1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: ...and now, some real talk about sailing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

...and now, some real talk about sailing!

19 foot boat in No Name Harbour before starting the Great Loop
If he can do the ICW, what do you have to worry about?
This fall, I'll be leading a group of new cruisers south from Hampton on the ICW, an event known as the Snowbird Rally, and sponsored by SAIL Magazine. To get the details, you can find them at this link, and we will shortly have Facebook and Google + accounts up which I'll provide links for.
And as you all know, the ICW is a topic I frequently speak about at various boating seminars. I also offer people the opportunity to ask questions via the contact form you see popping up in the lower right hand corner of this page....neat hey? I bet you wondered what that form did!
I'd like to answer some questions from one of our LiveBloggers, Carl. While his boat is somewhat different from what most boaters will have, the questions are good ones all the same. So with no further ado....

1.  What type of equipment would I need on my boat?  (I have a 25 foot O'Day.) 
You won't need any additional equipment other than is found on most boats. I would suggest a few things, such as a second anchor, a good dinghy (and motor), good PFDs, a bright anchor light, good fenders. Before starting out, get a good bottom paint done using a marine paint rather than one suited for fresh water, and new anodes. Change your oil. Replace the impeller. Essentially, if your boat is in good shape up north, you'll be fine down south. If you're doing the Erie Canal on your way south, a handheld VHF is a good idea. Actually, it's a good idea for anyone, especially if you've taken the admiral ashore while you swab the deck.
In terms of printed materials, a copy of the Waterway Guide (ICW), Kettlewell's ICW strip chart book, its companion guide, and either the Doyles' On the Water Chartguide, or Chuck Baier and Susan Landry's The Great Book of Anchorages

2.  Do we travel as a group or is every one on their own to reach a certain destination?
Boca Chita Harbour, Biscayne Bay
We'll be traveling as a group, but each captain is welcome to set their own pace. For those wanting to go ahead, I'll provide guidance and information about what they will be coming up to. I expect that the group will come together at pre-determined locations for scheduled events along the way. Most of the time, we'll travel as one group.

3.  How could I estimate the cost of additional expenses that I would incur?
Take your best guess and multiply it times 3.786!  Actually, that's hard to estimate Carl - the biggest expenses will be food and fuel. Food will not really be any different than you pay now, fuel will be individual to every boat. If you're Canadian, beer and liquor are a LOT cheaper in the US, as is dining out. 

4.  I realize there is a fee for the trip and would like to know what all is included?
We'll have a day long pre-rally seminar and prep material, guidance down the ICW, daily weather and routing reports for each boat, including the location of problem areas and known shoal areas based on the current state of tide as we come through.
There will also be a number of organized events along the way, including a closing bash in Miami, and speakers at various stops. We'll be organizing local events when feasible, such as tours and so on, in the more popular stops. Oh, and the Swag Bag every boat will get is going to be awesome!

5.  What is the situation for either docking or anchoring at night?  If docking, will there be enough spaces for every boat in the group?  What is the average cost for docking?
The overnight stops are being planned to provide, whenever possible, a choice of anchoring or docking. As this is the busiest time of the year, dockage is always a question - where we have planned on docking, we'll have reservations and these will be confirmed before arrival. There shouldn't be any issues about dockage. Any seriously bad weather along the way could change our plans but for obvious reasons, that's not something we can predict. We're cruisers, we'll deal with it!
Docking on the ICW runs from $1 - $2 per foot - we will be negotiating discounts where possible. FYI, my best information indicates that, unless there is a weather issue, most sailors prefer to anchor out - and spend the money saved on beer. And there are lots of good anchorages along the way.

6.  How readily available is shore power?
How long is your cord? All marinas offer shore power, usually in 30 and 50 amp. Since you probably don't have 120v on that boat, make sure you have a 15 amp to 30 converter plug. They're available at most marine retailers. Take a look at that link to get an idea.

Calm sunset on the ICW in S. Carolina
7.  My boat has a 10 horsepower outboard motor.  How can I calculate how much fuel I would need to keep on board.  What is average sailing time versus motoring time.
That's a good question for everyone actually. In your case, before you head out, take a full five gallon can, run your boat for an hour and then estimate your 8 hour usage. Carry enough fuel for two days. There are lots of marinas where you can refuel on the ICW, both diesel and gas.
There are many places you can sail on the ICW - providing the winds are right, you can probably sail 20% of the time, although I know I'll get an argument about that from others. I sail as much as I can, motorsail when possible. It saves fuel, and wear and tear on the engine. And it's so much more pleasant.
Keep in mind, much of the ICW is narrow channels that block the winds, making sailing is a challenge, but in places such as the Albermarle Sound, Neuse River, Bogue Sound, Indian River and so on, you can sail for several days at a time. Don't count on that, but it's a nice bonus when it happens.

8. Could I find suggestions for provisioning the boat, how and what types of food and supplies to take?
That really depends on your own tastes, and if you have refrigeration on board. I'll try to have a webinar on this topic in the near future. If you're a Canuck, don't forget to bring Tim Horton's coffee and Canadian beer (for the rally leader of course!).

9.  Are there places where additional items can be purchased?
Absolutely. We'll never be more than 20 - 30 miles from provisions. If you don't have refrigeration and are depending on an icebox, this means you can easily carry meat and fresh veggies, rather than canned stew! I ran without refrigeration for several years in fact, before installing it.

10.  Would we ever eat together as a group, do most people eat on board or at restaurants after docking?
We'll frequently eat together as a group, putlucks and so on, and I'm sure there will be lots of visiting back and forth between boats. Some people like to dine out, and there are lots of good places close to the ICW. It's entirely your choice. (Everyone please note: I don't care for lima beans or liver....just sayin').

11.  What type of heater would I need for my boat since the trip starts late in the year?
It's not typically this cold - I was very late heading south
This was taken in January in Carolina...
This year, some got caught by a foot of snow in North Carolina and that nasty polar vortex! If we have a repeat of this year's weather, I'm booking a seat on Southwest Air!
Ok, seriously...I have a permanently installed propane heater and a great dog and they have both come in handy on cold nights. Unless we're really fortunate, we'll get the odd cold night in Florida at that time of year. I recommend a Mr. Buddy propane heater - there is a single and double bottle version, but it's far more economical to get the hose and attach it to a 20# propane tank. See here for details.

12.  When we end up  in Miami, are there slips available for docking?  I will have to go back to PA to get my trailer.
Yes, a great many in fact. You'll have lots of choices here. On the other hand, you may choose to hang out down south where it's warm, go further south into the Keys, or cross to the Bahamas. I did Tampa Bay and the west coast of Florida in an O'Day 22 some years ago. GREAT trip. I recommend it in fact.

So there you have it folks.....if anyone else has questions regarding cruising, the ICW or sailing/boating in general, now you know what the window at the bottom right hand side of the page is for. Look forward to hearing from you, and answering your questions.