1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: September 2017

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