1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Back to 'Real' Cruising...

Eleuthera - the next destination...
 The Rally is over. That's right, the SAIL Magazine ICW Snowbird Rally, which I had the honour of leading, is now over, a piece of history, a fait accompli. It was a wonderful trip, and I have many new and great friends as a result of it, people with whom I had the pleasure of sharing something magical and long awaited in their lives.
Now it's back to the everyday life of cruising....and I can honestly say that as much as I enjoyed the Rally, I'm equally glad to be done with its responsibilities. Now all I have to worry about is hauling the boat for a new bottom job, some fibreglass work, install a new furler, and...well, those are at the top of the list. If you own a boat, you know what I'm saying. The list never ends. And for those wanting more detail on the ICW Snowbird Rally, you can read my blog posts there at Snowbird Rally.
Talking about lists, I hope that Santa filled your stockings with every little thing your heart desired, and that you spent your Christmas with family and loved ones. In my case, Christmas was a potluck with Rally friends on their boat in Coconut Grove along with several others. It was a great time and a great way to spend Christmas.
This next week will be spent wrapping up the Rally - writing the story of the event for SAIL readers, doing a writeup for the brass with recommendations for next year, and planning for my next adventure.
That will be my long awaited exploration of Governor's Harbour, in Eleuthera, in the Bahamas. I stopped there but didn't go ashore some years ago during a delivery, and promised myself a return visit. That is now on the radar.
Cuba's south coast...
Following that, I'll be heading on to the Exumas, and then...on to explore the south coast of Cuba. The south coast, so I am told, is far more attractive and interesting than the north coast. The harbourmaster in Hemingway assured me that lobster walk on the bottom by the hundreds in thLa Jardine de la Reina, just waiting to become your dinner....mmmmm. Then there's the fascinating cities of Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad and Guantanamo, which I'll pass by...
This visit will be especially interesting due to the recent announcement by President Obama that the US will seek to normalize relations with Cuba. That doesn't mean that American cruisers will be able to sail to Cuba anytime soon, but it's one big step closer to that time.
What I'm really interested in hearing is the opinions of Cubans - if they've even been informed of these changes by their government in fact, since the press is very tightly controlled in Cuba. The only people who regularly get outside news - news not controlled by Cuban censors - are those working in tourist facilities where outside TV channels are broadcast. These same channels cannot be had by the ordinary Cuban, and only recently has the Cuban government made internet even remotely accessible to Cubans. Many sites are blocked, if they're even viewable, given the very slow speeds that Cuban internet operates at.
It promises to be a very interesting journey, and I look forward to sharing it with you here....in the meantime, here's to a happy, and healthy, New Years.

p.s. if you simply cannot get enough of sailing oriented reading, try my Facebook group, Sailing and Cruising. It's a closed group, with zero tolerance for trolls, spammers and the usual nastiness of so many Facebook groups. Group members are especially happy to help newbies with their questions, and no question is too trivial. Just remember,  since it's a closed group you have to request membership - the special knock at the door is rat a tat tat tat, and the secret password is 'green pickles'. See you there.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Florida - earlier than ever!

One thing about this SAIL Magazine ICW Snowbird Rally, it's keeping me moving. I typically hang out more than I have been while travelling south, and usually am not far beyond the Florida border by New Year's Eve. But at this moment, I am on schedule to reach Miami by this Friday, December 19.
That, for me, is amazing progress.
It's also been nice, as this fall has been a cold one. We've had some really chilly days - but today at Peck Lake, just past the St. Lucie inlet, we anchored up and went to the Atlantic shore, which was perhaps 100 yards away over the dunes - and in shorts no less!
Aduana got to chase shorebirds, roll in the sand, dig her way halfway to China, and generally stretch her legs after so much time on the boat. I sat and sipped a beer while looking at the waves roll in, and laughed at Aduana. She's now conked out beside me, one tired little pup!
Now that we're past Stuart, we're starting to see the stereotypical Florida powerboater - we were waked seriously twice today, and it will only get worse as we get south, and powerboater IQs diminish accordingly.
However, there IS sometimes justice. Earlier this week, a boat called Stardust was running the ICW, waking everyone very heavily, including our boat. Worse, according to the women, the guy running the boat was grossly overweight and naked - well, naked except for a captain's cap. Fortunately, I missed seeing that as I was below, cursing the idiot while hanging on as he went by.
So he gets to New Smyrna Beach just after high tide, and gets pulled over by the Coast Guard for excessive speed in a no wake zone. He gets a ticket, and along with it, since the Coast Guard likes to discourage these twits, a very close inspection of safety gear, etc., along with the appropriate comments about how many complaints the guy's boating caused.
Here's where it gets good: after the Coast Guard is done with him, the guy drifts onto a shoal, and the Coast Guard wouldn't tow him off. He had to call for towing, and since the tide was going out (3.5 feet!), he was stuck there for at least 12 hours. Karma does bite, doesn't it?
Now, here's where it gets magical - the following day, Stardust passes all the same boats he passed the day previously, but this time very politely, at slow speed, no wake, and, with a shirt and pants on - oh yes, the Captain's cap also.
Sometimes, you just have to smile!
Anchoring at Titusville...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Time Flies!

Hello LiveBloggers - I hadn't realized just how busy I've been until I looked and saw the date of my last post. That's simply awful, and I apologize to all of you who have been following this blog regularly and faithfully.
As you all know, I'm leading a group of new ICW cruisers south this fall. We left Hampton on November 1, and are now in Beaufort SC, destination Miami, on December 19. If you'd like to catch up on our adventures, you can check the blogging I've done on this event at SAIL Magazine's ICW Snowbird Rally page. Don't forget also that you can follow this trip on the Delorme Inreach unit I'm carrying, at Where's Wally?
Tonight, we had the most marvellous turkey dinner here at Ladies' Island Marina with a group of fellow cruisers, one from as far away as Ireland, on an aluminum sailboat named Selkie. Tomorrow, the group is off to Thunderbolt, some to explore Savannah, while others in our group are going to run offshore to Fernandina Beach - there's a huge weather window just begging to be exploited.
I've been doing some work on Gypsy Wind while we've been underway. I know have a proper binnacle guard - so nice to have a proper mount for the Garmin GPS and the VHF right at the helm. My friend Gord, who is accompanying me, has also fixed the companionway stairs, the guides had started to give out. Those two small jobs just make the boat feel so much better.
That being said, there's still lots of stuff to do on the 'list'. I'm sure we all have a list, right? Hopefully, yours doesn't grow longer, as mine does.
By the way, although we've had a couple of cold days, it isn't as cold as the photo suggests - I'm just trying to make all my northern friends feel better about the fact I'm once again heading south to the sun!
An early morning to make the bridge tomorrow before the 7 am restriction, so that's it for now. Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving, with family and friends.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Heading Down the Bay, Part III, Reedville to Hampton

Daren, my friend and crew for this trip, is having fun with hats....I think I brewed this morning's coffee a bit too strong.
Yesterday's Reedville vs Deltaville decision was made for us by the weather. As we found ourselves nearing Reedville, the winds moved into the south, and the waves built a bit, just enough to slow our progress to the point where a daylight arrival wasn't going to happen if we continued to D'ville.
So Reedville it was, which meant a bowl of the best crab bisque on the Chesapeake Bay in this little dockside restaurant beside Jennings Boatyard.
Now this isn't a tourist place, it's a local pub and that's obvious when you walk in. In Annapolis, for close to $10, you get a watery bowl of soup that a blue crab might have looked at. Maybe. If you're lucky.
Here, for $7, you get at least three times the usual amount of crab in a bowl - the owner told me the how she made it several years ago, I don't recall the exact amount...but every spoonful of bisque is full of meat. Lots of meat.
To give you an idea, if you walk out back of the place, they have close to a dozen water trays where they keep crabs, in season, for peelers and for making fresh soup. Let's face it, short of the crab jumping into the bowl while you watch, it don't get fresher!  I had to stop myself from licking the bowl.
Here's this morning's view in the anchorage. Couldn't ask for better. Out on the bay though, it's a bit lumpier and we're moving along at 5-6 knots. Winds are W 15, and we have some current with us now. I expect we'll arrive in Hampton around 5:30, just in time for happy hour.
The winds are expected to back to NW later in the day, which will make for an even better sail, since it will also put the waves behind us. Right now, we've got 1 -2 feet on the beam, making it bouncy. Not bad, just not as good as it could be.
I shouldn't be complaining, should I? Too many of you reading this are sitting at home, rather than sailing, or putting your boats away for the season. A shame you aren't out here with us, heading south. Hurry up and join us!
Talking about heading south, here's some of the Canadian Navy at about 7 am this morning.... anchored off the town of Reedville.
Once in Hampton, I'll be getting ready for the SAIL ICW Snowbird Rally, 19 boats leaving on November 1, destination Miami around December 15 - 20. This will be a fabulous and fun trip south, with lots of cool events planned.
You can follow our progress, and even see where I am right now, at WheresWally.
One last view of Reedville, and the most important member of the crew: Aduana, the WonderPuppy...see you in Hampton!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Heading Down the Bay, Part II

The Canadian Navy behind us this morning -
a dozen boats, most from the Great White North
Solomons Island, Chesapeake Bay. It's a lovely spot to stop over on your way south to the ICW. Large, protected anchorage, excellent marinas, and some good restaurants. There's also two chandleries, so if you need parts or gear, it's not a bad place to be.
Unfortunately, no one carries in stock the replacement gaskets and rubbers for the Whale Gusher Galley MkIII water pump....and how in blazes did they ever come up with a name like that for a foot pump?
Beautiful Sunsets to accompany the wine
So last evening during a gorgeous sunset, Philips screwdriver in one hand and glass of wine in the other,
I disassembled the thing, pulled out the offending rubber and gooped it up with silicone, in the hopes I could restore water to the galley sink, without two thirds of it coming out onto the floor instead of in the sink.
Mr. Fixit at work...
After letting it cure overnight, I reinstalled it, and wallah!, it worked perfectly. Now I have time to source a new gasket and do this all over again in a week's time - although I admit, I'm tempted to see just how long this repair lasts.
This is a normal cruising day...there's generally always something that needs fixing, or maintaining. I also tightened up the fan belt this morning, and adjusted the engine idle screw. It's this daily maintenance that keeps you moving, that and just paying attention to your boat to see what's going on so you can keep on top of it. Boats can be sneaky about these things, as you likely know!

Today's destination is Reedville, VA, or if we do really well, Deltaville. I'd love to make Deltaville and shorten tomorrow's run to Hampton by fifteen miles, but with fall's short days, it's unlikely - although I've entered Deltaville in the dark many times before, it's always been to tie up, not to anchor out, and the anchorage in D'ville is very small.
Today's conditions are pretty benign - sunny, a high in the 60s, light winds WSW at about 5 - 10 knots, light chop. We've got the main up, and are running about 5 knots, with the tide against us - it turned at 8 am, so short of getting up really early, we were out of luck there.
To give you an idea of the difference the tide can make, even in Chesapeake Bay, yesterday we were running about 4.9 - until we got the tide behind us, then we were looking at 5.5 - 5.7. That's a significant push.
Tomorrow's weather is looking a bit dicey - we may have to hole up wherever we end up. However, since no two forecasts have been the same for the past week, we'll just have to wait until tomorrow morning and see what we get.
In the meantime, for those still unsure about boat maintenance, I include the following flowchart - use it in good health!

Photos courtesy of good friend and sailing partner Daren Magness....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Heading Down The Bay

The Annapolis Boat Show is over and it's time to head for Hampton and the ICW. I'm on the Chesapeake right now in fact, with my good friend Darren, who is helping me to get the boat to Hampton. And this is being posted to you courtesy of his mifi - how cool is that? I have to admit, I'm feeling rather pampered - someone else running the boat while I surf the net. Now if only the winds would shift to the west so we could sail!
Here's the plan....this weekend, the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous is going on. This will be a great event, with some excellent speakers, and I'll be sitting in on a round table discussion on Florida Anchoring on Sunday morning. You can find details at Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous.
On November 1, the SAIL Magazine ICW Snowbird Rally begins, with 19 new cruisers heading south to Miami. You can see details of our trip at Itinerary, and follow the blog at Rally Blog Page
It's going to be a very exciting trip, and I will be blogging/facebooking and putting up video and photos of the trip as we move south - so you can follow right along - even email or text with questions if you wish.
Currently, there are close to a dozen boats moving south with us, in SSE winds of about five knots and a north setting current of .4 knots. Gypsy Wind is making about 4.5 knots, which is good in these conditions.
We have the main up, and it's helping, and I'm holding closer to the west shore so that as the wind backs to the west later in the day, we can take advantage of it. You can see our position by checking the Delorme Tracker we have onboard. As if a red boat with a Canadian flag and Cuban puppy isn't unique enough!
That's it for now - time for me to go up and take my shift.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dining on the Mighty Blue Crab...

I did this video a while back while in Urbanna VA - thought I'd share it with you. If you've never had blue crab, you can't imagine what you're missing!
(note to Simon, who recently sent in a question about boat insurance - I tried to email you, but the contact email you left didn't work. Can you recontact, and thanks!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Important New Articles, Video on Florida Anchoring

I hope this sort of post isn't becoming tedious to you folks, because I'm quite tired of sounding off about this whole issue. I'd rather be out sailing.
However, if we don't act now, it may very soon be too late. I was told, while in Toronto for the Port Credit Boat Show last weekend, that cottagers on Georgian Bay and other Canadian waters, are watching what is happening in Florida. If these restrictive laws pass there, you can expect to see them where you boat, whether that's Canada, the US east coast, or on the Great Lakes. We NEED you to weigh in on this issue, if only to protect your own boating rights from this sort of interference.
Here is an excellent article from Practical Sailor by Jim Flannery - he has nailed the situation precisely.
Here is a video I've produced regarding the Vero Beach meeting and the state of the law regarding anchoring in FL. If you agree with this, please share it.

Lastly, make your views known to the FWC and the state of Florida by emailing Major Richard Moore directly, at Moore's email.  Make sure he knows that if these sorts of restrictive anchoring laws are passed, you will choose to spend your money elsewhere than Florida.
Please copy your letters to this blog, we will reproduce all of them. You can email them to me at Mailboat. Thanks!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rumbling with the FWC in Vero Beach...

It's been an extremely busy couple of weeks - in particular, the anchoring issue in Florida is heating up. Cruisers are not happy with the proposals being considered - NO overnight anchoring in Florida within 300 feet of a residence being the major one.
The meetings in Florida were quite well attended for what is essentially the off season for cruisers: at least 80 in Vero Beach, and 120 in Bradenton, the majority being cruisers. There were over 30 individual presentations in Vero Beach, and a number of superb points were made.
At this point, several very concerned cruisers and boaters are discussing options and how we can fight back against those who would deny us our rights in Florida. Rather than continue on here, let me direct you to my SAIL Magazine article on the Vero Beach meeting, which includes video of the meeting.
If you'd like to follow up on this, please comment here and/or on SAIL's page. If you'd like to get involved in this fight for our rights, let me know please. And please, SHARE the link below with fellow boaters, even those nowhere near Florida, because if we don't stop this here, it will become the standard for rules in other states.
Trust me on this - if we fail to act here and now, we will surely lose our rights to anchor out in Florida, perhaps before the end of this year.  That's right - BEFORE the end of 2014.
Here's the link: http://www.sailmagazine.com/cruising-news/reporting-live-anchoring-meetings-florida

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fighting the Florida Anchoring Fight...

Today's post is going to be short and sweet, but no less important because of that.
News of the impending stupidity in Florida is racing through the cruising community and boaters everywhere are, I'm glad to say, rallying to the fight.
Two organizations are in the forefront of this battle and we need to support them: Seven Seas Cruising Association, and Boat US. I'd like to promote the SSCA at this point in time.
SSCA (http://ssca.org) represents cruisers worldwide and has been fighting on your behalf for years. Membership is $55, and they offer you a considerable variety of services, including mail drops and local harbour hosts. If you're cruising now, or planning on it, join up. I did, and we all know how cheap I am. You can also follow the SSCA on Facebook, and join in discussions.
Right now, in particular, the SSCA wants your opinion on the Florida anchoring issues - here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLA-ANCHOR
Please go the link and provide your opinion. If you are currently a SSCA member, go to the SSCA site online and fill out the survey from there. It's important, so please - do it now.
I will now be speaking at the Vero Beach FWC meeting on September 3, and will report back here to you on it. Thank you to all who donated funds to make this possible, especially for your confidence in me. It means a lot!
Please share to other boaters, we need everyone we can get in this fight.
More later. Fair winds to all.

Other posts of interest: http://bloggingtheicw.blogspot.com/2014/08/florida-attempting-to-eliminate.html

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Florida attempting to ELIMINATE anchoring in the state

This is a call to arms to ALL boaters. Florida is about to attempt to totally eliminate anchoring in the state. That is not a joke. According to Mike Ahart, of Waterway Guide:
"this effort was spearheaded by municipalities responding to their waterfront homeowners who want laws to prevent any boaters from anchoring for even one night on state navigable waters adjacent to their properties. These are not the rare cases where the homeowners own the rights to the bottomland – these are navigable waters that belong to all the people of Florida." Click here for the entire article
'So what' you say? You don't live or boat in Florida? These restrictions, if passed, will be viewed by other states as a means to regulate anchoring there. This DOES affect you. And even if it doesn't, I and your fellow boaters are asking for your help in turning this foul tide.
What can you do? First of all - join Seven Seas Cruising Association who are representing cruising boaters at this meeting. You can also join their Facebook page and show your support there, although to be frank, the organization can use your $52 annual dues to fight this effort. Just give up one cup of coffee daily for the next two months and you've paid for your part in this fight.
The FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) has indicated that it is NOT taking written submissions for this meeting. Of course they aren't, they'd be deluged with responses from angry boaters. You can email Captain Tom Shipp of the FWC on this issue directly, at thomas.shipp@myfwc.com
Finally - I'm planning on attending this meeting and speaking out for all cruisers. However, that is an expensive undertaking, involving an overnight stay in Vero Beach, transportation to and from Vero Beach, meals and a car rental. It's not an expense I can afford to take on for myself. I'm going to need the help of my fellow cruisers for this one.
Here are the costs:

Flight - $300

Hotel - $125
Car rental - $75
Meals - $75
Incidentals - $150 (shuttle to/from airport, etc.)
TOTAL - $700

I will be making arrangements with a fellow cruiser who is also a lawyer for these funds to be received in trust for ONLY the purpose of getting me to this meeting to speak. I will post another blog shortly, plus update this one, with details of how to send money. Or, if you are comfortable with doing so, you can Paypal funds to me - contact me using this email address and I'll give you the Paypal information.
Here are the points that I will be making at this meeting, in brief:

1) No standoffs of any sort - the FWC is seeking a 300 foot standoff from private residences - this would eliminate ANY anchoring in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
2) Continuation of the Pilot Program with no municipality being permitted to create anchoring legislation.
3) Enforcement of laws ALREADY ON THE BOOKS to deal with issues of derelict boaters, pumping waste overboard and other identified issues.

I ask you now for your support and I promise (God help me, I sound like a politician here!) to represent all cruisers on these issues.
I would be happy if 35 people each gave $20, or 70 gave $10, or 7000 of you each gave $1 and I could claim to represent that many people directly, but quite frankly, this issue is too important for me to be picky - I'll accept whatever you feel able to give to protect your rights in this issue.
Thank you for any help or assistance you can provide. Also, please be sure to share this blog with everyone you can. If we don't act now, it WILL be too late.


Wally Moran

Sunday, July 27, 2014

North by northeast - NOT!

USCG, guns at hand, while sub
passes by see video below for closeups

The plan...obviously this post is going to be a comedy since there's no such thing as a plan when it comes to sailing...was to sail north offshore in the lovely southerly breezes that are the norm this time of year on the east coast. Really experience this sailing thing for a change, you know what I mean! No motoring...
So - leaving Melbourne, there's Arthur - not going outside till that bad boy is out of town (over a quarter million without power in Nova Scotia/New Brunswick provinces). Then, no winds at all, might as well make use of favourable tide on the ICW and make time. Except that the favourable tides are about 8 hours out of synch....so it's struggle against the tides from St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach, where I plan to jump offshore in those lovely southerly breezes...
Except - you knew this was coming, didn't you - the breezes shift to NE the day after I arrive in Fernandina....and guess what direction I needed to head in? Yep, NE.
So, back onto the ICW....I leave Fernandina Beach, heading up towards Kings Bay - good tide, nicely timed, making great speed - and the USCG boat comes over to me....seems there's a submarine heading out, I'm being ordered to anchor....by a guy with a 50 cal machine gun on the bow. That gets MY attention...
Of course, by the time the sub is past my position, the tide has reversed - the sub leaves Kings Bay at high slack tide of course...so I spend the next few hours plugging into the current at 3.7 knots, my early departure plans a shambles.
And so it's gone....I finally get to Isle of Hope, where the winds shift back to the south, but since my destination is Beaufort SC, there's no point in heading outside, the mileage would actually be greater. Turns out that was a good decision - the southerly winds never did materialize.
Oh, and did I mention the horrendous thunderstorms and rain I experienced? Well, let me tell you...
If this sounds like I'm complaining....I am...but it's still fun, just not the kind of fun I was anticipating, i.e. a nice sailing romp up the east coast to South Carolina.
For those planning on doing the ICW, I can tell you that Jekyll Creek is passable at low tide with five feet of draft...but God help any barnacles on the bottom of your keel, they're going to have it rough! I got through at a lower than normal tide, about -.7 - but only after grounding several times, backing off and then moving ten or fifteen feet to deeper water....and of course my trusty depthsounder was not doing its job because the bottom was so soft. Nothing like three dashes instead of 5.1 (I draw 5) to ramp up the pucker factor in shallow water.
Oh, and Little Mud River - it's good to about 6 feet...that one I got through with no problems. Also, the shallow section to the north of Fernandina Beach without markers - if you stay to the east side of the wide section, you'll see no less than 11 feet.
Hell's Gate looks like it's shoaled to about 6 feet at low tide - I went through at just after high tide, so I wasn't watching as closely as I might normally have done. From there, I finally got some wind behind me and sailed, beating up the one river against the current for several miles. Sure, it took lots longer than straight motoring, but it was fun, and I had lots of time to get to Isle of Hope.
From Isle of Hope to Skull Creek, at Hilton Head, one of my favourite anchorages - and also one of John Teach's, otherwise known as Blackbeard. The plan was to sail off with the ebb tide to the turn at Port Royal and ride the tide, wind and all, into Beaufort. Winds were predicted to be 10 - 15....someone misplaced the decimal point, that was 1.0 - 1.5.
Stopped to repack the stuffing box at Ladies Island Marina in Beaufort SC, and visit with some friends while here, as well as check out Waterfest, a big festival held on the waterfront.
Tomorrow, it's off to Charleston, SC.
In the meantime, enjoy this video showing a sub passing down from King's Bay to the ocean. This is raw video, there was no time to edit. Amazing machines...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Homeward bound on the ICW

Shrimpers in Fernandina Beach
I'm not out of Florida yet, but I can see Georgia from here in Fernandina Beach, so we're making progress! Besides, it's a sailboat, so slow is good!
Ran into some LiveBloggers here - Tammy and Bruce Swart, Charlie Freeman, John from Renaissance, a Westsail 32, Wolfgang, and Gary and his wife from Country Dancer, whom I last saw in the Middle River....busy spot.
Naturally, the weather has decided to go offside on me. No late afternoon storms for the past week, but they started today, now that I'm ready to run offshore. Go figure. 
I may start in the early mornings and do short hops up the coast - Fernandina Beach to St. Simons, St. Simons to St. Catherines, then Tybee Roads into Hilton Head, Hilton Head to Charleston, to Winyah Bay, then Little River Inlet, Southport, then back on to the ICW, getting in early and avoiding the fun offshore when the winds and waves kick up. Along with the miles saved by this route, I avoid the twists and turns of the GA and SC ICW, the more notorious shallow areas, and I get to anchor out every night, which Aduana will appreciate. It's actually a good route for a singlehander to make good time up the coast without exhausting him/herself. Mileages are manageable, yet you avoid the long days that the ICW entails.
The ICW Rally continues to grow, it's actually quite exciting, and the itinerary is getting more and more exciting. If you've been considering joining in, I suggest you do so soon, before enrolment is closed off. You can get details at the Facebook page.
I received a couple of interesting questions recently on the ICW - here's one, from Ruth, about dealing with your mast on the route south from the Great Lakes:

Is there a good company to step your mast along the way to do that who will also store the lumber?
Thanks again,

Hi Ruth - wonderful question - if you choose to step your mast yourselves at Castleton Boat Club, you can store your lumber there, and then pick it up again on your way north. Just mark it with your name and anticipated return date....you'll see that when you arrive there. I discuss this in a small way on my video about traveling the ICW, btw.

And another question, this one about coming south from New York - 

Hi Wally,

Do you have anything written down, or a chart marked, to indicate the route from New York Harbor to Norfolk?  I've purchased all of the charts, books, and videos I can lay my hands on about Norfolk to Miami, as well as the route from the Erie Canal to the New York Harbor, but haven't found anything that takes me from New York to Norfolk.  Even your Snowbirds Rally starts in Norfolk.  As first timers, we're unsure of where to even find this information.  You're it!  :-)
Is it an off shore passage around New Jersey?  Or, is there a route to get to the Delaware River from New York? And how long to get from Toronto to Norfolk?
I really appreciate your help.

Hi Ruth - the route south from New York is offshore, as the Jersey ICW is too shallow for cruising boats and has low bridges. Depending on your mast height (55') you can go through Cape May - over that height, you'll go round Cape May. From there, it's up the Delaware River to the C&D Canal, then into the Chesapeake. 
You can do the Jersey coast in four short hops - Manasquan, Barnegat, Atlantic City and then Cape May, or overnight it in one jump to Cape May. Leaving Cape May, leave about a half hour to an hour behind the low tide on the Delaware Bay side of Cape May and ride the tide up to the C&D - otherwise, it's a long SLOW slog up the river. If you get it right, you'll get a free ride all the way to Chesapeake City, where there are FREE docks!
It's shorter of course to run straight south to Norfolk, but that means missing the Chesapeake, Annapolis and the other neat places. There's really no place to put in on the Delmarva coast for a sailboat, so it's a straight run with no breaks. Some do it, most opt for the ease of the longer route.
Hope that helps..
Toronto to Norfolk - depends on how much of a rush you are in. Figure two days for mast up/down.  A day to get to Oswego, another five or six to Albany, three to NYC, three to Cape May, two more to Annapolis, and three more to Norfolk. That's anchoring out every night btw. So, three weeks. A delivery captain would do this in about a week, running 24 hours a day.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Arthur was a no-show....

In my mind, I name every voyage. For example, years ago, leaving Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay shortly before midnight for an overnight trip to Tobermory (Lake Huron) in early October, a full moon in the sky, Van Morrison’s song Moondance played over the speakers - What a marvellous night for a Moondance, you can hear it now can’t you? So that trip south became the Moondance tour. It also became the tour where I was held up for two weeks by hellacious 30 knot plus winds out of the southwest. 
If you never believe anything else I tell you, believe this - you do NOT travel south on Lake Huron in those conditions. Even the lake freighters give those conditions a pass.
On the bright side and because of this delay, I missed, by two weeks, being in the Erie Canal or New Jersey for the arrival of a lady by the name of Sandy. Who knew?
That memory by the way is courtesy of Arthur, 2014’s first named storm. I was so excited to be meeting Arthur earlier this week, I even took a dock in Melbourne FL to be prepared - but Arthur STOOD ME UP, going instead to spend time in the Carolinas. All I saw was some blustery 20 knot breezes one evening, this after the foreplay of doing a 360° spin during a 60 knot squall a few nights before (and did I tell you, I LOVE my Mantus anchor, which held through it all?).
Just like my water pump...water spraying everywhere!
So this trip is respectfully named the ‘If it ain’t broke, it WILL be’ tour! Readers paying attention may recall I’ve mentioned a trip of a similar name from a few years ago. This appears to be the reprise of that voyage - unfortunately.
Trying to leave Fort Lauderdale, my impeller required replacing. No biggie, but since no good deed ever goes unpunished, the entire water pump now needs rebuilding. Although it didn’t leak a drop previous to the new impeller, it now pumps out like a New York City fireboat hose.
But that’s ok, I decided I could fix that one later. After all, Gypsy Wind is a sailboat, and I was planning on sailing her up the coast, not motoring. That is, if the winds should co-operate, which of course they aren’t, and haven’t.
They had NO idea the danger they were in!
So on my next attempt to leave Fort Lauderdale, I got all the way to the first bridge (Sunrise Blvd) and the throttle cable decided to stick. Nothing like approaching a closed bridge in a narrow canal with other vessels - like the local water taxi filled with tourists -  beside you and an engine roaring at high revs and no way to slow it down. Someone care to hand me (and my insurance agent) a Valium please? And there were the tourists, waving at the pup and I, no idea their very lives were in danger...
Turns out the cable needed replacing....no biggie, my friend Dave, in the Middle River anchorage, had a spare Morse cable, so it got done, and with Dave along, we (finally) managed to leave the next day.
Still no wind, but we got to Palm Beach, so I was making progress. Three days to make 40 miles. Yow!
Dave left the following morning since it appeared there was nothing left to fix. Dave is a ‘fixing’ machine. You should have seen him several weeks ago in the engine room of Gypsy Wind, had to be over 100° down there, pounding away at a recalcitrant exhaust elbow. And exhaust elbows are the king of the heap when it comes to not wanting to be fixed. Dave got ‘er done, and enjoyed himself doing it.
We’ll be adjusting his meds soon I suspect!
From Palm Beach, I sailed on to Fort Pierce, and then on to Melbourne, sailing up the Indian River. Yes, I said sailing, and on the ICW. The Indian River is known for it’s sailing in fact. We had a great beam reach the entire day in fact.
I was really annoyed though when a big new cat was catching me, on only his mainsail no less, but what the hey, it’s a cat, right? They’re really fast, right?
Then, as he sailed on by, I heard a quiet thumping, noticed water coming from the side, and the slightest scent of....you got it! Diesel fuel. The wuss was motorsailing past me. Some people have no shame! Gypsy Wind’s pride remained intact.
Reaching Melbourne, I sailed past Dragon’s Point, coming into the wind to furl the genoa and anchor. Problem was, the furler wasn’t having anything to do with this, it was jammed, and no amount of cursing appeared to be helping the situation.
I’m sure the locals wondered about the crazy man on the red boat sailing around the anchorage at the bow while yelling at his foresail.
Then of course, I was stood up by Arthur. Observant LiveBloggers will note that had I actually gotten away north when planned, I’d have been in North Carolina to greet Arthur when he came ashore as a full fledged hurricane instead of a juvenile un-named storm.

Well! Won’t that teach ol’ Arthur not to mess with me? He should’ve talked to Sandy beforehand.
Finally leaving Melbourne, and sailing with the main only, I arrived in Coco, only to discover that my depth sounder was no longer sounding. There is only so much pain one can endure. I searched for the rum....and found I’d finished it along with the impeller repair.
From Melbourne, I then headed to St. Augustine, and amazingly enough, nothing else broke. That means I have time now to fix a few things - which of course gives other things more time to corrode, age, deteriorate, and otherwise get themselves into a position to fail.
(...to be continued when something else breaks....it’s just a matter of time, right?)

I recently started a new Facebook page, Sailing and Cruising. The purpose of this page is to provide a place for new sailors, and those planning on heading out cruising, to be able to ask the ‘old salts’ among us their most important questions, starting with “What anchor is the best?”, and “What is your favourite cruising destination?”, both questions guaranteed to start a major battle in any sailing forum.
Sailing and Cruising will also allow the aforementioned ‘old salts’ an opportunity to improve their karma (Lord knows they need it!) by helping out the newbies amongst us, to pay back for all the help they’ve received over their own beginning years. We all know they weren’t born as smart, rich and handsome as they pretend to be.Well, other than me, maybe!
Sailing and Cruising is also a place where sailors can relax and cut up a bit, so there’s a fair degree of irreverence on the page, and then there’s Funday Friday, where anything goes ‘as long as you can justify it nautically in some way’. 
To say that this creates some ingenious excuses for bad behaviour would not be inaccurate.

Seriously though, old salts can answer the usual newbie questions only so many times before they lose their minds, and the ‘irreverence’ is their way of blowing off steam. Of course, it does set a terrible example for the newbies amongst us, but since sailing will eventually ruin their (your?) tender minds anyway, I may as well give them a good head start on the process. I’m here to serve!
Still, and I’m really proud to be able to say this, the page is growing rapidly, with over 700 members from around the world in the first two weeks and more joining every day. There’s a HUGE amount of expertise on the page, with some world class sailors being members, and contributing all kinds of good tips, stories and information. I’ve learned a great deal in the past few weeks.
If this page interests you, you can sign up by going to https://www.facebook.com/groups/SailorsandCruisers/ - if you have any problem there, use the contact form on this page to request a sign-up.

Friday, June 27, 2014

We don't need no stinkin' Yanmar....

I'm finally heading back north, but slowly...the gods seemed determined to keep me in Fort Lauderdale, especially with the sale of the Catalina 27 I flipped. For those who were interested, you missed out on a great deal!
Notice the two broken blades on the left?
I noticed before leaving that my exhaust water output was low, so I checked the impeller...yep, it was done for. Ordered one at West Marine, and of course, it didn't come in as promised. Fortunately, they had one in stock, Yanmar brand, so it cost more, but on a Friday - it's worth not having to wait out the weekend.
In the picture here, which isn't of my engine, the impeller has two broken blades...that's really not good, and why you should check your impeller regularly. If that rubber gets into the engine, it can really screw up your cooling system. So when was the last time YOU checked YOUR impeller?
At last, I left the Las Olas mooring field after one last long shower....ahhhhhh.....got as far as the first bridge and wouldn't you know it...the throttle cable bites the dust.
Sail back to Middle River anchorage, and my friend Dave actually had a slightly used one on his boat he didn't need, saving me a long day of bussing out and back to get one. By the way, if you ever need work done in Lauderdale, Dave is the guy you want to talk to. Contact me and I can message him for you. Inexpensive, trustworthy, and knows and will tell you when a job is beyond his skills and needs a specialist technician.
By the time this was done, it was time for sundowners....so much for that day.
Got away for real the next morning, with Dave along for the ride. We made it to West Palm Beach, anchoring off the new, and free for day tie-ups - city docks. This is a great anchorage, close to pubs, shops and the good life in West Palm Beach. If you're cruising this way, I very much recommend it over the main anchorage by the inlet, and the SAIL Snowbird Rally will certainly be stopping here next December on our way to Miami. By the way, check out the new page for the event, at http://icw.sailmagazine.com/
I wanted to go offshore the next leg, to Fort Pierce, but the winds, they weren't a blowin'....well, not until the sea breeze kicked in after noon, and I got to sail the entire Indian River to Melbourne...proving once again, you CAN sail on the ICW. Nothing like six knots and only, maybe, four inches of chop. Ahhhhh....
I get to Melbourne just in time to anchor and get slammed by a 40+ knot thunderstorm...sat there in the companionway, watching the storm crackle and strut its stuff, hoping the anchor would hold (it did, LUV my Mantus!), and hoping everyone else in the anchorage was having similar good fortune (they did, or at least none came dragging by me). The boat did a complete 360° on the hook, the lightning hit ground about three houses away, putting out the lights for that part of town. Way too close for comfort, but by midnight, the last of the grumblies were gone, and it was a lovely calm night.
From here, it's up to St. Augustine to visit with Mark and Diana Doyle, (On the Water Chartguides), and then head off for Cumberland Island and on into Georgia...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bitch Slapped by a Two Foot Iguana!

Bitchslapped I tell ya'!
I bet that title got your attention, didn't it? Oh yea.....so what really happened?
I was letting Aduana (the WonderPuppy®) off onto a dock this morning for her morning wander, and she scooted behind some bushes while I tied up the dinghy. Suddenly, Aduana rushed the bushes with a loud bark and a brilliant lime green iguana came flying out of the bushes, smacking me in the side of the face as it flew by (my shoulders were even with the dock), and fell into the dinghy, where it started scrambling around frantically.
I bailed from the dinghy, not wanting to get cut or scratched by this demon lizard, which was about two feet in length. As I stood looking at it, rubbing my cheek where it had hit me, it figured out how to get out of the dink, and away it went, into the water.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

It's been a fabulous week...read all about it!

Ahoy faithful LiveBloggers! It’s been an awesome week, just awesome, which is why I haven't had a chance to post until today.
I spent it teaching sailing to a couple new to boats. Not just any couple however; Carlos was seriously disabled and has almost no use of his right arm, some issues with his right leg, and balance issues. You can imagine the challenges that poses to learning to sail a 35 foot cruising boat. His wife, Patricia, is just adorable, and incredibly supportive of Carlos. They are an amazing couple who will one day be a real asset to the boating world.
After the accident that disabled (and nearly killed) Carlos, he decided it was time to empty out the bucket list just a bit. That meant buying a boat and learning to sail. 
Enter yours truly. I met Carlos at the survey where we discussed what he needed, and it wasn’t your usual Cruising 101 course, I can tell you. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

SUPER Deal on Catalina 27

 This is not my normal post, but I think that, given the circumstances here - and the fact this is MY blog, I'm going to do this just this once. Someone in this group is looking for a nice boat, and this just might be the one.
I've come across a sweet little boat, a 1984 Catalina 27, that I've picked up from the owner and can pass on to you for a very good price.
The boat's name is Little Soul, and she is currently in south Florida. The current owner can't afford two boats, so he's let this one go. The engine is new, has about 10 or so hours on it. Runs beautifully. The genoa is in good shape. The main needs two small patches (which I can easily do on my Sailrite), she comes with a new depth sounder, nearly new VHF, tiller pilot, has wheel steering, 25# CQR anchor, bimini, Plastimo bulkhead compass.

On Yachtworld, the identical boat is listed at $15,990 -http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/1984/Catalina-27-2696357/Southeast/MI/United-States#.U4C3X5TO2e9
What does this boat need? A good cleaning, which I'll have done professionally here. You can see photos here on LiveBloggin at http://bloggingtheicw.blogspot.com/p/catalina-27-for-sale.html
This boat is selling for $4k, and I can arrange delivery if it's needed. A couple of people have been curious about trailering this boat - as you can see by the photo, it's do-able, even with a smaller vehicle like the one shown.
If you're looking for a great first sailboat, this boat is the one.  Just google Catalina 27 and see what others have to say. You can email me at northchannelsailing@gmail.com

Saturday, May 17, 2014

ANOTHER Florida anchoring fight....

Sunset in Miami
As many of you know, I never discuss politics.....much! Here's a political issue that cruisers need to be aware of, and an issue that I've been fighting against, personally, for the last several years.
Southeast Florida isn't particularly cruiser friendly - unless you mosey on up to a dock and shell out $3 or $4 a foot. Many of us choose to anchor out, and that means that the wealthy people who own the waterfront homes get all upset with us for not realizing they own the view all the way to the horizon. Who knew?
Recently, an article was published in the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale about anchoring - here's the article - and following this, here, is my rebuttal to this article and the people quoted in it.

Response to Sun Sentinel Article - feel free to republish, with credit and links please.
Look out.  Hide the women and children, lock up the silverware. The lowlife sailboat hordes are coming. No, wait! They’re here, right amongst us, in Middle River.
That’s what Carol Eich would like you to believe. She believes that her property rights don’t end at the property line, that they continue all the way to the horizon, and that sailboats, and their scummy owners, have no place being in that view.
Well, Ms. Eich - let me give you a little hint: if you don’t like looking at boats at anchor, buy a house in Arizona and move there. Boats have been anchoring in your back yard for a lot longer than your home has been there. We have rights too. And we aren’t scummy either.
I do hope you were misquoted by the writer of Sunday’s article about water skiers not having room to turn here. Because if you weren’t misquoted, then you’re lying. Yes, I said it. You’re lying and you know it, because all weekend you and I watched dozens of water ski boats go round and round out here.
And Mr. Sprague, you want to put moorings down to protect the bottom of the river? Mind if I ask what you’re protecting it from, and why? I’m quite serious. If you’re going to blither like an idiot, then you need to be prepared to defend your words.
All you want is a shot at my wallet, to charge me for mooring here. Money that will go to the city, so that politicians and bureaucrats can waste it, instead of letting us spend our money with local businesses where it can do them some good. So now that I’ve brought up money, let’s talk about it. 
Mayor Seiler, I suggest that you listen closely here. From your remarks, you appear to need an education in Cruising Sailboat Economics 101 as well. 
For starters, moorings are a net drain on tax dollars. They cost more to install, maintain and monitor than they bring in. I’m sure your local tax base will appreciate you wasting still more of their hard earned dollars on this sort of thing, won’t they, as you save them from we sailboaters. Don’t believe that? Ask the City of Marathon in the Keys what their mooring field costs their taxpayers annually. 
Each of us here in the anchorage eat. Yes, it’s true. We actually purchase, cook and eat food. And we buy it from the Publix which, as the writer noted, is conveniently located near George English Park. 
In three days, my current guest aboard has spent $100 on wine and snacks on top of what I buy for groceries. Perhaps we should ask Publix shareholders if they are unhappy with that? For those anchored in Lake Sylvia, it’s the Winn Dixie, just in case you think the cheapskate sailboaters there don’t bother eating. I assure you, they do.
Or perhaps we should ask the Starbucks here if they don’t want the money that a half dozen of we skinflint sailors bring in every day for our coffee and muffins? 
Or gee - how about the True Value Hardware, where another boater and I spent over $250 just yesterday for tools and other items? Maybe you should ask Chuck, the owner of Sailorman’s, about how much money we spend at his business. Or how about West Marine’s local manager? Do you need their phone numbers perhaps? Lots of us have them, on speed dial no less.
How about the Serafini restaurant, where three of us had a lovely dinner the other night? How about the CVS? How about the Yanmar dealership where I bought engine parts the other day?
Are you getting the picture? We contribute to your economy. We are not freeloaders, Ms. Eich, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Sprague.
Nor are we all transient boaters who are anchored here. Oh no. Fact is, the two largest boats in the Middle River anchorage belong to Florida residents. One owns a home and large business, the other owns a home in Seminole. Care to tell them what their rights are, since they pay taxes to the state? I thought not.
Dear, dear, Ms. Eich, those are public waters. The owners of those two boats have an absolute right to anchor in the public waters of their state. How about we tear your ugly house down so they can look at a much prettier natural landscape instead? They have as much right to demand that as you do to demand that they be gone.
Seriously speaking, what Ms. Eich wants is exactly the same as someone who demands that no one enjoy the park lands behind her home anywhere she can see them. 
What? You say that isn’t happening, that no one complains if someone picnics on public  land where Ms. Eich and her ilk can see them? Then how about acknowledging that we boaters have the same rights in public waters?
Do I sound annoyed? I sure hope not, although it’s only in Florida that state representatives accuse us, in public speeches, of peering into people’s homes with binoculars, or imply that your children aren’t safe, that we’re dangerous. Yeah, one of your dirtball politicians actually said that a couple of weeks ago. (ed. note: the link for the videoof this is available on the Florida.gov site)
Well. Let’s examine that bit of crap. Two of the people here in the anchorage have full time jobs in town. Another one just got a good construction job. Another is retired, former military. Another, as mentioned, owns a business. Another retired cruiser owns a house in another part of the state. 
Three of us are cruisers - on land, you would call us tourists, and every winter, this state spends millions of dollars in advertising to get tourists to visit. I really wish you’d told us to leave our boats at home. Who knew that southeast Florida is full of people like Ms. Eich, miserable nasty souls who hate sailboats? We really didn’t want to annoy you.
And who am I? I write for several prominent boating publications, and at one time, as a newspaper owner in Canada, wrote many lovely things about Florida for my readers who visit here. I was courted by tourist associations, feted about, wined and dined, to encourage people to come here. 
Things are not quite the same. Quite frankly, I cannot wait to get out of this state and away from the miserable, small minded people who inhabit the waterfront homes, and the politicians they’ve bought who, like little ventriloquist’s dummies, harp about us and make our lives unpleasant, who accuse us of being perverts and thieves and more.

Every year, I speak to over 1000 people at boat shows and seminars about making the trip south. I assure you, I now have very little good to say about Florida, and especially Fort Lauderdale, other than that it’s a nice place to stay for as little time as possible until you can go to someplace that appreciates your business, like the Bahamas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New pub, new crew, boat repairs - all is normal!

Yanmar 2QM20 Mixing Elbow
You've likely not even heard of a mixing elbow, or perhaps you think it's a bartender's thing....but if you're a boater, it's part of your exhaust system and, thus, prone to break! Imagine that. So mine rusted through here in Lauderdale....in front of a bridge....with the current against me....that was the only good thing.
So, shut down the motor and sailed back to the Middle River anchorage and anchored the way REAL sailors do, under sail....(that would be REAL sailors only because we have no other choice...)
I suppose I could have called Towboat US, I do have a membership, but seriously, doing it this way was much more fun.
So, I went online to find the part - and yow!, they aren't cheap...so on to Facebook, where someone had the part, hardly used, mine for $20 postage! That's a deal, and thank you Dave! The gasket cost me $50!
So there I am, deep in the hold, in 90° heat, sweat pouring off of me....breaking bolts that have been long abused with engine heat and salt water.....this is not going well. It's time to call Super Dave!
Yes, this anchorage has it's very own Super Dave....he lives on his Pearson sailboat in the Middle River anchorage in Lauderdale and he loves to fix stuff. Personally, I think he needs a lobotomy if that's what he enjoys, but what do I know?
So Dave clambers below and many hours, plus liberal applications of a butane torch and a hammer and wrench, later, the old rusty elbow is off, and the new one installed, and all for an extremely reasonable price. I may just have won the 'World's Cheapest Sailor' award for this deal! Now, would anyone like to purchase an old, rusted out mixing elbow....going cheap!
Seriously, if you're in the Lauderdale area and you need some work done, I heartily recommend Dave....he's neither cute nor classy, but he really knows his stuff and is more than willing to work. Contact me via the contact widget that keeps popping up in the lower right hand corner if you want to reach him.
I mentioned new crew....here's a shot of good friend Doc Hogan, from Urbanna VA, and I in this great little corner pub that he found....the Hut. It's a little bar in the back corner of a shopping mall, friendly staff, good music, cold beer and within staggering distance of the anchorage!
Tomorrow morning, we are setting off on the trip north - winds are 15 - 20 S-SE, so this will be a fun romp up the coast.
It's time to go sailing again.....

Thursday, May 8, 2014

ICW Questions - and Answers

I'm sure you've noticed that annoying little question box that pops up in the lower right hand corner of the page, right? Well, it's garnered a lot of response and some GREAT questions about the ICW - things I've never perceived as an issue - but that, for some, are actually of great concern.
So, let's take a look at some ICW questions and answers - and if you have a question of your own, just grab that little box and send it to me!

An interesting question I've never been asked...

Message - If my Nonsuch 30 is registered in Canada, what do I need to do with my tender (2 horse power) to cruise the ICW to Florida?

Response - GREAT question, I've never been asked that one previously. As long as you are legal in Canada, you're legal with your dinghy wherever you go. A lot of Florida water cops don't know this however, and you'll have to explain it to them (slowly!). I had an officer on the Chesapeake Bay ten years ago insist I MUST get a Maryland registration for my dinghy since I didn't have a Canadian one. I simply told him 'fine', since it was the weekend and I was leaving the area before the offices re-opened. Most of them aren't that stupid. They DO have guns though....
Be patient... but seriously, you don't have to do a thing. Some people put their boat registration number on their dinghy, which isn't strictly legal - I haven't and don't recommend it.
(Note to American boaters - you may face tax issues if your boat is in Florida or other states for too long a time. The subject is too complex to get into here, I'll save it for a later discussion after further research).

New, and nervous, cruiser...

Message - would 75 feet of galvanized chain plus 150 feet of half inch rope,pulled up by hand do.with a cqr anchor. i do have an old dingy inflatable avon type with soft bottom and motor.will these do in the bahamas.the thout of doing the erie canal single handed is bad enough.
i do wear a safty harness all the time,so i em some what safty conius. bad speller 
thanks for any help

Response - Hi David - spelling isn't counted, lol! the chain and rode will be fine for your boat....an old dinghy takes a lot of abuse on these trips, if you can upgrade there, you should. Nothing more frustrating than an old dink that is starting to leak air or water, keep in mind, it's your ONLY transportation to shore. fyi, the Erie Canal is very easy once you get the hang of it, I've singlehanded it half a dozen times with no problems. The lockmasters will work with you to make it simple.

This is probably the most common ICW question I get...

Message - Wally, my draft is 6' 9", can I get down the ICW?

Response - Hi Wayne - you're pushing the limit, but yes - at certain of the inlets, and places such as Little Mud River and Jekyll Creek, you'll absolutely HAVE to go through at half tide rising, which will give you a minimum of an extra 4 feet of water. I don't suppose I have to tell you to be sure to get Boat US for towing insurance with that draft? Even though it's easily do-able - even some good sized cruise ships do the ditch - as a first timer, you'll likely go aground at least once with that draft. No shame in that though, we all go aground there eventually, and it's only sand anyway...

How do we keep in touch while on the ICW? 

Message - Communications on boat. to and from other vessels and land via internet.

Response - Hi Tex - that's a fairly complex question and I'm not a techhead but there are three or four basic methods. First, there's your smartphone. If you have data, you can also set the phone up as a hotspot for your computer. Next, there's the wifi from whatever marina you are at. They all have wifi, so if you're at a dock, you're good. If you're anchored out, you can often pick up a wifi signal and use it - although many now require passwords. You can improve your range and signal using an antennae - I use a wirie, but there are quite a few different models about - expect to pay about $250 for one of these. I'm online with mine now to the city of Miami Beach wifi signal, which is only marginal without the antenna.
You can also purchase a mifi, which is a unit that gives you a wireless hotspot on your boat. You can secure that signal with encryption, by the way.
Hope this helps - the thing about this aspect of cruising is that it's constantly changing - today's answer is not much good by the week after next. I'm going to have a webinar on this topic featuring an expert at a future date, so stay tuned.

...and what would a post like this be without the mandatory anchor question???

Message - We are currently outfitting our hunter 45ds for a cruise to the bahamas, caribean... My question is on the ground tackle that we would need. The dealer gave ua a delta anchor with 20 ft of chain. I am thinking on adding a cqr with 200 ft. Do i need j2 anchors both with 200 ft of chain? Wont that be heavy? What are your recomendations

Response - Hi Murray - nice boat! What size CQR? I'd suggest a 45, and the 200 feet of chain sized to the boat is a good choice. You might want to consider another 100 - 150 feet of three strand in addition to that. While this is a lot of line for the Bahamas, there will be anchorages in the Caribbean where you'll need more rode. The chain of course means that coral can't cut through.Be sure you have a snubber also. Check with your West Marine catalogue for the appropriate chain and rope size for your boat's weight, or Calder's cruising guide. 
I have 75 feet of chain plus 150 feet of rope on a 34 foot boat with a 35 pound CQR and I'm going to add another 75 feet of chain. You might consider keeping the Delta if it's appropriately sized and put it on 100 feet of chain with another 100 feet of three strand. If you decide to bring a third anchor, give a Danforth style some thought - there are some anchorages where it will be the only thing that will hold. Just don't trust them anyplace where the currents swing you around, they can foul too easily in those conditions.
Yes, this will all be fairly heavy, but when the winds kick up, you won't mind, believe me. I dragged the other night in a blow, and the only reason I did was because I had too little rode out. I reanchored with 135 feet in 10 feet of water and had no problems. 
You'll rarely need the extra anchor - but should you lose your primary, having that chain on the secondary will be very useful. 
Lastly, I'm hearing very good things about the new anchors available - Rocna and so on. You might want to take a look at them before making any final decision. Keep in mind, when it comes to anchors, everyone has a favourite - you'll get lots of advice. Just remember - weight is the key. 
(note please, this was written before I got my Mantus anchor)

So, what's YOUR question - ask away. I'll answer as quickly as possible.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Names of the Guilty WILL Be Published.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to try a variety of gear on both my own, and others, boats. I’ve developed some favourites - gear that I respect because it does its job well, is dependable, and long lasting. This page will discuss a few of what I consider to be top notch products. They may or may not have a place on your boat  because your needs may differ, but they’re on mine to stay. Also, this page will go into the pages index here on LiveBloggin' and be updated as required.

The first depth sounder on this boat was a unit from the mid 70s which came with it. It actually worked fine for a couple of years, even after seven years on the hard. I replaced it with a Uniden depthsounder, the small 2.5” unit from West Marine. I absolutely do NOT recommend this unit. 
I had two of them fail, both for the same reason. The connection for your wiring is not marine grade - it actually rusts. Knowing this could happen, I sealed the second unit with silicone to protect it. It slowed the corrosion down but didn’t stop it and the unit ultimately failed. And if that wasn’t enough, the unit wasn’t waterproof - one damp and foggy morning, the glass was covered in condensation.
Points however to West Marine, who made good on the unit. Since I already had a 2.5” hole in the cockpit for it, I purchased the Hawkeye depthsounder - admittedly with some reservations - mostly wondering if the units were from the same manufacturer.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. For about ten dollars more, this unit is an entirely different beast. The wiring connections are much better, the system to fasten it to your boat simpler and more robust and the unit itself works much more dependably. Couldn’t be happier with it. And if you want a factory reconditioned unit, you're talking way way wayyyyy under $100. This is a good deal.
For those who want it, this depthsounder also has an optional temperature sensor. I just stick my toe in - or used to, more on that later!
The only two issues I would comment on here would be that it would be nice to have a depth offset with more flexibility. I prefer my depthsounders to show true depth from the waterline so that they match what I see on the chart (hopefully!). This unit’s offset won’t quite get me there, but I’ve learned to live with adding one foot to the depths shown. The other issue is that there is no way to turn down the light for night use, and it’s a fairly bright light. Again, not a huge issue, but it would be nice.
Shortly after purchasing this unit, I came across two other items from this same manufacturer. Although I was initially skeptical of one of them, I’ve grown to love them both.
It's a portable depthsounder, ok?
No impish remarks here!
The first item was a handheld depthsounder. If you’ve ever gone aground and were unsure of how to get clear, you’ll love having one of these. Hop into the dinghy, and scout around taking soundings until you find a path back to deep water. After all, the water was deep enough for you to get there, right? 
I haven’t had to do that for Gypsy Wind yet, but I’ve done it for others, leading them out of their misery. Best part is, this trick is always good for a couple of beers from the ‘rescuee’!
If I want to know the temperature of the water, this unit will give it to me, in °C or °F. It even comes with a very bright LED light - and I do mean very bright - and can be used as your waterproof light for coast guard boardings. I’ve often used mine as a flashlight at night walking the dog.

The final item from NorCross was one I wasn’t quite sure of - an infrared thermometer. Over time though, it’s become an important tool. That’s because, while it doesn’t get a lot of use, when I need it, it does really important stuff for me.
Infrared thermometer
For example, every winter, we read of boats that burn at the dock, often due to the failure of the plug coming into the boat. You’ve seen these plugs, you may even have one, badly charred from overheating. If yours looks like this one, btw, you need to replace it NOW! That would be right now. Don’t take chances with your boat, or your life.
Last fall, I was concerned about the plug on one of my 30 amp cords, so I pulled out the NorCross thermometer and checked the temperature of it, using the laser beam to pinpoint where the sensor was reading. 
Yep! There was a problem. The temperature at the plug was well above the ambient temperature. Clearly, there was a problem with the cord, so I switched to my spare, which tested out fine.
The next time I used this unit was to test the wiring for my solar panels. I had been having some issues with heat in the wiring, and it turned out that the fuse holder wasn’t adequate for the power going through it. I actually had one melt on a previous installation but didn’t realize the problem at the time.
I discovered the issue by aiming the laser at the holder, which showed a temperature of 107° F, a good 25° above ambient. A larger fuse holder solved the problem.
You can also use this thermometer to check temperatures in your engine room - for example, of your mixing elbow, to make sure you’re getting adequate cooling water. Or check the temperature of the water coming out of the boat.
The most fun use of this unit? My pup loves to chase the little red laser dot around the boat! Turns out most dogs and cats love that game! Just be careful not to shine it in your dog’s eyes as, like any laser, it can blind them permanently. See http://www.hawkeyeelectronics.com/infrared-marine-thermometer/
For more information on these products, check out http://www.hawkeyeelectronics.com/

An Arch Decision...
For years, I’d wanted an arch for my boat. I’d considered building one from fibreglass à la Hunter, and decided my glass skills weren’t up to it. I priced out stainless steel arches at the boat shows and decided my earning skills weren’t high enough. 
In place, and ready to bolt in!
I finally ended up building a puny little thing using stainless tubing. It did the job, but I was never very happy with it. It looked amateurish, and I didn’t trust it in rough weather, even though I’d nailed it down to the boat every possible way I could imagine.
Then, I came across Atlantic Towers at the Toronto Boat Show. They manufacture a high quality arch for sailboats at an affordable price - we’re talking about $1500 and up. They can do this because their arches are adjustable. You get a custom fit without a custom price. Also, they build the arches with a high quality aluminum tubing. Looks just as good, it’s just as strong too, but a lot less pricey.
The big deal here is placement and measurement - you have to figure out how and where you want the arch to fit on your boat, then measure to make sure you get the correct unit. It’s not hard, but hopeless mechanical doofuses (doofi?) such as myself can get all kinds of telephone assistance from the company. We traded sketches, photos of the boat and measurements back and forth until we (Atlantic) were satisfied that we (Wally) had it right. 
It actually helps just to sit on the dock and look at your boat (with a suitable cold beverage in hand of course) and just think on it for a while before making any decisions.
Installation isn’t all that difficult. Again, if I can do it, anyone should be able to. 
Optional items include carriers for solar panels and wind generators, dinghy davits, lights and even stereo speakers. Mine has the davits, plus carriers for both my wind generator and solar panels. It’s an impressive setup when done, and I’m immensely pleased with it.
If you’ve ever thought about customizing your boat with an arch, these are the folks to talk to - http://atlantictowers.com. For more information, and photos, about these units, check out my article on them at An Arch for All Reasons, which is also reproduced at Atlantic Towers website.

Hot hot hot!
The whole point of going south in the fall is to avoid cold weather, but cold weather has a habit of sneaking up on you...even as far south as Florida if you don’t get far enough south, fast enough. This past winter of 2013/14 was a prime example - it was cold right into February in northern Florida, and we’re talking not far above freezing.
A few years ago, I got caught in some cold weather coming south, and the next year, my good friend Tory Salvia (http://thesailingchannel.tv) loaned me his Mr. Buddy. Get your minds out of that gutter now, because it’s a portable propane heater, and a great unit. I was very impressed, and considered one for Gypsy Wind.
Warm is GOOD!
However, I ultimately went with a propane ice hut heater from Procom. An ice hut heater, for my southern friends, is a heater used in an ice fishing hut in Canada. NO NO, we don’t fish for ice, we fish ON the ice through a hole cut in it - awww, never mind....you know we Canucks are crazy anyhow!
This unit is about 20 inches by 16 by 6 deep and is mounted to a bulkhead. Above it is a Caframo fan from West Marine, which blows all that lovely hot air down to the cabin sole where it can warm my toes, and my pup. It runs off a 20 pound propane tank and uses about a pound per evening, so it costs me roughly $1 per night to stay warm. The units themselves run about $125 at Harbour Freight and similar outlets.
Although it has an oxygen depletion sensor, I don’t run it while I’m sleeping, but use it simply to warm up the boat. It’s efficient enough to quickly rewarm the boat in the morning, even at near freezing temperatures, and a bit of chill reminds you of why you’re heading south in the first place.
Typically, I run below and fire this unit up just before I come to anchor, then close up the companionway. By the time I get below for a glass of wine and some nibbles, the cabin is nice and toasty! YES!
The only drawback to propane is that it’s damp heat - which is exacerbated by the cold walls of your boat. You’ll get some condensation, but it’s not a big issue and a good fan eliminates a lot of it. I can assure you it sure beats being cold. I know of several cruisers this past season who took my advice and bought either a Mr. Buddy or a propane heater...the rest spent a lot of money at marinas! And one, I believe, did both!
You'll find more about this unit at Procom.

Wirie Internet Extender
Time to stretch your neck!
Free is Good®, but sometimes, you have to spend a few bucks to get free. That’s the case with internet wireless. Most of the places you’ll stop along the waterways you’ll find a stray internet wireless signal you can make use of. Some are inadvertent, some are meant to be there. A lot of private signals are encrypted, making them useless to you without the password. In busier locations, you’ll find good signals provided by companies that sell internet services to boaters. 
Very occasionally, you’ll pick up a megayacht’s signal, but they’re always encrypted. You can always ask the yacht’s captain if he’ll provide the password. That’s how I got online in Marina Hemingway, in Havana, Cuba, where there is no internet service available.
In almost every anchorage, you’ll get a better signal with a wireless antenna, or signal booster. What these units do is pick up the signals around you and amplify them. Often, the improvement is enough to do video calls, although it’s a rare signal that will let you stream video.
The unit I use is the Wirie. It’s entirely marinized, strongly built and encased in a waterproof Otterbox. My unit, an older one, operates via a USB cable to the computer; the newer ones are wireless and even permit you to establish a hotspot for other of your devices.
It’s not cheap - but it’s been dependable and the customer service has been superb the few times I’ve needed them over the last four years. I’m quite happy recommending this unit to you. Check them out at http://wirie.com

So what's with the title of this post? I won't hesitate to name products I don't trust, or have discovered I cannot depend on, or that are just essentially worthless. Such as that Uniden depthsounder. Despite my complaints to the company, I never heard back from them. So I not only got rid of the unit, I also got rid of the Uniden VHF I owned.