Planning for the Atlantic


Let’s move the boat!

We are left in the position of being new owners of a boat that is, depending on your east-west leaning, either 14 or 8 timezones away. Another way of putting it is that she is 9600nm away from Australia via the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean, or 11,900nm via the Atlantic, Suez and Indian oceans. That’s too many zero’s!

Also, the Australian tax man is silent while you’re overseas (are those the antipodes for Australians?!). But return to your country of origin riding a white steed and suddenly that steed becomes a matter of money – specifically 10% GST and 5% import duty. It’s hard to swallow that the government has a right to 15.5% (the 5% is added before the 10%!) of something that isn’t produced here or sold here. Hence bringing our steed – whoops, I meant boat – back to Australia loses a deal of charm when the welcome mat is actually a final demand notice!

So we have mulled over our options…

  1. Stay in the Caribbean and holiday. Fairly expensive to keep there, and there’s those pesky hurricanes than seem to be doing new things and taking different paths every year.
  2. Move to the US getting some experience aboard, then choose later whether to loop (the Great Loop) or cross the Atlantic. North Carolina has some ok hurricane holes which helps, and it puts off a decision until we get more experience. It does tend to mitigate against a future Pacific crossing as we’re even further from that. A tentative “holiday” from St Martin -> BVI -> Turks and Caicos -> Bahamas -> Florida -> North Carolina, through the Intracoastal, would take 35 days with some days in the T&C and the Bahamas. Each leg though is very doable and almost never above 200nm. Cost of fuel is about A$3,800 and about 3,500L.
  3. Cross the Pacific via the Panama Canal, ending in Fiji (to escape the Australian import handcuffs). A memorable journey including what some call the longest open ocean leg that is impossible to get around over an Around the World trip – Panama to the Marquesas, 3700nm. This would mean a “training” first leg to Panama (phew!). Dates are reasonably constrained to about May-October, with leaving St Martin and the Panama approach needing extremely careful weather timing. The advantage is that we end up close to home in Fiji, which has cyclone-capable marinas. 35 days to the Marquesas alone is limited by the speed at which the long leg can occur which is at the most fuel-efficient 6kn on one engine at a time. Fiji is another 22-25 days again. Cost of fuel is about A$21,000 and about 14,000L. The time of 60 days and cost make this difficult; although the benefits are high (nearer home), there are many more risks doing this in a boat we don’t know and is not adequately prepared for it.
  4. Cross the Atlantic, visiting the Azores, ending in Spain/Mediterranean. Another memorable journey but much easier to contemplate than the Pacific due to the Azores being only 2200nm from St Martin. Looking through the pilot charts and the weather patterns, the more indirect option of Bermuda before heading due east was decided against as while it benefits sailing vessels, the weather is actually worse for motor vessels that can benefit from the quieter waters of the southerly Azores High. The dates are constrained by weather, being May/June. We would end in Spain or Sardinia, and choose what to do in the Med next year – come to Australia via the Suez or just stay in Europe. Cost of fuel is about $7,000 to Spain and about 5,000L. The time is 18 days to Portugal/Spain which is very reasonable. The problem with this is that there is no initial “training” run as the leaving is direct from St Martin for 2,200nm!
  5. Cross the Atlantic – by ship. Have a shipping company take our boat across the Atlantic and we can meet her in Europe for a vacations before deciding what to do later (leave or keep going to Australian via the Suez). This saves wear and tear on engines and other systems, and means we don’t have to worry about our capability and the boat’s readiness to do an unprepared Atlantic crossing. The problem is overall cost, with quotes coming in at A$25,000-$40,000 – significantly more than the (fuel-only) cost of going on her own hull bottoms (see 4 above).

We have been extensively researching 2. (US) 3. (Pacific) and 4. (Atlantic), with 1. and 5. being less plausible. It’s difficult as there are pros and cons to all the choices and weighing up the cost/benefits can lead to going in circles.

However…as the title gives away, we have decided to cross the Atlantic! And now we have confirmed that we can do it by ship at a cost that is acceptable. Peters and May have provided a lower quote from Antigua to Southampton for May this year, carrying some boats from the Antigua Race Week.

When the pure cost of moving the boat is taken into account – fuel ($8,300 to Majorca), food ($1,700), preparation for the trip (MOB systems $1,000, Iridium $1,000, survival suits $1,800, JSD $1,600), extra spares ($1,000) and things for the trip – then the cost of shipping can be a lot closer. And this doesn’t include the benefits of less engine wear and the lack of our training on the boat!

Note that even taking these items into account, the shipping cost at the upper ends of our quotes is still not tenable (Dockwise for example). Our Peters and May contact, Debbie Greenwood, has been very professional at communicating and organising, and answering questions; we would recommend her.

We wrote this in the hope that a summary of our decisions and choices may help other people. We have done a lot of background research on each choice, from pilot charts on routes, weather, time and facilities down to the price of diesel at each refuel point. If you are interested we would be happy to share.

Preparation for the shipping should be coming soon – we have a few months preparation which includes finishing the boat registration for Australia (putting the name on her), finding a captain to take her to the loading in Antigua, where to store her in the UK, customs and stuff for the UK, etc.


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