The Minimalist Sailor

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Planning a voyage

Winds in April thanks to Open CPN and the Climatology plugin.

Winds in April thanks to Open CPN and the Climatology plugin.

For me, planning a voyage is no simple matter, nor one to be taken lightly.

Before I crossed the Pacific I studied for years. Charts, weather patterns, cruising guides, satellite photos, and every scrap of information I could get was scrutinized so I could maximize my safety, and the safety of my boat.

I use Open CPN (navigation software) with the climatology plug-in (historical wind and hurricane information by month), and weather fax plug-in (weather information via SSB radio or internet) daily, it is a very powerful tool, open-source, and it’s free. If you use Open CPN and can afford to make a donation to them, please do.


Tracks of all known Atlantic tropical cyclones from 1851 to 2012

I’ve been doing the same thing these last few months with my trip from New York to Panama. Truthfully I don’t think I can pull it off before hurricane season?

Technically Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1st through November 30th. I don’t mind dodging hurricanes in June or possibly July, but by August hurricane season is at its peak, and I never wish to endure another hurricane aboard again!

After one leaves the United States, there is no more sea-tow, cellular service, or marine services conveniently placed every few miles of your route. One must learn to take care of themselves and rely on the safety of their yacht and their own wit and skill.



When I went to get Eleanor the first time I had plenty of time to make it to Panama leaving in the late spring. Unfortunately winter came early and I was too exhausted to battle sub freezing weather. I missed my window by only a few weeks.

I’m going to try my best to get Eleanor here by July 1st, however realistically I should also find a cheap place to leave Eleanor in Florida or the Carolinas until Octoberish just in case. I’d stay onboard but I know I’ll be missing my wife and want to get home as soon as possible.

I leave Panama on March 24th and will arrive at Eleanor around the first of April. More than 3 months away from Carla starts to hurt and I don’t wish to do it again.


NY to Norfolk

Once I arrive to Eleanor I have a few big hurdles. My buddy gave me a used autopilot that I must install. I also need to pull the roller furling and fix it, mount the windvane, and sort out half a dozen other projects so I can be moving down the Hudson river by the 20th of April.

It will take me two days to get to Sandy Hook (NJ) where I need to find a weather-window for the 262 mile offshore passage to Norfolk VA.


ICW from Norfolk to Cape Fear

Once in Norfolk it is my intention to pick up my father for my passage South to Florida. I’ll be taking the ICW to Cape Fear (2 weeks) in order to make it around Cape Hatteras and Frying-Pan shoals. Once at the Cape fear inlet I will venture offshore for Jacksonville Florida with a quick stop in Charleston to see family.

Once in Jacksonville I will return to the ICW bound for Lake Worth (Palm Beach)  in order to get around Cape Canaveral. The Gulf stream runs close to these caps and can make for extremely bad weather. When I plan a trips I try to find alternatives so I don’t have to spend too much time waiting for weather, the ICW makes this very easy.

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Navionics HD

I’m planning to jump off for the Bahamas from Lake Worth. Its about 52 miles to Memory Rock. I will leave for a night crossing in order to make Memory Rock by morning as I will travel all day in order to get to the Great Sale Cay anchorage on Little Bahamas Bank where I plan to rest for a few days. After that I will travel on the eastern side of Great Abaco for Hope Town, then I will sail South for Eleuthera, Exuma Sound, and Rum Cay. From Rum Cay I will sail for Matthew Town on Great Inagua where I will wait for weather to transit the Windward Passage (Between Cuba and Haiti) For Jamaica and Panama.

Wind and hurricane tracks for June thanks to Open CPN and Climatology

Wind and hurricane tracks for June thanks to Open CPN and Climatology

As you can see from the July Chart there is no shortage of wind in the Caribbean in July, and you can see the tracks of past hurricanes as well.

What makes this journey so difficult is the 550 miles of easting (into the wind) I need to make in order to get an angle on the wind to sail through the windward passage and on to Panama. If I have a calm weather window after leaving Lake Worth and the fuel to burn, I may just motor east into the Atlantic for a week to get my angle. This would speed things up and I wouldn’t have to dodge islands and the shallow banks of the Bahamas in order to get home, but I would have less options in case of an early season hurricane.

Offshore sailing !!!

Offshore sailing !!!

The good thing about offshore sailing is a day (24 hours) one can cover over 100 miles, where days on the ICW or navigating the Bahamas are 12 hours, and about 50 miles as you don’t want to navigate at night. The upside is you get a lot more rest at anchor.

If I’m off-schedule on this delivery for more than a few weeks I lose the season and have to find a place in the States for Eleanor which is something I REALLY don’t want to do! That being said I believe my path

will take me where I need to go. Had I delivered Eleanor last season as scheduled I may not have reconnected with my father or found Nacho, life is like that, and I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.

I am also getting myself physically and mentally prepared for this push. I have given up alcohol as I need to be as sharp as possible, and I have been following the Paleolithic diet which I’ve never done before.



For those of you who don’t know what the Pailo, or “cave man” diet is, it’s basically the un-diet. I’m eating what is found in nature, vegetables, fruit, nuts, meat, eggs, and forgoing all grains, legumes, sugars and the processed foods we have come to accept as “natural” eating patterns. I’ve been doing it for around 3 weeks now and I must say I’m more than impressed. I’m losing weight, but for me, the big deal is my asthma is disappearing and my head is clear. I also have a ton more energy!

I’m excited to go get Eleanor. I only have about two thousand dollars to pull this venture off as I’m selling 3 gold coins (2oz, all we have in savings) to make this happen. The coins came as gifts from my cousin (wedding gift) and one from my father. I do find doing things on a budget a challenge and adds to the adventure.



I’m not excited about leaving my wife again. She really is my best friend and I cherish her company every day. I have to find a good internet plan in the states so we can keep in skype contact. However once I push off from the states communication will be very limited if any.

Well, that’s it for today. I’m really hoping to make it back to Panama by the first week in July, if I can’t I have no idea what’s going to happen.

Off for another adventure!

Peace, Love and Coconuts.

Sail Far, and Live Slowly.

– alex



Published in Alex Dorsey
Updated: March 13, 2015 — 12:40


  1. Isn’t this funny…not haa haa funny, but coincidence funny!

    Blew off today’s company picnic ( 5 days a week is more than enough with them) and headed to Indiantown, Florida. Just to check it all out, and look at a few boats they have for sale. Saw a few I fell instantly in love with, and God willing I will be living on a sailboat within the next 18 months, maybe sooner!

    But back to your issue. Indiantown Marina is up the St Lucie River heading towards Lake Okeechobee. Reading their cheat sheet a 43′ boat will run you about 300 a month on dirt. Walking around I found a few guys who were willing to talk to me. One is on a 37′ in a slip with water and electric for just under 600 a month. I about choked! I’m paying 700 a month for an efficiency that’s roughly 12’x25′! From your in-laws house in Fort Lauderdale it’s about 1.5 hr drive if you take the turnpike. There’s an Ace Hardware, Burger King,McDonalds, and an IGA grocery store in Indiantown….and buddy…THAT’S IT !! Sounds like paradise, huh ??!! :)

    Anyway..if you need an option or a “Plan B” Plus if you end up working on her while you’re here, I’m more than happy to help when I can.


  2. Ken,

    Sure hope I don’t have to go with a plan B but you never know, thanks for the offer :)

    I hope to hear you get in a boat too, what did you fall in love with?

  3. They are selling a 30′ Pearson Wanderer currently listing for 9k. That same owner 7 months ago said he’d take 4,500 for the very same boat. Been trying to get in touch with him, and see if he bites.

    Only from the docks but I looked at a 27′ Island Packet (27K) a 34 Bristol (15k)a 33′ Allied Luders (18k) there’s a 42′ Lehete-Bourgeois there for 30K that looks absolutely equipped to head for Australia tomorrow morning. The IP has 89 hrs on a rebuilt Yanmar. The 42′ LB is a liveaboards dream, but might be a bit big for a single hander. The Bristol I really liked. Could only see the Allied from afar. Deciding whether to get out of debt, take some sailing lessons…it’s been many years..and then look seriously, or roll the dice now. There are a few trucking companies up in that area I could likely get on with. Living aboard down in South Florida is waaay expensive.

    Decisions…decisions. Alex, the thing is, I felt absolutely at home at that marina. I felt that that was where I would be so very comfortable.

    We shall see…


  4. Ken,

    It seems like you have been bitten by the bug, good for you. I like the 34′ Bristol :)

    My dad lives in Okachobee so if I do get stuck for the season it might be a good place to be :)

  5. Buddy, Bitten, infected, got the rash, chased the hot nurses around the hospital…ok maybe not the nurse part!

    I too like the Bristol. Nice and roomy, wheel steering. She needs work, but for 15 grand….

    The IP was very nice also. However seven feet shorter and 10 grand cheaper. Okeechobee is 20 miles from Indiantown.

  6. Alex,

    Port Canaveral Yacht Club is one of the best deals on the east coast of FLA.

    When we met way back when I was just outside Stuart. Now in Jupiter. Didn’t realize your father was in Okeechobee. I’ll be following your trip South and always willing to lend a hand. Happy to help out with your father if I can do anything for you there.


  7. PS…I resigned from my firm today. A confluence of factors drove me to bail. The job was consuming my soul, a number of friends have dropped dead in their early 50’s over the past six months, but mostly I bailed so as to eliminate the corporate excuse for not moving forward with my own voyaging plans. It’s a bit scary, but I had a great run. 21 years on active duty and 13 years in the private sector. I’ll get a job after decompressing a bit, but something mindless and only to advance the voyaging kitty. My colleagues think I am WHACKED! But they’re playing the “Keep up with the Jones'” game. I’m out. I took the red pill. I’ll find a boat, steady and true, a star to guide her by and live small and contented.

  8. Ken,

    If you ever want to get together and talk boats I’m close by. I know a joint in Indiantown that serves the best Mexican food this side of the Rio Grande.


  9. Paul,

    I remember. I don’t think I could do another week in corporate, I was freelance most of my life, and the corporate thing really killed my soul too.

    If we can get another drink that would be cool. I won’t have much time in Florida but will when I get back down there with Eleanor :)

    Peace amigo.

  10. Alex

    Have you already made plans to get from Fort Lauderdale to Eleanor once you fly in?

    1. I was planning to fly, have a better suggestion? I have a buddy where I can get a buddy pass to fly :)

  11. I guess you need to get there as soon as possible, was going to try and run into you somewhere. Been following Project Bluesphere for so long it would be cool to shoot the breeze for awhile in person. My girlfriend and I quit are jobs last summer and sailed to the Bahamas and back to Panama City, FL. Don’t think I would have done it had I not stumbled onto your site years and years ago. Now we are making plans for outfitting a van to travel South America, after visiting her family in Puerto Rico. It’s amazing how life and opportunities open up when you aren’t tied down to a “career” and learn to live simple. I just read the Post above mine, duh, maybe once you get back to Florida. Have a safe trip!

  12. I am on a super tight schedule, I really need to jump off for the Bahamas no later than the first week min May :(

  13. Hey long time no talk but I have been in LA for the past 4 months and see why you left. I am available to give you a hand with any or all of your journey back to Panama. Just let me know and I will be there!

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