1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Cruisers' U a Hit!

I'm back on Gypsy Wind in Hampton after spending a very busy weekend in Annapolis at Cruisers University. I gave three seminars - two on Cuba and one on the ICW. I'm quite pleased to say that the comments that came back from those in attendance were very very good. Everyone enjoyed themselves, including myself, and the students felt that they'd learned something from the experience. I had several people come to me over the course of the weekend and thank me for the seminar they had attended - very gratifying for me of course. 
A heck of a contrast to the seminars I gave at Port Credit during Hurricane Irene, when I was terrified that my boat, on the hard in Virginia, would be destroyed by the raging winds that were howling around her even as I was speaking in Toronto. Those seminars were - shall we say - not my best ones? I felt badly about that, but was way too stressed out about the boat to do as good a job as those attending deserved.
After my last seminar, I got together with some friends at Pusser's for some Painkillers, a rum concoction that should be taken in moderation. I must remember this in the future...anyway, I survived that experience to find myself and several of the group at the Spinsheet Magazine party a bit later in the afternoon, where free rum was on offer....oh oh, here we go again...this is gonna hurt! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Exciting, Busy Day....

Today was a hectic one, made moreso by the fact that I couldn't get to sleep last night and woke up quite early, ready to crush and destroy the alarm clock blaring beside me. Tomorrow morning is beginning to look like it might well be similar...
I had two seminars to give at Cruisers U, an educational forum here in Annapolis for boaters planning on heading out cruising. The roster of speakers includes some of the best known sailors in the world, and I am very humbled by the fact I have been selected to be amongst these sailors whose abilities and accomplishments in this sport far exceed mine.
My talks today were on Cruising the ICW and Cruising Cuba - both popular topics. Because this seminar is US based, I made substantial last minute revisions to the ICW seminar to reflect the interests of those attending and the most recent information from my just finished trip north - and I'm pleased to say that this seminar was particularly successful. The Cuba seminar was well attended - not up to expectations but I was speaking opposite Gary Jobson, so what was I to expect? 
As usual, Americans long to sail to this forbidden (to them) land and experience the Caribbean as it once was - and my goal was to give them a sense of what they were missing, and some ideas on how they might accomplish their goal - legally of course. Fact is, more and more US sailors are traveling to Cuba and then heading on into the Caribbean, thus avoiding US restrictions on going there. On my last visit to Marina Hemingway, I met a number of US boaters doing just that, in boats from 27 feet to a 100 foot plus US registered megayacht.
The crowd at my ICW seminar was particularly friendly and we had a lot of fun and laughter - the best chuckle was when someone noted that a water bottle was shadowing part of a chart projected onscreen where I was highlighting a navigational problem. He suggested, to much laughter, that there was a 'bottleneck' causing the problem in that area, and I responded by moving the bottle and stating that we had saved the US Corps of Engineers the trouble of dealing with this problem.
Always great to speak to a receptive audience and they had lots and lots of questions at the end - another good sign that you've engaged your group.
Tomorrow I've got the Cuba seminar again, then the SAIL Magazine luncheon, then an opportunity to wander the show and touch base with industry friends.
This boat show also features the maritime flea market, at which you can find some great deals. I scored an on demand propane water heater, so hot showers on board will soon be the rule - and since I'm feeling 'impish' today, I'll ask if anyone cares to join me to lather up once it's installed? (ps Doc, that invitation was NOT for you...)
Doc, who traveled up from Florida with me, has been busy posting photos and comments on Facebook about our trip. I came back to the hotel to find dozens of remarks and tags awaiting me - including some clever jabs at me which I had more fun defending myself on. 
Here's a photo of my new water heater.... the best part of a tankless unit when used on a boat in the Great Lakes is that as long as you have propane....you have hot water. How nice is that? Now I've got a generator and/or solar energy to power hair dryers and a hot water shower capability. Gypsy Wind will be just like home...only better!
What more could a wandering sailor ask for? Depends on how impish he's feeling I guess!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

So Much Happening...

Where do I start? Ok, I'm in Annapolis tonight and for the weekend for Cruisers' University, where I'll be speaking on Cruising the ICW and also on cruising Cuba. If past experience is any guide, both seminars will be packed to the doors, which is always exciting for me. Tonight, I'll be tweaking the seminars, before heading out to a nearby pub, Red Hot and Blue, a top notch blues bar I've always wanted to check out here, and since it's close to the hotel, well....just had their takeout for dinner here in my room and if the music is as hot as the food - WOW!
The hotel...well, it has hot showers, if you're really patient...I mean really, really patient - as in 'forty days and forty nights' patient. It's been a while since I've stayed ashore, since the Toronto Boat Show actually, and there was this big square thing covered in linens in the middle of the room. Wasn't sure what it was for a moment, until Aduana jumped up on it and curled up, then realized, hey! it's a bed! Cool. I can't remember the last time I was in one (I can remember other things, but not sleeping - and I'll go no further so as not to embarrass anyone reading here...).
It's not five star by any standards, but fortunately, other than Aduana and I, we seem to be the rooms only occupants.  I suspect that whoever at SAIL Magazine booked these rooms was looking closely at the price, and I'm grateful for that at least... er, Peter, you HAVE stayed here before? This isn't punishment for some transgression of mine? 
Drove down here in a bright red rollerskate - well, a Mazda 3, but I've had rollerskates not much smaller - yes, I have big feet. Lucked out and found a great classic rock station out of Hampton to listen to while driving - 106.9 FM, the Fox - check it out online at http://www.1069thefox.com/, I'm listening to it now in fact. May have to get up and dance even....hey, it's a Friday night, it's ok!
Ok, time to pour a glass of wine, work on tweaking the seminar material, listen to the Fox, and chill...more later, about sailing north from Florida with Doc, including some photos...which reminds me, where is this early warm spring everyone was telling me about? It's damn near freezing here, I'm wearing long pants and my tan is disappearing even as I watch...what's that all about, eh?

Meanwhile, for your viewing pleasure, some video of sailing in Biscayne Bay - where it's sunny and warm....need I say more? Ahhhh......

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heading north....

Hi all - now in Hampton VA after a challenging, and interesting, trip north to the Chesapeake. I'll be driving to Annapolis for the boat show tomorrow, where I'm speaking on Saturday and Sunday, on both the ICW and on Cuba. Ought to be an interesting weekend.
Stay tuned for details of the trip north from Beaufort - storms, crazy winds, torn sails - FIRE! - and more.....once I've rested up enough to write the story.
Some interesting comments on my last blog post - about why - everyone has an answer to that of course. My goal was to make people think about how they're living their lives....seems I touched a few hearts here by the comments I've received.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why Why Why....

.... do we do this? I'm sure the question occurs to everyone out on the water, from the Newfoundland freighter captain in a north Atlantic blow, far from his family and loved ones, to cruisers like myself, who find themselves thinking how nice it would be to be out dancing on a Friday evening with a special lady - rather than fighting 20 knot winds and a foul tide in the moonless dark (that was last night!) to make it to a chosen anchorage, only to spend the night worrying if the anchor will hold, and will that boat over there come loose and run into us at o'dark thirty in the night?
For that Newfoundland freighter captain, it's a time honoured way of life, one well understood and accepted by those who live it and (hopefully) by their families who are left behind. For those who do this for recreation, or as a lifestyle, the answers are not nearly so simple.
The question struck me most forcefully however, the day I found myself on a beautiful beach in the Bahamas, waves lapping at my feet, while small fish nibbled at my toes, the boat I was delivering floating fifty yards away in the turquoise waters. It occurred to me how fabulous it would be to share beautiful moments such as these with a special someone...
Of course, most people my age continue to work, to accumulate wealth towards their retirement. I think of my friend Jim and his wife Julie, who bought a beautiful cruising boat, a Cabo Rico 38, with plans to work and save, then head off for the islands. Time went by as Jim worked on, their boat sitting in its slip in Tampa Bay, ready to go whenever Jim and Julie decided it was time.
Then...cancer struck. Instead of endless days in the sun exploring the islands they came to, or strolling on sandy beaches in paradise, Jim found himself lying in a hospital bed, doing chemo, and dealing with estate issues, in case the worst came to pass. Eventually, against his doctor's advice, Jim and Julie chose to take the boat to the Bahamas and on into the islands. Jim would fly back for treatment, chemo and radiation, as required.
This went on for about three years, until finally, Jim's strength waning, they sailed the boat back to Florida where they lived. A few month's later, Jim was gone, leaving Julie a widow at 48. Eventually, the boat was sold, and Julie went on with her life.
But they'd lived their dream, together, even if it wasn't for as long as they had hoped. They had at least had that.
Only a few of us know of Jim's thoughts however, when it became clear that his days in the sun were not going to be the endless series of beautiful sunsets he and Julie had envisioned for themselves.
"I didn't have to work as long as I did. We certainly didn't need as much money as we made. We should have, could have, left sooner, long before the diagnosis in fact. We could have enjoyed life more." Jim's sole regret, other than leaving his wife alone, was that they hadn't lived their lives more for each other, rather than for others who clearly didn't matter as much.
His former employer, for whom he'd worked for over twenty years at a senior level, didn't even send a wreath.

Friday, April 20, 2012

North Carolina

It's just not fair - the weather guys say south winds, we get north winds....so far, in over 50 hours of sailing, we've sailed MAYBE 10 hours. The rest of it has been listening to the diesel chug chug chug....sigh....
Anyway, we're now on the ICW where we'll remain until we get to Chesapeake Bay - there's no advantage in going offshore at this point, and the winds don't work in our favour anyway - gee, quelle surprise!
A friend of Doc's, in Jacksonville, took the picture below - ok, so I look a bit scruffy, it had been a long day.
Aduana has done amazingly well on this trip - despite being aboard for between 24 - and 30 hours, she's hung in there - although she doesn't take very long to find a suitable piece of grass when we get ashore, as you can imagine.
Caught a lovely Spanish Mackeral the other day, but it shook off the hook just as we were about to bring it aboard. Then, later, something HUGE grabbed the hook and tore it away....so much for fishing. 
Doc noted that at 9:43 pm Wednesday evening, Gypsy Wind had clocked 6000 nautical miles, that since leaving Collingwood a year ago September. That's nearly 7000 statute miles. So we had a glass of wine to celebrate - any ol' excuse will do! 
We're off again...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Heading out...

I woke up briefly about half past four this morning (yes, I really did!) and realized that I didn't hear any wind - at all. And at 7:30, that hadn't changed. So here we are, about to head out for a 140 mile sail on the Atlantic, and there's NO wind. Yesterday, the wind was howling out of the south while we partied around the pool. Go figure!
I'm hoping the wind will pick up once we get out there and the predicted 10 knots out of the south will materialize. The long blue line on the chart is our route out of St. Simons - at one point, we'll be about 17 miles or so offshore. The line starting midway is an alternate route out of Hilton Head, should we decide to break our trip to Charleston up.
But the sun is shining, so away we go!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sailing Requires Flexibility...

The plan, as all faithful readers know, was to go offshore from Fernandina Beach to St. Simons - of course, that requires some cooperation from the wind gods, who were not in the mood yesterday. Thus, we listened to the chugging of the diesel for all but the last five miles yesterday, when our course put the northeasterly winds on the beam. 
Naturally, we sailed right up to the docks (for the style points!), then tied up behind Joe and Pat's Hinckley Bermuda 40. This is a sweet boat to sail, and Joe and Pat practically stole it, at well under half of what they usually sell for - I keep figuring on getting an email one day from Joe asking for bail money! Pat is doing the varnish on it, it looks great now and she's still got four coats to go. Now that is a labour of love...
This afternoon there's a pool party with a band called 'Soul Gravy' - ought to be interesting. Tomorrow morning, we're out of here and offshore to Charleston, about a 24 hour sail. The winds are 10 - 15 out of the southeast, perfect for this run, I'm really looking forward to it.
Doc is quite at home here - in fact, it was a friend of his who brought me here in the first place, and with this visit, Doc and James, who have the same make of boat and knew one another from a group site,  have finally met. 
Now, time to head for the grocery store and stock up.....cheers everyone, talk to you next from Charleston. Keep those cards and letters and comments pouring in!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Special Request...

Well, tomorrow evening Doc and I (and Aduana, the Super Puppy®) will be hanging at St. Simon's Island and I have a special request....Doc, and Tim (the Timinator®) are two of the most piratical of boaters and we shall be drinking quantities of rum, etc. along with James, Pat and Joe and the rest of the crew there....
As a result of all this fun and mayhem, bail may well be required, even though the Timinator® is a duly sworn police officer - in fact, given those circumstances, bail will probably be higher...please save up your pennies for us, just in case! I know that those of you who know Doc will understand completely...ARGGGGHHHHH! 
Seriously, we'll be heading offshore tomorrow morning early, to enjoy the 10 - 15 knot easterlies...it'll be a great sail. There's the route, above, in blue. It's about 30 miles, a short day.
Here's the inlet at Fernandina

Here's the inlet at St. Simons


Everyone's favourite pirate is aboard....

My favourite pirate, Doc Hogan from Urbanna VA, came aboard in Jacksonville Beach to help me bring the boat up quickly to the Chesapeake.  Doc helped me paint Gypsy Wind last summer - and today, he's complaining about red paint on a shirt he bought. Sloppy work, what can I say?
We're now in Fernandina Beach today, need to do some serious rum shopping for the trip, then heading to Brunswick GA tomorrow.
Along with rum, Doc has brought favourable winds - out of the south and southeast for the next week! Perfect for heading north. Seas from 2 - 4 feet, so it's going to be a great ride. 
After Brunswick, we'll go offshore again to Charleston, then Southport, then inside to Wrightsville Beach, then offshore to Beaufort, then back inside to Norfolk rather than around Cape Hatteras, then into Chesapeake Bay and north to Annapolis.
I'll update here as often as I get internet access.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Onward, ARGGGGG!

Heading north, now in St. Augustine, leaving for Jacksonville Beach to pick up Doc, my favourite pirate, who is helping with the trip north. We'll be stopping again at St. Simon's Island to visit with the crew there, including the Timinator® - there may be serious alcohol intake, particularly as we'll be tied up behind Joe and Pat's Hinckley Bermuda 40.

Why do I do this?

Sometimes I wonder! I spent half an hour jigging around the north Atlantic at the entrance to St. Augustine, waiting for the Boat US guy who was bringing a tow in, as there are no lights in the inlet, my spotlight wouldn't charge up so I could find the markers, and it simply wasn't safe to enter after dark under those conditions without assistance. Two boats have been wrecked there in the past year, one a 52 foot sportfisherman worth several millions - I didn't plan on being the third wreck. I was joined by a Lagoon 42 catamaran, also waiting on assistance to get in the inlet. 
The Boat US guy showed up and we simply followed him in. No big deal. A nice ending to a good sailing day.
But despite nights like tonight with their frustrations, there's also the days you get to spend with folks like Al and Joyce, friends of mine in Melbourne. They 'get' the sailing thing, lol....a beer in the hand, a drive to the grocery store, a shower and the chance to do laundry! If they're hoping to build points towards similar 'karma' when they go cruising again, they've got it ACED!
I suspect that I put on ten pounds in the three days I spent there just prior to Easter...it's Joyce's margueritas, and Al's superb eggs benedict, honest! Do I know how to have great friends, or what?
Al, Joyce, I know you're reading this - hope Easter with your son was great, and thanks again for a fabulous time - even if Aduana and I have to walk for miles to lose the weight we've both put on, lol! And I know she's missing playing in your backyard.
Tomorrow, Jacksonville, and meeting up with Doc, from Urbanna VA, who is helping me to get the boat north to Annapolis.
My liver may never be the same!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Four day report...

I'm finally out of Miami Beach and Biscayne Bay, heading north, destination Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. This may take a while!
The first day, I went up the ICW as I didn't want the extra three mile run back to the restaurant I planned on docking at just north of Lauderdale. Being Sunday, the boat traffic was incredible. At one popular sandbar by Bakers Haulover just north of Miam, there must have been three hundred or more boats anchored or beached, some as big as 40 or more feet. Music of every sort, and a strong whiff of suntan lotion as I sailed by. Yes, I actually had the 'emergency white things' up the mast. It happens sometimes.
From Lauderdale the next day, I headed offshore for Palm Beach. The Gulf Stream comes in close here, so I hitched a ride most of the way, cruising at over 6 knots. 
Some days on the water are simply better than fabulous and this was one of them. There we are, the pup and I, on the turquoise blue Atlantic, warm sun, great wind from behind, dolphins playing about the boat, and wham! - a skipjack tuna, about three pounds, gobbles down the lure I'm dragging behind the boat. We have dinner! Sailed in to Palm Beach and anchored off Peanut Island, poured a glass of wine and sat on the foredeck, just chillin' before going ashore to let Aduana run on the beach.
The next day sucked! Yep, it did. The Gulf Stream is about 11 miles offshore at Palm Beach and 17 at Fort Pierce, my next destination. I was sailing in close, about a mile or so offshore. What I didn't realize is that a back eddy peels off north of Palm Beach and as a result of that current and the light north wind, I struggled to make 4 knots to the endless drone of the diesel. Long, long day, came in well after dark, tired and frustrated.
The highlight of the day was getting a big hit on my fishing line - no idea what it was, but it was big enough to create a big splash when it hit the lure, breaking the line and getting away.  So much for fresh fish for dinner.... might have been a mahi mahi, but more likely a big mackeral. Both great eating...
My next stop being Melbourne to visit Al and Joyce, I headed up the Indian River on day four with a lovely west wind pushing me on my way. Even though at times I was only making two knots, it was worth it just to sail in peace and quiet. I was passed by several sailboats - all of them with sail up....and diesels running to make time. Hardly sporting, and the stench of burning fossil fuel was terrible, if I'm not being too sanctimonious to say so! I simply had to turn up the stereo and pour an ice cold beer to deal with it, while trimming my lovely, quiet sails...and we sailed on into the night, with the full moon trailing a shimmer of coppery light on the water. 
Today, the winds are out of the north and strong, so I'm taking up Al and Joyce's invitation to do laundry and catch up on some chores. Next stop, St. Augustine.