Whenever cruisers get together, one of the first questions is always “where are you needed next?” Frankly, it’s also a question that most cruisers frequently ask themselves.
Our answer: the Virgin Islands.
Dave and I have loved every bit of time we’ve spent in the Virgin Islands on charters and we’ve periodically talked of sailing our own boat there. So we’re going to try to make that happen this winter.
No, that wasn’t really our plan when we bought Barefoot Gal. When we bought her, we thought we’d use her in the winters, just around the Keys. That lasted one year, then we sold our house to cruise full-time.
And that resulted in us spending four months in the Bahamas this summer. While it was a great trip in its own right, it gave us the itch to go further. To the Caribbean.
We plan to island-hop down, although we haven’t decided the exact route yet (and some of that will be decided as we go, in response to weather conditions). No matter what we choose, there will still be quite a few open-ocean legs, even if they are 100 miles or less.
For those not familiar with this area, the total trip will be around 1,200 miles. Basically, we know we’ll head south and east through the Bahamas . . . then we have to choose between going along the north coast of the Dominican Republic (fewer miles, but a lee shore more exposed to the east trade winds) or west around Haiti and then along the south coast of the Dominican Republic (no lee shore, go south of the true Mona Passage but more miles):
So we’re going to spend the next three months readying Barefoot Gal and ourselves for a bigger trip. The big jobs?
- Replace standing rigging and most lines/sheets that we haven’t already replaced.
- Add automatic bilge pumps (Geminis were built without them).
- Fill the flotation chambers with positive flotation and seal off the sail locker from the rest of the boat so that water entering the sail locker cannot flood the bilge.
- Improve ability to get weather forecasts (a friend is loaning us a sat phone and we intend to add a cell phone booster antenna).
- Haul out: fresh bottom paint, routine drive leg maintenance and replacing the hydraulic drive leg lift cylinder.
- Keep our skills up by sailing frequently and in stronger winds. We’re lucky that we have “open ocean” just 3 miles from our mooring ball.
Plus a hundred smaller things such as charts, more spare parts, fixing/replacing things that broke over the summer or just didn’t work the way we want them to and so on. The trip to the Bahamas was a great shakedown – most of our gear worked well, but the trip showed where we needed improvements.
We hope to be leaving mid-December. Depending on weather and our explorations along the way, we’re estimating that we’ll take about three months to get to Puerto Rico.