1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: 2017

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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring is Sprung....

...the grass is riz, I wonders how, you sailors is!
For years, I used to write that phrase in the spring issue of my newspaper. Canadian winters being long, cold and seemingly never-ending, it was like an announcement - the snow is gone! Or at least, going.
It's about the same for boaters in the north...it's been a long, long winter. It always is.
Here in Cocoa Florida, I can tell when spring arrives by the number of boats heading north again. Lately, there have been more heading north than south, a good sign, although I just heard from a friend in Alberta that they got three inches of snow yesterday. Ugh.
This is of course why I head south every winter, I mean, besides the fact that no matter how beautiful Georgian Bay and the North Channel are, you simply can't get out on the water from December to April - and most people would extend that to being from October till late May.
Talking about heading south - are you planning on cutting those dock lines this year and finally, at last, living your dream? Has the better half finally decided you aren't to be dissuaded, talked out of this crazy notion that spending all your time in cutoffs and a t-shirt, gazing at sandy beaches with palm trees and turquoise blue water, is the stuff of fantasy?
But - but just how do you do it, in detail?
I get that question often, as you can imagine. In fact, I've made a career out of answering it for folks like yourself.
First of all, it's not nearly as difficult as it may seem. You truly only need two things, almost everything else is optional. First, you need the determination that you're going to do it. And you need a boat capable of doing it. Of the two, the boat is the easier part, because most boats will make the trip south with proper preparation. Now, how about you?
It's an old line, but it's true - the toughest part of the trip south is taking the lines off the dock. I remember tossing the lines for my first trip south. It was absolutely identical to every other time I'd left the dock, but totally different, because the goal was so different. It wasn't a weekend sail this time. I was setting out on a totally different life to what I had been living to that point. It will be the same for you - and like me, you'll survive and even thrive.
For the moment, let me give you some tips on how to get ready for that momentous moment.
First, if you haven't yet done so, pick up some of the classic books about cruising - Lin Pardey, Tom Neal, Liza Copeland and so on, to help inspire you. Although it doesn't always read that way, these long time cruisers went through the same growing pains that you're about to. They survived, often through worse than you'll ever see, and so will you.
Another good source of inspiration are the many, many cruising blogs out there. I guarantee you, there's someone out there just like you. Often, you can often get a conversation going with them online and ask them about their experience, and ask for their advice on things that are vexing you.
Videos, such as those offered at The Sailing Channel are another great source for information.
Boat show seminars are an excellent source for both information and encouragement. Show managers are well aware that speakers help bring in the crowds, and they put together some amazing talent for you to listen and learn from.
Most boat shows now are also offering day long seminars on various aspects of cruising. These seminars are conducted by the top names in the business, and topics range from dealing with weather, diesel engines, and through to provisioning and heavy weather tactics. Again, I highly recommend you consider attending seminars that will fill in the blanks in your cruising resumé.
Don't know how to bleed your diesel, or change it's oil? There's a seminar for that. Not sure how to read a grib file, or what a backing front means? There's a seminar for that too!
This year, as last year, I'll be conducting a day long seminar on cruising the ICW during the Annapolis Boat Show.
last year's Annapolis seminar
Last year's seminar offered some great speakers, with Lin Pardey headlining the group. We also had Dave Skolnick speaking on 'Crossing the Gulf Stream', a seminar I learned a great deal from. Dave is a delivery captain and past president of the Seven Seas Cruising Association, and he knows his stuff. He'll be speaking again this fall.
Greg Kutsen MD is the owner of Mantus Anchors, and his seminar on anchoring is absolutely one of the top five seminars I've ever seen. I can't recommend it enough, particularly if anchoring isn't your strongest skill. He has some great tips to ensure you get a good night's sleep through any weather!
Captains Jeff and Jean Grossman, two of my favourite sailors, discussed how to cruise comfortably as a couple on a small boat. We ended the day with a roundtable Q&A session where attendees had a chance to pose their own questions to the speakers, and then a social session to let everyone get to meet the speakers.
Be watching for an announcement soon on this year's Annapolis seminar.
For those who want company heading south, there's the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. Leaving from Hampton VA in mid-October after the Annapolis Sailboat Show, we take two months to reach Miami, staying ahead of the cold. Sure, you can do it faster, but it won't be nearly as enjoyable!
On the way. the Rally stops at all of the fun places - Beaufort NC, Beaufort SC, Charleston, St. Augustine, Oriental and so on - to explore, enjoy and just relax with their Rally friends. In fact, we have a Facebook public page for the Rally, you can see what's been going on at Facebook Sail to the Sun ICW Rally
This year, the Rally has had a tough time ending. Even though we formally finished up on December 15 at a Rally dinner at Coconut Grove in Miami, the Rally carried on into the Bahamas with a half dozen boats crossing over together, then meeting up frequently to sail and play some more.
Rally mini reunion in Cocoa FL this week
Two of the group are currently in the Turks and Caicos, heading yet further into the Caribbean, and three of them stopped by earlier this week to visit with me on their trip north. Rumour is, there's yet another reunion ahead next week in St. Augustine.
Along with the good times with new cruising friends, the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally helps and advises its members on navigation, provisioning, equipment, and other facets of the trip south, along with pointers on each day's passage. With 29 trips on the ICW, I ensure that Rally members get safely past problem areas such as Little Mud River, or Brown's Inlet, plus get comfortable dockage and safe anchorages along the way.
If you're interested in joining the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, you can find further information at our website, Sail to the Sun, request a brochure or contact me, even sign up from the page.
Lastly, iIof my ICW Tips and Techniques e-book at this link.
One last thing - I'm working on setting up a discount program for boaters, to help you save on purchases for your boat. To that end, I've set up a short, ten question survey to determine what you, as an active boater, needs. You would be assisting me greatly in this project if you could take the survey, it'll take you about two minutes. You'll find it at Sailing and Cruising Survey. Thanks everyone!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Too much fun - Boat Shows to Bahamas edition

It's been a busy couple of months and, I admit it, I've been careless about keeping up the blog with so many other things to do...like enjoying the warm Florida sunshine...so...
A quick recap - after the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally ended in Miami in mid December, I spent a couple of weeks recuperating at No Name Harbor. I then cruised back north to Cocoa Florida, where I am still, to park the boat while Aduana and I went up to the Toronto Boat Show. It was great fun to meet up with so many of you there, and also later on at the Miami Boat Show.
Returning from my annual dose of winter weather, I got to work on some deferred maintenance issues - as in VERY deferred maintenance, like repairing a soft foredeck.
Lesson learned - when you install a windlass, or do any sort of work that involves breaching the deck's fiberglass skin, always drill out the area, fill with resin, and redrill the holes. Otherwise you end up with a very challenging repair job a couple or so years down the line. I should have known better, so now you can learn from my experience.
On the bright side, my Quik windlass is now very strongly mounted on a very solid foredeck, and the electrical connections have all been upgraded. I'm quite pleased, even if it did take what seemed like forever. Ok, I've been taking life easy....I admit it. That's what you're supposed to be doing, out here, when you're not fixing your boat.
The next must-do project is a new genoa, using a Sailrite kit. Some of you will remember I also sewed my own mainsail several years ago. This project will be a lot easier with that experience behind me. Be watching for an article in Cruising World on this project in the future.
For those planning on doing the ICW, this next item will be something of interest - in September's Sailing South issue of Cruising World, be watching for my article on 'the Highs and Lows of the ICW'.
This article will address the issues of bridge heights and shoaling problems on the ICW. With cruisers purchasing larger, 'ICW friendly' boats, masts are now very commonly over 60 feet off the water, with the controlling height of the ICW supposedly being 65'. Well, that isn't quite true, and I'll be discussing it, and how to deal with the problems of low bridges and tall masts.
As well, I'll be discussing the current state of ICW shoaling, the problem areas and how to deal with them.
If you, or anyone you know, is planning an ICW voyage, this will be a must have issue - and I told my editor I'd tell y'all that! Don't let me down!
The 2017 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is coming along very well, with just under a third of the available slots sold as of the beginning of March.
I've upgraded the site so that you can now sign up and pay directly from the site, along with other changes promised last year - so you see, I really haven't been that lazy after all. 
As in years past, we will have the one day Annapolis seminar, the great parties, the sundowners, touring and all the rest of that great stuff that makes doing the ICW so enjoyable. For more details, check out the 2017 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page
The Rally is so enjoyable in fact that I will let Sail to the Sun ICW Ralliers Frank and Mary Grace Stitch tell you about the S2tS ICW Rally Reunion held recently in the Exumas. Several of the Ralliers who were stateside flew in for the event, and...well, here's the link to Let It Be's blog article - Sail to the Sun Rally Reunion. Just to give you a taste of the fun these guys are having, the photos here are from Marg's blog above, linked here again.
S2tS Rally members hanging out...
Tom and Louise in the Exumas...
This particular Rally group has been hanging together since the rally formally ended in Miami in mid-December. Several of them crossed the Gulf Stream as a group, and they've been meeting up in the Abacos and Exumas for the last several months - snorkelling, sailing, dining aboard each other's boats, dining out, basically destroying their livers if you really want to know...but they've been having a blast.
This is of course what a Rally is supposed to be about - the cameraderie of good friends having a great time together. I cannot tell you how proud I am to see this....and almost as proud as I was when I found out from the group's FB page that they were entering the races in George Town, Exumas, as the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally team! They placed third in their class, which was pretty darn good I think - and rumour has it that had they not taken time to sit down for lunch together rather than tend the sheets, they just might have come in first. This is a bunch that understands what the priorities are!
That's it for now - as always, you can follow the adventures of Aduana and myself via the Sailing and Cruising page on Facebook.

S2tS Ralliers snorkelling over the reefs

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Great White North - aka Toronto Boat Show

Hi everyone - for those of you attending the Toronto Boat Show, I've appended my speaking schedule below. Hope to meet lots of you while I'm there - please don't be shy about introducing yourself. Neither Aduana nor I bite!
If you're planning on doing the ICW this coming fall, don't miss the two hour seminar - it's got lots of the information you need to know. For those for whom the ICW is more distant, the one hour seminar will probably satisfy your current needs, and you can get back out quickly to buy more boat stuff!
This year, I've got a new seminar, on the Bahamas, how to cruise them, how to get there, provisioning and just a whole bunch of useful tips to help you enjoy yourself in that turquoise paradise.
If Cuba is in your plans, check out my Cuba seminar, in which I discuss how to enjoy your time there, as well as some of the quirks of this superb cruising grounds.
Naturally, there's lots of time for your questions, with a Q&A session after every seminar. And if that's not enough time for all the questions, there's a couple of on-site pubs we can head off to after the seminar! Not quite sundowners, but close enough...
I'll have copies of each of my seminars available on DVD for sale after each presentation. Remember, each purchase helps keep me out of Canada from October to April, doing this neat cruising stuff that I get to share with you at seminars and here on LiveBlogging.
Note - if you're interested in the 2017 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, I'll be available to speak with you anytime during the show that I'm not speaking, eating, drinking or sleeping. Ok, scratch drinking from that...
We are already 20% subscribed for this year's Rally - if you're interested, don't hesitate to get your deposit in to guarantee your place. For more details on the Rally, click through to Sail to the Sun ICW Rally

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Rally That Just Won't End!

Well, we made it to Miami, those for whom Miami was the goal anyhow, on December 12 as planned. A few of the boats stopped earlier, having reached their winter destinations, or to tie up their boat to go home for Christmas.
We then had a great last blast at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club in, where else, Coconut Grove in Miami. Beautiful spot, beautiful views, great meal! Thanks to Commodore Janice and the staff, who helped make it such a great time.
Let me back up now a bit before getting to what's going on now.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally had a great time exploring Savannah and area before heading out into a lovely warm day on the ICW. There were stops at Fort Frederica, Jekyll Island, Cumberland Island, St. Mary's for a great Cruisers' Thanksgiving dinner with over 100 other cruisers heading south. Then we were on to Fernandina Beach, with the city, after Hurricane Matthew, finally getting round to providing a dinghy dock for those anchored out. Fernandina is one of my favourite stops in Florida.
From there, it was on to St. Augustine, a proverbial favourite for all. You can see how well that went from this video featuring our Sail to the Sun ICW Rally Dancing Queens singing at karaoke....
and we spent several days there before continuing south to Cocoa.
Note - the rumours of my having sang 'It's a Beautiful World' in the style of Louis Armstrong are entirely false, and there is no video of such an event - and neither did I pay to purchase any non-existent video of something that never really happened. Honest!
Our local hangout - Ryans Pizza Pub!
On to Cocoa... as they did last year, Cocoa rolled out the red carpet for the Rally, with a swag bag including a great burgee, a mayor's reception, and some great dinners. There was also a tour of the Kennedy Space Center which everyone just loved, another of local brew pubs (!) and several nights out for dinner at some great restaurants. It was with some sadness that we departed Cocoa. The great reception and the friendly locals are always a highlight here.
Now a hint - look for the Cocoa event to be even BIGGER in 2017, with some events planned for all cruisers, not just the ralliers. Look for a special two day event....with a major media sponsor and things happening that will be of interest to everyone in your crew. This will be a 'don't you dare miss it' kind of event in other words.
So the day after our closing dinner at Coconut Grove, I and Mauna Kea headed off to No Name Harbor. They needed some sewing on their dodger and I needed a haircut. I only wish my sewing was the equal of the great haircut I got... (thank you again Laurie!).
Sweet Pea on a buoy from the Bahamas....
Then, what do our wondering eyes does appear , not reindeer - but Valentine, Blue Lady, Sweet Pea and Let It Be - four of the other rally boats that were in Miami. Suddenly, No Name Harbor looks like a Sail to the Sun Rally Reunion, as everyone waits for a window to cross over to the Bahamas.
And this wasn't happening just in No Name. Back in Daytona, Reflections II and Osprey were getting together and planning to finish their trip south before crossing over. Several of the group were ensconced in Marathon, enjoying life in Boot Key Harbor. This group was really hanging together...and my liver was suffering badly as a result!
Finally, the big day - night really - came, and I woke up to an empty harbor, since I won't be leaving for the Bahamas until after the Toronto Boat Show
(You can see my schedule for speaking there from the link - I'll be discussing the trip south from the Great Lakes to Miami via the ICW, and also Cuba, and a new seminar this year, Cruising the Bahamas!)
I was able to watch the fleet's progress to Bimini via their AIS units and it was truly interesting to see how well they did for first timers heading over. The conditions were challenging for the first third, laid down a bit for the second third and were positively great for the last part of the crossing.
So, another fun filled, safe and successful Sail to the Sun ICW Rally comes to an end. I'm already missing these folks as they continue to Sail to the Sun! Fair winds....
As noted, I'm speaking in Toronto during the boat show there later this month. Don't miss it if you're in Toronto and be sure to introduce yourself.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally website has been updated with information on the 2017 ICW Rally, and we already have three boats and crews signed up to go. Don't wait if your plans include heading south this fall, as this year's Rally will be even better - see the 'hint' above, along with some other exciting details I'm working on now. If you'd like a Rally brochure, email me at ICW.Wally@gmail.com and put Rally Brochure in the subject line.
Until your trip south, here's some photos of the 2017 crew to 'whet' your appetite until you wet your hull!
They look like they're up to something!

There's sailing and there's how Let It Be sails

Our Bloody Mary delivery on Thanksgiving Morning at St. Mary

The crew of Blue Lady

Captain of Blue Lady...

Frivolity in Cocoa!