This was our first real experience with long distance boat travelling. We imagined it before in the romantic way how is the world on sea beautiful (even if the sea is sometimes rough) and free. We were looking forward what we are going to see and experience in this short period of time … Here is the reality :)
First some facts:
Start: Provincetown, MA, USA
Finish: Grand Goave, Haiti
Total time was 107 days including 68 days of waiting (Hurricane Sandy, repairing rudders, waiting for good weather, waiting in Mole Saint Nicolas). When we moved 64% of time we used just motor, 26% it was sailing and 10% sails+motor. The distance was around 2200 nautical miles. Our speed was mostly between 5 and 7 knots.
Our experiences and discoveries:
- First approximation was it could take one, max. one and half months (this was what Joe told us). In reality it took 3,5 months – this shows you cannot do long term plans when you travel by boat and you need a lot of patience.
- Often something breaks on boats and the repairs take a long time
- We were surprised that most of the time we were motoring. Actually you don’t use sails much (if the wind is less than 10knots it is not worth tu put the sails up, if the wind is stronger than 15-20 the waves are already to big to go, if is blowing from front you also don’t want to sail)
- We thought that you normally sail also during the night. We anchored or docked in marinas every evening (we sailed during the night 2times and couple times we sailed a while after dark). Generally long distance boating is slow because you save fuel.
- The view from the boat is not so great – we saw first mountains on Haiti, until then it was all flat. In USA the style of houses was changing (mostly there are really big and expensive houses or huge hotels at the coast), on Bahamas the beaches were white and the water nice blue and on Haiti there was a lot of garbage in the water. The color of water changed from green at the beginnig, dark brown in intercoastal waterway and the deep water in Bahamas is beautiful dark blue.
- Even when we stoped in cities or towns we couldn’t actually see it much – moving on land is limited (and sometimes even in water because Joe first didn’t want to use the dinghy when it wasn’t really needed). Many people carry foldable bicycles, on one boat they have a motorcycle and a canadian couple was moving a car with them along.
- Our boat (30 foot Iriquoi catamaran, 40years old fiberglass, 9.9hp outboard, almost no electronics) was mostly the smallest boat around – most of the boaters have bigger monohull boats or powerboats and not catamarans or trimarans.
- You cannot move much on such a small boat and the activities are limited. At the beginning we were happy to have time for the activities you normally don’t have time for (reading books, meditation, learning spanish, doing nothing…) but after some time this not so much fun. We din’t have a really bad cabin fever – with Evit we fortunately tolerate each other well, but with Joe I stopped to speak much for a while. The bad mood was mainly when we were stucked on one place for longer time.
- We didn’t communicate with other boats much (the radio was mostly switched off) but we still met interesting people on the way. We socialised mostly with other sailors during waiting in Georgetown, Bahamas – there are many boaters here for winter and the people organise a lot of activities.
- I was looking forward to use my navigation knowledge but Joe did everything by himslef and we didn’t participate at decision making and choosing the track at all. Always we were using GPS navigation – so even studying of charts, navigating by compass or determining our position was not made.
- The goal was to get the boat to Haiti so we didn’t stop much when not needed (tha Exuma national park in Bahamas we saw only from distance, we also didn’t do the planned sailing around Grand Bahama with Joe’s girlfriend). Mostly we anchored just before sunset so there was not much time to see anything.
- The wether doesn’t influence only the speed of moving but also the possible activities while sailing – during high seas it is not possible to do anything inside for longer time or you (I:)) get seasick (but you can still sleep well in these waves). The sea can be really scary sometimes (and we even didn’t experience the really big waves or storm on the water). Surprising is that also some captains get seasick.
- Boats are expensive – our not so much (generally it is possible to buy older and smaller boat on Florida really cheap). The price is comparable with price of a hous – so couple hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then you need to add expenses for maintanance, fuel, marinas (you can avoid this by sailing outside civilisation). Still we saw thousands of boats in USA which looked like they are docked most of the time.
- Many boats are sailed by marriage couples (sometimes even with children) and many of them don’t have a real house and live only on the boat.
- For long distance sailing is considered already to go from USA to Bahamas. But we met also skippers who sailed through Carrieban, Central and South America or even arount the world – these are exceptions.
- It is possible to make many different tasty meals on one alcohol stove. There was no fridge so we could keep only things which can last in normal temperature. The sea provides also food which could lower the price for food and make the meals more variable. But we were not fishing because Joe likes to look at the fishes but doesn’t eat them.
- You can survive for weeks without normal shover :) – just washing in the sink or sea or using the outside plastic-bag-shower. The bigger boats have normal showers and the can make fresh water so there is no need to save it much.
- People start to live with sun – you go to sleep after dark (there is not much to do and you save energy and don’t use lights)
On the other hand there were many positive experiences – it wasn’ three months long suffering :) When we were moving our mood was good, when sailing even better. We experienced the longest and most beautiful autumn ever. The colorful trees were around us most of the way along the cost of USA and different types and colors of landscape were changing in the intercoastal waterway. The evening when we played OhShit or joker and were drinking rum were perfect. We saw New York from the water which not many people can see. We inventing new recipes. Many times there were dolphins around us, we saw wild pigs, ray fishes, star fishes, troops of blues flying fishes nad the phosphorescing water in the night. We got to know much about sailing, see and boats, spend time with ineresting people who’ve broaden our horizon. We saw many beautiful sun rises and sun sets; got up in the morning, got undressed and jumped to the water. Unforgettable action experiences when you are taking down the jib and suddenly the bow dives and you are in water to your knees…
We still thing that there is something on sailing. It is a totally different world – maybe the last oasis of freedom in this world without limitating rules (if you don’t like the place or your neghbour you can move somewhere else :)). You can be really independent and mobile on the boat and still there is the place where you can return and sleep every evening (even when the bed is smaller). On water you can visit totally different places than with other means of transportation. But the sea can sometimes be really scary and dangerous.
It was a good experience and we will get to boats again in the future…