A long voyage typically takes weeks or even months to plan, but not in our case. For us it started during our spring vacation to Florida in April 2011 when I got a call from a recruiter for a job in Tampa. Little did we know that a simple call could change your life in a matter of minutes.
Back in Puerto Rico, I received a second call offering me the job, and a starting date of mid May! Within days we had to sell the house and most of our worldly possessions, including our furniture and cars, haul out the boat for two weeks at the Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club, to do a bottom job, change the cutlass bearing, inspect the shaft seal, install a new A/C and wax the hull. We also had our rigging inspected and our main sail repaired.
I spent many days in the boatyard and long nights in front of my notebook looking at electronic charts and planning a route that would take our beloved Hunter 376 Nada Mas! the 1,300 miles from Ponce, in southern Puerto Rico, to Tampa Bay in west central Florida in just two weeks.
I learned that no matter how much you plan, you will always have to adjust your schedule and route due to unexpected breakdowns and weather. When planning your trip, use six knots per hour for initial time/distance calculations and adjust as needed. At six knots a sailboat can cover approximately 144 nautical miles per day so, technically speaking, a trip like ours, non-stop, could been done in nine days, but what fun would that be considering all the beautiful places to see along the way.
The crew selection process consisted of Facebook, emails and phone calls to various friends with diverse backgrounds. The initial list consisted of life-long friends who had sailed the route before. In the end we learned that the best crew/team should not be based on experience alone but also on matching personalities to make the trip a more pleasant one. Beware of potential crew whose main intention is to drink and party because the consequences could be life threatening.
Our awesome crew consisted of Rodolfo ‘The Fish Whisperer’ Silva, a diesel mechanic, avid fisherman and fantastic coffee maker; Mariano Richiusa, an engineer/high-performance oriented sailor with a great sense of humor; Elian Velazquez an airplane and helicopter pilot who also happens to be a boat captain and very good with technology; and of course me, an avid lifetime sailor who served as captain, cook and bartender for the crew. Rodolfo was the only one who had made a similar trip, but on a powerboat and in the opposite direction.
The market is full of tools to help sailors plan and complete deliveries safely. We used the Chart Navigator Light software from Maptech, the Cruising Guide to The Southern Bahamas by Seaworthy Publications, Bruce Van Sant’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South, and two of the 2011 Dozier’s Guides – The Bahamas and Southern Florida, as well as paper charts and a Garmin 545 GPS.
Crew safety was our number one concern, so we doubled-up on flares, flare guns, and daylight smoke signals. We bought Type I life vests, harnesses, jack lines, and an EPIRB. Also we rented a satellite phone from Whenever Communications (www.satellitePhoneStore.com) in Sarasota, FL, so that we could stay in touch with our families from anywhere along our route.
Our starting point for crossing the Mona Passage was the new, well equipped, and strategically located Marina Pescaderia in southwest Puerto Rico.
Having crossed the Mona, our course took us to Puerto Plata in the Domincan Republic, then north through The Turks & Caicos to San Salvador; Eleuthera and the Atlantis Hotel & Marina in Paradise Island/Nassau. From Chub Cay we sailed over the Great Bahama Bank and then crossed the Gulf Stream to Key West. Finally we arrived at The Harborage Marina, St. Petersburg, Florida, where Nada Mas! now resides.
The costs of a delivery trip can vary greatly based on the crew and owner’s lifestyle/sailing style, time available, places visited, etc. We agreed to eat and drink well, to sleep at marinas, to have fun, to motor sail if the speed dropped below six knots, and to keep going if the weather was nice.
Costs can be grouped into these categories: Provisions, marina fees, drinks & dinners ashore, customs fees, fuel, ice, and crew transportation. Most of our provisions were purchased in bulk in Puerto Rico where provisioning is the cheapest in the Caribbean.
Our trip consisted of nine stops and including five nights in a marina. Most of our dinners were prepared onboard. We cleared customs in the Dominican Republic at Ocean World Marina; at the airport in San Salvador, Bahamas, and finally at the airport in Key West. The cost of our trip was approximately $3,000. For specific details and costs breakdown please visit our web site: www.caribeSailingAdventures.com.
Most of us dream about adventures such as this. If the opportunity arises, don’t hesitate, you will have no regrets. The voyage changed my life and the lives of my amazing crew. We are now planning our next adventure togetherâ€¦the 2012 Regata de Sol a Sol from St Petersburg to Cancun, Mexico.
Capt. Tony MirÃ³ is a life-long sailor, photographer and web developer who currently lives in Florida with his family, where they sail aboard their Hunter 376 Â¡Nada Mas! He runs sailboatspecs.com, caribesailingadventures.com & tonymiro.com