1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: February 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Amazing dolphin video...


This may be the most amazing video about dolphins I have ever seen - be sure to share this one with friends - the more people understand how intelligent they are, how compatible with humans, the faster they will receive the protection they need.
Next post, back to talking about the ICW - promise! Here's the link to the last ICW discussion

Thursday, February 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lazing on a Sunday afternoon - er, Monday....

Sailing against the Miami skyline - spectacular views
 Life is good - spent the last few days at the Miami Boat show - met people I know from around the world, including some boat builders I first met in Durban SA. Looked at some great boats - but decided not to buy - and just who am I kidding here?
I plan to spend a few more days here, and then head further south into Biscayne Bay, visiting some favourite spots such as Boca Chita Key, Coconut Grove, Elliot Key and No Name Harbour. The original plan was to head over to the Bahamas, but a pending delivery is keeping me from leaving the US. The boat I'm to deliver is in Cuba, so it's going to be complicated, as anything to do with Cuba is. We'll figure it out, and it ought to be a fun trip.
Biscayne Bay is very attractive however, so I'm not going to suffer much - and as always, it'll be good to get out of this hyped up city. It may be attractive, but the people leave a lot to be desired, most of them anyhow.
One Loverly Bunch of Coconuts.....add rum....
To the left are a lovely bunch of coconuts. They were part of an 'experiment', two years ago....I cut them down myself in order to mix the coconut water in them with some Cuban rum I had aboard. My intention was to do a video on how 'real' cruisers drink rum...figured it would be great fun. And it was...I think.
...and see what you get?
I'm sure you're wondering what the results were... well, the photo of me here probably gives you a pretty decent idea of the outcome. This was after my third coconut and rum, drunk straight from the coconut.
I'm telling you, there's something real wicked in those coconuts. I mean, three rum drinks isn't a lot, are they? Er, I mean, shreee rom drinkiepoos, that's ok, right? Uh.....well, you get what I'm saying, I'm sure. I'd play the video but I seem to have misplaced it...imagine!
But I just happen to have a bottle of spiced rum aboard. Is that a coconut palm I see on the shore? Yes! Aduana! To the dinghy!!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Miami Beach Report - and your Right to Anchor

Several of the 25 dinghies
anchored in Sunset Lake to block anchoring
in front of Karlton's house (shown)
Update on Miami Beach - The situation for transients in Miami Beach has gone downhill - badly. 
Miami Beach used to be a great place to hang out just as recently as two years ago. That's changed, significantly. A large part of this change is due to the changes in Florida state law, which were supposed to be helpful to boaters and which most cruisers thought would help our situation in the state. In south Florida, that may not be the case.
The anchorage at the police dock in South Beach is now full with local liveaboards and wet stored boats. There is perhaps room for one or two more boats, well out and close to the channel and significant wake action. Furthermore, due to complaints about crowding at the dock from locals and the neighbouring condos, the city is now enforcing a 20 minute limit at the dock - no mooring, just load/unload.
So given the cramped conditions in the anchorage and the lack of dinghy dockage, there's no point in anchoring there, other than perhaps overnight. It's certainly no place to visit the area from.

One can of course go around to Collins Canal to tie up. It is STRONGLY advised that you have a strong cable or chain and a very good lock, since theft has been common here.
The situation in Sunset Lake has not changed, other than for the worse, in the last two years. For those unfamiliar with the Sunset Lake situation, you can read about it here: Sunset Lake Controversy
Karlton now has nearly 25 little dinghies, effectively blocking close to a third of the anchorage. The local police advised me this morning that the neighbours are considering purchasing their own dinghies and entirely closing off the anchorage to cruising boats. They also advise me, contrary to information I have from the FWC stating the opposite, that the FWC has told them this mooring field is legal.
As well, the city has now put a No Trespass notice on the only public land on Sunset Lake, making it illegal to land there. This came as a result of pressure from the monied homeowners on Sunset Lake. The only other option is to dinghy around to the police dock and that's now a non-starter. So you can't go ashore in Miami Beach - at least, not easily.
The police are sympathetic and would like to see the tatty looking liveaboard fleet gone, as well as see Karlton's little fleet out of there. It seems the pilot program, which has made all of this legal, is NOT working in favour of transient boaters. I'll have more to say on that at a later date, largely because I have to rethink my opposition to the program, given its unintended results.
My opinion: Miami Beach is not worth the trouble. I will not be coming here again.

Now for my personal thoughts on the Sunset Lake situation - anyone who has followed the problem is aware that I've fought it as strongly as possible. I've written to the Miami Herald and seen the situation publicized in the paper, spoken at a City Council meeting on it, spoken with Karlton (the howeowner), discussed it at length with Major Daugherty of the FWC and also with the local police...most of this is public knowledge and can be read in various boating forums.
I've done my part about supporting anchoring rights, and this in a place where I spend perhaps a week total per year. I'm not even an American for pete's sake. Where is the usual US gumption about standing up to bullies, which is what Karlton is? There are seven or eight boats crowded up in this anchorage right now, crowded in an area that should comfortably support 20 boats. And I'm the only one stupid enough to kick up a fuss? No one asked me to take this on, I agree, but everyone would have benefitted from the results had I won the fight.
So I have two suggestions on how this could be handled, for anyone who wants to take up the fight.
First, and easiest - find a half dozen really trashed up boats and anchor them well in Sunset Lake. Fill them full of junk, and put a solar lawn light on them as Karlton has done with his boats. Mimic him as closely as possible.
Advise all of the homeowners on the lake by mail that since Karlton has shown it's legal to anchor on the lake, you have chosen to place these boats there - as is your right! They don't have to be big boats - some really junky looking rowboats scavenged from a local marina that wants them gone will do the trick. The local police seem to feel that a boat under 16 feet is ok without night lights, so that's your ticket. 
Then, tell the local homeowners that these boats will be removed if, and only if, Karlton removes his fleet and guarantees that it will not return.
In other words, stir and let simmer. Season to taste. Enjoy.
Second method - force Major Daugherty of the FWC, or whoever the current officer in charge is, to charge Karlton with the appropriate violations. If he won't do it from a properly worded request, go to court and get a writ of mandamus. A mandamus is basically a court order to an organization or individual to do their job - which isn't being done here.  I had thought of doing this, but as a Canadian, I might be deemed to not have legal standing on the issue.
Here's a quick rundown on what a writ of mandamus is -

A writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal, corporation, Municipal Corporation, or individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.
A writ or order of mandamus is an extraordinary court order because it is made without the benefit of full judicial process, or before a case has concluded. It may be issued by a court at any time that it is appropriate, but it is usually issued in a case that has already begun. (link to definition)

Lastly, if you care about your anchoring rights at all, start spreading the word on the various online forums you belong to. That's the least you can do. It's time that bullies such as Karlton found out that boaters can, and WILL, fight back.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

FORCED! Forced I say, to go sailing...

It was terrible - I had planned to loaf all afternoon in the 80° temperatures when an email from my editor at SAIL Magazine alerted me to the fact that we needed a photo of Gypsy Wind under sail. This was for an article I had written on sewing your own mainsail from a Sailrite kit which will be published shortly.
'The art department is in an uproar, there's no lead photo for the article. We need a photo of your boat under sail..." according to the email.
Well, what's a guy to do when duty calls but...go sailing?
Now I had to unhook the electric, take off the dinghy, untie the lines, get my good friend Al and his wife Joyce to follow me out in their Island Packet to take pictures - well, you get the idea. A perfect afternoon I had planned to share with a bottle of spiced rum and a book, shot all to heck. Life just isn't fair sometimes.
So off we went. The winds were about 10 knots out of the south, and the Indian River was flat and calm. In the near distance, another dozen sailors were mucking about, no doubt also victims of heartless editors...
Surely you can see just how hard all this was - hauling on those lines, watching those wind shifts, paying attention to the depthsounder....watching all the stuff I hadn't secured below tumble to the sole while I heeled, then slide across the floor as I came about...
Anyhow, as you can see, life is tough on a sailboat in Florida in the winter....sure could use some crew, especially as I get closer and closer to the Bahamas and those beautiful white, sandy beaches and gorgeous turquoise water...of course, it being so cold in the north, even cold in Texas, just getting yourself dug out of all that snow to get to the airport could be a challenge. I understand, I really do!

Being serious again, since I'm this late in the season, I'm thinking of attending the Miami Boat Show  - if you're planning on being there yourself, let me know and we'll get together. If you aren't planning on being there - why not? It's a fun show.
And just so you'll know what you're missing, here's what a Miami sunset looks like...