1 LiveBloggin' the ICW

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Time for a Little Ranting...

Over the years, I’ve sounded off about people who make the ICW sound like a dangerous and frightening trip. Almost every time, the speaker, writer or blogger is someone who is trying to make a buck out of his baloney, selling a guide, or boating book, or, in the case of the ex-lawyer turned cruiser I’m about to discuss, hyping a Patreon page to support his travel. These people seem to think that drama sells, that making everything on a boat sound apocalyptic is the way to get clicks.
How about they try for some honesty, some factual data, some accuracy and see how that works? It’s how I built my reputation as a boating writer, it’s why my editors publish my material, it’s why people trust my information. I’m proud of that too, which is why you’ll never see anything bogus from this keyboard.
So to continue, a friend contacted me this evening, worried about a video he’d just watched about St. Andrew’s Sound in Georgia. “Reading bad stuff about that!!! Is there a way to miss it??” he said, referring to the area. 
He was very concerned, as he’s looking forward to doing the ICW in 2019 with his wife and doesn’t want her scared. This video was not a good advertisement for that part of the trip.
He had been watching a VLOG put out by a new ICW cruiser, someone who left Norfolk in January, 2017 - after contacting me for advice on the correct anchor size and type, as he was, to quote “First time down ICW - newbie sailor, in general”.
His big concern was that, without a windlass, would he be able to retrieve the 12 kg anchor he was considering replacing his Danforth with? And since he has no windlass, he didn’t want to try it first - “…but not sure I should test it anchored out”, so he asks me my opinion, telling me he has good upper body strength. (Insert major eyeroll here). This isn’t even considering the fact that a 12 kilo anchor is far too small for an 11,000 pound 34 foot boat, something else he seemed not to realize.
While I admire his good judgement in consulting with me, an expert on boating or the ICW he is not, and his VLOG demonstrates that. It isn’t quite as cringeworthy as Redford’s ‘All is Lost’, but it’s in the running. 
This guy, an educated professional, is now online sounding off like he’s an expert, and he has a Patreon following, earning $150 per video. So he’s not stupid. But he’s contacting me for anchoring advice? Are these people sure they really want to follow this guy for his advice? Entertainment value, sure, but boating and cruising advice?
In any event, his video - I will not perpetuate the crime by identifying who this guy is or where you can view the video - purports to show just how dangerous, how frightening, crossing through St. Andrews Sound is. To that end, he shows charts (but calls them “maps”), talks about other sources of information (not good ones) and reproduces comments from people who went through the Sound in bad conditions - and then has a video of a boat in a storm supposedly crossing through the Sound. It looks terrifying, especially if you’re new to the ICW.
I lost it at that point - here’s a screenshot of what I posted to this guy’s Facebook page
- and this is the fourth edit of what I wrote originally. The first one would have blistered your skin, I was so angry with this loon and his bad, dishonest advice.
In another video - he’s apparently got over 100 out now - he discusses a near miss with a container ship coming in to Norfolk, and the “15 foot wake” the vessel put out that his boat fell off of “with a thud”. 
While I admire good fiction, there’s no more accurate way to describe that claim than as complete and utter BS. I’ve never seen a wake bigger than 6 feet from a freighter. Based on the marina he was coming from, he shouldn’t have been any closer than three miles to the ship’s channel except for the last two miles he covered, and by then, those ships have slowed down considerably. Of course, if he sailed straight out to the ship’s channel rather than staying well inshore in 20+ feet of water…but why would he do that, if he did? Oh, right, he’s a newbie. 
For someone who’s not ever been through this area before, the thought of a fifteen foot ship’s wake is frightening - completely false, but frightening - and this guy makes it sound even worse than it is. It’s totally unfair to new cruisers to put this garbage out because you need a few extra clicks to get new rigging for your boat - which it appears from his page is his current project needing funding.
Sorry if that sounds ‘mean’ - but when it’s your turn to head out, I want you to enjoy your trip south, not spend every moment terrified that you’re going to go aground, sink, be swallowed up by the demons in St. Andrews Sound, run over by a freighter or capsized by the tsunami sized wake from one - or all of the above! That takes away a lot of the fun of the trip.
If it means calling out the people who produce this kind of crap, well, that’s what I’ll do.
Now, here are the facts about St. Andrew’s Sound.
It’s the one portion of the ICW where you actually go out into the Atlantic for a few short minutes as you round ‘R32’ before turning back in. It can get quite rough in wind against tide situations - which is just fine, because it means you get to spend an extra day at Jekyll Creek Marina, on a lovely island with a great marina restaurant and lots of interesting places to explore. Or you can hang out in one of the best anchorages on the ICW if you prefer. You’d have to be a bit of a masochist to challenge St. Andrew’s Sound - or any of the big Georgia sounds - in bad weather, and that’s not why we go cruising in any event, is it?
St. Andrews Sound/Umbrella Cut
If you’re really determined to get south RIGHT NOW! TODAY! and St. Andrews Sound is in a state, there’s always Umbrella Cut, an alternative route that is comfortably done in any weather on half tide and rising and that goes nowhere near the Atlantic Ocean. 
You see, that’s the difference between knowledge and newbies….this Vblogger likely has no idea that Umbrella Cut even exists as an alternative to St. Andrews Sound. I mean, it’s shown on the chart, (or “map” as he calls it), but I’m quite sure he doesn’t know that. 
In the chartlet, you can see the aids to navigation leading up to it (middle left), and the exit from Floyd’s Creek at the south on the Cumberland River end. I’d provide a more detailed chart, but the charts on my computer don’t cover the cut although it’s on my paper charts and plotter. 
Should you take this route, get local info from the guys at the marina as the locals use it all the time, and be sure to do it on a rising tide. It’s also written up online in Cruisers’ Net, which is an excellent source of information. Minimum depths are reported to be 5 - 8 feet at MLW.
As for Hampton Roads, this guy describes the entrance as very narrow. It’s not - it’s over 3/4 of a mile wide. If you stay at the northern edge of the big ship channel as you come in from the Chesapeake, you’ll be in over 40 feet of water and a considerable distance from the big ships - certainly more than far enough away for safety. If you’re on the south side as he appears to have been, you should be able to remain a quarter mile away from any large vessels.
I actually enjoy a lot of the VLOGS I see produced, but if you choose to blog or vblog, be honest with your readers and viewers. Add to the knowledge out there, not to the piles of BS. If you’re new to cruising, discuss your concerns, discuss your thinking as you work your way through the challenges you face, discuss what worked for you and what didn’t. 
Don’t pretend, as this guy does, that you’re some sort of expert, especially if you're trying to make a buck at it. You’ll get a lot more brownie points for an honest discussion of the facts, and you’ll leave behind a much cleaner wake.
It’s been suggested to me that I do the Patreon thing as this guy has, get people to pay so much per blog post, per video, that I have a large enough readership that I could do very well at it. I’ve thought about it of course, but something about the ‘begging boater’ thing has always bothered me. Tonight, thinking about this guy’s VLOG and Patreon page, I finally figured it out.
In all the years I’ve been sailing, I’ve never once had someone not a professional ask me to pay them for advice - and I’ve had a great many pros offer free advice to be fair to them. A great deal of what I know, and all of what I’ve accomplished, can be traced back to the help, advice, assistance and knowledge that other, more knowledgeable cruisers have given me, free of charge except maybe a beer or three. That’s a price I’m happy to pay - or be paid! 
That’s a big part of what sailing and cruising is about - sharing the knowledge we have to help others along, just as others helped us when we were new to the lifestyle. Begging for boatbucks just isn’t how I want to make my way.
I spend a lot of hours with people online, in print and in person, providing advice. I’m happy to do it, and I actually have been rewarded for these efforts. Here’s an example…
Years ago, I was coming into Covered Portage Cove in Georgian Bay, a favourite anchorage of mine I’ve written about in a national magazine. I was watching a boat leave the Cove and hailed them on the VHF, advising them to turn to port as they were too close to a rock at the edge of the channel. 
They safely cleared it and as they came past me, the guy’s wife yells out - “Hey, it’s Gypsy Wind, you’re Wally! We read your article and we came here because of it. Thanks for helping us out.”
That’s what I call a great payday! The best thing is, we can all earn that reward, or call it karma if you want, simply by being there for other boaters. You don’t have to write for a national magazine, or do boat show presentations. 

Cruising Update - I’ve finished my maintenance at Green Cove Springs and am now heading south again, bound for Miami and then over to the Bahamas. The boat is running well, and if the winds would only co-operate a little more, all would be perfect. 
I’ve bought a new inflatable, so I’m selling my ten foot aluminum dinghy. It’s a v-bottom, and will handle a 6 hp outboard. It rows very well. If you’re interested in a really tough little boat as a tender, contact me about it using the popup on the page here. I’ll deliver on the east coast of Florida as I go by! 
My ten foot aluminum dinghy

I am updating the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page and hope to have it completed shortly with an updated itinerary. Otherwise, the information on the site is up to date. If you have questions about the Rally, or would like a Rally brochure, you can contact me at ICW.Wally@gmail.com. The Rally is quickly starting to fill up, with six spots confirmed, so if you plan on joining up this year, don't hesitate.
This year’s Rally starts on October 15 in Hampton VA and ends in Miami on December 12. Along with the usual dock parties, potlucks, raftups, marina wine and cheeses and royal welcomes, we’ll also be enjoying a tour of a rum distillery, and a safari at a wild game park at one of our stops, and a tour of the Kennedy Space Center at Port Canaveral, to name just a few of the planned excursions.
Ralliers will also get free admission to the one day Sail to the Sun ICW Cruising Seminar during the Annapolis Sailboat Show, and there is of course the grande finale in Miami.
And I promise you we’ll get through St. Andrews Sound, safely and without drama.