1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: July 2014

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.