1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cuba Webinar, Cocoa Seminars, the ICW Rally and ICW news....

There is so much going on right now, it's hard to know what to tell you first, but let's see what I can do. This post is going to be short and sweet, but full of stuff you need to know!
First, let me remind you of the full day cruising seminar in Cocoa, on December 2. Our feature speaker is Fatty Goodlander, who will give the keynote address, and in the afternoon do a three hour cruising seminar. You can find more details, and get your tickets at Cocoa Cruising Seminar.
Let me remind you, this will be Fatty's last US appearance before he takes off into the blue on his fourth circumnavigation. I will be speaking on Cuba, and Pam Wall will be discussing crossing the Gulf Stream and cruising in the Bahamas. You don't want to miss this event.

Ok, next up - the new Cuba regulations have come out and are now in effect. Things are significantly different. If you are considering a cruise to Cuba, you'll need to know what's going on and what has changed.
I'll be doing an online webinar on the topic on Monday, November 14 at 7 pm EST - here's the link for that: Cuba Cruising Seminar - the New Rules You can set a reminder for yourself by clicking on the 'reminder link' on the youtube page.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is now in Charleston at Charleston Resort Harbor Marine, and everyone is having a great time. This Rally was called by one observer "a two month floating party" and it most certainly is that. Stay tuned for another blog post next week with a full update on the Rally, including photos.
Lastly, if you're looking for top notch ICW navigation information, one of the people you need to be following is Tom Hale. Case in point - the New River Inlet in North Carolina has shoaled significantly in the past year, and following the magenta line at anything less than half tide is a guarantee that you're going to be calling your towing service.
With 14 boats to bring through the area and at low tide no less, I was desperate for good information, so I called up Tom, a long time friend. Tom is a couple of days ahead of us, and he had the waypoints to get us through the inlet. I saw no less than 9 feet under the keel using his waypoints.
Tom, thanks again for your help. Much appreciated.
That's it for today - I'm off to join the group and explore Charleston.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sail to the Sun is Off Again!

It's been a busy, busy time here preparing and then launching this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. Thank God I love what I do, because why else would I work this hard? That, and the amazing and wonderful people I meet through this Rally make it all worth the effort.
We started off with an amazing day long seminar at the Annapolis Maritime Museum on the Monday of the boat show. Our lead speaker was again Lin Pardey, discussing the "Unstoppable Boat", one of her favourite seminar topics.
In short order, we presented Dave Skolnick with his superb seminar on crossing the Gulf Stream. This was and is a must see for anyone heading to the Bahamas. Jeff and Jean Grossman discussed cruising as a couple, which is a well received seminar for those new to cruising. After lunch, Greg Kutsen of Mantus Anchors discussed proper anchoring techniques and this is one of the best seminars I've ever seen on the topic. Carolyn Shearlock of The Boat Galley discussed hurricane preparation, and the audience was riveted to their seats by this one as you can imagine. Yours truly rounded out the day with my Sailing South on the ICW presentation.
Then we all had nibbles and drinks. It was an excellent day, with everyone very pleased with the presentations they viewed and the quality of the speakers and information, so... be on the lookout for more of the Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminars, such as the one featuring Fatty Goodlander in Cocoa, Florida on December 2.
The Rally group met up at Bluewater Marina in Hampton on November 18, where we again had two great speakers:
my friend Ed Tillet of Waterway Guide, and Paul from the Salty Dog Rally, who spoke about their very different offshore rally. After he had heard about the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, this offshore sailor suggested that maybe he was on the wrong rally, ours sounded like more fun!
And it has been fun! Our first night out we landed at the Great Bridges lock, where we immediately headed for the Dairy Queen. Our second night out, in Coinjock, we went out for the best prime rib on the ICW. I'm sure I heard some groans as chairs were pushed away from tables after that night.
The following evening, we anchored out at Tuckahoe Point, the photo you see above - and thanks to Bill Ouellette from the 2016 Rally for that beautiful photo of a very quiet night. Well, quiet if you don't count the laughter from the Rally boats that is.
The following night we were in Dowry Creek Marina, just outside of Belhaven, NC. Dowry Creek has been a favourite stop for snowbirds for many years, and was purchased last year by Neil O'Neal. I'm pleased to say that everything you loved about Dowry Creek while Mary was running it - the friendly greetings, great service, clean showers and washrooms, etc., is still there. Except it's even better - Neal and his crew are improving on what was one of the best ICW marinas anywhere!
For example - Neal rented a van to bring the group to the Scott Point Distillery in Bath, home of Pamlico Rum! Yes, a tour of a rum distillery for our budding pirates. We then ran out and purchased all of the available Pamlico Rum in both Bath and Belhaven. Pirates got to have their booty!
And yes, as you can see, even the young 'uns on the trip (on Paradise Nine) were flying high as we crossed the Albermarle in amazingly light winds.
The weather gods had a surprise for us however. We had a violent and unpredicted storm strike us in the night while at Dowry Creek. By 2:30 am winds had gusted to over 50 mph and everyone was awake, helping one another add additional lines, and retie boats where lines were loose. Several of us helped tie down a flapping genoa on one boat despite winds still in the high teens. Our young family on Paradise Nine headed for the Captain's Lounge where they spent the night on the couches there. Good decision.
As these middle of the night squalls usually are, this was an 'adventure' no one wanted, but everyone got through. I suspect, but do not know, that some of the Pamlico Rum purchased that day was imbibed after everyone returned to their own boats.
While there was some cosmetic damage, no one in the group suffered serious damage, for which we're all grateful. Even that flapping genoa only needs the suncover replaced, there was no other damage.
One Canadian trawler with a young couple aboard suffered serious damage to the rails and swim platform of their boat, but word is, insurance kicked in and they'll be fine.
So the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally got off to a fine start, with fun, adventure, potential danger, ice cream, prime rib and rum.
Join us for our next blog post as we head to River Dunes and a shrimp BBQ, then Beaufort and Southport. Also, I'll be introducing you to some of this year's Ralliers.
You can follow us online as we Sail to the Sun at the Where's Wally page - and for those who reported problems with the page - thank you, and the problems are fixed.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Rough Couple of Weeks for Boaters...

We all watched with some trepidation, and others with outright fear, as an alphabet soup of hurricanes descended on the Caribbean, US east coast and the Gulf Coast. Harvey, Irma, José and Maria have accounted for countless hours of websurfing and tv watching as boaters and others scoured the media for news of where these daemons were going to go in the US.
How many of you now, when you turn on your phone, now have an image link to the National Hurricane Center, or Tropical Tidbits because you've viewed them so frequently? I do. It's funny, except that it's not. That behaviour was a reflection of real fear and concern.
José fortunately didn't cause any serious problems. Maria seems like she might brush up against Hatteras, or possibly make the northeast coast somewhat breezier than normal. She ripped up Puerto Rico however and, coupled with that island's other issues, they've got big problems to work through now.
Not so Harvey and Irma, which have caused huge, frightening damage along their paths, with the Florida Keys being horrifically hit. Friends have been sending me photos and videos of the damage there and throughout the Caribbean - it's staggering. I have no idea how the affected Caribbean islands are going to recover. The charter industry there is, in my opinion, decimated for at least the next two years as charter companies, owners and insurance firms deal with the hundreds of boats destroyed.
For those heading south this year and thinking of the Keys, I strongly suggest you monitor events there and be prepared to reconsider. They simply might not be able to handle an influx of cruisers this winter. We'll know more over the next couple of months as they start the rebuilding process.
On the bright side, and there IS a bright side to all of this despite the tragedies, lost lives and shattered dreams for which we all mourn - the boatbuilding industry is going to have a busy few years, which will be good for all of us. For those rebuilding boats, there's going to be a surfeit of boat parts available as destroyed boats are taken apart.
Anyone selling a new or newish catamaran, and certain monohulls that work well in the charter industry, is going to get top dollar for their boat as the charter industry attempts to put boats back in place.
On a personal note, four of my friends lost boats to Irma, and a fifth friend's boat took serious damage from Maria in Puerto Rico. Two good friends, former Sail to the Sun Ralliers, were trapped on Sint Maarten by Irma while awaiting parts; they were unable to escape.
Due to the incompetency of Canada's Global Affairs division, they spent several days living in fear of running out of food, and of looters and rioting. Meanwhile, the American government had eight flights a day taking their citizens out of the dangerous conditions on the island. I am furious with my government over this, and have said so in a letter to my friends' federal Member of Parliament and the mayor of their hometown.
And no, I haven't heard back from them and don't expect to.
Let me lighten up here now. As usual with disasters of any sort, someone always finds something funny to say to pick up people's spirits. The best chuckle I've heard involves President Trump, and whether you lean left or right, it's a good one...
We now know that the President has control of the weather via his immigration policy. José and Maria didn't land in the US, but Harvey and Irma did. BADA BOOM! 

For those of you paying attention, you know that Sail to the Sun now has two full day Cruising Seminars underway. Between the two seminars, we are bringing you the very best speakers in the cruising lifestyle, people who really know what they are doing and who want to share their knowledge with you.
The first seminar series, featuring Lin Pardey, is at the Annapolis Sailboat Show. Lin will be discussing her 'Creating the Unstoppable Cruising Boat". Lin tells me "Unstoppable Boat is one seminar I enjoy doing", so this will be a fun talk from one of our cruising world's true icons.
Along with Lin, we have captains Jeff and Jean Grossman discussing how to work effectively as a cruising couple. We've all seen THAT captain who yells at his wife who, on the bow, struggles with getting a heavy anchor over, or throwing lines to a dockhand, and we don't want to be that couple! It's a fun seminar with lots of useful information.
Captain Dave Skolnick (past president of the SSCA) smashes some hoary myths about crossing the Gulf Stream, such as never crossing when the letter 'N' is in the forecast. With many years of delivery experience behind him, Dave knows what he's talking about and this is a seminar from which even old Bahamian hands will take away great information to make their crossings easier and faster. I know that last years Sail to the Sun ICW Ralliers enjoyed it and it helped make their Gulf Stream crossings easier.
Greg Kutsen, of Mantus Anchors, gives what I consider to be the best seminar on anchoring I've ever seen. If sleeping well at anchor matters to you, this is a 'must see' seminar. Best of all, you don't have to have a Mantus anchor to take advantage of these tips and Greg doesn't base his seminar on his product either. Special thanks also to Mantus for sponsoring our full day seminar. You can see their product line here - and if you want a special seminar discount on any Mantus product, contact me directly using the popup in the lower left corner.
The Boat Galley's well loved Carolyn Shearlock will be discussing "Provisioning for Cruisers Made Easy" Hurricane Preparation and How to Protect Your Boat".
I didn't know until about five minutes ago that Carolyn got her start writing by discussing hurricane preparedness.
Let me tell you how good she is - her Gemini catamaran 'Barefoot Gal' was one of the few boats in the Boot Key Harbor mooring field that survived Irma - not only survived, but with very minimal damage. In her usual humble fashion, Carolyn says this was partly due to luck, but frankly, her extensive preparations were the key to this outcome.
This may well be the most valuable cruising seminar you'll ever hear. For a taste of this seminar, check out the Boat Galley's blogpost "How Did She Survive Irma?"
Leaving the best (and least humble!) to last, I will be discussing the "First Timer's Guide to Sailing South". This is my signature seminar and is based on 30 successful AND enjoyable transits on the ICW. You're cruise south on the ICW can be a purgatory, or a pleasure. I'll tell you how to make it a pleasure.
After all of this great stuff, we are featuring a Round Table Question and Answer session so that you can ask the speakers the questions that are vexing you. For example, what are Dave Skolnick's tips on cooking on a boat galley, since he's an amateur boat chef. Or Jeff and Jean's tips on buying a cruising boat? They consult with purchasers to assist them in making the right decision. What was Lin's most frightening moment?
You might want to ask Greg how Mantus Anchors came to be, or about the places he's visited as a full time cruiser.
Lunch is included of course, and after all of this thirst making work, we've got a happy hour for you where you can meet the speakers personally.
It's going to be a great seminar, and I invite you to join us at 8:30 on October 9, at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Here's a link to more information, including ticket information - Sail to the Sun ICW Cruising Seminar. Remember, seating is limited, so don't wait to purchase your tickets.
If you've been considering joining the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally this fall, leaving Hampton on October 19, you still have time to sign up - we have one spot left due to a family crisis that caused one couple to have to postpone their trip south to next year.
For more information and to receive a Rally brochure, or to sign up, click through to 'Sail to the Sun ICW Rally'. It's a "two month floating party" according to one participant, and the most fun you'll have sailing south. And that's what it's all about, right?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Look Out! Here Comes Irma!

No sooner is Harvey over than Irma starts heading towards the Lesser Antilles packing a punch, then becoming a Cat 4 storm. The photos of the immense damage it has already caused are startling. It's the second largest hurricane ever in the Atlantic Basin.
I have always been nervous about hurricanes starting with ‘I’. Isabel was my first hurricane, coming the same year I bought Gypsy Wind, and ever since then, ‘I’ storms have somehow seemed to be the ones that cause me issues. Hopefully Irma will be a lady and behave, but it's not looking good at the moment.
Initially, there are two trains of thoughts about Irma. One was that it would go east and then north, heading up into Florida. The other, and early indications were that this would the one to bet on, it would turn north early, missing Florida and either stay out to sea, or head into the Carolinas. 
The end result now depends on a cold front coming down from Canada. If it moves Irma east at all, we get a break. If not… In the meantime, GO CANADA!
For those interested in an easy to understand analysis of tropical weather systems, go to Tropical Tidbits. This guy really simplifies things. For those more technically minded, Mikes Weather Page, also known as Spaghetti Models, might be your cup of tea.
I am currently hiding out in a marina on the Canaveral barge canal that is known as a superb hurricane hole. There are 20 foot embankments all around the marina, and a line of large trees to the north, the direction from which the winds should come. The marina is entirely enclosed, so there's no danger from wave action. I'm quite confident all will be OK.
I finally got the parts in to repair my transmission coupler. The problem was that I was told last year by a so called pro that I could use a one inch split coupler on a 25 mm prop shaft (one inch = 25.4mm). “That’s what all the mechanics do” he tells me. While that teeny difference doesn’t sound like it should be a problem, it was - and I have the badly damaged shaft coupler to prove it. 
To make a long story short, I ordered a 25mm split coupler from Britain, along with an R&D flex coupling, which is often referred to as a 'drivesaver'. Interestingly enough, the cost of the flex coupling was 1/3 of its price in the US. Including shipping, my cost for the two items was within two dollars of the US price of the flex coupling alone. Delivery was three days. I hate to buy from offshore, but paying three times the price? That's just wrong.
The parts are now installed and everything is looking good. Be watching for the whole story in a future issue of Cruising World.
As those of you who are members of Sailing and Cruising, on Facebook, know, there are two exciting Sail to the Sun Seminar days coming up this fall. Both are geared towards supporting the specific interests of cruisers with a need to know what to expect and the speakers’ lineup reflects that.
The first seminar will be held at the Annapolis Sailboat Show on Monday October 9. Our keynote speaker will again be Lin Pardey, and she will be discussing how to make your boat the ‘unstoppable’ sailboat. She discussed this topic with Larry in their book, The Cost Conscious Cruiser and she will discuss the subject at length for you.
Along with Lin, we will also be featuring Carolyn Shearlock, of The Boat Galley. Carolyn will be discussing “Provisioning for Cruisers Made Easy”. For those who aren’t familiar with Carolyn’s blog, it is an endless resource of material, and one I highly recommend you follow. And, guys, Carolyn is not all about pink jobs either. Check it out. There's some good engine tips and more there.
If you’ve ever worried about correct anchoring technique, then you need to hear Greg Kutson, of Mantus Anchors. Greg gives a superb seminar, with tips and techniques from his own cruising experience. This seminar ranks among the top five for content and presentation that I have ever heard. 
Another top notch speaker who comes with solid qualifications is Dave Skolnick, past president of the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association). Dave is a delivery captain who has done countless crossings of the Gulf Stream. If you’ve ever worried about this crossing - and who hasn’t? - Dave’s seminar will give you the facts about how to de-stress this part of your journey. And interestingly enough, he debunks the rule about never crossing if the wind has the letter “N’ in it.
Captains Jeff and Jean Grossman address cruising as a couple, and deal with the challenges and issues that come with living together on a small boat. With humour and tact, they discuss how to divvy up the workload, how to identify your partner’s stress - for example, your spouse leaping into the Bay and swimming for shore while you’re heading out is a solid ‘tell’ - and how to alleviate the causes. 
Seriously, for those just starting to travel on a boat, there are challenges in the change of lifestyle, and Jeff and Jean can help you prepare for them.
For those wondering how to handle the ICW, I will be giving my talk on “Sailing South, the Firstimers’ Guide to the ICW”. In this seminar, I discuss what the ICW is, what challenges are involved and how to cope with them, and what this year’s trouble spots are and how to deal with them. The goal is to make your trip south as stress free as possible, and more than that, to make it enjoyable. Last year we even discussed how to handle any problems thrown up by Hurricane Matthew, so the seminar is up to date with current conditions.
We finish the formal part of the day with a roundtable Q&A session where you can ask any of the speakers the questions you have about your trip. This fun session is often the most informative of the day, which is truly saying something in a day as jam packed with information as this one is.
We wrap up your day with a happy hour, giving you an opportunity to meet the speakers personally. Tickets are available at Annapolis Cruising Seminar, and lunch is included in the price. Seating is limited, so if you plan on attending, order your tickets today.

The next Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar is December 2, in Cocoa Florida, hosted by the City of Cocoa, Florida and with media sponsor Cruising World. It’s a one day seminar focused on Florida, Bahamas, Cuba and Caribbean cruising essentials. For cruisers heading south, this date allows you to enjoy the Cruisers Thanksgiving at St. Mary’s GA before moving on. 
Our keynote speaker for this event is Captain Fatty Goodlander, noted writer, author and raconteur. This will be Fatty’s last US speaking engagement for quite a while, as he will soon be off on his fourth circumnavigation.
Along with Fatty, Pam Wall, the well known cruising consultant and writer, discusses crossing the Gulf Stream and Cruising in the Bahamas, her favourite cruising grounds. This 90 minute seminar, with time for questions, is the “local knowledge” for these beautiful islands that you need.
Mike Giannotti, formerly of Hartge Yacht Yard in Annapolis, will discuss onboard electrical issues. As everyone knows, electricity does not mix well with salt water and Mike’s seminar addresses many of these issues. Mike’s knowledge is encyclopaedic and I should know - I’ve recently been picking his brains about some battery issues on Gypsy Wind and he’s been a huge help to me.
I’ll be discussing Cruising in Cuba, that amazing cruising destination just 90 miles south of the Keys. I’ll be talking about the changes in regulations, what you’ll need to cruise there, what to expect and how to make your cruise there a successful one. Special emphasis will be given to the new regulations brought out by the US and how they affect your ability to cruise there.
For those who cannot get enough of Fatty, there is a three hour afternoon breakout session "Sailing, Cruising, and Heavy Air” in which he discusses, offshore sailing, passagemaking, and stormproofing, as discussed in his latest book, "STORM PROOFING, Your Boat, Gear and Crew”.
Following all of this, there is a Roundtable Q&A session with all the speakers, and then a happy hour, followed by dinner and entertainment with Captain Carl Dirkes. Some of you will have run across Carl, who regularly sails his boat to the islands, playing at various cruisers' hangouts in the Bahamas, so you already know this will be a great time.
More information and tickets are available at Sail to the Sun Cocoa Cruising Seminar. Note that seating for this event is limited, particularly for the breakout session with Fatty, so order your tickets right away.
There is still one space left available on the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally - if you’re planning on going south this fall, this is the fun way to do it. In the words of one participant: “it’s a two month long floating party with all your best friends”.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. For a brochure, or to sign up, go to Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. (note - there have been some issues with the website (they now seem to be corrected), if you don't see the information you want, or would like a brochure on the Rally, you can email me direct at Brochure Please

Monday, August 14, 2017

Face time with Fatty Goodlander!

I've been busy. Honest. Very busy. Like really, REALLY busy!
After leaving Cocoa, I realized that my exhaust elbow needed to be replaced, so I pulled up in Vero Beach. No sooner did I get a mooring ball then the alternator bracket cracked. And then, while investigating those problems, I realized I had issues with my shaft coupling and alignment - although to be honest, that's been a bit of an ongoing issue. Now was a good time to deal with it for good.
So I got the bracket welded and refitted, the exhaust elbow replaced with a nice shiny stainless steel unit, and now I'm waiting on a part to be shipped in from Europe. No wonder they call this place Velcro Beach - I feel I've been caught and can't escape.
So, what's all this have to do with Fatty? Bear with me, I'm coming to that.
As most of you are aware, I've been putting together a day long cruising seminar to take place next December in Cocoa Florida. The date is December 2, so the timing is exactly right when everyone is coming through on their way south, right after the Cruisers' Thanksgiving in St. Marys, GA. So as you can see, my time here when not fixing things has been put to very good use....
The big news is that Fatty has consented to be our keynote guest speaker for the seminar, and boyoboyoboy, are we excited about that. Along with Fatty, we have the inestimable Pam Wall who will be speaking on crossing the Gulf Stream, and cruising the Bahamas. Then, we have weather guru Chris Parker, who will talk about weather for cruisers - always a concern, and no one better than Chris to explain it. I'll be the guy up front taking notes!
We will also have a seminar on medical onboard emergencies, and I will be discussing Cruising in Cuba, and the changes that are taking place that affect American cruisers wishing to go to Cuba. Following all of that, there will be a Q&A Roundtable free for all with all of the speakers ready to answer YOUR questions on any topic.
And, don't forget the very special three hour breakout session with Fatty where he will speak to a dozen cruisers about Offshore Sailing, Passagemaking and Storm Proofing - Sailing, Cruising and Heavy Air. Those taking in Fatty's three hour breakout will get a free video of the entire day so they can watch the afternoon seminars at their leisure.
Following the Q&A Roundtable, there will be dinner, with entertainment provided by fellow cruiser and entertainer Carl Dirkes. Carl toured when younger with some of the top bands of the day, so a good time is assured! You can learn more about him at Carl Dirk's website.
Lunch and dinner are included in your ticket price. This is a full day of education and fun with fellow cruisers. We'll be discussing the topics and destinations you'll need to know about to make the next part of your cruising adventure a success.
So as you can see, I've been keeping myself busy here. As if all of this wasn't enough, there's of course the preparations for the 2017 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally - hard to believe it's only two months away. The itinerary is finalized, and I'm now into doing the final prep. If you've been considering joining the Rally, there are two spots still open. After those are filled, we're done. You can find more information, or request a Rally brochure at www.ICWally.com
Whew! After reading this, I think I'm needing a nap!
Before I nod off, here's the link to the seminar and ticket information: Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar
Don't delay - seating is limited and it's first come - first served, especially for Fatty's breakout session. Come out and join your fellow cruisers, learn from the experts and have a great time.

P.S. Fatty will have copies of his books available for sale.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Moor, the Merrier

As usual at this time of year, I start hearing from people asking about where they can keep their boat in south Florida from December onwards, usually until they are ready to head over to the Bahamas.
Alas, I have some bad news for you....according to several people who have been looking around, there is very little available for longer term dockage, particularly if your boat is 45 feet or more.
What usually happens is that cruisers get their boat south sometime in December, at the height of the season. They've been looking for a slip, and probably not having a lot of success.
Believe me, I know - I book slips for up to 20 boats for the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, and the further south we get, the more of a struggle it becomes.
Let's discuss this a little. First of all, is it mandatory that you be in south Florida? And just how long do you plan to be there before you move on?
Although you can get chilly weather in central and north Florida, it's a relative thing. 50° may be cold for Florida in mid January, but compared to where you've come from? You'll survive! And if you're a Canuck like me, that's t-shirt weather at that time of year.
South Florida?
If your goal is to leave the boat over the Christmas holidays before returning to head for the Bahamas, you might be wiser to stop further north and complete your trip south on your return.
Doing that, you could consider anyplace in Florida that is reasonably proximate to an airport instead of getting into the battle of finding a spot in the south.
That is, unless you're like our friend above, who simply sticks wings on her dinghy like you see here. That's the way to do it!
Fernandina Beach, Jacksonville and St. Augustine all are close to Jax Airport. Further south, Titusville, Cocoa, Canaveral, Melbourne and Fort Pierce are all within a reasonable distance of Orlando. And still further south, you have Fort Pierce through to Palm Beach - all with access to Orlando, Palm Beach and even Lauderdale airports. Best of all, prices are going to be less than in S FL - considerably less in fact.
Dinner Key Marina and Coconut Grove behind
You could also consider a mooring field. There are mooring fields in St. Augustine, Titusville, Stuart and Vero Beach. Of those, Titusville and Stuart offer the best chance of getting a spot, but Vero Beach is far and away the safest place of the three to leave your boat on a ball. Stuart is very nice, but a bit off the beaten path.
Boot Key Harbour in Marathon, in the Keys, is the other possibility for a mooring ball, but it's typically got a waiting list of over 20 boats by mid December. And it's a long way down, especially if the Bahamas are your destination.
But what if you must must must have your boat further south? In that case, you're just going to have to struggle with finding a slip. I honestly can't recommend the Dinner Key mooring field, it's too exposed and rough. If you can get a ball at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club - they do occasionally have one available and you can see the club in the photo here, it's above Dinner Key Marina - that would be the best of all. They have a great clubhouse also. Probably my favourite spot in S FL in fact.
 Coconut Grove Sailing Club
Just south of Fort Lauderdale, there's the Dania Beach Marina. Good marina with reasonable prices, good security and protection, but absolutely no space unless you're lucky and call at the right time. Loggerheads, just south of that on the other side of the bridge, may have a spot for you, again, very well protected but it won't be as cheap as its neighbour.
Your two best online resources for searching out a marina are the websites www.WaterwayGuide.com and the Salty Southeast Cruisers Net. Both have excellent resources and complete information on every marina on the east coast.
Another potential resource is a private slip. although they tend to ask for long term dockage. Most of these will be in the Lauderdale area where many homeowners on the canals rent out their docks. One place to search for these is http://www.docksearch.com/. There are other online resources, but they seem geared to huge powerboats rather than our smaller, more restrained yachts...and of course, there's always Craigslist. With these, keep in mind, it's caveat emptor. Be sure of what you're getting. A lot of places won't permit living aboard for example, since you'd be living in that person's backyard.
You could of course anchor out, but I won't anchor out and leave my boat except in very specific circumstances. There's simply too much risk involved: being broken into or dragging are the two biggest ones.
If you're aboard the boat daily, that's another situation. Anchoring out has lots of advantages, especially if you are in a well protected area. Contrary to what you might have heard, most of Florida is still open to anchoring, although it's not without its challenges (he says with a wry grin!).
One of those challenges is finding a place that is friendly to cruisers, has a convenient dinghy dock or other means of going ashore, is protected from the elements and has a good liveaboard or transient cruiser population.
Palm Beach Anchorage looking south
One of the nicest spots is, believe it or not, West Palm Beach, at the city docks downtown between Flagler Memorial bridge and Royal Park bridge, at the top of the photo.
As you can see from the photo, taken just before the boat show when the boats are moved out, it's a nice, protected anchorage. If you need to bring the boat to a dock, say for shopping, you can do so during the daytime. The small liveaboard population there is very watchful and more than happy to help you out. You're right beside the downtown with its lively ambiance, including a great pizza restaurant nearby and several good pubs, and there is a free trolley that will get you to the grocery store and other needful places.
Another nice spot for transients is Cocoa, on either the northeast or southwest side of the Hwy 520 bridge. Why either side? Depends on which way the wind is blowing of course.
During the winter months, the southeast side is often more comfortable and, during the spring and summer, the northwest. On the southwest side, you have a lovely downtown, convenient dinghy dockage, and a dock where you can get up to four nights per month (no power or water though). On the other side, you have grocery and other stores within walking distance, and water. I often move back and forth between the two, depending on weather and my needs at the time.

My last blogpost brought out some rather entertaining comments, a couple of snarky ones too. I seriously hope that I helped to encourage a few of you to work at your writing and to consider the projects I suggested. If I did, and you'd like to discuss them with me, contact me using that super annoying (but useful) popup here on the page. I'll give you whatever help I can.

The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally itinerary has been finalized, and it can be seen at Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. For those heading south, the itinerary will allow you to avoid the congestion that sailing with 15 - 20 boats can create at the marinas we come to.
There are still a couple of events that I'm working on for the Rally, including a full day seminar event to be held in Florida with world class speakers on cruising. Stay tuned for more information on this event as it will be open to the public.
It's one you won't want to miss, and it's timed perfectly for snowbirds heading south. If you're looking for good information on your next destination after leaving Florida, about crossing the Gulf Stream and other cruiserly subjects, this will be the event to attend. Then there's the party afterwards...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Get Rich as a Rock Star Sailing Writer...

Ok, just the title alone should tell you that this post is fictional! Writing about sailing is not the way to become rich and famous, I can assure you of that. But, writing about your passion can be very satisfying and, if you'd like some suggestions on how to go about writing a basic blog or magazine article, read on.
You just might find your métier in these words! And if not, it could help your blogging or other writing projects.
For those who might have a more serious interest in this topic, at the end of this blogpost I'm going to give you four potential projects that you can apply your skills to.
First of all - writing successfully is not as easy as you might think. Many people believe they are good writers and in my experience, a lot of them are fooling themselves. Just because your friends adore your blog doesn't make you a budding Lin Pardey, or Fatty Goodlander.
Friends are very tolerant and forgiving of errors in writing that editors - who pay for this stuff - simply won't live with. I can't tell you how many times as a publisher I received submissions that were just unreadable. This doesn't mean you can't become a good writer though, with some work.

To be blunt now - spelling DOES count. So does grammar, punctuation, syntax, the basic organization of your article and a few other things as well.
If you're sitting there wondering what I just said - writing may not be for you. On the other hand, I've met people who could dangle a participle with the best of them, but their writing was so dull it would make your eyes glaze over like a donut. (That, by the way, was a simile).
When I was publishing my newspapers, I'd often get requests from people who weren't sure how to go about writing an article. I had a simple method for them to follow that worked well. It can work for you too.
It's simply this - write your story as if you're 'telling' your story to a friend.
That's it. Write down your story as if you were telling it verbally. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation or any of the things I just told you about - for now, anyway. That all comes later. Simply tell your story, get it on paper - or your screen, but that really doesn't sound as traditional, does it? Anyhow, write it down and don't sweat the details at this point.
Now, put it away for a day or two. You need to come back to your work with a fresh mind, because you're about to become your own editor. Editing too soon means you won't see the mistakes you've made, because your mind is overfull with what you've just done and thought (wrongly) that you got correct.
When you return to your work, slowly re-read the story to be sure it's organized. Does it flow, does it make sense? Is the organization logical? A story that jumps all over the place is usually not a well written story. If it isn't well organized, deal with that first.
Take whole sentences and paragraphs and put them where they make more sense. Don't worry too much about individual words here - it's the overall flow and feel of the work you want to get right, not the details.
Once you've done this, correct basic grammar and spelling errors. Eliminate or replace words you've used too frequently.
Don't use a computer program to do any of this either. It's you who needs to know how to do these things, so that writing well and correctly becomes natural to you. Yes, it's work.
Now, have someone else read your story, preferably someone with good English skills, and when you do, park your ego!
People with weak egos who can't stand criticism of their writing will never become good writers. You want whoever reads your work to be honest with you and to point out the weaknesses and errors. You need to be strong now, face up to the criticisms. Trust me, there will be errors.
That's ok - errors can be corrected. Very, very little of what you read today hasn't been edited, often extensively. By the time you read this post, I'll have read it over a dozen times, and made over a hundred changes to it. And this is a blog post - you would be astonished at the work that goes into something I'm being paid for.
At this point, correct the mistakes your 'editor' has pointed out to you. You'll also at this point probably see better ways of organizing your work or making your point. Go ahead, make those changes. Writing is a craft, and changes are normal.
That's not to say that sometimes you don't get it right the first time, but that's actually very rare. Fun when it happens though. In my case, twice in nearly 30 years, so I know how Snoopy feels in the cartoon below.
Let's discuss some basic mistakes that everyone makes. Remember, there are times when you do break all the rules, but not - repeat not - when you're beginning.
One of the worst mistakes sailors make is to make their account sound like a logbook notation, thinking it's a sailorly way of writing. That's dull, dull and duller. I'd rather read an economics textbook. And, it's not the way you talk, is it? I sure hope not.
Another mistake is using, and overusing, clichés. For example, describing the logbook notation style as 'duller than ditchwater'. You want to avoid that sort of writing like - well, er, like the plague!
The next big mistake is trying to be too clever, or using a plethora of extraneous information and verbiage that serves to obfuscate your reader. Effective writing is communication and communication is only effective when it's understood.
As you can imagine, I have a fairly extensive vocabulary because of my work, but you will very rarely find me using words past the high school level of understanding. You know, like that phrase that jumped out at you above...."a plethora of extraneous information and verbiage that serves to obfuscate...".
Skip that kind of gobbledygook, it only serves to alienate your reader. If you wouldn't use a word in general conversation, then as a general rule, you probably shouldn't be using it in your writing either.
Don't pretend to know things you don't. In this world of Google and search engines, BS gets caught quickly. Look things up, provide proof when you have to. Remember that footnoting stuff your high school English teacher talked about? There's a place for that.
Remember the old rules, they have their place. Stick to what you know. Open with a great starting sentence, one that creates interest on the part of your readers, makes them eager to read on.
One of the most famous of all opening sentences is "It was a dark and stormy night..." You probably remember that from Peanuts as Snoopy's favourite phrase, but doesn't it make you want to read on and find out what happened on that "dark and stormy night"?
The phrase, by the way, was originally from Washington Irving's 1809 "A History of New York". It was made famous by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the novel "Paul Clifford".
You could appropriate that phrase in a story about having friends over for sundowners on your boat - "It was going to be a 'dark and stormy' afternoon. Bob and Carol were bringing over Cuban rum and ginger beer to make the iconic sailors' drink..." Kind of makes you wonder where this story could go, doesn't it?
Flesh out your article with the details. Keep them interesting. Remember that short sentences usually read better and are easier for a new writer to wrestle into shape.
In this story about 'dark and stormy', you might just discuss the different types of rum and the islands you had to visit to get them. You might discuss the characters at the various distilleries you went to.
Finally, sum up your article and leave your readers feeling fulfilled: "As Bob and Carol clambered into their dinghy to return to their boat, all of us laughing uproariously, we realized how fortunate we are to enjoy this gypsy lifestyle, and to have such great friends to share it with". That's a bit trite, but you get the idea. Wrap it up, don't leave your reader hanging.
Now, the projects I promised to tell you about. The first two and the last are projects that were abandoned by their creators, but for which there is a significant need in the cruising community. The third one is something I haven't seen done yet but which I feel would have a good audience with boaters.
The first two are going to require a special kind of technical expertise and knowledge about navigation. The third and fourth might be accomplished by anyone with an interest in the topics who is willing to do the necessary research.
We need someone to replace the anchoring guidebooks "The Great Book of Anchorages" by Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, and the "On the Water Chartguides" by Mark and Diana Doyle.
While different in their approaches to the topic - anchoring on the East Coast Intracoastal Waterway - both books offered valuable information that simply was not available elsewhere. It would be great to see someone take these projects up and again provide this kind of information to cruisers.
The next writing project that I see a need for is one involving cruising pets, particularly cats and dogs on board. The perfect person for this project is actually a friend of mine who has a great deal of veterinary experience (hello Tara!), but a non-technical person who can research the topic could do very well with this.
And the last one....do you remember 'the Head Mistress'? She wrote about 'head' issues and was an expert on the various toilet technologies and associated problems to be found on boats. If I had a nickel for every post I've seen on Facebook about head problems on board, I'd have...well, I'd have a lot of nickels, wouldn't I?
So if you want to be a writing rock star in the sailing and cruising world, those are four potential projects that you could consider.

In other news, I've just today posted the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally itinerary, at the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page. There are only a few spots left in this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. If you've been thinking about joining us for this epic trip on the ICW, you need to sign up very soon. 
You can get a brochure by clicking through at the Sail to the Sun website, or by contacting me directly at ICW.Wally@gmail.com

Hope to see you this fall, as we Sail to the Sun. Maybe even discuss your new writing career...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Changes to Cruising in Cuba, Sail to the Sun and more....

Well - that last post certainly got some attention - nearly 7000 hits in only four days, and that doesn't count the shares and email reads. It is now my all time blog post leader...you folks seem to have an insatiable appetite for the baloney that Florida throws at us over the anchoring issue, because the next four top posts are all Florida anchoring issue stuff. I should be grateful to the politicians there for providing me so much to blog about. Hah!
President Trump has given me my next topic to discuss, Cuba. Cruising World just published my update on the changes to Cuba travel announced on June 16 in Miami. You can find that article here at Cruising World. Yes, there are changes, but it will still be possible for Americans to cruise to Cuba - as the regulations come out and we have more details, I'll update all you LiveBloggers, or you can follow the issue on my Sailing and Cruising Cuba group on Facebook. As my article for CW starts out, the devil is in the details...
Plans are continuing for this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, and people are getting excited about joining the most fun you can have heading south. Your Rally includes the day long cruising seminar at the Annapolis Sailboat Show, which last year featured Lin Pardey as our guest speaker. Along with Lin, we had Greg Knutsen, of Mantus Anchors, and Greg gave the best anchoring seminar I've heard yet. Jeff and Jean Grossman discussed cruising as a couple, and Dave Skolnick discussed the various means of crossing the Gulf Stream and actually enjoying it.
As in year's past, the Rally will begin in Hampton VA with a brief welcoming party and some speakers with still more cruising advice.
It looks like we'll be able to do the Dismal Swamp this year, as word is it will be open for the fall migration. The Dismal is always a welcome stop, and from there, we head to Elizabeth City for their Rose Buddy greeting, an ICW tradition.
Then it's on to places such as River Dunes (rated in the top 25 of American marinas!), a visit to Dowry Creek Marina, now under new management - they're suggesting we take in a visit to a nearby rum distillery while we're there. Then on to Beaufort NC, Beaufort SC, Charleston, Savannah, Southport, and the many many other charming stops along the ICW.
One of the biggest reasons people join the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is for the assistance and advice on how to make the trip easier, safer and more fun. And perhaps the best way to demonstrate the value of that is to quote a friend of mine, Dana, who was unable to join the Rally for his first trip south and told me this just yesterday...

If I could do it over I'd have made sure I was in the rally! We had to learn a whole lot doing the ICW...(and we're still only in Jacksonville! More learning I'm sure) it would have been nice to "be led" and "be instructed" along with the other first timers. Luckily, you and only a few others were there to give advice along the way (it really did help us). One tends to listen to too many people and read too many stories, that it rather starts to confuse, than educate. I, like many I'm sure, fell into that a few times along the way. By the time we were on the last leg of our journey, we had gained enough knowledge to be a lot more relaxed, and so enjoyed that part of the trip much more. God was good to us.
I wish there was some way to express to those who will make this trip, how good for first timers your Rally is. Not just for the fun part...but to go thru the tough parts with others in the same boat, so to speak... and being led by experienced people.

Hey Dana, thanks for the kind words! I remember what my own first trip was like - very much as Dana noted above, very challenging and stressful, always wondering and worrying about what was coming next. And on top of that, you're on your own. It's so much nicer to be able to do the trip with new friends sharing the same adventure.
The best part of that is that these new friendships don't end in Miami. Everyone keeps in touch with one another, making plans to travel together to the Bahamas, the Caribbean for the more adventurous, and to keep in touch for future meetups.

One of the most enjoyable stops during the Rally is Cocoa Florida, where the Historic Cocoa Village Association rolls out the red carpet for us.
Once again, a royal welcome from Cocoa is in the plans, including a Mayor's reception and some great dining spots over the course of several days. Side trips to Cape Canaveral Space Center are organized, as well as provisioning to grocery stores and of course, West Marine.
A lot of the fun of the Rally is due to the Ralliers themselves - potlucks, side trips, adventures, croquet tournaments, shrimp bbqs (31 pounds!) and one memorable night of karaoke in St. Augustine! They even convinced me, after a few brews, to get up and sing. Yes, there is video...
Another of 2016's highlights was the Windmill Harbour Marina on Hilton Head.
The folks literally opened their doors to us, and we had an amazing time here, with tours of Savannah, GA, a pizza party, dinners and a fascinating talk about the history of Hilton Head from one of the people who helped create Windmill Harbour.
There's more, you can take a look at the public Facebook Sail to the Sun page (Ralliers have their own, private page) and hint hint!!! that video of me singing karaoke is there, along with photos of events from the past three year's rallies.
If you've been thinking about joining the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally this year, don't delay much longer - the Rally is half full, and there have been a great many recent inquiries for information. If you'd like a brochure, you can request one from the links at www.ICWally.com, or by using the contact link from this page. And there's lots of Rally information at www.ICWally.com, including an itinerary and more.
Last minute addition - for those travelling south from the Great Lakes, be aware that the Erie Canal is closing early this year, on October 11, not mid November. Adjust your plans accordingly and stay tuned either here or at Facebook Sailing and Cruising for more information.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Florida Anchoring Sneak Play....We Were Screwed!

I've already said this several times publicly and I'm going to repeat myself - the people who negotiated on behalf of we boaters for the new Florida anchoring legislation did an excellent job this year. With very little fanfare, they got new rules put through that permit anchoring in Florida with minimal restrictions. You can read the new rules here.
However, before you break open a cold one to celebrate, you need to know what went on in the background, and what it portends for the future of boating and anchoring in Florida. It isn't good.
As most of you are aware, in 2016, the Florida legislature granted exemptions to overnight anchoring in three areas - Sunset Lake, Miami Beach; Venetian Causeway, Miami Beach; and Middle River, Fort Lauderdale.
And just coincidentally, three people who are anti-anchoring just happen to live in those three areas: Frederick Karlton, Mark Gold and the father of the bill's co-sponsor, Senator George Moraitis. I have to admit, I am stunned by the coincidence of that. Simply amazing. Ok, sarcasm 'off' now...
The bill that put those exemptions into law was HB 1051, and it was made clear at that time that the provisions would 'sunset' once the FWC ("the commission") had reported on the Pilot Program in 2017. All good, so far. I mean, really, what could go wrong?
However, THIS year's bill, CS/CS/HB 7043 had a few wrinkles. I'll come to those in a moment, but it's important to note that this year's negotiations were not contested by the usual suspects, like Karlton and Gold and their supporters.
Why was that? Why weren't they out there screaming and making a fuss this time around, as they've done every year for years now?
It's because they were assured - and I have this from a source who was close to the negotiations - that their exemptions would not be removed. The three no-anchoring overnight zones would be retained, and here's the wording in the new bill that ensured it:

This section shall remain in effect notwithstanding the Legislature's 
adoption of the commission's recommendations for the regulation of 
mooring vessels outside of 159 public mooring fields pursuant to s. 327.4105.

Another meaning for the word "notwithstanding" is: 'you were screwed'. Because that's what has happened. To ensure that there would be no serious opposition to the negotiations, the boaters' groups negotiators chose to permit that clause in the new bill. Apparently, the opposition agreed not to contest the new bill provided those three exemptions were retained.
Now I do get it. If boaters had demanded that those three areas be opened up for overnight anchoring, then the big money opposition would have swung into gear and there would have been a huge fight, as in year's past. So the decision was to blunt the opposition by accepting these exemptions to overnight anchoring.
This was a choice made by the team and as in all politics, it was a compromise. I get it, but really, what is the worst that would have happened if we fought on this issue? No bill? Everything back to what it was in 2009, when the Pilot Program began? That's not a bad thing for boaters. The legislature is tired of this fight - they wanted it over, but what has been done ensures that this fight is a long way from over.
That's because this compromise will come back to haunt us.
Very soon, some Florida community is going to demand its own anchoring restrictions because, 'if Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale can have restrictions, why can't we?'
Well, that's a very good question isn't it? And if you were that community's senator, how would you answer that question?
In other words, the demands for anti-anchoring ordinances are going to start up again, only this time, there is no way that the legislature can defend not approving them, not with these exemptions permitted by Tallahassee. What do they say? It's ok for them but not for you? That ought to go over really well.
With all due respect to the negotiating group, this situation is like picking up the ball at your one yard line and running it down to the other team's one yard line - then failing to put the ball across the goal line. They did a great job, but they have not finished it. We need that ball over the goal line.
These three no anchoring exemption areas need to be dealt with. Otherwise, we will be seeing demands to limit anchoring. Even now, I'm aware that several locations are eager to stop anchoring in their communities: Dania and Hollywood, Boca Raton to start with. Palm Beach could be another, and no doubt there are several west coast locations that will be asking about this.
I have been communicating with the negotiating team members and a few of them recognize the problem here, but are not willing to do anything about it. I've also told them that, if they choose not to act on this, that I would discuss this publicly and let the boating public know what went on.
I'm not interested in starting a fight with them. They aren't the enemy. I understand what they did, why they did it and why they thought it was the best thing to do. But we need to recognize that this fight over anchoring isn't over, and why that is.
I also don't know if anything can be done about this now. But if you disagree with what was done, you want to contact the MTOA and the AGLCA, who were the lead groups in this fight, and let them know you aren't happy about these exemptions. You could also make your concerns known to the SSCA, via their Facebook page.
After that, you can get ready to fight again, because, sad to tell you, we're not done with this issue.

(as always, please share this post to your page, and to the boating groups you belong to, so that the general boating public gets this message).

Monday, May 29, 2017

Playing with my Sailrite....

It's that time again - I've gotten tired of sewing repairs in my old - but trusty - genoa. I ordered and received a few weeks ago, a 145% Genoa from Sailrite, and last week, I started sewing again.
Let me give you an idea of the immensity of this project.
This sail is 17 feet on the foot, and over 40 on the luff. The panels are run horizontally - 13 of them from head to foot. So the total outside length is 94 feet, and the edges of the panels can be anywhere from 17 feet at the bottom of the sail to about 1.5 feet at the top. Let's say for the sake of argument that the average is 8 feet - that's 12 joints, or another 96 feet of sewing.
All of that times 3, since you run three sets of stitches on each seam. That's 570 feet of sewing in total, and that doesn't count the patches and other sections that are sewn on, or the sections you end up resewing.
You know, when I write it all down like this, I start to question my sanity! That's a lot of sewing.
In any event, it's coming together at last - I've got the panels all together, the leech tape sewn on with the leech line enclosed, and am starting on the foot tape. Once that's done, all that is left (did I really say 'ALL that is left'?) is the luff tape, and the sacrificial sunshield, a bright red fabric to set off Gypsy Wind's hull.
The very last step is to cut and sew the letters for Gypsy Wind's name, which are an adhesive cloth - no sewing there. I'll post photos once I'm done, and be watching in Cruising World for the complete article.
After this, I have a lovely new battery charger to install - and the only reason I'm not working on that today is because the local hardware store is closed and I don't have the wire and connectors I need on board. Does the fun never end?
A heads up here, be watching for the September edition of Cruising World, where I discuss the highs and lows of cruising the ICW - more specifically, issues around bridge heights and shoaling. One of the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally's challenges last year was getting our taller boats through some of the bridges, due to higher than usual water from Hurricane Matthew, heavy rainfall runoff and a full moon at the wrong times.... I also provide tips on how to get through, and some alternate routing for anyone experiencing problems, or wanting to avoid the challenges. I even discuss cutting your mast down with a professional rigger if you're into extreme solutions.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is now half full, and I will be posting the itinerary for this year's Rally mid-week. Lots of interesting events, and some new ones that those on the Rally will certainly enjoy - such as a tour of a rum distillery. Now that ought to be entertaining, given the affinity of sailors for rum!
If you've been considering joining the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, be aware that June is the big month for people signing up. Don't wait and miss out on the most fun you can have heading south, because space is limited and we're halfway there now! You can get more information at the Sail to the Sun ICW page, as well as request a brochure or sign up.
Seems a LOT of people enjoyed that last ICW video with the Ralliers - here's another look at the ICW for those considering the trip....this stretch is from Georgetown to Charleston, a gorgeous section of the trip.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Summer's Coming.....

It never fails. My Facebook group Sailing and Cruising members in the north always get a bit cranky around the end of March. Their posts show it, but in the past few weeks, everyone has calmed down again.
It's been a long winter, and all they wanted was to get back on the water and get out sailing. Can't say as I blame them - I remember all too well what spending the winters ashore were like, awaiting the day when I could get to the boat and do the bottom painting and get her ready to splash.
That first night aboard was always heavenly, like coming home, even if the water was barely above freezing in Lake Huron. That first sail, first night anchored out again, usually at Beausoleil Island.
Now, being aboard full time and spending winters in the south, I don't experience that 'waiting and waiting' any more. Life is always a beach...or at least an anchorage, or a dock someplace warm!
Isn't that the dream of all of us? To retire, and spend those cold, cold winters in someplace warm? Preferably with a cold rum drink in our hands? Looking at a beach and palm trees?
Surrounded by dolphins, and great friends?
As many of you know, I lead a rally of boats south every fall, from Hampton VA to Miami FL in an event called Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. This year is my fourth Rally south, and every year, I am amazed by the great people I get to lead.
The basic idea for the Rally was to help people on what, for many, would be their first real foray into both the cruising life, and the challenging route known as the ICW, Intracoastal Waterway.
I anticipated that people were looking for guidance and assistance in planning the trip, then executing it with a minimum of stress and aggravation. Help with navigation issues, where the problem areas were, tactics on how to get by them safely, weather, provisioning, exploring. And that was correct.
What I didn't anticipate was that people were also looking for camaraderie, for new friends to replace those they were leaving behind in the snow (I HAD to add that!). Seriously, new cruisers aren't just leaving their jobs behind...they're leaving their homes, their lives, family, friends and everything else they've known for years.
That's not easy to do when you stop and think about it. It's actually kind of scary!
So joining up with a group of people who share your goals and aspirations, even if they are total strangers, makes a lot of sense. And in practice, it's been amazing.
It's hard for me to believe, but with three trips south and over 100 participants, I've seen any number of new, lifelong friendships created, more laughter and fun than you could possibly imagine.
I decided that I would put together a short video of the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, showing some of the laughs and good times we had - recognizing that it's impossible to cram two months and more of fun and laughter into a five minute video. But you'll at least have an idea of what all the fuss is about.
If you're interested in more information on the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, you can contact me for more information at www.ICWally.com, there's a link there. We'll be leaving Hampton VA on October 19, 2017. Hope to see you there with us.
In the meantime - enjoy a slice of the sun with the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Ralliers.

P.S. Just got the news today - We're doing the Dismal again! The Dismal Swamp Canal will be open by this summer!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Florida Anchoring Situation: Update 2017

So what's happening with the Florida anchoring situation now? There's good news, and there's bad news - what else is new?
This year is the year that the anchoring Pilot Program, begun in 2009, was slated to end. The Pilot Program, you might recall, established five mooring fields around Florida, and each of those five cities or regions was permitted to create its own anchoring regulations with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) oversight and approval. The idea was to test out these various regulations and then, at the ending of the PP, enact those that worked throughout Florida so the entire state was under the same rules. More on that in a bit.
At the time, Florida ensured boaters that no new rules regarding anchoring would be instituted. And we believed them! That lasted until 2016, when perennial anti-anchoring complainers in Miami Beach managed to convince Senator Moraitis to sponsor a law that carved out three areas in which no overnight anchoring was to be permitted: Sunset Lake, Miami, where Frederick Karlton lives was one. You might remember Karlton as the crank who had 22 dinghies tied behind his house to discourage others from anchoring, along with his playing loud rap music and using spotlights to drive anchored boats off.
Then there's Venetian Causeway, Miami, where another complainer, lawyer Mark Gold, lives. He believes that the publicly owned water is his backyard. Finally, there's Middle River, Fort Lauderdale, where Senator Moraitis' father lives. Ya know, it's a lucky thing I'm not a cynic because otherwise, you might just wonder about how those three areas were chosen.
So we come to 2017. This year, the Seven Seas Cruising Association handed off the leadership in the fight to the Marine Trawler Owners' Association (MTOA) and the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA). Those two organizations conducted a successful fund raising initiative that permitted them to hire a professional lobbyist, who was a part of the 2015 effort in which boaters prevailed against a well funded and organized attempt to restrict anchoring.
The end results were favourable to boaters. Here's the summary:
Pursuant to Florida Statutes adopted in 2009, Florida’s FWC (Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) conducted an Anchoring & Mooring Pilot Program which concluded in 2017. The 2009 law also required the FWC to issue a report and required the Florida Legislature to act on recommendations from the pilot program. It is this mandate that HB 7043 addresses. The bill incorporates many of the findings and recommendations from the pilot program. As of May 1, 2017, the bill has been adopted by the Florida House of Representative and the Florida Senate. The bill has been “enrolled” and sent to the Florida Governor for consideration.

Summary of the bill:
1. Prohibits local governments (cities and counties) from adopting new laws that ban or restrict anchoring and mooring outside the boundaries of existing mooring fields. This regulatory authority is reserved to the State so that local governments cannot create a confusing patchwork that varies by location.

2. Provides more flexibility for removal of derelict vessels. For example, a vessel is at risk of becoming derelict if the vessel does not have effective means of propulsion for safe navigation within 72 hours after the owner or operator of the vessel receives notice of such from a law enforcement officer and cannot provide proof of purchase of parts necessary for repair.

3. The bill does not create any new anchoring restricted areas. The bill does not include the drastic anchoring “set-backs” had been proposed by some local governments and anti-anchoring activists. The bill does, however, include the following setbacks:
a. Prohibits a vessel or floating structure from anchoring or mooring within 150 feet of a marina, boat ramp, boatyard, or other vessel launching or loading facility, within 300 feet of a superyacht repair facility.
b. Prohibits anchoring within 100 feet outward from the marked boundary of a public mooring field. A local government may establish a distance less than this (but not more) upon notification to FWC.
c. Provides exceptions to these restrictions in situations such as when weather requires temporary anchoring for safety.
Note: As stated above, the bill does not create any new anchoring restricted areas. Remember, however, that a bill was adopted during the 2016 legislative session that established anchoring restricted areas in the following locations: (a) The section of Middle River lying between Northeast 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County; (b) Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County; (c) The sections of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County lying between: 1. Rivo Alto Island and Di Lido Island, 2. San Marino Island and San Marco Island, and 3. San Marco Island and Biscayne Island.

4. Prohibits a vessel or floating structure from anchoring, mooring, tying, or otherwise affixing to an unpermitted or unauthorized object that is on or affixed to the bottom of waters of the state.

5. Allows local governments to adopt the Monroe County/Florida Keys standard program for requiring proof of pump-outs within 10-14 days in certain locations such as no-discharge zones and mooring fields.
So as you see, it's a pretty good deal for us. Now, here's the problem: those three areas I mentioned in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Why are they a problem?
At some point, another Florida community is going to want to ban anchoring. There are several right now in fact, such as Hollywood, just north of Lauderdale. And when it happens, the local politicians are going to point at Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale's restrictions, demanding to know why they can't have the same.
There is NO possible defence of those restrictions against that demand. None whatsoever. When this happens, the success of this year's negotiations is out the window and we're back at it again. Worse still, we'll be up against a very well funded group of antagonists, people who have demonstrated their willingness to push as hard as they possibly can to bar us from anchoring.
None of this is to take away from the excellent work of this year's committee and the lobbyist they hired. We came away doing very well in fact, but we need to recognize that the fight is not over.
Some of you will remember that I predicted last year that giving these areas away would create a problem in that they would fight to keep what they won last year.
The committee wisely, in my opinion, avoided that fight this year in the interests of the bigger picture, but at the price of setting us up for a fight in the future - and that's the bad news.

Well...that was intense wasn't it? So what else is going on?
Our sponsoring pub in Cocoa, FL - Ryans - great fun!
This year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is starting to fill up, we're just short of half of our spaces filled now. If you're interested in joining up with a group of fellow sailors and new cruisers to head south on the ICW, check out the information at the Rally website, link here. You can request a brochure, even sign up and pay right there. If you need more information, you can contact me via the website's links, or use the contact form that pops up here.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally starts in Hampton VA and runs over two months, ending in Miami, Florida. The goal of the Rally is to provide participants with a stress-free, fun-filled journey south. My job is to make sure that the things about this trip that people find challenging - handling shoal areas and difficult passages, dealing with anchorages and marinas, arranging provisioning, and so on, are taken care of.
Buoy aground at Peck Lake, floated over from the Bahamas
On top of all that, there is an itinerary of fun happenings for the Rally, with a variety of marinas and stops hosting sundowners, potlucks and other events. This year, we have a tour of a rum distillery on the agenda. That ought to be entertaining! Then there are the regular dinghy raftups, dinners aboard new friends' boats - all the fun stuff that the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is known for.'
And that's it for today - I have a new genoa kit from Sailrite and I'm off to spend a couple of hours on the sewing machine.