Beaufort, NC boats for sale
 

Member, Yacht Brokers Association of America

Welcome To Beaufort Yacht Sales

List of Our Featured Boats for Sale


Gallery of Featured Boats

Sell Your Boat

New Mainship Trawlers

Used Mainship Trawlers

New Caliber Long Range Cruisers

Used Caliber Yachts for Sale

New Caliber 47 LRC

New Caliber 40 LRC

New Caliber 35 LRC

Purchase Agreement

Our Brokers

How to Get Here

Marine Weather & Tides

Boating Resources

Articles About Boating

Contact Us






Caliber 40 Circumnavigation of the North Atlantic

By Dave Harris, Skipper of the s/v Nonstop

 The Beginning

Sailing is not a new thing for me.  I’ve been sailing on and off for fifty years, but seldom out of sight of land and never days from shore. I believe I was subconsciously working my way up to a trip just like this when I purchased my Caliber 40LRC.  It was reputed to be, and  I have confirmed, an excellent blue water boat. In years past I have made the usual pilgrimages to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, but I knew that this boat was built for the long haul and just crossing the Gulf Stream was not challenge enough.  I was shorting myself, and the boat, by not treating her to a real adventure. And besides, I wasn’t getting any younger.

 Most everyone I spoke with who had blue water or trans-oceanic experience had been very vague about the hardships and in many cases described the passages as easy.  I knew they were being modest so I began researching on my own, reading accounts of ocean travels from any source I could find.  There was a great disparity in the information I was accumulating.  What it came right down to was that you really have to consider the source.  The offshore articles in magazines are good information, but if they are full of harrowing experiences and brushes with near disaster, don’t focus too heavily on the scary stuff.  If you are prepared for the worse case scenario, what do you have to fear?  That was my focus, be ready, be prepared.

 

s/v Nonstop

 Being Prepared

 Your experience is most likely your greatest asset as you prepare for an ocean crossing.  If that experience includes extended offshore passages all the better.  The best experience to draw from would be an ocean crossing as a crew member, but you will never fully appreciate the scope of the adventure unless you are the skipper.  It is being in charge that places you in that unique position of responsibility for the safety of crew and ship.

 What other resources do you have that may help you on such an ocean adventure?  Surprisingly, your personal or professional background may have prepared you for something just like this.  Hopefully you are a good swimmer.  Are you trained in CPR, First Aid qualified, have had military training in Survival at Sea, corporate training in Human Factors or Resource Management or had any crisis management experience?  You are going to be interviewing potential crew members and once you are under way it will be important to keep them focused on the crossing. During the interview process, inquire who may have unique abilities that will be advantageous for the crew as a whole.

 Your vessel, properly equipped and maintained, will not sink on this crossing unless something catastrophic occurs. Things like collision or fire on board are the most severe situations but they are controllable by keeping a continuous watch for traffic and by using common sense with open flames.

 There is no doubt, however, that the Human Factor will be the most vulnerable area during your passage.  Some of your crew may not adapt well to the environment and all of you will be sleep deprived most of the time.  This will create friction between crewmembers and unless vented or dealt with quickly will strain friendships or result in squabbles which would not normally result on shorter trips. If anyone becomes ill or incapacitated, this will further increase the strain on the remaining crew.  This Human Factors area needs to be given equal time during preparation and crew briefing.

 The size of your crew will depend upon  the size and accommodations available on your boat. There is, however, only one captain and that needs to be reinforced at the crew briefing.  There are too many topics for the briefing to mention all of them here, but it is essential that a formal briefing be held and before departure date all on board should be as familiar as you with the operation of the vessel. Once you are offshore your crew should not require any more training or explanation.  Having to explain or train someone while underway detracts from the mission at hand and places an extra burden on you.  It is far better, in many cases, to go shorthanded than to take someone with you that is only marginally qualified.

 

Capt Doug

I prefer to sail with a crew of three. Two is doable and what I had on the trip most of the time. Out of necessity, I made a six day passage by myself, but I would not recommend single handing any great distance.  The only advantage to single handing is that there are never any crew issues.  When we departed from the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal on May 29, 2004, I was fortunate to have my very good friend Rick Heimes aboard, who I have known since our Navy days in the 60’s.  Also aboard was Captain Doug Yox of Cortez, FL.  Doug was with us as far as Bermuda, then Rick and I continued on to the Azores and Portugal.  In mid-January I single handed from southern Spain to the Canary Islands.  Thankfully my “mate,” Jill, joined me in Gran Canaria for the westbound crossing to the USVI.  Rick sailed with me again from St. Thomas until we cleared back in at West Palm Beach, FL on May 12, 2005.

 Preparing the Boat

 Here is a useful tool to use while preparing your boat for this adventure:

Safety, Comfort, Speed, in that order.

Your primary focus should be on Safety and this is never an area to consider lightly. At bare minimum you should have a suitable life raft, personal flotation devices for all with harness and tether, and jack lines on the deck. An EPIRB, ditch bag and storm sails are also essential.

 

The Skipper

 It is necessary to consider the Comfort of the entire crew. Each person on board needs to have his/her space available at all times where they can go to rest or just get away from everyone else.  A suitable watch schedule needs to accommodate each person’s sleep habits if possible, but at the very minimum everyone needs to be able to rest comfortably. One of the highlights of the day will be mealtime. Therefore, tasty and nutritious meals suitably prepared are important for all.

Speed is a relative term.  If you are racing that’s one thing.  On a voyage of this type a comfortable speed in order to cover a desired daily mileage is adequate.  This minimizes the workload for the crew which in turn allows them to conserve their energy for the necessary sail changes should you encounter adverse weather.

 

Rick setting flags

 A properly loaded vessel, a clean bottom and a folding prop are speed items to consider when preparing your boat.

If you have owned your boat long enough to know it well, you will probably be able to physically prepare it for this voyage in a year’s time.  In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is no place to be wishing you had done a better job of getting ready, so get started early and do it right

 The Route

 It has been called several things, “Circumnavigation of the North Atlantic,” the “Atlantic Circle” to name a couple. Regardless of its name, it is a 12 month period of time in which the prevailing weather offshore is ideal for transiting each of the four sectors of the circle. During this twelve month period a clockwise voyage around the North Atlantic is made from the east coast of the United States, beginning in the spring. Spring is selected for the eastbound crossing to Europe as it offers the best balance between the diminishing winter cold fronts and the receding ice line to the north and the beginning of hurricane season in the tropical Atlantic on June 1st.  It is still possible, therefore, if you sail above 40 deg north latitude in very early spring to encounter some fairly harsh weather.

 Initially the route takes you across the famous (or infamous) Gulf Stream to near 40 deg north latitude where you join the prevailing westerlies to Bermuda. You can expect some unstable weather conditions to exist in the area of the Gulf Stream as the warm waters interact with the cooler air above. Encountering winds with a northerly component while still in the northbound stream will generate a very unpleasant sea state you should be prepared to deal with. Once east of the eastern wall of the Gulf Stream you will lose the additional push you were getting, but weather and the seas will moderate considerably.  From Bermuda to the Azores the weather and pressure pattern are normally such that many prefer to sail northeast to join the westerlies again and even possibly get some assistance from the clockwise winds around the Azores high.  

 From the Azores to the European continent can be more complicated, depending how early in the season you travel.   If you sail above 40 deg north latitude in very early spring toward England or Ireland may mean encountering very harsh weather with gale force winds.  However, from the Azores to Spain or Portugal the weather can be fairly benign until joining the Portuguese trades.  These winds blow from the NW through NE down and along the Iberian Peninsula.  If planning a landfall at Lisbon or some port farther north, allow for these prevailing winds and, in addition, expect a southerly setting current of a knot or more approaching the mainland.  It is very difficult to describe what a sense of satisfaction one gets at the first glimpse of land following an ocean crossing.  It falls in the category with all the other great events in one’s life.  In addition to the personal feeling of accomplishment, it will have prepared you and given you greater confidence to take on the return crossing.

 

On to Lisbon

 Allowing for rest, recreation and weather in Bermuda and the Azores and average vessel speeds, you will most likely arrive in the UK, Spain or Portugal in early to mid August.  It will be warm, except in the UK, and also busy at the seaside communities.  This is when many of the businesses in Europe close up and take off to the beaches.  But fall is just around the corner, and with the Portuguese Trades it is easy to sail south along the Portuguese and  Spanish coasts.  Visiting this area can easily take two or three months, even without inland trips.  As November and December roll around, the tourist trade drops off and the small port villages become excellent spots to mix and mingle with the locals and try their foods and wines in relative ease. 

 In November you will be hearing that the vessels in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) are assembling in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. This is a reminder that it will soon be time to head south again. No hurry, though.  The ARC leaves the Canaries relatively early in the season. These cruisers, many of them from northern Europe, want to arrive in the Caribbean before the Holiday Season,  plus this allows them more time before their scheduled return to Bermuda or the Azores in the spring.  You still have plenty of time to enjoy southern Spain, Gibraltar with its complicated weather pattern and Madeira before going to the Canary Islands for the return crossing. The prevailing wind is still from the north or northeast with just very brief periods of westerlies.  If you plan to approach or transit the Straits of Gibraltar, do so with caution.  The winds and current can be treacherous at times and the effects can be felt many miles out into the Atlantic.

 

Pilot Whale in the sunset

 As you begin your journey south on what may be considered the second segment of the Atlantic Circle,  I would be cautious about calling on any port along the African coast.  They, I understand, have beautiful marinas, however few visitors. From the reports I have received, even from the cruisers that were delighted with their stay in West Africa, security in many ports is virtually non-existent.  Enough said.

 The Canary Islands, a five to six day sail southwest of Cadiz, Spain, are a real mix climatically.   Lanzarotte is very arid with little or no vegetation. From offshore the island looks like Las Vegas with beachfront property, and they have a lot of it.  Gran Canaria  with its volcanic peak at near 3000’ is lush and tropical on the north side and desert like on the south.  While we were there in late January there was great excitement with an accumulation of several inches of snow on the peak.

 We elected to stay in the marina at Las Palmas because we knew it handled the ARC and should be an excellent place to provision for the return crossing.  It was, and the markets and several department stores are just a short walk from the marina. Marine supplies and services are in great supply right there on the marina property.  The slip fee was certainly reasonable, roughly seven Euros/nite + water & electricity, though it required a Med moor at the transient pontoon, #18, quite a distance from the other facilities.  This was the only time we were required to Med moor on the entire trip. When you check in at the fuel dock, ask Pedro, who appears to control most everything there, if there isn’t a slip closer in.

Though the Canary Islands are nearly 800 nautical miles southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, there seems to be a real bond with the Spanish people on the mainland. While there is some agriculture, the primary income in the Canaries is derived from tourism.  Spaniards from the “peninsula” vacation often in the islands as do many others from around the world.  I found the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria in particular, very commercialized, very busy and a little expensive.

 With your departure from the Canary Islands you begin the third and longest segment of the circle and it can be done safely, weather-wise, between November and May.  During the beginning of this period, however, the occasional cold front can bring high winds and seas to the Canaries and may possibly push well south to even disrupt the flow of the NE trade winds.  If you should delay toward the end of this period, you are banking on the Tropical weather not being a factor until its assigned time in June.  Generally speaking, the winds along the West African coast and near the Canaries will blow from the northeast. If you do not plan to call on the Cape Verde Islands,  plot a course to a point west of the Canaries, near 15N35W, where you should be well established in the trades and able to proceed on a more westerly course.  If you have good winds as early as 20N, I would advise to ride them if you can, but consider that the better winds may lay just a bit south. 

 The trade winds are historically very consistent in direction and speed, northeast to east at 15-20 knots and are usually well established at 15 degrees north latitude.  The southern edge of the trades can usually be found near the equator though it meanders ever so slightly north and south near the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone).  This area is known for little wind but plenty of atmospheric moisture, thus considerable cloudiness and rain.  When the occasional cold front pushes too far south, it will disrupt the normal flow of the trades causing changes in direction and speed and temporarily increasing wave heights above the usual four to six feet.   Even during the periods of apparently consistent NE winds, you will detect subtle changes in the velocity during each day. 

 Early to mid-morning will bring a certain freshness which will subside early in the afternoon.  Late afternoon into early evening you will also have a slight increase in velocity which will settle down as evening progresses.  Maybe this afternoon “puff” is a reminder that a prudent mariner will take a precautionary reef before dark.  With each familiar “fair weather” cloud passing overhead, both day and night, you will encounter a slight lull as it approaches from astern, then a surprising freshness until it is well ahead of you. This is the result of the cloud drawing energy from the surface and creating an updraft which reduces the wind’s normal horizontal velocity.  Some motor-sailing is usually required on this passage, not always for no wind at all, but rather for insufficient wind to keep the sails full thus exposing the sails and standing rigging to undue wear and tear.  As 99% of this passage will be downwind or nearly so, it is important to have the appropriate sails in your inventory. Aside from equipment failures of any kind, the major concern with a long passage such as this is chafing of the sails and sheets. Protective covers on stays and shrouds and stick-on patches over battens and other wear areas on sails will go a long way toward prolonging their useful life.

 You can expect a passage of 22 to 28 days, subject to many variables.  As you pass to the west or northwest of the Cape Verde Islands on a more westerly course, you leave behind the last opportunity to divert to a safe haven, particularly if the trades are well established.  These islands do offer an alternative if not ready to commit to the crossing due to boat or crew concerns.  Once west of the Cape Verdes, however, it’s time to look ahead, toward a landfall in the eastern Caribbean in just over three weeks.  You will detect very slow changes in the weather en-route. The sky will appear more tropical as the air and sea water temperature begin to climb.  More Sargasso will mix with the deepening blue of the ocean.  Due to the higher salinity of the seawater in this area of the ocean, you will notice your water-maker working just a bit harder to get the ppm count down.  As you have been off the normally traveled routes, ship and commercial air traffic will be more frequent. You’ll begin to feel that you are not the only one on the planet and begin to expect landfall at any moment. 

When land is finally sighted and actually reached, you will enjoy a tremendous sense of satisfaction with a second Atlantic crossing on your record. Having  arrived somewhere in the Leeward Islands you have the option to go south toward Trinidad and the Venezuelan coast to wait out the hurricane season or make your way back toward the Continental US.

 

Jill & Dave in Antigua after 21da, 23hrs, 50min

 Underway from the Canary Islands

 Should you return to the United States, you will begin the fourth and final segment of the North Atlantic Circle, a reverse of the well documented “thorny path” and certainly much easier to sail. This segment offers you an immense number of ports to call on in the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. As you approach the US mainland you will have accumulated nearly 10,000nm on this voyage and gained knowledge not available in any cruising guide.

 

Formalities and Cultural Differences

 As you prepare for this adventure I urge you to recall all the recent historical events that have occurred around the North Atlantic.  With the formation of the European Union in 1992, the attack on this country in 2001, political conflicts in various countries around the Caribbean and very recently the hurricane damage in the US and around the Caribbean, your cruising guide information may be grossly out of date. Particularly outdated will be entry and departure procedures in various countries and the availability of marinas and other services in the Caribbean and southeast coast of the United States.  It behooves you to insure you have the latest information before you depart.

  

  Bermuda

Bermuda is a self-governing territory of Britain. Make a good showing when you clear in.  Fly your national ensign proudly and show respect for the country you are visiting by flying the appropriate courtesy flag, here the red duster, in good condition, slightly higher than the “Stars and Stripes.“ Below the courtesy flag fly the yellow quarantine, “Q,” flag but only until you have formally cleared in.  Adhere to the rules on clearing in.  When the procedure indicates that only the captain should go ashore until the vessel is cleared in, brief your crew to stay aboard.  The currency used is the Bermuda dollar on a par with the US dollar and either is accepted. Electrical power  is 110V at 60Hz .  Propane is available at the hardware store in St. George and if you will be driving on the island, please remember to keep left.

 Most everything is expensive in Bermuda, although food and drink are excellent. Arrival within 3nm of the Bermuda shoreline requires calling Bermuda Harbor Radio for clearance into St. George‘s Harbor where vessels will clear in at Ordinance Island.  This radio clearance is required due to heavy traffic, much of it cruise ships utilizing the narrow channel into the harbor.  If you fail to call Harbor Radio, fear not, they will be calling you on VHF Ch 16, and be forewarned that they will track you on radar all the way into the harbor. So, heads up! Clearing into Bermuda is very straightforward.  It does, however, require taking the usual ship’s papers, crew passports and any firearms, including flare guns, to the Customs Office on the east end of Ordinance Island.  The cruise ships tie up in the same area, so it will be easy to find.   If crew is leaving your boat or flying in on a one-way ticket to join you, it is important to advise the authorities early on as special procedures are in place to cover these crew changes. Clearing out of Bermuda is simple as well, though if you have checked a firearm or flare gun and your boat is not at the Customs Dock, it will be necessary for the customs agent to personally deliver it to your boat as they do not want those items “loose” in the city.

 

Horta, Faial, Azores

   Azores

 The nine islands of the Azores are of volcanic origin and have been Portuguese since the 1500’s. The date you officially arrive in the Azores starts the clock on the 18 months that non-EU citizens remain exempt from the VAT (value added tax). Clearing in at the marina in Horta, Faial is  easy enough, though with a serious and militaristic air about the authorities.  There are the usual multiple copies of paperwork and various stamps and signatures.  The authorities were very formal, very polite and genuinely glad to have us there.  The date stamped in your passport is your VAT clock time.  Not a factor, however, if you plan to do the “Circle.” 

 You will begin using the Euro on arrival and money is easily obtainable from ATM’s in the town.  Slip fees are very reasonable and the water is good at the marina.  Electrical power now comes at 230V and 50Hz.  A tradition which we took part in was painting our vessel logo on the marina seawall.  It is said anyone that fails to do so will have bad luck the next time at sea. Few sailors ignore the warning, thus there are many hundreds of paintings covering the concrete.  The food is excellent most everywhere you dine in Horta and the Imperial draft beer is cold and plentiful at Peter’s Sports Café.  Peter’s is located just across from the marina and is THE place where sailors of all nationalities go to “meet and greet.”

Each island in the Azores has a beauty all its own and I regret not spending more time there.  Ten days was barely enough to explore Faial with its lush green countryside and hedges of blue and white Hydrangias which bloom, incidentally, in July and August.

 Clearing out is equally as formal, and be prepared to give the authorities your best guess on your next port of call as they forward the information to that city. Your arrival in the next and subsequent EU ports in any EU country requires only the usual clearing in formalities at the marina without the stamping of your passport. Your passport will be looked at, but you will not receive another passport stamp until you enter another  non-EU country. This clearing in and out of the different marina offices appears to be primarily for identifying you and your vessel and to determine trends and routes that cruisers take.

If you are considering taking pets with you on your cruise, you may be interested in knowing that there have been some recent changes in the EU regulations.  These changes have, in many cases, relaxed the very stringent importation rules of many of the countries, the UK in particular.  For the latest information on pet importation, contact our own USDA or the EU web site.

 

 

  Pico, Azores

   Portugal

We arrived in Lisbon in late July and cleared in with the local authorities at an office in what used to be a fish processing facility just downstream from the Tagus River bridge.  The young lady clearing us in was surprised to find out that the Immigration Officer in Horta had not issued us a cruising permit though made light of the fact and issued one on the spot.  Surprisingly, nobody ever asked for it or looked at it again.

We took a slip at the Alcantara Marina located immediately upstream of the bridge.  It is centrally located with bus and train stops nearby, has good security, but not in a very picturesque part of the waterfront.

 Everyone we met in Portugal was very friendly and eager to help us.  Most of the people we met spoke some English and no telling how many other languages.  I had hoped to use my Spanish as many of the words are similar in meaning and pronunciation.  It took me a while to determine that the Portuguese resent, in many ways, the use of Spanish instead of Portuguese while you are in their country.  They would rather you use English or try, as best you know how, to speak Portuguese, even if it means with dictionary in hand.  I pursued this language issue and received the same report many times, particularly from the people that had contact with the public.  I was told more than once that “when in Spain you speak Spanish and when they, the Spanish, are here, [in Portugal], they want us to speak Spanish as well.”  Can’t really blame them, we have that same situation in many parts of the US.  Then there is the relationship of the Portuguese mainland people with those in the Azores and Brazil.  They speak the same language, but their lifestyle and even quality of life is much different. 

 It is not surprising that seafood is still big in Portugal.  Bacalau (Cod) and sardines are typical and very popular in this country.  Cod, formerly taken from the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, is now taken and salted in great quantities off Norway and Iceland. Sardines, mostly fresh, are taken nearby and served grilled and lightly salted.

Prices in Portugal are very reasonable. Wines and olives are excellent and Sagres beer, available most everywhere, seems to be the “beer of choice.”

 he Algarve area of Portugal is receiving much publicity and draws tourism from all over the world. This area includes all of the south coast of Portugal and inland about 30 miles. It is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean north of Cabo Sao Vicente and on the east by the Guadiana River. There has been a very noticeable increase in repair of the older villages in the Algarve.  These older buildings will retain their original appearance, while new construction tries to blend in. 

  

  Spain

Across the Guadiana River from Vila Real de San Antonio (abbreviated VRSA), Portugal is Ayamonte, Spain.  There is marked difference in the architecture and the cleanliness of the city.  The buildings were for the most part in good repair and there were obvious signs of the Moorish influence in Spain.  Spanish was definitely spoken here and all who we came in contact with were very friendly and polite.  I certainly enjoyed utilizing my Spanish, and I could see relief on the part of some of the folks we met when they realized they were not going to have to struggle with English, though they would have. I was also relieved after having to struggle to get by with my limited Portuguese. It is definitely an asset to be fluent in the local language.  At the bare minimum, a visitor I believe should be able to ask simple directions, know how to greet and how to thank the people they are dealing with.  Too often I see my fellow countrymen refusing to at least try to speak a few words and thus embarrassing themselves and the rest of us who come along later.  We all need to make a good first impression.  Too much of the world watches our TV news and we know how disturbing that can be.

 My impression of Spain was that it was much more affluent than Portugal and there seems to be a greater interest or focus on cleanliness.  Food and fresh produce is readily available at the local markets and at grocery stores.  I was interested to find in the produce section of many grocery stores that only the employees were allowed to actually touch the produce.  One would select by pointing and the attendant would weigh and bag the item.  Other stores were less sophisticated but required the customers to utilize a plastic glove to handle the produce.  All of the full service marinas we stayed in had excellent water.  Spanish olives, wines and beer are excellent, with CruzCampo beer apparently being the most popular.

 

  Canary Islands

The Customs and Immigration office is on the perimeter drive facing Las Palmas Marina on Gran Canaria.  After receiving my slip assignment from Pedro at the fuel dock (can’t miss the Texaco sign).  I was told I could check in with the authorities after I had rested up… tomorrow or the next day would be alright.  Not knowing if I should wait that long, I cleared in as soon as Nonstop was secure in her slip.  It was a very relaxed procedure, one officer handling everything. Clearing out was just as easy.

 

Caribbean

When you arrive in the Caribbean, you enter a new dimension, a land with a laid back attitude toward most everything except enjoying yourself.  You will be surrounded with beautiful water and islands with lush vegetation just waiting to be explored.  Passing through the USVI will be a reminder that you are nearly home, not to mention the ability to re-provision with many of the products and brand names you are familiar with. 

You will be required to clear in to the US Virgin Islands as you will be arriving from a foreign country. Customs and immigration in St. Thomas is located at the ferry/seaplane terminal near the downtown area. It is necessary that all persons aboard be present when clearing in with US Immigration.  I made the mistake of trying to clear myself and my entire crew in when arriving from a short visit to the BVI.  I was chastised for “violating the rules” and even threatened with a penalty of several thousand dollars for doing so. Welcome to the US!  I would not have tried to clear everyone in had I not done so the week prior after having arrived from the Canary Islands. 

 Clearing out of the USVI is not required if sailing to Puerto Rico or directly to the US mainland.  A clearance is required if you are going to a foreign country (except the British Virgin Islands; we must have a “deal“ with them).  Clearing in on arrival in Puerto Rico or any of the nearby islands (Culebra, Culebrita or Viequez) is required as it appears there is a different level of security in Puerto Rico. If you have a current Customs decal for your vessel, you may be able to clear in by phone (787-742-3531)  or cell phone if on one of the more remote islands, and receive a clearance number.  Cell coverage appears to be good in those areas.  We had a good experience clearing in over the phone from Culebrita. The officer was polite and genuinely interested in getting all the details of our arrival correct.  Speaking Spanish with him no doubt helped.  Now, once again, you will need a departure clearance when leaving PR for a foreign country.  The requirement is not for the US necessarily, but for your destination. The Dominican Republic, for example, requires this clearance as part of their clearing-in procedure.

 

Among the flowers

   Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a very beautiful country. Unfortunately, it is a very poor country as well, and Luperon is a prime example.  It is a seaport, but unfortunately, pollution, prostitution, poverty and graft are evident everywhere.  Aside for the fact that it is in a convenient location, I am surprised Luperon is such a popular cruising stop.  It is in no way properly described in any cruising guide I have ever read. Anyone touting Luperon as a great cruising stop is looking for cheap. I was very disappointed.

 Clearing in takes the better part of a day and you will be asked in several different ways to help “support” the continuing good service the authorities provide the cruisers.  La Marina de Guerra (the Navy) will come aboard first, with at least one uniformed officer for effect. While completing the paperwork ($10.00 each person + $10.00 for the vessel), you will be asked for additional donations.  You will meet with the Immigrations Officer ashore.  He will stamp your passport and issue a 15-day tourist card ($10.00).  At some point you will meet with the “Agricultura” representative who will come aboard and ask about and possibly want to see the food you have on board ($10.00).  You may get a visit from the local Veterinarian who will inquire about any live animals you may have on board.  And finally, you must check in with the Autoridad Portuaria, Port Authority, in the office at the base of the city dock and pay a port use tax, $11.00.

 These four departments must be checked with on departure. Your vessel may need to be re-inspected by the agriculture people. You must verify with the Port Authority that you have no debt on the books, obtain a required departure stamp and, finally, the Marina de Guerra is required to give you a “despacho” (departure clearance) before you leave.  They all want (and need, no doubt) money, but you are not obligated to give them more than the amount on the corresponding receipts.

Be polite, be firm, smile and say “no gracias.“   Don’t be coerced!

  

  Bahamas

Once you leave the DR and are working your way through the Bahamas, you will most likely be in familiar waters. As of this writing, fees to clear into the Bahamas are still $150.00 for a vessel up to 35 feet LOA and $300.00 if over 35 feet. There have been recent reports  from cruisers that officials at some ports of entry have been charging $300 if the vessel exceeds 30 feet.  Nothing official yet, so stand by for a change.

 The southernmost port of entry is Matthew Town on Great Inagua.  If you plan to go ashore, don’t fail to properly clear in. We sailed well into Bahamian waters flying the “Q” and courtesy flags before actually clearing in at Cat Island.  The fact that we did not clear in at Matthew Town did not seem to concern the Immigration Officer.  The unusually high fees for clearing into the Bahamas does not appear to have turned many cruisers away.  In our particular case, only spending a couple days ashore for the same price with no allowance for the short stay, made the cost extremely high. We have to admit, though, it is beautiful in the Bahamas and it’s just a day sail away from our shores.

 

   United States of America

When arriving back in the United States  you may again be able to clear in over the phone.  It will be up to the Customs Officer to decide if he/she wants to come and board your vessel.  All persons on board, however, will have to appear in person at the closest immigration office.  Be patient with the process, remember we are all trying to protect our borders.  Yes, you have been gone from home a long time.  Maybe you’ll actually get a “welcome back” from the inspector!

When we arrived in Palm Beach, once moored at the marina, we cleared in with Customs over the phone (800 432-1216 or 800 451-0393) and received our clearance number.  At that point we were given 24 hours to clear in with Immigrations.  We had the option of using either the office at the Port of West Palm Beach (hours 9-3) or clear in at the West Palm Beach International airport.  We opted for the port location which is in the cruise ship terminal, second floor.  With passports in hand and our Customs clearance number available, we were all legal in just moments and very glad to be back “home.”

 

A welcome sight offshore!

 

Communications

 It is nearly 10,000nm around the North Atlantic.  Being able to communicate with family, friends and support groups around the world will make this trip safer and much more enjoyable. 

Consider what it was like to sail the Atlantic just a few years ago without GPS, Chart Plotters, SatCom, Email, Internet, and the list goes on.  Now, more than at any other time in history, we can stay in touch and be aware of or precise location on the earth’s surface for a fraction of the cost of previous years.  The level of complexity of most systems is only limited by the amount of money you want to spend, however, for just a few hundred dollars you can assemble an adequate nav/com system for most vessel.

 I have been an avid ham radio operator for many years.  There are many cruisers who are not hams, but I would venture to say that a cruiser that is a licensed ham is far better off while sailing offshore than the non-ham.  While marine single-sideband provides an adequate amount of HF communications frequencies, the ham bands are commonly listened to and operated on more regularly.  This regularity offers the ham more opportunities to receive and pass information than could normally be done on the marine bands. 

 Granted, there is a licensing requirement for the Ham Radio Operator that is not required for the Marine bands.  This licensing and testing requirement does deter many and sadly puts them at a great disadvantage when trying to communicate from their vessel.  During this required licensing process the Ham Radio License applicants not only learn the rules, but also simple electronics and techniques preparing them for installing and troubleshooting radio station problems underway.  More good news, never before have the licensing requirements been so simple to obtain the General Class Ham Radio License. 

 Along with the learning comes the camaraderie.  And, yes, hams have their “lingo” and sometimes come across like they know it all.  I believe it may appear that way because they are so “into” their hobby. And frankly, they may be entitled because they have had to do some studying.  Most hams, however, are very interested in helping those having rig and other communications problems. Careful, though; once you get them started talking about amateur radio, there may be no stopping them!

 Radio communications at sea fall into three main categories: VHF, HF (ssb), and Satellite.  I have no experience utilizing satellite telephone communications, though I have been told that it is becoming more popular as the rates are now at least palatable.

VHF (very high frequency) radio communication is considered “line-of-sight” communications and of relatively short distance and seldom affected by weather conditions.  Basically, if you can see it, you can talk to it.  If the other station is behind a mountain or below the horizon, don’t plan on making contact.  However, from the top of a mountain to a vessel at sea or from the top of one mast to the top of another vessel’s mast you may be able to make contact 20-30 miles or more.

 HF (high frequency) radio communications, also known as SSB (single side-band) is our method of long-range communications, but it is frequently affected by the weather and dependent upon radio wave propagation.  Radio wave propagation varies on different frequency bands with the time of day. It is therefore not always an easy method of communications. With all this to be considered, let me say that as a ham you will learn to utilize the different bands with little thought as to all the mechanics of propagation.

Once out of sight of the US coastline you will begin to lose VHF reception of

NOAA weather broadcasts and be unable to communicate with shore based stations.  Assuming you have no satellite capability you will dependent upon HF for communications.

 

Early morning ICW

 On both the ham and marine bands there are several nets which handle weather and position reports for vessels eastbound out of the US toward Bermuda.

For our crossing to Bermuda I had arranged for weather briefings daily from Herb Hilgenberger, vessel name Southbound II.  Though there are many weather briefers available, Herb has quite a following and is known around the world. He is a ham radio operator but works the marine bands and is usually found on 12.359 Mhz daily at 2000 UTC (1600EDT).  His area of coverage is the North Atlantic and is most effective as far south as the Caribbean and as far east as the Azores and the UK.

 The Waterway Radio and Cruising Club (WRCC) net operates daily at 1145 UTC (0745 EDT) on 7.268 Mhz. A very structured net, reads the latest NWS weather forecasts for the SW North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the coastal forecast for South Florida.  At precisely 0815 EDT, position reports are taken and logged.  Also at this time, a float plan for an upcoming passage may be placed on file or activated.  This net is excellent for departures from the US to as far east as Bermuda then once again on the return trip from the Caribbean back to the US mainland. More information is on the web at www.waterwayradio.net.

 At 1230 UTC (0830 ETD) the Cruiseheimer’s Net operates on the marine frequency of 8.152 Mhz.  Here weather, position reports and messages of interest are passed and initial contact is made with other vessels. Most cruisers utilizing the Cruiseheimer’s Net are located in the Caribbean, Bahamas and along the east coast of the US.

 At  1300 UTC (0900 EDT) the Trans-Atlantic Maritime Mobile Service Net operates on 21.400 Mhz, a ham only frequency.  On this net there are three stations, the primary in Barbados and two relay stations, one in Pennsylvania and one in Belgium.

This net also passes weather as needed, takes position reports and is excellent in mid-ocean, as usually at least one of the stations is easily worked.

 At 1600 UTC (1200 EDT), the Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN) operates on 14.300Mhz giving priority to stations that are maritime mobile.  This net also passes weather information as needed and has become one of the primary nets for cruising hams as they operate until 0100 UTC, moving the net control station west during the day as propagation changes. The net has a site on the web at www.mmsn.org.

 At 1800 UTC (1400 EDT), the Italian Net operates on 14.297.5 Mhz passing weather as needed and also taking position reports.  This net has a primary controller in Pennsylvania and relay stations in Belgium and the Azores. The name of this net implies that it is run in Italian.  Not at all, only named so because the initial organizer was in Italy at the time of its inception.

 Off the coasts of Portugal, Spain, North Africa, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands and as far west as the Caribbean, the most notable weather briefer and marine advisor is Rafael del Castillo.  This gentleman operates his own service to cruisers from his powerful station on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands.  He operates every day on the marine frequency of 14.358 Mhz at 2200 UTC and almost exclusively in Spanish, though he has been known to brief and advise in English. This is not, however, a free service.  Quite expensive, I have heard, though listening to his briefing of other vessels is free.

 Approaching or after arrival in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Maritime Mobile Net is available to you on the ham frequency of 7.241 Mhz at 1100 UTC.  This net is operated by hams in the USVI and offers check-ins and weather information for the Caribbean at 1115 UTC.

 At 1215 UTC on the marine frequency of 8.104 Mhz the Caribbean Security Net is operated by a station in St. Lucia.  This net provides a source for reporting and re-broadcasting of confirmed reports of theft or assault on cruisers. If you have been concerned about security in the Caribbean the information at www.caribcruisers.com will be worth reading.

 After GPS the best thing to come aboard a cruising sailboat is Email.  Now with the ability to transmit Email messages to a station ashore which in turn sends those messages to the Internet has made staying in touch a reality.  The system, known as Winlink, is available for free to the ham radio operator in a program called Airmail, and to the non-ham, at a reasonable cost, in a program called Sailmail.  Not only are you able to send and receive personal text messages, but from a “list” of items, too many to mention here, you may also download such items as weather in text or in chart format.

On our recent circumnavigation I sent at least one email or position report daily and received sometimes five or ten on a good day.  There was never a time that I was not able to send or receive  my messages at some time during each day.  That’s how reliable the system is.

 Summary

To circumnavigate the North Atlantic in one year takes commitment and planning.  It is physically difficult, mentally challenging and somewhat expensive in the preparation.  However, the rewards are countless.  Are you ready for such an adventure?

 

**Author’s note:  This article is not meant to be a complete guide to the Atlantic Circle, but rather a supplement to the commercially available cruising guides.  The comments and observations in this article are my own.  If they appear to conflict with other available information, consider the source.  It was my first time around the North Atlantic, I’ll learn more the next time. If at least one person tells me he/she benefited from what I have written because of content or currency of the information, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do.

 Good sailing.

Dave





 


Copyright © 2007 Beaufort Yacht Sales. All rights reserved.