1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: July 2017

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...