In Brazil, the width of the river ranges from 1 to 6 miles at low stage,
and up to 30 miles during annual floods.
- Ships of 3000 tons can navigate 2300 miles from the mouth to Iquitos Peru.
- "Amazon" may be derived from the Indian word "amassona" ("boat destroyer").
From John on "Thaleia":
Don't take your own boat onto the Amazon: there's a stiff current to buck as you're
going upstream, and often there are huge logs or trees in the water. Instead, fly in and take a commercial
boat down the river. Also, it's possible to take your boat up the Orinoco and then down the Amazon.
Sailing from Trinidad to mouth of the Amazon would be going straight to weather.
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
Book recommended by someone (I haven't read it):
"Courtesy Flags Made Easy" by Mary Conger
(on Amazon - paid link
Also: "Make Your Own Courtesy And Signal Flags" by Bonnie Ladell and Matthew Grant
(on Amazon - paid link
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.
travlang Travel and Language Supersite
Downwind Marine's "Spanish For The Gringo Yachtsman"
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.
From Jack Tyler on Cruising World message board:
... 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. ...
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.
From Jon Eisberg on Cruising World message board:
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?
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.
Terrific book, especially applicable to England-Africa-Caribbean crossing:
"Your First Atlantic Crossing" by Les Weatheritt
(on Amazon - paid link)
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.
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
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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