For years, I used to write that phrase in the spring issue of my newspaper. Canadian winters being long, cold and seemingly never-ending, it was like an announcement - the snow is gone! Or at least, going.
It's about the same for boaters in the north...it's been a long, long winter. It always is.
Here in Cocoa Florida, I can tell when spring arrives by the number of boats heading north again. Lately, there have been more heading north than south, a good sign, although I just heard from a friend in Alberta that they got three inches of snow yesterday. Ugh.
This is of course why I head south every winter, I mean, besides the fact that no matter how beautiful Georgian Bay and the North Channel are, you simply can't get out on the water from December to April - and most people would extend that to being from October till late May.
Talking about heading south - are you planning on cutting those dock lines this year and finally, at last, living your dream? Has the better half finally decided you aren't to be dissuaded, talked out of this crazy notion that spending all your time in cutoffs and a t-shirt, gazing at sandy beaches with palm trees and turquoise blue water, is the stuff of fantasy?
But - but just how do you do it, in detail?
I get that question often, as you can imagine. In fact, I've made a career out of answering it for folks like yourself.
First of all, it's not nearly as difficult as it may seem. You truly only need two things, almost everything else is optional. First, you need the determination that you're going to do it. And you need a boat capable of doing it. Of the two, the boat is the easier part, because most boats will make the trip south with proper preparation. Now, how about you?
It's an old line, but it's true - the toughest part of the trip south is taking the lines off the dock. I remember tossing the lines for my first trip south. It was absolutely identical to every other time I'd left the dock, but totally different, because the goal was so different. It wasn't a weekend sail this time. I was setting out on a totally different life to what I had been living to that point. It will be the same for you - and like me, you'll survive and even thrive.
For the moment, let me give you some tips on how to get ready for that momentous moment.
First, if you haven't yet done so, pick up some of the classic books about cruising - Lin Pardey, Tom Neal, Liza Copeland and so on, to help inspire you. Although it doesn't always read that way, these long time cruisers went through the same growing pains that you're about to. They survived, often through worse than you'll ever see, and so will you.
Another good source of inspiration are the many, many cruising blogs out there. I guarantee you, there's someone out there just like you. Often, you can often get a conversation going with them online and ask them about their experience, and ask for their advice on things that are vexing you.
Videos, such as those offered at The Sailing Channel are another great source for information.
Boat show seminars are an excellent source for both information and encouragement. Show managers are well aware that speakers help bring in the crowds, and they put together some amazing talent for you to listen and learn from.
Most boat shows now are also offering day long seminars on various aspects of cruising. These seminars are conducted by the top names in the business, and topics range from dealing with weather, diesel engines, and through to provisioning and heavy weather tactics. Again, I highly recommend you consider attending seminars that will fill in the blanks in your cruising resumé.
Don't know how to bleed your diesel, or change it's oil? There's a seminar for that. Not sure how to read a grib file, or what a backing front means? There's a seminar for that too!
This year, as last year, I'll be conducting a day long seminar on cruising the ICW during the Annapolis Boat Show.
|last year's Annapolis seminar|
Greg Kutsen MD is the owner of Mantus Anchors, and his seminar on anchoring is absolutely one of the top five seminars I've ever seen. I can't recommend it enough, particularly if anchoring isn't your strongest skill. He has some great tips to ensure you get a good night's sleep through any weather!
Captains Jeff and Jean Grossman, two of my favourite sailors, discussed how to cruise comfortably as a couple on a small boat. We ended the day with a roundtable Q&A session where attendees had a chance to pose their own questions to the speakers, and then a social session to let everyone get to meet the speakers.
Be watching for an announcement soon on this year's Annapolis seminar.
For those who want company heading south, there's the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. Leaving from Hampton VA in mid-October after the Annapolis Sailboat Show, we take two months to reach Miami, staying ahead of the cold. Sure, you can do it faster, but it won't be nearly as enjoyable!
On the way. the Rally stops at all of the fun places - Beaufort NC, Beaufort SC, Charleston, St. Augustine, Oriental and so on - to explore, enjoy and just relax with their Rally friends. In fact, we have a Facebook public page for the Rally, you can see what's been going on at Facebook Sail to the Sun ICW Rally
This year, the Rally has had a tough time ending. Even though we formally finished up on December 15 at a Rally dinner at Coconut Grove in Miami, the Rally carried on into the Bahamas with a half dozen boats crossing over together, then meeting up frequently to sail and play some more.
|Rally mini reunion in Cocoa FL this week|
Along with the good times with new cruising friends, the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally helps and advises its members on navigation, provisioning, equipment, and other facets of the trip south, along with pointers on each day's passage. With 29 trips on the ICW, I ensure that Rally members get safely past problem areas such as Little Mud River, or Brown's Inlet, plus get comfortable dockage and safe anchorages along the way.
If you're interested in joining the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, you can find further information at our website, Sail to the Sun, request a brochure or contact me, even sign up from the page.
Lastly, iIof my ICW Tips and Techniques e-book at this link.
One last thing - I'm working on setting up a discount program for boaters, to help you save on purchases for your boat. To that end, I've set up a short, ten question survey to determine what you, as an active boater, needs. You would be assisting me greatly in this project if you could take the survey, it'll take you about two minutes. You'll find it at Sailing and Cruising Survey. Thanks everyone!